Wednesday, October 17, 2007


A Third Act for Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts - New York Times

With fits and starts, the city of Philadelphia is trying to get right with a cohesive center for its artistic institutions that are neighbored with commercial and residential properties.

It is this kind of innovative thinking that can save long neglected urban centers. Mixed-use development is the best way to revitalize decrepit urban areas.

The first phase cultivated live performing arts; the second phase focused on attracting supporting commercial and retail tenants; and now the third movement: new residential development, much of it directly linked to the arts.

The Avenue of the Arts designation originally applied to the section of South Broad Street stretching from City Hall to Washington Avenue, but it was later expanded to include part of North Broad Street.

Symphony House, still under construction but partly occupied and 80 percent sold, is a 31-story condominium building on the Avenue of the Arts at Broad and Pine Streets. The tower will have ground-level retailing, including a high-end grocery store. In addition, it houses the 350-seat Suzanne Roberts Theater, built for the Philadelphia Theater Company.

While this is the first ground-up condo project to open on the Avenue of the Arts, it will not be a solo performance for long.

A contemporary midrise building at South and Broad, 1352 Lofts, is now partly occupied. There is also a three-phase project being constructed called the Artisan, which will have 30 new contemporary town houses. And the City Council recently approved a major mixed-use project at the southern gateway of the Avenue of the Arts at Broad and Washington; it is to have 860 rentals and condominiums, 30 to 50 stores, and 1,500 parking spaces on about 5.5 acres.

In the not-too-distant future, the developer of Symphony House, Carl E. Dranoff, and a Philadelphia soul music pioneer, Ken Gamble, will announce details of the National Center for Rhythm and Blues, a $250 million 60,000-square-foot museum of Philadelphia’s musical heritage; the project includes studios, offices and retail spaces made financially feasible by two high-rise residential towers.

“Four years ago, when Symphony House was approved by the city, despite all the amenities along the Avenue of the Arts, it was not seen as a residential area,” said Mr. Dranoff, president of Dranoff Properties. “It has become a 24-hour district.”


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