Rittenhouse

Previous incarnation isn't happening

With the weather taking a turn for the warmer (at last!), we find that we're spending a little more time outside, enjoying public spaces. Schuylkill River Park is one of the better ones in Center City, with a big dog park, basketball courts, tennis courts, a playground, and a connection to the Schuylkill River Trail. At 26th & Panama, across the street from the tennis courts, we recently came upon a project that's frozen in time- demolition has been done but construction hasn't started.

New place will offer waffles and wedges

One of the best things about living in a city, especially a walkable one like Philadelphia, is the easy access to local businesses. Wouldn't it be super annoying to have to get in the car (or the Uber, whatever) every time you needed to go to the cleaners, the bar, or Target? Ok, two out of three ain't bad.

Typically, when we tell you about new businesses, they're located on commercial corridors. In recent years, we've seen a ton of growth on South Street West, Frankford Avenue, and Baltimore Avenue to name a few, and those corridors are continuing to see new additions every few months or so. Nobody would mistake the 1500 block of Pine Street for a commercial corridor, but a spot that's long been a retail space is about to have a new tenant.

But a new movie theater seems unlikely

The beat goes on for the old Boyd Theater, a classic Art Deco gem that's sat vacant on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street for over a dozen years.

Last spring, the Historical Commission told developers they could demolish the inside of the historic building and replace it with an iPic, an eight-screen boutique movie theater. But like several others before it, that plan seems to have fallen apart. According to Inga Saffron, Pearl Properties bought the old theater last fall and iPic is likely out of the picture. Today, the building looks more or less like it has for many years.

View of the Boyd last year

Pearl's purchase of the property offers some definitively good news, and may result in a dramatic transformation to the block. The previous plan included the demolition of pretty much the entire Boyd building with the exception of the facade and a vestibule. More recent demolition plans still call for the elimination of the 2,400 seat theater, but would preserve the grand lobby and a rear portion of the main auditorium, according to the Preservation Alliance. Plan Philly has a quote from Howard Haas that confirms the importance of the lobby that's now being saved.

This one will have growlers too

In the last twenty years or so, there's been little change at the northwest corner of 22nd & South. L2 had quite a run, opening there in the late 1990s and closing their doors in the summer of 2013. Prior to that, Russian-themed vodka bar Cafe Republic came and went, and before that a Fifty's-style place called Linoleum made its home there. Last summer, a deal to bring a Stabucks to South Street West fell through, and the space has remained vacant ever since.

The other day, a post on the Southwest Center City Facebook Group caught our attention, as an eagle-eyed neighbor spotted a sign on the building suggesting change is in the air.

At least it's changing hands

Across the street from Rittenhouse Square sits one of Philadelphia's most prominent and embarrassing vacant lots. Once upon a time, the Rittenhouse Eric Theater made its home on the north side of the 1900 block of Walnut Street. When the hundred year old historic brownstone-turned-office next door caught fire in 1994, the damage to the theater resulted in its demolition. The lot has been vacant ever since aside from a temporary use as a PHS pop-up in 2012.

From a few years back but it still pretty much looks like this

Over the years, the property has seen a collection of possible projects come and go. It's a particular challenge because the parcel is also tied to several properties on Sansom Street including the mysterious Rittenhouse Coffee Shop (long vacant), the empty seven story Warwick building (shuttered since 2003), and the Oliver H. Bair funeral home. We covered the collection of proposals for this site years ago, including the plan for a parking garage with restaurant and movie theater from the PPA, a concept from Michael Singer in 2004, and another idea from Castleway, the current owners, in 2008. Clearly, none of those things happened.

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