Upgrade For a Commercial Building on Chestnut

As Walnut Street has become too expensive for many retailers, the western side of Chestnut Street has experienced a resurgence of late, as new stores have breathed life into the corridor. With all the additional commerce, we’ve been reminded on multiple occasions that Chestnut Street has a great stock of older buildings, many of which have a new shine thanks to higher end retail tenants. There are still some stinker buildings on Chestnut Street though, but thankfully a recent construction effort is refreshing one of the worst.

Former view

We’re pretty sure 1709-17 Chestnut St. was built in the 1970s, perhaps just before the ill fated urban planning experiment called the Chestnut Street Transitway closed much of Chestnut Street to cars for about twenty-five years. As the corridor languished, this building fit right in. As the corridor has recovered over the last decade and a half, it has felt more and more out of place. It seems that the owners of the property, Samson Asset Management, have finally gotten that memo, as they are now doing extensive work on the building’s facade to bring it into the 21st century.

Current view
Another view

This is a mostly welcome development, as it will upgrade one of the ugliest buildings in Center City. In conjunction with this renovation effort, Michael Klein has reported that a bakery, Paris Baguette, will be opening in here in the near future. And who doesn’t like a bakery?

Our only complaint about this project is that the renovation of the building represents a significant investment and will likely preclude a more aggressive redevelopment effort at any point in the near future. The current building is a hysterical underuse of this property with a building that nobody cares about. This is a prime location with a footprint of over 11K sqft and the most lenient possible zoning designation; the site would seem like a no brainer for a mixed-use tower, maybe something like the AQ Rittenhouse just a few blocks away. But with the owners investing in the existing building, we don’t see them rushing to tear it down to build something better in its place or sell it off to someone who will. So while we welcome the improvement, we lament the missed opportunity for something much better. Eh, maybe next development cycle.