Even though few notable things have happened development-wise on east Market Street in recent years, it still somehow feels like the area is picking up momentum. This is probably due to the collection of different, possibly game-changing plans on the table. But if one of them were to come to fruition, we believe the dominoes could start to tumble on this still rough stretch of Center City blocks. Will the Gallery finally undergo the renovation it so badly needs to reorient the mall to look outward to Market Street? Will the old Strawbridge's find a destination retail tenant? Will Market8 be selected as Philadelphia's second casino, leading to the construction of a huge new building on the corner of 8th & Market? Will the Girard Square building get demolished and replaced with something new and shiny? Or how about the newest addition to the fray, a proposed residential tower for the Lit Brothers Building?
Back in 2012, PREIT purchased 901 Market St., a building which is part of the Gallery Mall and most prominently has been home to Kmart for many years. When we first told you about this story, we expressed optimism that this purchase could finally signal a change we've been craving for years at the Gallery, as PREIT became the primary property owner for most of the properties that compose this less-than-perfect urban shopping mall. We also mentioned that a plan to turn the mall inside out, with stores opening onto Market Street, would be announced. Clearly, such a plan would come at considerable expense but would completely transform the pedestrian experience on Market Street and open up the mall to a giant new potential customer base.
Yesterday, a reader gave us the heads up about a zoning application for 1118 Chestnut St. that made our hearts flutter with excitement. Haven't been here lately? Well, it's probably even worse than you remember. Vacancy lines the south side of the street, with shuttered businesses and several blighted buildings lined up in a row. But that all stands to change if developers get what they seek at the ZBA.
This is awful
According to the application, some of the buildings above will soon be demolished. The plan here, as we understand it, is to combine the properties pictured above and "demolish a six story and five story portion," and then to build a seven story addition that rises over a hundred feet in the air. In the building will be commercial space on the first and second floor, and eighty apartments on the third through sixth floors. What will happen on the seventh floor is beyond us, maybe mechanicals?
Today, members of Mayor Nutter's administration gave their opinions to the PA Gaming Control Board on the six proposals currently under consideration for Philadelphia's second casino license. If you'd like a rundown of all of the groups vying for this lucrative license, check out this excellent summary from today's Daily News. But for now, we have some new information on the MARKET8 proposal, along with the sparkly new rendering that showed up in our inbox yesterday.
For those unfamiliar with the recent history of the surface parking lot on 8th & Market, here's a brief summary. Over thirty years ago, the old Gimbel's building was demolished after the company moved across the street to the then-new-and-fancy Gallery Mall. Several possible projects came and went for this site over the years, with the most famous being an indoor amusement park called DisneyQuest, proposed around the year 2000. A giant hole was dug at the site in preparation for this attraction, but it was never built. The hole remained here for several years, until it was mercifully filled in to become a surface parking lot. Never would have thought we'd like a surface lot better than anything but rest assured it's an improvement over the hole.
The best twenty bucks we spend every year is on our residential parking permit. Annually, we've religiously trekked to the Philadelphia Parking Authority offices at 30th & Market to renew our permit, fulfilling the annual program of forgetting to send the renewal back in the mail in a timely fashion. This year, as the clock struck June, we once again found ourselves needing to visit the PPA, in an effort to avoid the dreaded ticket for overtime parking with an expired residential permit.
So off we went to those familiar PPA offices, license, registration, utility bill, and checkbook in hand, eager to get this thing over with for another year. Imagine our surprise when the person at the building's front desk told us that the PPA had moved out two weeks earlier, to a new customer service office on the other side of town! And then we remembered a post from last month, when we told you that a retail space underneath a dank garage on 8th Street between Arch and Filbert, was getting renovated. And we remembered that a couple of commenters suggested that the PPA customer service office would be moving there. And then we realized that we weren't going to make it across town before the office closed. And then we were sad.