Chinatown

Makes us wonder when stores will open underneath

When you cross the Delaware River on the Ben Franklin Bridge, one of the first exits takes you down 8th Street through the edge of Chinatown. Since the 1960s, a large parking garage has spanned 8th Street between Arch and Filbert Street and it's pretty much looked terrible since the day it opened. Here, take a look:

View in the past

We learned a couple of years ago that the PPA, which by the way owns the garage, was planning to renovate the exterior and its dank underbelly and we were hopeful, but appropriately skeptical. We just couldn't wrap our minds around the idea that this garbage building could possibly turn into something attractive. But we've gotta say, with the project seemingly complete since our visit last year, we can see that they actually did a pretty good job. The garage now looks extremely cool thanks to "veils of metal mesh and glass with screening made of glass louvers."

For someone else, actually

We're always on the lookout for interesting development opportunities around town, and it certainly helps us out when real estate agents post signs that really hammer it home. Such is the case at 251 N. 12th St., a vacant lot at the corner of 12th & Vine that has been used as a skinny surface parking lot for many years. We were zipping down 12th Street the other day and a prominent sign caught our eye all the way from the other side of the Vine Street Expressway.

Boutique hotel for the upper floors?

This past week we checked out some interesting but slightly confusing development activity at 917 Arch St. thanks to a reader tip. This building definitely has some history, having been home to Stewart, Ralph & Company about a hundred years ago, and also housing the Asam Brothers wallpaper warehouse for a stretch. By the 1970s the structure looked pretty rough, but it's taken a turn for the better in recent years.

The building in 1975
Back in 2014

Visit the building today, and you'll see it's getting a three story addition. We've actually seen this happen to a few other properties in Chinatown, usually with a similar scale.

Aloft Hotel is coming soon

We admit it, sometimes we're a little too optimistic about construction timelines. It's not often though, that we're as off base as we were about the hotel project at 101 N. Broad St., the former Liberty Title & Trust Building. Over four years ago, we were covering the groundbreaking for a new parking garage on the 1300 block of Arch Street and mentioned the Liberty Title building at the end of the post, almost as an afterthought.

At the time, we said "this means that Realen's planned hotel in the old Liberty Title Building at the corner of Broad & Arch is full speed ahead. Considering the time, money, and energy that's gone into the Convention Center expansion, we're looking forward to the completion of these two projects, at which time the 1300 block of Arch Street will be free of construction activity for the first time in almost a decade." Hilariously, the scaffolding that was about a year old at that point remained in place until only recently.

Looked like this for the last five years

Over the holiday weekend, a reader was kind enough to send us an image of the building sans scaffolding- there's now a fence around the first floor. This is very good news.

Insert Game of Thrones reference here

We've probably only found ourselves on the 1000 block of Winter Street a handful of times over the years, likely looking for parking for a night out in Chinatown. Despite the presence of countless restaurants on surrounding blocks and the fact that the Vine Street Expressway is pretty much across the street, this block is largely residential and entirely unassuming.

Looking east on Winter Street

One notable exception to the residential rule on this block is 1026 Winter St., a two-story building that's home to a law office. The property is double-wide and has a garage entrance to a parking area in the rear. 

1026 Winter St.

Later this month, developers will appear before the ZBA with a plan to demolish the existing building and build a new six-story building in its place. The plan calls for a small parking area on the first floor, office space on the second floor, and twelve apartments on the upper floors. The project came before the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation a couple months ago and it appears that the community is opposing the project. We weren't at the meeting so we couldn't tell you why, but perhaps it's due to the fact that a new building at such a height would be out of scale with the rest of the block. Of course, with the entire block zoned CMX-3, midrise commercial, it's a sure thing that the height isn't the reason the project is going to zoning.

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