Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nordstrom to Market East: believe that when your shit turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbert

Not sure if you all heard ‘em, but we certainly did. Talking 'bout rumors of Nordstrom going into the Gallery at Market East. Of course, we realized they were pipe dreams rumors. And outlandish ones at that.

But PREIT, who purchased the Gallery in 2003, had been actively seeking new anchor tenants. Especially after Federated axed Strawbridges earlier this year.

The courtship notwithstanding, we cannot say we were surprised to hear who the new rumored tenants were
word on the street is that Boscov's and Sears are on the way.

So not exactly Nordstrom but whatever. Market East doesn't need a Nordstrom — it simply needs to be a lot more pedestrian friendly. And we mean A LOT MORE.

The Center City District’s recent report on Market East, not just the Gallery Mall but all of Market Street East, will tell you as much. And as can be expected of the CCD, it’s a good report with a lot of actionable recommendations.

So while it’s great to hear that PREIT is bringing some new department stores to the Gallery, we have to admit, we’d be much more excited if PREIT was moving on some of the more pressing recommendations, like getting the mall to embrace Chinatown instead of blocking it out or making the Mall’s Market Street façade a little less bleak/fortress-like/lifeless.

Open up to Chinatown
Animate the Gallery's façadeOr, actually, we’d be even happier if the city was the one taking the initiative and moving to adopt other parts of the master plan in a timely fashion. You know, like adding density to the area in the form of housing, developing useless surface parking lots, or animating isolated streetscapes between Independence Mall and 13th Street.

After all, it has already been two and a half years since CCD’s very similar, earlier critique of Market East (PDF):
Diverse and walkable networks of pedestrian paths characterize successful visitor destinations. The more interesting and lively the sidewalks of a city, the further visitors will venture to explore, to shop and dine, to linger and return.
[…]
Despite enormous progress, Center City's transformation into a vibrant visitor destination is still a work in progress. There are significant gaps in the continuity of the pedestrian experience that limit the time that visitors are prepared to spend exploring the attractions and amenities of Center City. Significant gaps of even one block in length that are uninteresting, unattractive or which feel unsafe will deter many visitors from walking between destinations.
[…]
Market Street East: With several great historic department stores, the distinctive architecture of the Reading Terminal Headhouse and, with two convention hotels, it should serve as the vital walkway between Independence National Historical Park and the Pennsylvania Convention Center. But undeveloped land at both 8th and 13th streets, unappealing storefronts and the blank walls of an internally oriented shopping mall dominate too many blocks.
OK. Enough reports. Time for some action.

Related:
Strawbridges to come back to life as a new hybrid department store / family court [Changing Skyline]
Report: The Next Generation on Market East [Center City District - PDF]
Photo Essay: Steve Ives on the Importance of Market East [Philly Skyline]
The Gallery at Market East [Official Site]

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