I love talking about Market East. I'm not a masochist, I just like seeing potential and imagining how it may evolve. I think that's what attracted me to Philadelphia in the first place. And there is no untapped potential in Philadelphia like Market East. The Philadelphia Planning Commission has commissioned an ambitious redevelopment plan by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects that reinvents Market Street as Philadelphia's Main Street. Centering around Market East Station and a new Inter-modal Transportation facility on Filbert, the plan expands towards a reinvented and enlarged Chinatown including Franklin Square, a new "Loft District" immediately behind the expanded Convention Center, and an emphasis on improvements to the Jefferson Hospital area and renewing Chestnut Street as a shopping district.
The concept is an ambitious one, but within the overall design, the focus is so compartmentalized it is one of the most doable Market East plans I've ever seen. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the plan - elaborate as the images may seem - focuses mainly on improving existing structures and developing surface parking lots. It proposes expanding the successful elements of the Market East district, such as an expanded Reading Terminal Market utilizing the head house. While the most dramatic changes include a redeveloped Girard Block and high rises added to the Gallery, equally influential changes to the district include rerouting commuter buses to Arch or Filbert at a new transportation center that combines Market East Station with Greyhound and NJT.
The plan has generated a lot of excitement, although one can easily understand a reluctance on the part of neighboring businesses given the past 30 years, but with a strong plan focusing on the smaller elements of an overall project, one catalyst may be all that is needed to set this concept in motion.