Friday, June 5, 2015

The Beury Building

When it comes to development in Philadelphia, rarely does a plan come along that simply makes sense. When it does, it's reactionary and long overdue, like East Market on Market East. Others that seem to make sense are so far out they only make sense on paper, like numerous master plans proposed for the entirety of the Delaware Waterfront. 

But occasionally a gem comes along. One that both anticipates a current and inevitable progression while managing to get out in front of it before the legitimate concerns of longtime neighbors are replaced by the pseudo-intellectualized ideals of Whole Foods bound yuppies (cough, Northern Liberties).

With years of buzz surrounding the Divine Lorraine and her corner of North Broad Street, Shift Capital has begun looking a little further beyond the confines of Greater Center City, at North Broad's other Divine Lorraine and its vicinity. The Beury Building at Broad and Lehigh isn't where the connected want to be, or even near it. As PlanPhilly put it, it's not in "East Kensington, not South Kensington, and not Olde Kensington. Kensington." This is the real Kensington.

The Beury: North Broad's most important building

Kensington, home to many residents, but also home to urban mythology for those in Center City and South Philadelphia, is, in its current state, the kind of neighborhood where you'd find a masked vigilante's lair hidden neatly beneath a rusty training studio. And the Beury Building his beacon. 

With the exception of their respective architecture, the Beury Building may in fact be even more significant to North Broad's Renaissance than the Divine Lorraine itself. Although not nearly as astounding, it stands to bookend what may someday be a congruous Greater Center City. 

The building is urban, as is its intersection. Every bit as urban as any corner of Center City. Despite it being shrouded in more than fifty years of blighted patina, the Beury Building's corner was, and can again be, a relevant cog in Philadelphia's gridded narrative. If the city and its investors play their cards right.

Banking on Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Shift Capital hopes to house seniors on seven of the Beury Building's fourteen floors. While the idea was previously floated for the Divine Lorraine, it makes sense at the Beury. Kensington is an established community and the Beury Building is an ideal place to house its older residents. Perhaps learning from the mistakes of the suburbanized housing behind the Divine Lorraine, Shift Capital seems to understand the importantance of giving Broad and Erie a reason to retain its urbanity. That reason isn't simply in subsidized housing, but in the Beury Building's viable existence. 

With its proximity to Temple University and as part of North Broad's greater goals, it is imperative that the Beury Building not fall to the wrecking ball. Temple University's growth stands to provide a microcosm of what Penn, Drexel, and other colleges have done for University City. But dynamic development at and around the Divine Lorraine and the Beury Building could make North Broad a much more integrated success story. 

There is no question that the Divine Lorraine is a landmark, significant both architecturally and historically. But with redevelopment taking shape at Spring Garden and along Ridge Avenue, the intersection of Broad and Fairmount is on track with or without the Divine Lorraine. But without the Beury Building, North Broad's urban presence and should-be goal to expand that presence all the way to Erie would cease with its demolition.

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