Old City

Has a mixed-use future

It's still kind of flabbergasting to us that there are any blighted or vacant buildings in Old City. We've documented several over the years, and there are even more that we haven't touched on. Take, for instance, 18 N. 3rd St., which sits only a handful of steps from the corner of 3rd & Market which has seen considerable change in the last few months. You may recall, the former Shirt Corner building disappeared last month and will soon be replaced by a mixed-use project that includes a new CVS. And last week, the former Suit Corner went up in flames, and we can speculate that those buildings will likewise be demolished as a result.

Post fire
Nearby, 18 N. 3rd St., a little blurry

The other day, we spotted a dumpster outside of 18 N. 3rd St., a building which we've surely noticed in the past, but didn't necessarily realize was vacant. Looking at it though, it certainly doesn't look so great. Peering up at the facade, we see at least a couple of windows are missing.

Small amount of building's history is kept

It seems like a lifetime ago that we first brought 263 N. 3rd St. to your attention, but according to Google it's only been like 2.75 years. Back then, we heard rumblings that work was getting started on the blighted and vacant former home of Lite Bite, but had no clear information on the subject. We speculated that another restaurant would make sense for the first floor space, and that an addition with some nice apartments would be extremely appropriate at this spot.

Blighted and vacant in 2011

Within six months, the property was going to zoning for a four-story addition with six apartments, and commercial on the first floor. By the summer of 2012, the vast majority of the building had been demolished, with the exception of the stone architrave in the front. This was permitted by the Historical Commission, with the thought that the existing structure wouldn't be able to bear the weight of the proposed additional stories, and because the stone in the front was the only historically valuable component of the existing building. So then it looked like this:

And it's replacing a terrible building

We always thought that the corner of 3rd & Chestnut would be ideal for a museum. But in the 1970s, our City's leaders believed that this corner was an appropriate site for an architectural atrocity. In short, in the buildup to the bicentennial, a plan was hatched to move the Liberty Bell from Independence Hall to 3rd & Chestnut to accommodate tourists and reduce congestion. But the public uproar that arose when people saw the plans for the building that would hold the bell resulted in a change of plans and the bell moving instead to Independence Mall. For a more detailed version of this story, click here for a story from Philaphilia:

Liberty Bell

Even though the plans to move the bell a few blocks were scrapped, the City curiously built the horrible building anyway! Instead of the Liberty Bell, it held something called the Bicentennial Bell, which was gifted to Philadelphia by the Queen of England for the Bicentennial. Kind of curious for England to commemorate its crushing defeat at the hands of America with a huge ceremonial gift, but whatever. The horrendous building was a tourist center for some years, but it's been vacant for several years now. But the great news is that it will soon be replaced by the Museum of the American Revolution. Passing by the other day, we saw that site work is underway.

So much for adaptive reuse

Last month, we told you that the old Shirt Corner buildings at 3rd & Market would be demolished. This represented a significant change of course from the original plan for this site, which was to retain and restore the original historic buildings. But structural defects, previously hidden behind drywall, made the demolition of these buildings a sad necessity.

A few months ago

You may have heard a couple of weeks ago that part of the corner building collpased into the street during demolition efforts. When we heard about that, we suspected demolition efforts were still progressing at the site. But when we passed by yesterday, we discovered that the demolition efforts are finished.

Yesterday

It's not like we didn't know it was coming, it's not like we've never seen a vacant lot before. But seeing this parcel, which previously had so much character, sit empty, left us feeling cold about the whole thing. Sure, in the next year a new building will rise here and a new CVS will provide neighbors more convenient access to shampoo, prescriptions, and overpriced ice cream. The building, developed by Alterra Property Group, will probably look something like this:

Apartments and retail coming

For decades, Trenton China Pottery sold restaurant and kitchen supplies to restaurateurs and amateur chefs alike out of their large (and underheated) space at 2nd & Arch. Some years ago, the store closed and the buildings have been vacant ever since. In 2011, new owners purchased the property for $1.4M after it sat on the market for years. And last year, 105 N 2nd Street Investors LP purchased the buildings that once housed the restaurant supply store for a tidy $3.5M. But it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that construction started here.

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