We’ve never paid much mind to the building at 1401 Arch St., despite its prominent location. City Hall, the Municipal Services Building (home of L&I), and 1515 Arch St. (home of the ZBA and other City offices), are all very close by, so we’ve certainly had countless opportunities to think about this building, but we’ve never taken the time. We should confess, we’ve visited the McDonald’s on the first floor for some ice cream in the past, always after a particularly rough time at L&I. But that’s the extent to which we’ve considered this building- we didn’t even know what it was used for until today.
It came onto our radar because of a story on Philly.com that details some serious change for the property in the near future. Since the 1970s, we think, the Adult Probation and Parole Department (APPD) of the Philadelphia Courts has been housed in this building, we imagine sharing the 220K sqft space with some other tenants. In case you’re wondering, the building dates back to the turn of the 19th century, having been built for the United Gas Improvement, the company that operated PGW until 1972. UGI moved to the ‘burbs in 1975, and we believe the courts took their place soon after.
When the courts move out, Alterra Property Group will move in, with a plan to convert the building into apartments. Having built plenty of large projects over the years, including the conversion of an old school at 12th & Wharton into apartments a couple years ago, Alterra has the experience to pull of a project like this. You can’t beat the location (aside from the pesky Convention Center), and the project will dovetail nicely with the rapidly improving North Broad Street corridor. Remember, an Aloft Hotel just opened last month across the street, in a building that had been sitting vacant for years.
While an apartment building at Broad & Arch will help in the revitalization of the North Broad Street corridor, the same may be true of a new Adult Probation and Parole Department office on the 700 block of Market Street. We have to think that 714 Market St. was previously under-leased, and that a bunch of new employees in this building will be a great news for the renovated Gallery, er Fashion District Philadelphia. Figure the FDP will be done before the courts make their move, which means the businesses in the mall will get a shot in the arm sometime soon after opening their doors with an influx of new customers. Maybe by then, we’ll even be comfortable with the FDP moniker. No promises, though.