Philadelphia is without question a truly singular place, basking in its own weirdness/perfection as often as possible/necessary. Case in point: it was newsworthy for the paper of record when a local utility company, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), began removing one of their iconic signs. These projecting marquees let passersby know that they could stroll inside and handle any natural gas-related concerns in person. But, unsurprisingly, these walk-in locations didn’t get a ton of traffic, closing down for good during the pandemic as consumer behaviors made rapid changes.

A PGW walk-in center in the past, with its unmistakable signage

It’s one thing to take down a sign, it’s another to actually do something with the building that the sign was attached to. But wouldn’t you know it, PGW, in partnership with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), just released an RFP for some of their properties. Or, more accurately, they released three: one each for the south, west, and north Philadelphia district offices. As you can see on the map below, these locations are spread out across the city, all along major streets close to the city’s main axes.

A map shows the three locations in orange, spread across the city

The RFP was rather vague, stating that one, two, or all three of the locations could be purchased and redeveloped. It was unclear exactly how the buildings looked today – and if the signs were on the other locations. So, what did we do? We went and visited all three spots, of course. We’re going to follow along the path of our journey, starting at 1601 S. Broad St., the former south district office. This handsome building sits at the SE corner of Broad & Tasker, with the Tasker-Morris BSL station literally directly out front. There was plenty of street work taking place when we stopped by, but the bones and location of this CMX-2 zoned building could definitely be appealing; if the zoning was a more appropriate CMX-3/CMX-4 at this location, it would be even more so.

PGW - S1
Approaching the corner of Broad & Tasker, with the Dolphin Tavern in the foreground
PGW - S2
A closer look at the building, with some decent depth along Tasker
PGW - S3
Could use some sprucing up, but the facade still looks great

We went west next, making our way to 5230-32 Chestnut St., where we encountered another sign-free building. This building went up in the late 1920s and was designed by Silverman & Levy, featuring another handsome, brick and masonry look. Given the similarities with the first building, we may even venture that the first was also designed by the same team. This property is zoned CMX-2 and sits just over a block from the 52nd Street MFL stop; in this instance, CMX-2.5/CMX-3 would be a more appropriate (and appealing) zoning.

PGW - W1
Looking across Chestnut at the building and its neighbor
PGW - W2
A closer look at the front facade, now also sign-less

The final stop was in North Philly, where 1337 W. Erie Ave. is also up for bidding. This property features a slightly different look, suggesting perhaps a different architectural origin. Sitting nearly in the shadow of the stalled Beury Building update/addition, this property’s CMX-3 zoning and on-going improvements to its transit-accessible location offer a slightly different option out of the trio, though perhaps a bit farther from the path of ongoing market rate development.

PGW - N1
Looking across Erie Ave. at the former north office
PGW - N2
A closer look at the building, with a different facade approach than the other two
PGW - N3
Looking up at some of the facade details

So, while these are all cool, older buildings in central locations, none of these are historically protected. That means that they will likely be more interesting to potential purchasers, who would have fewer hoops to jump through to create their vision – even if that vision involves demolishing a building or three. Even with the charming signs no longer up, all three of these structures have worthwhile architectural features and materials, and it would be sad to see any of them torn down. Alas, we shall have to wait and see what eventually transpires.

If you have any interest in checking out these properties in person, PIDC is holding tours of each building on May 9th, before final submissions are due on June 21st. Hopefully we’ll see all three properties get a new lease on life and come back as something that more closely aligns with Philly’s future.