PHILADELPHIA-Center City’s “next generation of improvement” is Market East, according to Paul Levy, president and CEO of Center City District. He unveiled preliminary plans, which he called “the dream” for the area bordered primarily by Broad and Third streets and Market and Chestnut streets. The Alliance Program was sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers, the city and local tourism and development groups.

CCD is in the process of working with several developers, including Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, Levy said, which owns the Gallery at Market East mall in the area. In all, he envisions 644,000 sf of new retail. It would include a department store, specialty shops and “ground-floor retail with big box opportunity on top.” Development also calls for a hotel and increased residential units, including some above stores.

The city’s earliest department stores were once located in Market East, before retail moved west to the Rittenhouse Square area. By the 1960s, shopping centers in the suburbs contributed to the decline of Market East. Factors now favoring its revival include, but are not limited to the increase in residential development. They also include the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which is planned to double in size by 2010, on the western edge of this area, and the recent completion of National Constitution Center and the Visitors Bureau near Independence Mall to the east. The historic sites to the east rank high with convention-goers and tourists, according to Jack Ferguson, EVP of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Levy also suggested that expansion of Jefferson Hospital makes it a prime target for administrative office tenancy along this stretch. He said, “a primary objective” of the master plan also links the Chinatown and Society Hill residential neighborhoods to the north and south, respectively. Tourists, office employees who commute to the city, and residents all shop and dine, according to Ferguson, who documented how that combination had turned Market West and the Rittenhouse Square area into a 24/7 shopping and entertainment neighborhood.

Rittenhouse Row merchants confirmed Ferguson’s claim during a “Retailer’s Runway” presentation at Tiffany & Co. Representatives from Boyd’s men’s store, Tiffany, Kiehl’s, Marathon Grill and Stephen Starr’s restaurant group told of their recent expansions and increased business over the past six years.

Yet, Peter Iacovoni, manager of special projects for the city’s Department of Commerce, said some high-end retailers still see Philadelphia as “blue collar. We need to dispel that view.” He noted that 34% of Center City residents are employed in the fields of health and education, and the growing empty nester population also increases demand for upscale retail.

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