The Girard Theatre was located at 625 W. Girard Ave., opening to the public way back in the 1890s, and operating as a performance venue and later a cinema through the 1960s. The building was eventually converted into a supermarket and all of the facade details that suggested that the place was once a theater disappeared as the years went on. A couple of things still indicated the building’s past, with the back of the building on Marshall Street still very much resembling an auditorium. Inside, the old stage remained intact and the market used the area for storage.
We’ve covered this property a number of times over the years, first bringing it to your attention back in 2012, when we considered the history of the entire block. We checked in a few more times over the years, as possible projects came down the pike for adjacent properties (none of which ever came to fruition, incidentally). In the fall of 2018, we shared the news that developers had purchased the property and intended to tear down the old building, but we didn’t know what kind of project they had in store, nor did we know when demolition would take place. Today, we can fill in most of the gaps in that information, and with photographic evidence to back us up.
Demolition got moving a few months ago, with the section of the building on Girard totally gone and most of the old auditorium demoed as well. As of a couple days ago when we visited the site, the back of the auditorium was still up, with the stage now visible from the street. It may not have been obvious that this building was once a theater before, but now it’s quite apparent to anyone that walks or drives or bikes past. We love old theaters and while we don’t believe this property could have viably been reused, it still bums us out to see it in its current state.
So what’s next? Once demolition is complete, the owners of the property already have permits in hand to build a mixed-use building here. This building will include a fresh food market on the first floor, which is a nice touch for a property that’s housed a grocery store for decades. We should note that the inclusion of the fresh food market will also provide the developers with a height bonus that will allow them to fit 48 apartments on the upper floors of this building, which we believe will add some much needed density to a stretch of Girard that’s crying out for more foot traffic. An added benefit, the folks that eventually live here will have a few dining options in very close proximity, including Tiffin, La Sushi, and relative newcomer Ambassador. Sure, this area will likely never have the sort of vibrant character we see on East Girard in Fishtown or West Girard in Brewerytown, but a little extra life on this stretch will go a long way and could pave the way for a few more businesses- at least it should make things a little easier for those that are already operating.