Replaces demolished YWCA Annex

Over two years ago, we first broke the news that a mixed-use building would be replacing the long-vacant and blighted YWCA Annex building on the 2000 block of Chestnut Street. Back in January, we told you that demolition efforts were finally underway. And last week, an official groundbreaking took place at 2017-23 Chestnut St. for the building that will eventually be known as AQ Rittenhouse.

In the past
Current view

In case you don't remember the deets (and can't read the sign in the photo above), the project is being developed by Aquinas Realty Partners. The twelve-story building will include 110 apartments and a commercial space on the first floor that's still available for rent, if you're interested. Freire Charter School, located next door, will expand into the basement of the new building, providing much needed additional space. The structure was designed by BLT Architects and Stampfl, and will be shooting for LEED Silver certification.

Nordstrom Rack coming soon

17th & Chestnut is among the city’s more bustling intersections.  Every retail operation that has come to occupy its southwest corner has enjoyed the early fruits of this bustling.  The location did begin its recorded history as a private residence however.  As shown in the image taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, 1700 Chestnut St. and its adjoining structure belonged to one Lewis Albertson.

The Lewis Albertson estate, 1875

By the early 1900s, Albertson was gone and in his place was Thommen’s Restaurant.  Thommen’s is shown here below in a 1927 photo from the Department of Records.

Replacing two ugly buildings

Several months ago, we brought some demolition to your attention at the corner of 20th & Waverly. Back then, a three story building with vinyl siding was biting the dust. Eventually, the garage next door would succumb as well.

In the past

Now, a new double-wide home is rising in the place of these buildings.

Huge house getting framed

As you can see, this thing is gonna be a big boy. We can't wait to see what kind of finishes are included in the facade, and whether it takes on more of a classic or contemporary look. With Shimi Zaken as the architect, our bet's on the latter. But we'll check back over the summer, and should have the answers to those questions. And more.

From coal to kids

The area where South and Broad Streets meet is in the midst of a major facelift, anchored by the notable insertion of the Southstar Lofts.  By contrast, the structure on the northwest corner of South and Broad, listed as 512 S. Broad St., still looks very much like Broad Street of just a few years ago. That said, the three-story box of a building is also quite a far cry from the corner’s original occupant.  The image here, taken from Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas, shows that this block of Broad Street was occupied by a coal yard through the mid-19th Century. 

A coal yard, 1862

As the city’s residents grew wealthier, Broad Street would become a destination for the most affluent among them.  By the turn of the century, elegant mansions had replaced many of the more industrial trappings of early Broad Street.  The image here below, taken from King’s Views of Philadelphia, shows three such mansions, side-by-side, in 1900.  The opulent Francis Thomas Sully Darley estate (center) at 510 Broad St., is described as “unquestionably the handsomest residence on South Broad Street.”  512 Broad is seen to the left-hand side, overshadowed by its show-off neighbor.

And who will rent it?

In our mind's eye, 1821 Chestnut St. is still a furniture store. It was indeed a furniture store for several years, right? More recently though, it contained a discount store called Dollar Plus that also sold cell phones. Somehow, this business was able to survive here for a few years. It's been closed for a minute now, but some of the signage still remains.

1821 Chestnut St.

It's currently available for lease from Michael Salove Company. The space includes 2,900 sqft of retail space next door to the soon-to-open new Joan Shepp location. On the other side of the building is the parking lot for Boyds. As you're surely aware, this location is just a block from Rittenhouse Square and is surrounded on all sides by other retailers. Foot traffic is among the best in town. Seems like a no brainer for plenty of businesses, right?