For at least the last decade, the streetscape of the north side of the 1200 block of Walnut Street was interrupted by a surface parking lot which stretched all the way to Sansom Street and wrapped around the fabulous Fergie's Pub. Several years ago, developers came up with a plan to redevelop this parcel into a thirty-story building with a combination of apartments and a hotel. But then the bottom fell out on the real estate market in 2008, scuttling that plan and many others around town.
We had jury duty last week. We got called in the first group, spent a couple of hours waiting for selection, and then the case was settled and we got to go to lunch. Since we were in Center City, we opted for some tasty Double Knot, and during the walk over we passed the East Market project on the 1100 block of Market Street. When we last visited this project a year ago, it was a large hole in the ground. Times have changed.
We've been dreaming of a Center City Target for many years and we're not alone. This makes sense- for many people, it's been a shlep to go to the Target locations in and around town, in South Philly, the Northeast, and on City Line Avenue. Five years ago, we were stoked to hear about possible plans for a three-story Target on the 1100 block of Market Street but it didn't end up working out in the end. That store would have been a CityTarget concept, with only about 80K sqft of space, compared to the 135K sqft seen at most Target locations.
Though the main entrance sits on Chestnut Street, there's also a second entrance on Sansom Street. Don't be fooled by the parking lot next door though, that's only for building residents, not Target shoppers.
The 1100 block of Chestnut Street has transformed in the last couple of years, mostly because of a large project from Brickstone on the south side of the block. This project got moving in earnest a couple of years ago, and has made quite a bit of progress in the year since our last visit. Now it looks like it's nearly finished.
Looking west on the 1100 block of Chestnut St., in the past
The new view on the block
In case you don't remember the details of the project, the developers bought up a bunch of properties on the block and demolished all but the former Oppenheim Collins department store, close to 12th Street. You can see, they've built a big new structure, and the project includes 115 apartments and 90K sqft of retail space, with the first Center City Target taking up about a quarter of that space. Last week, Philly.com shared the news that the Target will open its doors on July 20th. We just pray (along with regular commuters) that the barriers that have blocked part of Chestnut Street for the last two years will be gone by then.
The expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center wrapped up in 2011 and cost almost $800M; it's the largest public-works project in the history of the state. This effort stretched the Convention Center to North Broad Street and increased the size of the building by about 50%, ostensibly attracting larger conventions that couldn't be accommodated by the original space. The thought was that additional space would mean more conventions, more visitors, and more money in the City's coffers. Sadly, it hasn't really worked out that way.
Convention Center on Broad Street
Don't get us wrong, the Convention Center is improved. The Flower Show keeps getting bigger and better. The Auto Show was awesome this year. And it's true that the Convention Center is doing a better job of attracting and retaining large conventions than it did in the past. But it's just not proving to be enough, especially considering the cost of the expansion. And despite the improved performance, not a single convention has needed the entire million square feet of space available. So the Convention Center is taking on a permanent tenant in their banquet space closest to Broad Street, and that tenant is a laser tag company.