New National Building Evokes Its Predecessor

109-131 N. 2nd St. was home to the National Products Company, a restaurant supply business, for the better part of the 20th century. Sometime in the middle of that wonderful century, they clad their building’s facade in orange tiles, making it one of the more unique structures in town. In the early 2000s, after the store closed, developers started looking at redevelopment opportunities for the sizable property, per Hidden City. The possibility of demolition resulted in the building getting added to the Philadelphia Historic Register in 2002, which in turn limited redevelopment possibilities.

In the past

That didn’t stop developers from trying, as several different development plans came up and down the pike over the ensuing years, none of them ultimately coming to pass. Finally, the Buccini/Pollin Group purchased the property with plans to build a six-story building with 192 apartments, 57 parking spots, and a small retail space. They were able to get permission from the Historical Commission to tear down the old building, through a hardship argument, because the orange tiles that made the building special in the first place were deteriorating, having never been meant for exterior use. That arrangement included an agreement to build a new building with a first floor that matched the design of the old building, and with that settled, the developers tore down the old building in early 2016.

By last summer, construction was already underway. By the end of last year, most of the building had already been framed out. When we passed by the building the other day, we realized that the exterior work on the facade was nearly complete and notably, that the orange tiles had recently been installed on the outside of the first floor of the building. With the appearance of the orange tiles, the new project suddenly ties intimately back to the building that stood here previously, but with a much more appropriate and sustainable use and material selection.

Current view
Closer look
Looking north on 2nd Street

You can already get a pretty good sense of the building at this point, but it will obviously show much better once work is finished and the construction fence disappears. According to the building’s website, they’re already taking lease applications and giving hard hat tours for people interested in renting a unit. Move-ins will begin sometime this fall, and we’re gonna have to try to get a tour sometime soon, to give you a sense of what things look like inside and gain a better understanding of when this project will be wrapping up.

  • ZH Bizzle

    Honestly, I’m surprised the orange tiles are an ongoing part of this conversation- they’re pretty heinous. And usually I’m a fan of juxtaposition, but directly adjacent to Elfreth’s Alley, it looks like there’s a really outdated 1950s public library next door.

    • Karig2

      From what I understand, the neighborhood wanted as much of the old National structure preserved as possible, and since none was preserved, the builder agreed to recreate the look, as close as possible, to the original mid-20th C appearance, which included the orange tiles.

      • ZH Bizzle

        I totally get that- I just think it’s an ugly thing to try and bring back. Like, nobody’s trying to bring back mullets (or so I hope).

  • I honestly don’t *hate* it. Could the orange wall be helped with some nice downlighting? Asking for a friend.