One Meridian Plaza was constructed at the northeast corner of 15th & Chestnut in 1972, and was originally called the Fidelity Mutual Life Building, in honor of the company that co-developed the property. Eventually, Meridian Bank became the lead tenant in the building, and by the early 1990s it was also the headquarters for a little media upstart called Comcast. One Meridian Plaza is perhaps most famous though, because of a fire in 1991 in which three firefighters tragically lost their lives. Due to a lengthy battle over insurance money, the building remained for eight years after the fire, a vacant eyesore in the heart of Center City.
Not only was One Meridian Plaza sitting vacant, but several buildings next door were also damaged by the fire and sat empty for years. Finally, by around Y2K, all the buildings were demoed on the site, and it became a surface parking lot. Somehow, the property was used as a surface parking lot for over half a decade and in 2009, developers finished the Residences at the Ritz Carlton, filling in half of the property. The other half of the parcel, at the corner of 15th & Chestnut, sat empty for a few more years, as a plan came and went for a Waldorf-Astoria.
Finally, in 2012, we learned about new plans here, as developers came to the community with a dual-hotel concept in a 52-story building, with both the W and Element by Westin brands represented in the building. Two years later, the developers came back to the community to offer an updated plan for the site. At the time, we told you to expect the hotels to open by late 2017. That… did not happen. The project finally started moving forward in 2015 and construction has been slowly chugging along, and we’re pretty optimistic it’ll be ready sometime next year. These things take time, people!
If the project does indeed wrap up in 2019, it will close a hole in the fabric of Philadelphia that was ripped open almost thirty years ago. That time frame is almost inconceivable when we consider the changes that have happened in this town over those years. But we’ll certainly take it, and celebrate the elimination of one of the most embarrassing lots in Center City.