Washington Square West

Buildings will be replaced by Dranoff's SLS building

Back at the end of 2013, we attended an event that served as the kickoff for a new project from Dranoff Properties at the corner of Broad & Spruce. In the five seasons that have passed since then, it's been pretty much status quo at this corner, the former home of Philadelphia International Records. A couple of months ago, we spied demolition notices on the property. And when we passed by yesterday, we discovered a demolition effort that's well underway.

Its replacement will surely disappoint

Of late, we've told you about a couple of projects near 11th & Chestnut. Most recently, we told you about plans to renovate a building just south of Chestnut which has been home to Baum's for many decades. And it's impossible to miss the ongoing construction work on the western side of the block, which will eventually mean the addition of 115 apartments and a bunch of new retail space (holding a Bed Bath and Beyond maybe?). 1106 Chestnut St. sits in between those two projects and the sight of it makes us sad. We're not so much sad because of what it looks like, but it's more that it looked amazing not so long ago.

It used to look like this
What a difference

It's hard to tell exactly what was going on from the grany Google Street View photo, but it looks like the previous facade was granite and it featured a collection of Deco details. Now the brick underneath is exposed, and all evidence of the old facade is gone but for the firring strips that likely held it up in the first place. So what happened?

by the same company that's doing a big project around the corner

On and around East Chestnut Street, the dominoes continue to fall.

The 1100 block is in the midst of a major transformation, with Brickstone creating 115 new apartments and a ton of new retail through a combination of renovation and new construction on the south side of the block. And maybe a Trader Joe's too. This project will take a stretch that was previously among the most bleak in Center City and bring it back to life in dramatic fashion. Though we didn't predict the specifics, we had a feeling three years ago, when Milkboy opened, that positive change was coming to East Chestnut Street. It seems that Brickstone likes what it seems in the area, as they're now moving forward with an additional project around the corner.

The intersection of 13th & Locust has long been a thriving and commercially dense area.  However, our interest is with a corner at which very little of great importance seemed to take place prior to the 20th century.  The image here below, taken from G.W. Bromley’s 1895 Philadelphia Atlas, shows a southeast corner without an occupant notable enough to warrant identification on the map. 

The nondescript southeast corner of 13th & Locust, 1895

Though a lack of cartographic information on this corner would continue well into the early 1900s, there is some photographic documentation.  An image taken from the Department of Records shows the corner in 1917, occupied by what appears to be a combination business office and residential establishment. 

Probably a combination office/residential building, 1917

The relatively modest building shown above would soon be dramatically upgraded with the construction of a new home for the Philadelphia Real Estate Board. Philadelphia Architects and Buildings tells that this first noteworthy inhabitant of the corner was probably inserted around 1922.  The image below, taken from the same site, is dated to the mid-1920s and shows the far larger and more modern structure now in place.

Gorgeous buildings on the block

We've directed your attention to the 1100 block of Chestnut Street in recent months, pointing to a major project from Brickstone that's bringing down some unattractive buildings and replacing them with a plethora of apartments and retail. Another notable aspect of this project is the rescuing and restoration of the old Oppenheim Collins building which is being returned to its former glory. When that project is finished, a combination of the old building and a new structure will bring much needed new life to the block.

Close by, the 700 block of Chestnut Street already has a collection of amazing buildings, and great retail options mixed in with some middling stores and vacancies. We've loved walking this block over the years, but the other day an under-construction storefront at 716 Chestnut St. caught our eye. It turns out this space has been empty for quite awhile, but soon a dentist will be moving in. It ain't a glamorous tenant but it's far better than a vacant space. As you can see, the building the dentist will occupy is wonderful, saying nothing of its neighbors.