Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fill This Front: Mission Grill Space

1835 Arch Street Space A

               Excellent! An empty storefront that consists of a turnkey restaurant space directly across the street from the construction site of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center. Get in there now to take advantage of what may end up becoming a foot-traffic goldmine!
               Believe it or not, this storefront hasn't been around that long, despite being located on the ground floor of a 79 year old building. The Bell Telephone Company Building is one of several that company has built over the years to hold the big-ass central switching stations that, from what my simple brain understands, connected the local neighborhood switchboards to the long-distance trunk line that runs under Arch Street. While in use by the Bell Telephone Company, the storefront at the northeast corner of 19th and Arch was set up like a bank, with teller windows and a vault, so that people could come in and pay their phone bills. The storefront served as this function until 1970, when the switches were upgraded to the ugly-ass building by the South Street Bridge.
              After 1970, the front was converted into a shitty ground-floor office. The marble details on the walls and the big-ass vault all got covered over with drywall and acoustical tiles. The rest of the building got the same treatment, turning into secondary shitty back offices for all the assholes Bell didn't want lurking around their newer Arch Street building.

Serving as crappy offices in 1980.
            Finally, in the early 90s when Bell Atlantic built what is now called Three Logan Square, they sold off 1827-35 Arch and it became a shitty self-storage. In 2001, Super-mega developer Forest City converted the building into luxury apartments and re-named the place the Lofts at 1835 after getting it nationally registered to help get a tax credit for the construction. Soon after, they put the corner retail space up for lease.
            In 2007, the space got the attention of the Brian Harrington/Gary Cardi et al Empire, who own several bar/restaurants in a bunch of cities. This would be there second of many in Philadelphia, having just opened Public House less than two years before. Their business model is a simple but effective one: Happy Hours for Douchebags. Take advantage of nearby office workers and get them drunk in humongous bar/restaurant spaces. Cater to the Young Claustrophobia Crowd that would never step foot into a bar that is less than 1500 square feet. Get them wasted and then sell them food at exorbitant prices. From a business standpoint, its pretty fucking ingenious. From a cultural standpoint, it keeps the douches out of the real bars. Everybody wins!
           Don't get me wrong-- I don't hate these types of places. They fill a need, especially when you want to go out with a crowd of 20+ people from work or something like that. 
           Mission Grill opened on February 19th, 2007, a southwestern/Mexican-themed version of the Happy Hours for Douchebags business model, counting on customers that weren't going to the new Mexican Post (an unaffiliated restaurant that ran under almost the same exact model) location that just opened a few blocks away 2 weeks earlier. Business went well enough for the next two years, but as the Yelp reviews indicate, the place started going downhill in 2009. In 2012 they were famously shut down for six days after racking up 19 violations in a Department of Health inspection.
          Mission Grill closed in the middle of July 2013, making an official statement less than a month later (funnily enough, both locations of Mexican Post, one of which was open for 25 years, closed a few months later). By this point, the Harrington/Cardi et al Empire had a huge Philadelphia portfolio of Happy Hours for Douchebags barstaurants, including the largest restaurant in the city (Field House). Not a week after officially closing, the city's Department of Revenue slapped a huge violation sticker on the window.

and its still there.
               Nearly a year later, the storefront is still empty and available for the next Happy Hours for Douchebags entrepreneur to take advantage of. This is a 4500 square foot space at the Northeast corner of 19th and Arch Streets in Center City Philadelphia. It is in close proximity to a shitton of office workers and is housed in a building that holds many disposable income-heavy folks on top. For the next 3.5 years, the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center will be under construction directly across the street, which gives this space the opportunity to be a rallying point for skyscraper nerds from around the world. There's also a soon-to-open apartment building under construction on the opposing corner. The place is also accessible by endless amounts of public transit, including regional rail, most of the subway-surface trolley lines, and a fucking assload of bus lines. There's bus shelter right in front of the place, for fuck's sake!
              The spot is already fully fit-out as a bar so all you have to do it put up a bunch of assorted bullshit on the walls and your customers will come streaming in, loosening ties and shit, at about 5:05 every weekday afternoon. The space currently goes for $205,000 per year, or $45 per square foot. The leasing is being handled by Legend Properties but it doesn't seem to be listed on their website. Here's the loopnet listing for it. Get off your ass and FILL THIS FRONT!!

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