Monday, November 15, 2010

A Could-Be Cindarella Story

The Gallery at Market East
Photo from Brownstoner Philadelphia

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission meets tomorrow to discuss turning The Gallery at Market East into our town's Times Square.

The first mistake anyone in favor of this exciting proposal made was comparing it to Times Square. While Market East belongs to commuters and tourists, every NIMBY in a five block radius will be claiming it their Main Street and undoubtedly packing the meeting space to stomp their feet in protest.

It's true that neon signs and plasma screens won't make up for The Gallery's dwindling business, but a dull and uninviting facade doesn't attract retailers in the first place.

People forget that this stretch of Market Street is the Gateway to Philadelphia for many tourists. Conventioneers and families from all walks of life stay near 12th Street and walk down Market East to The Liberty Bell. Philadelphian's are stern footed when it comes to suburbanizing our retail scene, but when it comes to out of towners, they are typically looking for familiarity. Most don't know who Jose Garces is and they don't care. They're looking for California Pizza Kitchen and Fuddruckers.

Sure, lighting up The Gallery might be the equivalent of putting a turd in a sundress, but considering that turd makes up three blocks of a neighborhood most retailers avoid, dressing it up has to be the first step in turning it around.

The Gallery at Market East facade as seen in part of a comprehensive plan for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects

What other options do we have? Tear it down? It's not like Market East is lacking in available real estate. As sad as it is, The Gallery is the lifeblood of Market East. The "scrap it and start over method" gave us the Disney Hole and the Girard Trust Block. Let's not make that mistake again.


Other proposals and concerns being addressed in the meeting include a parking garage near 13th and Arch to service a new hotel at Broad and Arch. Councilman Clarke has proposed limiting student housing in Temple's Yorktown neighborhood to keep university presence out of his blighted district.

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