Market East

We can only hope

A grandparent's lifetime ago, Market East was the place to go shopping in downtown Philadelphia. Huge departments stores like Strawbridge and Clothier, Gimbels, and Lit Brothers offered shoppers all they could handle under one roof. But times have changed. None of Philadelphia's original six major department stores remain, though some of their former homes have fortunately fortunately stuck around. Wanamaker's is now a Macy's. The Strawbridge's building houses offices for the Inquirer and Daily News, among other things. And the former Snellenburg's? It's actually, mercifully, getting torn down as we speak.

Back in 1965
This building sucks now

Snellenburg's closed in 1962, and by the end of the decade the building had been criminally altered beyond recognition. What we see today on the 1100 block of Market Street is all that remains of the Snellenburg's building. Since its upper floors were chopped off, the building has contained a collection of individual storefronts, most of which have been lower-end businesses in recent decades. A few years ago, we learned that the building currently known as Girard Square would be demolished, and a new structure with Target as a lead tenant would replace it. But that never happened and we were bummed.

Demolition underway, an old sign is revealed

Last fall, we told you about an exciting effort from Brickstone that would completely change the conversation on East Chestnut Street. At the time, they were proposing the renovation of 1126-28 Chestnut St., a long blighted former department store building, and the demolition of the two buildings next door. In their place would come eighty apartments and tons of ground-floor commercial space. We even suggested that a Trader Joe's could fit the bill for the site, given the available commercial square-footage and everyone's obsession with the store.

In the past

As the months have passed, the project has evolved some and grown eastward. Instead of 80 apartments, the project will now include 115. There will be 90,000 sqft of retail when all is said and done. And another couple buildings, which we previously expected would remain, will soon be demolished. As for the first run of buildings, demolition is underway. At the former Oppenheim Collins building, the graffitti has been cleared off and the building's original sign has been revealed. Here's hoping it remains when the project is over.

Sign coming down after decades

The Philadelphia skyline is constantly changing. For many years, William Penn ruled the roost. More recently, skyscrapers have become the focus, and the Comcast Innovation and Technology which recently started construction will soon be the new BMOC. Through decades of change, the PNB letters atop One South Broad Street have remained a constant.

One South Broad is on the left. Image from

Unfortunately, the letters are coming down tomorrow, according to the Inquirer. The building was purchased by Aion Partners earlier this year, and they've apparently gone through the process of getting approvals from the Historical Commission to take down the four-sided sign. The story mentions no additional plans for the top of the building.

Are we along in thinking this is kind of unnecessary? Why do these New York guys have to come to our city and mess with our old and awesome signs?

Is this thing even on?

A little less than two years ago, PREIT closed on the purchase of the Kmart building, which meant it controlled the vast majority of the real estate containing the Gallery Mall. At the time, we wondered whether that transaction might finally lead to a renovation at the mall to make it more pedestrian friendly to passersby on Market Street. Earlier this year, when news of Kmart's closing came down the pike, we learned that PREIT would likely be chopping up the former retailer's home and using the space for multiple stores. Again, we wondered whether that fabled renovation would begin soon. Alas, there's nothing doing yet.

Let freedom drink

Do you regularly visit the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall and find yourself wishing there was a place for outdoor drinking nearby? Like, a huge space for outdoor drinking? And maybe some nosh, too? We have some good news today, as we just learned that we're about to get a new beer garden in this neck of the woods.

Current view

According to a press release, Independence Beer Garden will be opening this summer at 100 Independence Hall West, at the southwest corner of 6th & Market. The project comes from Michael Schulson, who owns Sampan in Midtown Village, and will include 20,000 sqft of outdoor beer garden goodness. The menu will trend American, and forty taps will offer a selection of craft beers. Look for communal tables, fire pits, and a selection of games. Sounds like a less German, more centrally located Frankford Hall, no? Design work was done by Groundswell Design Group, the guys behind the awesome Spruce Street Harbor Park.