Why so much buzz lately about Market East?

PREIT’s rendering of the new Gallery at Market East

The Market East section of Philadelphia that is, not the regional transportation hub.

Maybe it’s just me, but almost everywhere I look in the local media these days, people are buzzing about Market East.

Some of those discussion topics, over the last year or so:

Girard Square

The Gallery

Market8 Casino

Times Square-esque Digital Signage

Everyone is talking, and for good reason. Out of all the original Center City neighborhoods (Logan Square/Circle, Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Society Hill, and Old City), Market East (or Center City East) is really the only one left with copious amounts of potential.

All of the others have already been redeveloped, or are in the process of.

The reason I found this story so blog-worthy, was because of that aforementioned potential. Center City has become so prominent/noticeable in Philadelphia’s comeback story, that it has literally spawned an entire army of coveted neighborhoods.

Graduate Hospital

Passyunk Square + East Passyunk





Northern Liberties


The #1 reason why these varying and unique neighborhoods have caught fire within the local real estate market, is because of Center City’s success (and University City’s too, if you want to get technical).

Original Center City has become expensive and is short on supply, which is why the spillover demand has landed in these neighborhoods. In reality, there was really no where else to go but to follow the concentric circles.

Now, it’s not just because of CC + UC that Philadelphia has changed so much over the last 20+ years.



East Falls

Chestnut Hill

Mount Airy



As you can now see, the demand is spreading all over town, into historic neighborhoods, and for different reasons. Main Streets, universities, small businesses, networking groups, night markets, food trucks, and everything in between.

Market East may currently be the trendiest name in town, but it sure is not the last.

Plans unveiled for the “New” Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park Waterworks, South Garden | Philadelphia

If you thought Philadelphia’s famed Fairmount Park could not get any better, you would be mistaken. The funny thing about FP is that it gets mixed results from those who live around it … seriously, it does.

Some love Fairmount Park, and some hate it. Some think its potential has been reached, and some think there is only room for improvement. Some Philadelphians use it every day, and some locals have never set foot in it.

For being one of the world’s largest urban park systems (aka “The Largest Landscaped Urban Park in the World,” according to Wikipedia), I personally feel that the park itself is underutilized. There are so many different elements to this 9,200 acre Philadelphia green space, that it’s too hard to recognize all of them. The most recognizable places include (but are not limited to): Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Zoo, Boathouse Row, Please Touch Museum, and Bartram’s Garden.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What I really love about Fairmount Park is that it’s so well protected and preserved, considering it’s located in the 5th largest US city. What was originally an 1858 agreement to protect Philadelphia’s main water supply (aka the Schuylkill River), has turned into a phenomenal public park system (63 different neighborhood parks, to be exact). This gives all Philadelphians the option to escape the busyness of city life (any day of the week), and still be within close proximity to their homes.

Okay, that should be enough background and history to get us started here.

Close to 1 year ago, Philadelphia Parks & Rec teamed up with local community groups and Penn Praxis (the design arm of UPenn) to discuss how East/West Fairmount Park could be better connected and utilized as a whole. The result, a comprehensive plan called “The New Fairmount Park.”

As to not deviate from my usual approach, let’s break this jawn down in traditional PUL fashion:

– “Why East & West Fairmount Park?”: Well, simply put, East/West Fairmount Park are the core of Fairmount Park as a whole. They both touch Center City (East) and University City (West), which both happen to be the biggest growth areas in Philadelphia today. On top of that, no other city in the US can match East/West’s combined size and overall value to the health of local residents. From a tourism standpoint, these 2 park sections draw 7M visitors every year, are home to some of Philadelphia’s most significant cultural institutions, and offer a wealth of sculptures and public art. In other words, East/West are a big draw for tourists. From a recreational standpoint, there are 54 trail miles, 16 creeks, and 4 playgrounds. In other words, East/West serve as a huge public playground for those younger and older alike.

– “The Big Vision”: This one has to be seen on the plan itself. In general, it capitalizes on some of FP’s greatest assets: creeks, trails, and park entrances. To see some of the graphics depicting the plan’s ideas and calls-to-action, click here.

– “First-Steps”: With any comprehensive plan, the goal is to start small by meeting short-term goals for long-term gains. That’s exactly what the plan calls for in this section. Things like improving watersheds, traffic studies, and pedestrian accessibility all contribute to exposing the park’s physical attributes and overall beauty. Simple things like painting bike lane lines on bridges that cross the Schuylkill River will help connect East and West. Making park entrances more visible to those walking, riding, or driving by will increase Fairmount Park’s curb appeal and encourage more usage. Steps like these do not cost millions of dollars to complete, they just require a plan and some attention to detail.

– “Focus Areas”: This section of the plan focuses on 5 key areas, and they mostly revolve around the same simple concept: bring people to the water sources in Fairmount Park. By following the 16 creeks that flow down to the Schuylkill River, park users will have a natural path from uphill to river (and vice-versa). The funny thing about the neighborhoods surrounding FP, is that many residents in those communities don’t realize how easy it is to access the park. Both natural and man-made barriers are the culprits. The goal is to use waterways as a guide to increasing park usage and park access.

Done and done.

My hope is that this blog post will serve as a launching point for all PUL readers to see how great Fairmount Park really is, and how much greater it will become in the not-too-distant future.

What has long been in store for Market East, is now coming to fruition

This image lays out the entire plan.

My last post on PUL.com talked about Paul Levy and some of the projects he has worked on over the years to help move Center City Philadelphia forward.

One such project I mentioned, “The Road to Dilworth Plaza Park,” is a solid anchor for Market East, from City Hall all the way down to Old City. Not to mention that it will also serve as an anchor for the recent activity on Market West, but let’s keep our focus toward the east for now.

Well, good things are being talked about in the news.

If you have ever taken SEPTA regional rail to Market East, walked through the sets of doors to the escalators, taken the escalators up to street level, and walked through the additional sets of doors onto Market St, you have probably noticed an outdated, unsuccessful string of retail shops directly across the street.

This retail strip is known locally as Girard Square.

To be honest, these stores are pretty weak for where they sit in proximity to both Midtown Village and Old City. Not even considering the fact that they’re right across the street from one of Philadelphia’s busiest public transportation hubs.

If you shop at Girard Square, please do not take offense. I just think Philadelphia can do better, and they are about to make good on that statement.

Come summertime, Girard Square will be no more. In its place will be an updated, modern, mixed-use, shiny new development that will include new shops, new restaurants, and new residences, along with large digital marketing displays outside (now allowed along Market East, per a new zoning ordinance). Finally, Market East is starting to realize it’s potential, as I have blogged about this before (over 2 years ago).

Here are some of the details, per the article from PBJ that inspired this post:

“The 4.3-acre site takes up an entire city block bound by Market, Chestnut, 11th, and 12th streets. The building fronting Market St will be taken down, and the first phase will rise in its place. It will total $230M and encompass 650,000 square feet.

“That initial phase will include constructing a 17-story tower that will have the first two levels dedicated to 160,000 sq ft of retail space, and the remainder an apartment structure with 322 units. It will also involve renovating the 200,000 sq ft family court building and preparing that for retail space on the street level and office space above.”

Right on, Market East!

Not only do I like that the developers are phasing this project properly (supply and demand), but the most visible part (remember that picture I just painted for you in Paragraph 4, walking out of Market East station) is first in line for redevelopment.

All in all, the project is shooting for 2M total sq ft of brand-new, mixed-use space, and a total investment of $500M.

Not bad, not bad at all.