Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chesnut Street Renaissance

With Bru's indoor beer garden, Commonwealth 1201 apartments, West Elm, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Philly Cupcake, MilkBoy, Spice Cafe, Fago de Chao, Lucky Strike, and the White Building, East Chestnut's reputation as a stretch of warn retail might be a blind eyed judgment held only by Philadelphia's who remember what it was twenty years ago.

It certainly hasn't peaked and has a long way to go, but its reputation may already be one that new Philadelphians don't understand. It has its share of lack luster shops and vacant storefronts, but it's not as tragic as Market East. In fact, with the exception of the 1000 and 1100 blocks, business does quite well on Chestnut Street day and night, with many of the new businesses overshadowing the corridor's lingering blight.

It's about to get even better. In June, Brickstone Realty Corp. bought the Oppenheim, Collins & Co. Department Store, House of Beauty, and the dollar store on the 1100 block, all vacant.

Brickstone intends to turn the department store into a mixed use apartment and retail complex, demolishing the other two for new, additional retail.

While Chestnut's revival has been underway for the last decade, active development provides space for the unique boutiques being out priced by Walnut Street's increased rents, and even those businesses seeking refuge from West Chestnut's pricier real estate.

Once upon a time on Chestnut Street

For too long, much of Chestnut Street sat stagnant, with absentee slumlords and land hoarders awaiting a turn in the market, one that plummeted when city planners closed Chestnut Street to traffic and attempted to transform it into a pedestrian promenade.

Many owners simply sat on their vacant buildings by locking the doors and paying outdated property tax, not even bothering to rent to retailers and tenants simply because too few were even interested. The change is already here and property owners are waking up. Perhaps the best asset to Chestnut Street's renaissance is its affordability for start ups and independent boutiques, the kinds that transformed Walnut Street into what it is today.

A renewed interest in the area provides a vast amount of space that proves Center City's retail scene is nowhere near capacity. Its proximity could even lead curious retailers to Market East's even larger canvas of affordable real estate which, in the shadow of City Hall, remains inexplicably dormant.

1 comment:

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