For many decades, the northwest corner of 5th & Bainbridge was home to a business called John C Paul and Sons, a family owned retail/wholesale paper goods company. The business closed its doors back in 2012, and about a year later we told you that developers Atrium Design had purchased the building, along with a few neighboring properties. They came up with a plan to weave the buildings together in a project that called for a combination of ground floor retail, a boutique hotel, and luxury apartments. Though we were saddened by the departure of a longtime business, we were excited to see what Atrium was going to do with the properties, given their history of creative and fun contemporary architecture.
We’re kind of still waiting. They got approvals five years ago for one apartment and a 29 room hotel above retail space. Construction started maybe four years ago and proceeded at a very measured pace. We checked in on the property back in 2016 and noted that the pace of construction had picked up, and predicted that the project could wrap up by the end of that year- the prediction proved to be incorrect. A year ago, we noted that there was some additional progress, but the property still looked like this:
After several years and some stops and starts, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that the project looks like it’s finally gearing up toward completion. The construction wall recently came down, and the future commercial space looks like it’s moving toward vanilla box condition. With progress on the facade, we wonder whether the future hotel rooms are taking similar steps forward, and we can imagine a scenario in which the project is completed by the end of this year. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
What you might not realize is that the construction wall that stood at this site for several years was considered a “freewall” by local street artists. Per Conrad Benner aka Streets Dept, The owners of the property tacitly allowed anyone and everyone to decorate the wall with graffiti or other types of street art, something you wouldn’t really expect at such a centrally located property. Check out these links (again, from Streets Dept), showing previous installations that related to street harassment, climate change, gun violence, voting, Trump and Rizzo, the future, and other artists. Given the incredible activity at this location, Benner is calling for a City-sanctioned freewall to be created somewhere else in or around Center City, to provide an outlet for street artists that had previously contributed to the wall at 5th & Bainbridge. Sounds like a nice idea to us, though we can’t think of a great location for such a wall offhand. Where would you want to see a Center City freewall?