The National Building is Finally Coming Back to Life

Mr. Fox

A new large-scale development is coming to Old City, next door to the nation’s oldest block, Elfreth’s Alley. Developers could break ground at National East, a 123-unit project planned for 109-31 N 2nd St. as early as this spring. The huge and long anticipated development will include a parking area covered by a deck/green area, marking the advent of a new era in Philadelphia parking.

Looking south, down 2nd St.
Closer look at the building

The structure will be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments (available at market rate) and feature two ground-floor commercial spaces (1200 and 1400 sq. ft.). We wonder who will occupy those spaces? The new building will replace the former National Products building, which closed almost a decade ago. Not to worry, though. The iconic tile wall with deco touches that fronts the building along N. 2nd Street will be preserved and restored. The finished product promises to be an interesting intersection of modernist and contemporary architecture, and will sit immediately next to row homes built in the early 18th century. Awesome.

Rendering: View from 2nd St.
Same building, but this view is from Arch St.

“It is a significant parcel that will once again be animated,” says Joe Schiavo, vice-chair of the Old City Civic Association developments committee. “But as a residential development rather than a single commercial use as it was for decades in the past.”

The OCCA recently approved the developers’ third presentation of designs. According to Schiavo, the third round of designs fit in more with the OCCA’s vision for its neighborhood. The parcel is located next to the Elfreth’s Alley historic district and OCCA members wanted to be sure construction would not affect those properties.

National East Associates, based in Havertown, both owns and will develop the parcel, located at 109-31 N. 2nd St. & 117-25 Arch St. (entrances will be on both streets). The architect is JDavis Architects. We're positively delighted to see that this project finally appears to be getting off the ground after years of fits and starts. From the time it gets underway, the entire project will probably take about two years.

--Lou Mancinelli