Skip to Content

News & Resources

Plans take shape to keep Philly’s Old City old, but a modern old

1/13/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Our Old City is growing up. Once a nightlife destination, the area has become a little more sophisticated, a “design district populated by fashionable people,” as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic puts it. A number of projects are underway that will continue to coax the neighborhood into a prosperous middle age.

The challenge for developers is to maintain the historic flavor while satisfying modern development “best practices.” Inner city neighborhoods like this are turning to mixed-use buildings, to a balance of living space and retail space.

One development, still in its early stages, is hoping to strike just the right balance. The Third Street gateway at Third and Market streets is known for its 200-year-old brick warehouses. The plan is to merge the buildings into one. The transformation will entail tearing down one structure and replacing it with a replica of the building that had been there, and recreating a building that once stood on an empty lot.

The renovated structure will have 59 rental units on the upper floors and two retail spaces at street level. One retail tenant is already on board: CVS. The pharmacy will take up nearly half of the Market Street side of the first floor, and, being true to the brand, the store will paper over the windows. The developer has convinced the drug store to limit the window coverings to 6 feet, but, as one person noted, those are the 6 feet that pedestrians and passerbys in motor vehicles will see.

Without the CVS, though, the project would not be possible. The drug store is a valuable tenant, and the rent should underwrite the building’s renovation, the developer said. And, the neighborhood will have a good mix of national chains — a 7-Eleven and a Primo Hoagie, for example — and independent shops.

Residential development is following retail’s lead with a mix of projects. Two high-rises and some luxury townhomes are planned for Old City as well.

Source:, “Changing Skyline: Old City’s quirky retail zone turns a corner,” Inga Saffron, Jan. 11, 2014