Friday, April 8, 2011
Putting Stock in Market East
The mall could be better. What mall couldn't in this economic climate? But its vicinity contributes to The Gallery's woes as much as its management. The Gallery's architecture can't be faulted for its lack of Baby Gaps. It's a mall. From Manhattan to Terre Haute, they all look the same.
Unfortunately its sensible and malleable design is just that. It's there and it's dull, and its success will partially rely on exciting surroundings. But when you step out on the sidewalk, the stage presented to tourists ferried from their hotel to The Liberty Bell, it's not just dull, it's depressing.
As a purported historic district, it's history is purely philosophical. With four arguably historically significant buildings between 8th and 12th, Market East's historic credibility is in its place as the nation's first concentrated avenue of consumer goods, not its architecture.
Fortunately, developers are starting to understand the artery's importance as just that, and recognizing this forgotten potential.
The organization managing The Gallery, PREIT, will begin a $100M renovation this year. Although Strawbridge's retail space is still unspoken for, it's upper levels have been renovated for the relocation of the employees formerly housed in the State Office Building on North Broad.
Undoubtedly, there were be plenty of push back from tunnel visioned activists. Many Philadelphians are staunchly opposed to chains and will complain about any new retail that isn't local and organic.
But the opposition are often those who most vocally avoid Market East, so what better place to erect Philadelphia's dirty little secret: A successful, corporate retail and entertainment corridor catering to conventioneers and tourists, and of course those of us who don't turn our nose up at buying kitty litter from K-Mart.