parking garage

Now a parking garage

The intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of the Vine Street Expressway, has seen a tremendous amount of change over the course of two centuries.  As the neighborhood around North Broad Street has transformed, the building at the southwest corner of the intersection has shifted constantly to reflect this transformation.  Hexamer & Locher’s Philadelphia Atlas shows that the corner in question was occupied by a Commission & Storage Depot in 1858.

Commission & Storage Depot connected to adjacent Coal Yard, 1858

Just a few years later, Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Atlas shows that the Coal Yard had come to occupy this entire stretch of the industrially-focused Broad Street. 

Coal Yard, 1862

By 1875, the primary commodity stored at the corner had changed from coal to lumber.  The Lumber Yard is attributed to one R.H. Dobbins. 

Yesterday, we brought some optimism for the future of a moderately terrifying parking garage at 8th & Arch. Coincidentally, today we have some new information to pass along about a project that should soon rise on a long-vacant lot pretty much next door to this garage. Back in October, we told you about plans to build a nine-story building at 810 Arch St. with 112 apartments, along with offices, lounges, community rooms, an exercise room, and thirty-eight bike spaces. But that was all we knew about the project at the time.

The best twenty bucks we spend every year is on our residential parking permit. Annually, we've religiously trekked to the Philadelphia Parking Authority offices at 30th & Market to renew our permit, fulfilling the annual program of forgetting to send the renewal back in the mail in a timely fashion. This year, as the clock struck June, we once again found ourselves needing to visit the PPA, in an effort to avoid the dreaded ticket for overtime parking with an expired residential permit.

So off we went to those familiar PPA offices, license, registration, utility bill, and checkbook in hand, eager to get this thing over with for another year. Imagine our surprise when the person at the building's front desk told us that the PPA had moved out two weeks earlier, to a new customer service office on the other side of town! And then we remembered a post from last month, when we told you that a retail space underneath a dank garage on 8th Street between Arch and Filbert, was getting renovated. And we remembered that a couple of commenters suggested that the PPA customer service office would be moving there. And then we realized that we weren't going to make it across town before the office closed. And then we were sad.

A few days ago, we told you about a lovely garden on the 1700 block of Kater Street that almost forgives the monstrously ugly parking garage that sits in front of it. In response to that post, a reader shot us an email with some info about possible improvements on the horizon for said garage. Well, at least at for the corner of 17th & South.

As is the case in every city, parking is a concern in Philadelphia. With that in mind, we accept parking lots as a necessary evil, giving residents and visitors alike a place to put their vehicles while they're not behind the wheel. The lowest form of parking lot, in our estimation, is the surface lot, which takes only a limited number of cars off the road and only offers passersby a view of an ocean of cars at street level. Parking garages are certainly more efficient, though they are quite often architectural horrors, making little to no effort to fit in with their surroundings.

Ugh

Such is the case for the parking garage located at 1700 South Street, which is used primarily by employees and patients of Penn Medicine Rittenhouse, a facility that occupies several former Graduate Hospital buildings. No one would make the argument that this building is anything but ugly- but it does offer one unusual and unexpected feature that stands out as a redeeming quality. Directly behind the building is a block-long green space on the 1700 block of Kater Street.

If you've ever travelled over the Ben Franklin Bridge and headed through town via 8th Street, you've surely noticed the terrible PPA parking garage that "arches over" 8th Street between Arch and Filbert. Its miserable aesthetic comes off even worse when you consider what it replaced when it was built in the mid-1960s.

8th and Arch in 1959
Current view

Philaphilia tells us that the construction of this monstrosity was actually celebrated in its time, as it made it much easier for suburban shoppers to park when visiting the adjacent Strawbridge's or Lit Bros. department stores. Somehow, it looked a little less scary during the Johnson administration.

Last summer, we gave you the heads up that construction would soon be underway for the first part of Cira Centre South, a new tower on Chestnut Street. At the time, it was predicted that owners Brandywine Realty Trust would be breaking ground in the fall, a timeline that appears was off by only a couple of months. We were in the area the other day and snapped a couple of photos of the site.

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.

About a year ago, we last brought news to you of a new parking garage rising at 1324-42 Arch St., across from the expanded Convention Center. Over the past eleven months, construction has progressed, and the garage section of the building looks to be nearly complete. Recently, work has been taking place on the commercial spaces that will front Arch Street.

The Cira Centre stands as one of the few tall buildings in University City, separated from the Center City skyline by the Schuylkill River. But it may soon have company in the form of Cira Centre South.

Cira Centre

Attorneys for developers Brandywine Realty Trust presented informal plans to individuals in the development division of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) last week, according to executive director Gary Jastrzab. He said those plans contained errors and were incomplete.

Cira Centre South rendering

“I can’t comment,” said Steve Rush, director of leasing at Brandywine.

“For all intents and purposes, our development division has not really seen the plans in any official capacity,” said Jastrzab.

A source, however, told Naked Philly that employees at the Cira Centre have seen presentations about Cira Centre South this summer, revealing plans to break ground on a tower fronting Chestnut Street as early as this fall. The Walnut Street tower will ostensibly come next.