A reader reached out to us recently, wondering about 1231 Vine St., a property with terrific views of I-676. The question stemmed from the fact that construction started here back in 2017 and only wrapped up at some point in the last few months. That’s a pretty reasonable construction schedule for a $50M apartment building with a few hundred units, but doesn’t really square with a property that’s only 18 feet wide.

Looking at the building on Google Street View, we could almost remember what it used to be. Something about the marquee on such a small building gave us a hint, but we couldn’t quite figure it out without doing a little bit of research. In less than a minute, we realized that Electric Factory Concerts was once based out of this building, and also had a box office in the front that we had definitely visited a few times back in the early 2000s. Ah the good old days when concerts were a thing. And human contact.

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In the past

Developers bought the building in 2006 and tried to sell it again just a few years later, and then it was on and off the market for several years. Eventually they gave up on selling the building and decided to “renovate” it, getting permits to add a story and create 7 apartments on the upper floors, with retail space downstairs. The renovation actually meant tearing down most of the building and clearly the project was more than the original developers could handle, since they were never able to finish the project. Ultimately, they sold the framed out building to new developers in early 2019, and now the project is finished and the apartments and the commercial space are available for rent. Sadly, the marquee didn’t survive the renovation.

Current view

Looking at this project also drew our attention to the Best Western hotel next door. We weren’t so enthralled by the budget hotel per se, but we did appreciate the building it’s in, which we confess we never really noticed before. The building is in the Art Moderne or Streamline Moderne style, which is basically Art Deco but without the ornamentation. Even without the ornamentation, the building is still a pretty sweet edifice, and a cool product of its time.

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Best Western next door
Viewed from the east
From a distance

According to the Center City District, this building was constructed in 1930 and was originally used as a film exchange building for Warner Bros. Pictures. Back in the day, when movie theaters dotted the landscape of Philadelphia, there was a considerable amount of management and oversight required to get films to different theaters. Over time, the building transitioned into office use, also functioning as a school and a methadone clinic through the years. In 2015, developers turned it into the 107-room hotel we see today. Needless to say, if this building would have been built from the ground up in 2015, it would probably look a lot like its neighbor to the west, and nothing like it does. To state the incredibly obvious, they don’t design or build ’em like they used to.