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.
Today, we're checking out some progress in Market East, a part of Center City seeing an absolute deluge of construction right now. We're all familiar with Market Street itself seeing a makeover with the “East Market” project and the Gallery redo (whenever it finally happens). South of Market Street, Brickstone Companies are staking their claim on the 1100 block of Chestnut with a project we most recently updated last year. That project is looking great on the outside and we have to really give Brickstone a hand for what looks like a well-designed mid-rise development that looks like it was always there, at least on the Chestnut Street frontage. Check it out:
Looking west on Chestnut Street
Brickstone looks like they're clustering their mixed-use project with a smaller one at 1108 Chestnut St., just a few doors down. This property is right next to the building that sadly lost its art deco facade a year and a half ago.
Market East is getting another major development, thanks again to the efforts of Brickstone Companies. Years ago, this company was perhaps best known for their renovation of the Wanamaker Building on Market Street. But more recently, they've been actively involved in multiple projects in Market East. On the 1100 block of Chestnut Street, they're in the middle of a combination new construction/renovation project which will have 115 apartments and a bunch of retail, including a Target. They have plans to renovate the Sound of Market building into a mixed-use project with ground-floor retail and creative office space. And for their next trick, they've got plans for a parking garage at 12th & Sansom.
Current view at 12th & Sansom
If you consider the location, it's clear that this two-story garage is a major underuse. For decades, the property was owned by famous slumlord Samuel Rappaport, and late last year his estate sold the property to Brickstone for a hefty $14.45M. According to the Inquirer, the company is still figuring out their plan for the property, but they're considering building two towers on the site which could each rise over 300 feet. Options include residential, office use, hotel, and retail.
Yet another long-planned project is coming to fruition, this time at 1213 Walnut St., the long planned "Fergie Tower." Back in 2008, before the bottom fell out on the real estate market, there was a plan for a thirty story building here, a combination of a rental apartment building and a hotel. If you've visited the wonderful Fergie's Pub at any point in the last seven years, you probably noticed that no such thing has happened and that a large surface parking lot has remained. But if you've visited over the last few weeks, you've probably noticed that things have changed.
Lovers of vinyl mourned about a year ago when Sound of Market closed their doors at 15 S. 11th St. after about three decades in business. Surely anyone that ever visited the store over the years was impressed by the five-story building it called home, though looking at the structure it was clear that it once possessed greater grandeur.
The building, typically referred to as the Sound of Market Building thanks to its longtime tenant, was designated historic back in 2013. Per the historic application, it was constructed in 1912, designed by William Steele and Sons, and the reinforced concrete structure features a blend of Art Deco and neo-Classical architectural styles. In particular, the polychromatic terra cotta ornament gives the building a unique and unusual appearance for Philadelphia. Here, take a look at a view of the building from 1965: