Former Pearl Art Supply Building To Be Reborn As Artist Studios

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.

Project rendering

This project is wonderful news for a vacant building and fabulous news for South Street in general. We wonder what kind of response the operators of the Arts Center have gotten from local artists to this point. Certainly, there are less expensive options to be found in more far-flung parts of town, but perhaps some artists are willing to pay the premium for such a fantastic location. Also- have folks who live near here or pass by on a regular basis noticed any work taking place? The timeframe for opening in June seems pretty aggressive to us, though crazier things have happened. Hopefully, the Center will receive overwhelming interest and it will be a smashing success. Can't wait to visit the rooftop garden/restaurant. 

  • MK

    They’re putting in new windows and doors as part of the new L&I initiative to reduce blight.

  • Brahim Mansaray

    Naked Philly is the best site when it comes to knowing the 411 on real estate and stuff.

    • Steve

       Well, at least they have the best pictures.

  • Guest

    I think Tony Rufo of Rufo Construction owns it (TR…).  They do alot of work in the Southwark neighborhood and are very good builders.  At one point in the past there was a younger developer (the guy that did Rosa Foods townhomes) who was going to condo it (around ’07).  I think it is an old paint brush factory or some weird use like that.

  • Members of the neighborhood civic association – Lower Moyamensing Civic – recently met with the owner, Tony Rufo, and Councilman Squilla to discuss this property. Mr. Rufo has been made aware of the L&I fines that he could face for every broken window and missing door – $300 per window and/or door per day, which MK referred to below. Members of the civic will be meeting with Mr. Rufo next week to discuss upkeep of the property to reduce litter and graffiti. Currently no development plans are in the works but the property is definitely ripe for a change in the positive direction. Lower Moyamensing Civic will keep residents informed about any proposed development to the property that we are made aware of and will convene a community meeting if any plans are presented. In the meantime, if you live in the vicinity and have constructive suggestions or thoughts on what adaptive re-use you would like to see for the Brush Factory, please email