If you’re ever at the corner of 30th & Cecil B. Moore, you’ll quickly find yourself starting at an impressive and unusual building that’s got an interesting history and some legitimate architectural significance. The Eastern building, as it’s commonly referred to today, was built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Realty Company, and designed by Harris & Richards (not to be confused with Richard Harris, may he rest in peace). The building was constructed as a parking garage for the American Railway Express Company, which was sort of like an early 20th century version of FedEx. AREC only used the building for about a decade though, and after a decade of vacancy Esso Standard Oil took it over until around 1950. After that, it was a factory for the Eastern Electric Company, the folks who hung the sign that (mostly) remains on the building today. Though the structure today now lacks a roof and generally appears to be in fairly rough shape, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
A meeting last month that we first learned about on Philadelphia Speaks provides hope that this building could soon be transformed into a mixed-use development. A story on Property tells us that the possibility of redevelopment has hovered over this property since 2006, but plans have not come to fruition. Now, Mosaic Development Partners, the guys who built Diamond Green, have entered the picture and it seems that the property will finally come back to life. A Preservation Alliance newsletter suggests that the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation (SMCDC) and the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center (SMNAC) are involved in the project as well.
According to Mosaic, they are planning for thirty-six apartments here, 14K sqft of office space, and thirty parking spaces. As you can see in the rendering, the scale of the building will be preserved, though additional height would likely be very beneficial to the financials of the project. The interior courtyard pictured above, we imagine, will be used by residents and office workers alike, and will provide a hidden green space for folks in the building to enjoy.
This building has had numerous false starts in the last decade, but this plan does seem to have some legs. Hopefully, the project gets support from the community and approval from the ZBA, and Mosaic will be able to get started by the end of this year, as they are planning. We’ll be keeping an eye on this property, and will update you as we hear any additional news. Fingers crossed this old parking lot still has some years left in those old bones.