The famous Lit Brothers Department Store building, which is now the BNY/Mellon Independence Center along the 700 block of Market Street, is one of the most charming buildings along Market East. It has a six-storey cast iron facade on Eighth and Market Streets, which is actually a conglomeration of several buildings, and a sandstone-colored brick facade on Seventh Street. The tin trim over the corners at Seventh and Market and Eighth and Market have a well-known inscription: “Hats Trimmed Free of Charge”, reminiscent of a time when hats were regularly worn everyday and trimmed with ribbons and items such as feathers. The top of the building once had a large iconic sign that read “A Great Store for a Great City” back in the days of the department store. Now, the developers who renovated the conglomeration of buildings into what is now the BNY/Mellon Independence Center, Brickstone Realty, have proposed building a modern apartment highrise at the back of the center on Filbert Street.
The new tower, which is being designed by Stantec Architecture and which would tentatively be called the Mellon Independence Center Tower, would rise to 35 storeys, 29 storeys above the roof on the Filbert Street side. The tower would be 429 feet tall, about as tall as the Aramark Tower at 11th and Market Streets, and would be set back from the Market Street facade by 180 feet and the Seventh and Eighth Streets facades by 150 feet, which would make it barely visible from directly across Market Street, but visible from Seventh and Eighth Streets. The tower would have a footprint of 12,000 square feet, less than 10% of the total area of the Mellon Independence Center, but it would add 350,000 square feet of new space. It would have 342 loft-style units, in the tower above the Mellon Independence Center, and six floors of office space in the lower floors. The apartments would be 75% one bedrooms and 25% two bedrooms. The developers plan to demolish the portion where the tower will be and rebuild it with the office space, and then the apartment tower above. The tower would have large, modern floor to ceiling windows on an all glass facade. The first floor would have a retail space. The entrance to the building would be through the Mellon Independence Center itself, with just a simple door on Filbert Street, which the developers believe to be a service alley. There would be almost no additional parking, the residents would use the large parking garage over Eighth Street next to the building. That garage, and the underpass along Eighth Street north of Filbert Street, is due for a major renovation soon. In fact, Brickstone plans to do a more comprehensive renovation of the Mellon Independence Center, with more lighting all around. The developers received approval from the City Historical Commission, with the proviso that they maintain a brick bridge over Filbert Street, which connects the Mellon Independence Center to the Cast Iron Building (718 Arch Street) and, also, maintain a copper clad walkway, also on Filbert, between two of the Mellon Independence Center buildings. The tower has, also, received approval from the City Planning Commission’s Civic Design Review committee, and is expected to easily receive approval from the full Planning Commission very soon. Since no zoning variances are necessary, the developers would not need approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and can start construction as soon as the Planning Commission gives its final approval.
The Mellon Independence Center tower is the first major residential project for Market East, except for a partially finished residential conversion across the street called Thomas Lofts. It is intended to start a new trend of luxury living on Market East and it certainly isn’t the only improvement project planned for the long stagnant corridor. The big parking lot, at Eighth and Market Streets, is owned by the Goldenberg Group, which would like to develop a casino there if the Gaming Commission approves it, or with another large development if that doesn’t happen. The Gallery at Market East is close to getting a total overhaul that would bring new retail, much of it upscale, and entertainment while replacing its facade. The owners of The Gallery, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, have already gotten department store Century 21 to take two floors of the long vacant, but landmark, former Strawbridge’s Department Store Building. Developers Seligsohn Hess plan to demolish and redevelop the whole south side of the 1100 block of Market, also known as the Girard Estate or Girard Square block, and build a large mixed use complex, with major retail, residential buildings, and maybe a hotel and office space. The first phase of that project is scheduled to begin in July, and will include a lot of retail space and at least one highrise residential building on Market Street. As if this isn’t enough, other residential and retail projects are happening on neighboring streets, such as a new highrise apartment building on the 1200 block of Walnut Street, a large apartment and retail complex that will take up most of the south side of the 1100 block of Chestnut Street; also being developed by Brickstone, a new luxury condo tower at 5th and Walnut Streets, a new apartment tower at 10th and Vine Streets, an affordable apartment development at 9th and Arch Streets, and the renovation of the former Goldtex factory building, at 12th and Callowhill Streets, into apartments. All this near the recently expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center. Not only is the Mellon Independence Center near the Convention Center, Reading Terminal Market, and all these new and renovated retail complexes, but it is also a block away from the Independence Mall and a few blocks away from Franklin Square Park, to the north, and Washington Square Park, to the south. It is, also, above a huge hub of rail transit, including the Market/Frankford line, the PATCO line to New Jersey, and the regional rail at Market East Station.
Clearly, the Mellon Independence Center tower would be the beginning of a lot of change for Market East. If you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Center City, or anywhere else nearby, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out my Long & Foster agent portal, here, or our Long & Foster Philly Center City office, here (our office is down the street from the new tower, in the Curtis Center). You can, also, view my real estate Facebook page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor, or my twitter page, @GabrielGPhilaRE. You can see the minutes from the Historical Commission’s March meeting where the project was approved, here, and view renderings and my pictures of the site and neighborhood, below.