Washington Square West

Hopefully it will find the right buyer soon

In the summer of 2011, we asked whether anyone wanted to purchase 1021 Chestnut St., the historic Mercantile Bank Building.

They've moved on to North Broad Street

When we bought a coffee table there fifteen years ago, Uhuru Furniture felt like it very much belonged on the 1200 block of Spruce Street. "Midtown Village" was barely an idea in Tony Goldman's mind, and the Gayborhood had a much grittier vibe in general. But a decade and a half of gentrification has brought ritzy restaurants, high-end shopping, and much less weirdness to the area, and Uhuru has become more of a throwback, with its narrow aisles and furniture piled high to the ceiling. But not anymore. Because a couple of weeks ago, they closed their Spruce Street store and moved to 842 N. Broad St., on the Francisville/Poplar border.

Former Uhuru space
Closer look

Uhuru, in case you're unfamiliar, is a nonprofit furniture store that sells donated furniture to support the African People's Education and Defense Fund (APEDF). The mission of the APEDF is, according to the Uhuru website, to "develop and institutionalize programs to defend the human and civil rights of the African community and to address the grave disparities in education, health, health care and economic development in the African community."

From arts supplies to supplying art

It's been almost three years since Pearl Art & Craft Supplies at 417 South St. closed their doors. Since then, the building has sat empty. And while vacancy was de rigueur on South Street a few years ago, its resurgence of late that makes this large empty retail space stick out like a bit of a sore thumb. Thankfully, it seems that plans are in the works to make this building return to life.

Current view

Signs on the building suggest that a South Street Arts Center will soon be arriving here, with a planned opening in June. Passyunk Post provides more details. Eighty-five studios will be crammed in here over three stories, with space starting at $250/month for 140 sqft. The roof will have a restaurant (makes venting easy) and a sculpture garden. Studio space will be available for painters, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, textile workers, woodworkers, sculptors, jewelers, ceramics-makers, potters, and other visual artists. There are plans to completely rework the facade, but the initial setup calls for a simple tidying up of the existing building front.

The oldest in the country

The Walnut Street Theatre proclaims itself to be the oldest theatre in the United States.  So it should come as little surprise that we don’t really know what stood at 9th & Walnut before the theatre’s conception.  Still, the Walnut has undergone quite a few changes over its long and storied history.  The image below, taken from John Hills’ 1808 Map of Philadelphia, shows absolutely nothing and makes us wonder why Hills went to the trouble.  However, this location is only one year removed from the theatre’s 1809 construction.

Future site of America’s oldest theatre, 1808

The following year, according to Wikipedia, French touring equestrian circus company Pepin and Breschard brought their operation to Philadelphia.  With it, they brought the construction of a new theatre.  The sketch below, taken from the Walnut Street Theatre website, shows the theatre in its earliest days, when it was known as the New Circus.

Philly's Next Skyline Addition

About a month ago, we first shared the news that Dranoff Properties has its sights set on a new development at the corner of Broad & Spruce. Today, we attended the official announcement event for this project, which has been dubbed SLS International Hotel & Residences. The name pays tribute to the building's previous use as the home of Philadelphia International Records and also includes the name of the project's hotel partner.

At the event, Carl Dranoff went through all the project specs with the assistance of Gene Kohn of Kohn Pederson Fox. The building will be the tallest ever built in Pennsylvania exclusively for residential use, rising 560 feet and reaching 47 stories. There will be 149 hotel rooms on the lower floors, and 125 condo units starting at the 20th floor. The residential units will all have 10' ceilings and balconies,  and will share amenities with the hotel. There are plans for a large landscaped terrace, a fitness center, meeting rooms, banquet facilities, and an 85' swimming pool.

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