Sunday, July 19, 2015

Promising Changes for the Hale Building

The Divine Lorraine isn't the only Willis G. Hale masterpiece to be passed around from developer to developer, begrudgingly prompting the phrase "I'll believe it when I see it."

The Keystone Bank Building, otherwise know by its' architect as The Hale Building, at Juniper and Chestnut has been an uncertainty since its unremarkable Valu-Plus closed a few years ago.

The bizarre building, which has been hacked up and altered about as many times as it's changed hands, is a pedestrian favorite amongst both locals and tourists. For years its upper floors served as a gay bathhouse. Hidden City showcased a spectacular walkthrough photographed by Michael Burlando, offering us a glimpse at what so many wonder: "What the hell is up there?" 

Turns out, quite a bit of odd history but not much worth anything to developers. When scaffolding flanked the sidewalk, many had hoped that work had begun. Unfortunately the crumbling building had spawned fears in the city's office of Licenses & Inspections, and what looked like a construction site was just a safety precaution to keep concrete and stone from falling on passing by Instagrammers. 

But if all goes according to plan, the Hale Building will be bought by Brickstone Realty Company, it's upper floors converted into offices with two restaurants on the ground floor. 

Sure, as is the case with the Divine Lorraine, we've heard this all before. But Brickstone Realty isn't just one of the more experienced developers in the region, they also have a knack for acquiring uniquely historic properties and salvaging what makes them so special. 

To put that into perspective, Brickstone renovated the Wanamaker Building and Lit Brothers on Market East. 

Jacob Adelman of the Philadelphia Inquirer put together a great retrospective on the building's genealogy of tenants, a family tree that reads like a history of modern Philadelphia, all of which tell the kinds of stories that could write their own film noire. 

With Chestnut Street's redevelopment and emergence as a shopping destination and Market East being rebranded for the first time since the Gallery at Market East opened, the Hale Building - modest in size - has always been a no-brainer. It's just been silently laying in wait for the right developer with the right ideas. 

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