Back in 2013, 200 N 16th St., a large office building also known as One Franklin Plaza, hit the market as a vacant property. The hulking modernist structure sits next to the equally hulking modernist Sheraton Hotel, both of which were built in 1980 as part of the early stages of the Franklintown development scheme which was never fully realized. The building served as the headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline until 2012 when the company moved down to a brand new building in the Navy Yard. With the knowledge that no single entity would likely be able to fill over 600,000 square feet, the former owners began marketing the structure as a likely candidate for redevelopment, recommending perhaps three different uses since there are three sets of elevators going to different sections of the building. Many possible candidates were interested, including Drexel University, Philadelphia Housing Authority, and some hotels. In the end, the building was sold to a familiar face around town, PMC Property Group, for $43M. Here's what the building looks like now:
Perhaps you've enjoyed a day walking around Philadelphia, pretending that you're a tourist and not a cynical resident of this wonderful yet frustrating town. And what a pleasure it is to be a tourist in Philadelphia, seeing things through more innocent eyes, snapping photos of the Liberty Bell, the Italian Market, and LOVE Park. These days though, LOVE Park is closed to the public thanks to a long planned renovation effort, with fencing covering over the progress from prying eyes and camera lenses.
The brand-spankin’-new Philadelphia Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is really a sight to behold. With its soaring spires (208 feet high), grey granite facade, and neoclassical exterior architecture, it completely sticks out among the various new buildings being built in our fair city. Indeed, a building of its stature is more likely to be demolished these days than be built. And yet, the LDS (AKA Mormon) Church meant first and foremost for this building to fit its regional surroundings. They wanted it to look like it has always been here. Its neoclassical exterior matches the neighboring former family court and Free Library in roof height and style, although it differs significantly in color. The spires and the interiors are meant to harken back to the Georgian era in which our country was founded.
The temple (left) and the meetinghouse (right), both complete
Last week, we had the chance to explore both the grounds and get a tour of the interiors of the meetinghouse and the temple which sit next to each other, divided by 17th Street. The temple began construction back in September of 2011 and it has been a slow but steady progress ever since. Now, we have the chance to see what a $70-$100M (we’re unsure of the actual numbers) investment has created.
We have a number of friends that moved to the Sterling at 1815 JFK Blvd. post-college because the building offered reasonable rents and an outstanding downtown location. But the building was really showing its age, and the rents were reasonable because the apartments were generally crappy. Aimco, owners of the Sterling since 1999, began renovating the building a couple years back according to the PBJ, and the new units are a huge improvement. Granite countertops! Stainless steel appliances! Hardwood floors! You get the idea.
As you can see, it's not just our sense of nostalgia that makes this building's demolition a darn shame. The facade has some nice original details, but the intact original stone sign for Wallace Storage & Carpet Cleaning Co. has made this building stand out from its surroundings for a century. As we told you previously, an eight home project from US Construction will rise in place of the building. JKRP Architects did the design work, and a cornice-like detail above the first floors of the three homes on 21st Street will reference the stone sign on the soon-to-be-demolished building. It's a fine thought, but the new construction certainly won't have the same character as the old building.