A grandparent's lifetime ago, Market East was the place to go shopping in downtown Philadelphia. Huge departments stores like Strawbridge and Clothier, Gimbels, and Lit Brothers offered shoppers all they could handle under one roof. But times have changed. None of Philadelphia's original six major department stores remain, though some of their former homes have fortunately fortunately stuck around. Wanamaker's is now a Macy's. The Strawbridge's building houses offices for the Inquirer and Daily News, among other things. And the former Snellenburg's? It's actually, mercifully, getting torn down as we speak.

Back in 1965

This building sucks now

Snellenburg's closed in 1962, and by the end of the decade the building had been criminally altered beyond recognition. What we see today on the 1100 block of Market Street is all that remains of the Snellenburg's building. Since its upper floors were chopped off, the building has contained a collection of individual storefronts, most of which have been lower-end businesses in recent decades. A few years ago, we learned that the building currently known as Girard Square would be demolished, and a new structure with Target as a lead tenant would replace it. But that never happened and we were bummed.

Earlier this year, we heard about a new plan for the property that still involved demolition, but this time would mean two floors of retail and 322 apartments over fifteen additional stories. This project, known as East Market, also involved future phases with additional retail and residential, along with an activated walkway between Market and Chestnut Streets. And oh were we ever pleased to learn about this plan.

Project rendering

We sort of put it out of minds over the months, until recently a reader gave us the heads up that demolition is actually underway. The structure still looks the same on Market Street, but a chunk is missing on Ludlow Street. This is obviously fantastic.

Demolition on Ludlow Street!

Just because the property is getting demoed doesn't mean that East Market is necessarily getting built (thanks for the lesson, Disney Hole), but it certainly is a step in the right direction. Just think, if things continue to progress, this block of Market Street will transform completely in the next couple of years. And if a planned renovation of the Gallery moves forward as has been discussed for years and the mall can spill out onto the sidewalk someday soon, the pedestrian experience in Market East will improve exponentially. Again, we're looking many steps into the future here, but the sight of demolition at what's left of the Snellenburg's building fills us with optimism. It should be fascinating to watch things progress in the next few years.