A Retail Renaissance for Rittenhouse Row

If you were to poll everyone in greater Philadelphia and ask them to rank neighborhoods in terms of desirability, we’d be willing to wager that Rittenhouse Square would be near the very top of the list. The famous park, gorgeous architecture, and incredible proximity to the central business district make this perhaps the premier neighborhood in the city. Rittenhouse Row, running west along Walnut Street from Broad to 21st Street, is the heartbeat of the corridor, at least from a commercial perspective. This corridor, like others in Philadelphia and across the country, suffered major retail losses as a result of the pandemic. However, as Philly is wont to do, we held stronger than some of our rivals and have made a rather strong commercial comeback. Why don’t we stroll down Walnut to take in the current scene?

A taste of Rittenhouse Row, looking east
Another view, this time looking west
Grand entrance to the square

Thanks to presentations from the Art Commission, we have some hints as to some other retail options coming our way. The Sign Committee, which provides non-binding comments to the Art Commission, is tasked with approving signage that goes up in Center City, including this very stretch along Rittenhouse Row. With that, we want to check out what new retail is coming our way (or is already here). We’re going to focus on 15th St. to 17th St. moving east to west on our journey, so go grab your credit cards and let’s check things out.

We’ll start our journey at 1517 Walnut St., at the former home to Barbour. You can see, State & Liberty, an active fit menswear company, has taken the spot. This company previously had a pop-up shop to the west on Walnut, but their brick-and-mortar store opened recently and looks similar to what was proposed in the submission, though you can see that the sign placement was moved to the window areas. Check out how reality compares to the renderings.

Current view of 1517, now open
Rendering shows original plans for the storefront

Up the next block at 1630 Walnut St. in the former For Eyes spot, plans are underway for a new gorjana, a Laguna Beach-based jewelry company. It looks like things are about to get started on this major upgrade for the facade.

1630 Walnut St. looking to be on the verge of an upgrade
A rendering of what's planned for the new gorjana location

Things get even busier when we jump to the 1700 block. First at 1703 Walnut St., which had previously been an Aldo a few years ago. Brooklinen, the Brooklyn-based sheet and bedding store, has opened one of their first handful of physical locations after their previous openings in NYC and Santa Monica. Looking at the store, it appears very similar to what was proposed in the submission.

The blue Brooklinen storefront hiding behind some scaffolding
Renderings show a clean, simple, navy look

Aritzia, the Canadian elevated basics brand, will soon take a spot at 1725-27 Walnut St., across the street and up the block from Brooklinen. Plans show a major revamp of the current structure, which way back in the day was home to the Nan Duskin store, which dressed the Rittenhouse faithful from 1936 to 1994 in this location. This is the first of our stores that also has an existing spot at the King of Prussia Mall, so hooray for the pull of Center City retail! Look for some pretty major work in the future for this historically designated building.

Current view of 1725-27 Walnut looking rather nondescript
Plans keep spirit of existing building while giving it some contemporary finishes

Immediately next door at 1729 Walnut St., plans are in place for a new Madewell store to replace the departed Ann Taylor Loft. The clothing company current has a spot across the street at 1716 Walnut (and another at KOP Mall) but look for a move across the street in the near future. This update will create an entirely new facade, with white brick taking place of the cast stone exterior.

1729 Walnut right next door to the future Aritzia
White brick and dark awnings will dramatically change the look of the building

Quite a change, wouldn’t you say? While we aren’t in love with every design and there are still some vacant storefronts here and there, it is encouraging to see companies buying into the Philadelphia retail scene. A busy and exciting Walnut Street gives folks yet another reason to either come into the city or stick around their own neighborhood if they live close. With projects rising on the neighboring blocks, these retail locations should have hundreds of more folks walking past on a daily basis. With all this new retail coming online, we find ourselves hopeful that we’ll soon see some progress at 1706-10 Walnut St., where historic buildings were demoed last year after severe fire damage in 2020. Only when that gap is filled will Rittenhouse Row finally feel like its comeback is complete.