Avenue of the Arts

It's finally happening after years of rumors

Every now and again, a large piece of prime real estate becomes available in Center City, and all the big developers surely take notice. Such is surely the case with 500-510 S. Broad St., the 40K sqft parcel that's been home to Health Center No. 1 for the last few decades. Earlier today, we received an email informing us about a recently released RFQ from the PIDC, seeking parties interested in purchasing and redeveloping this significant parcel on Avenue of the Arts.

Where you go from there is up to you

South Broad Street between South Street and Washington Avenue is on the rise, though its ascent has been rather slow and uneven. When 777 South Broad arrived on the scene a little less than a decade ago, bringing almost 150 apartments and a number of new retail spaces to the corridor, we were hopeful that we'd see other development crop up in a similar vein. But it's been a dry spell until quite recently, when construction started humming along at Lincoln Square on the northwest corner of Broad & Washington.

As for the rest of this stretch of South Broad, it remains a mix of unimpressive uses, with numerous one-story commercial buildings and a variety of vacant lots. We've had our eye on one of those vacant lots, 740 S. Broad St., for several years, hopeful that a developer would come forward to build something new and exciting.

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.

A couple of weeks ago, an article in the Daily News attempted to tackle the tensions that have arisen in Francisville with the number of new residents that have arrived in the neighborhood in recent years. And it's with an eye toward attempting to defuse some of those tensions that several groups are collaborating on a Jazz concert series on the first Friday of every month between August and November. The first concert is tonight.

Site of the concerts

Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation (FNDC), Fairmount Community Development
Corporation (FCDC)
, the Arts Garage, Avenue of the Arts, and the Clef Club Collaboration Orchestra are all behind the Jazz @ the Market concert series which will take place at the Francisville Farmers Market on the 1900 block of Fairmount Avenue. The free concerts will not only offer people a chance to enjoy some sweet jazz music, but they will also come with the explicit purpose of connecting people to their neighbors, new and old.

According to Men’s Fitness Magazine, Philadelphia is the 14th most obese city in America.  Hah!  Take that Indianapolis (13th)!  Granted, there are still hundreds of other metropolitan areas where people have an easier time shimmying through turnstiles than we do.  But before you go blaming the cheesesteak, consult an open letter written in 1860, “To Philadelphians on Behalf of the Natatorium and Physical Institute.”  The Natatorium, identified as a Swimming School in this image taken from G.M. Hopkins 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, opened in 1858 at 219 South Broad St. with the mission of improving fitness in Philly.

A reader checked in, asking about the vacant building at 311 S. Broad St., directly across the street from the Kimmel Center. We were reminded that we wondered about that very building some ten years ago, around the time the Kimmel Center opened, thinking it would be a slam-dunk location for a fancy bar/restaurant. Alas, the building is being used now for pretty much the same purpose as it was back then- a pigeon coop.

Awesome building

All 19,500 sqft of 311 S. Broad St. were purchased by Assorted Music Partnership, back in 1997, for $400K. The (former) Philadelphia International Records office was located in the building next door, until it caught fire last year. Both Assorted Music Partnership and Philadelphia International Records, in case you didn't already assume, are owned by gated-mansion loving, Philadelphia soul pioneering, Kenny Gamble. And may we add, the still-boarded up windows at PIR fit in perfectly when examined alongside a property that's been vacant for fifteen years.

Last week, we looked into the history of Philly’s venerated Museum of Art.  Today, we consider another of the city’s Greek-influenced cultural landmarks.  The flagship building of The University of the Arts, Dorrance Hamilton Hall, stands between Pine and Spruce Streets on the west side of Broad.  The University’s Eugene Bolt tells that the building was conceived by architect John Haviland, most famous for previously designing the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Erected in 1824, it is the oldest building still standing on Broad Street.

UArts today

However, an image taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas shows that the art school was originally an educational institution of a different kind.  For its first 70 years, Haviland’s building housed the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, alternately known as Philadelphia’s Deaf and Dumb Asylum.


On Thursday, November 10th, the Arts Ballroom will be hosting Roaring! A 1920’s Event. Noel Zayas Events will be producing the affair. Dalet Gallery is organizing the lavish, prohibition era social event, and is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Avenue of the Arts, the organization that aims to grow and develop South Broad St.

Roaring! will launch a series of fashion, lifestyle and art events for Old City based Dalet Gallery. Artistic Director Irena Gobernik says, “We chose the Arts Ballroom as our venue because of its energy and vibe- its rich history and its close proximity to the Avenue of the Arts.

If you've been to the 1400 block of Bainbridge St. in the past five years, you've probably noticed the numerous luxury town homes on the block. Phase One of the Artisan development consisted of fourteen homes on the south side of Bainbridge St., all of which sold for $900K or more.

Phase One

Physician turned developer Joe Williams is now in the process of constructing Phase Two, which will, once complete, include eighteen additional homes on Kater St., the north side of Bainbridge St., and Pemberton St. Of those eighteen, four have been sold, four are under contract, and the other ten are still available. We were drawn to this area by the number of properties currently under construction. We didn't realize that they were all part of the same development until we looked at the site plan from the Artisan web site.

Recently, we took a tour of 777 S. Broad St. with Marianne Harris, Director of Sales, Leasing, and Marketing for Dranoff Properties, and we were very impressed with what we saw. This place is both good looking and has a commitment to luxury for residents. Oh, and by the way it's a totally green building. We'll try to give you a taste, but we suggest checking it out in person sometime soon, if you'd like to get the full effect.

777 Lobby

In the well appointed lobby, a guard is on duty 24 hours a day and also takes packages for residents. When a package arrives, the guard enters the information into Building Link, a program that immediately emails the resident that their package has arrived. Residents can also remotely use Building Link to reserve common spaces for private events, arrange for dry cleaning pickup, make repair requests, or give permission for someone to enter the building. Cool stuff.