Monday, February 23, 2015

Empty Lot of the Week: Diaphane Building Parking Lot

1936 Arch Street

           Ok, so I don't really do Empty Lot of the Week anymore but there are some still left that I've never talked about that irk the shit out of me. This one right here sucks monkey nuts. It's been empty for 71 years and has even once been considered for development. Nonetheless, its still remains, looking like asstrash.
           The last building to occupy this space was a 4-story mega-mansion built about 1898 under the designs of local architect Joseph Cather Newsom shortly before he fucked off to California and became famous there. The mansion went through a lot in its short life, from a stately single-family home to decent apartment building called The Braddock to a seedy-ass flop house called Hotel Bechtel.

Here it is as the Hotel Bechtel in 1928 via
            In 1944, the decrepit old building was seen as a shitty vestige of the past and unceremoniously demolished while under the ownership of the Girard Trust Company. Ever since, this space has been parking cars or doing other car-related shit. After being a Budget Rent-A-Car for a couple of decades, contractor Sidney Elkman proposed a 14-story building for this lot. It had a hard time getting through zoning but was eventually approved. Of course, it was 1967. Had it been built, this would be a Butt-Fugly Building rant instead. Here's the rendering. See what I mean? Blecch. At the time, there was a small revitalization of this hood with small commercial buildings. Every last one of them was ugly as crap. Only a few got built and at least one has already been demolished.   
              After that Elkman project failed, the lot went back to being vacant, then was used as a parking lot and later as a car rental agency again. In 1982 and 83, the Diaphane Building next door to this lot was restored and the space became that building's parking lot... a role that it has held ever since.

The Diaphane Building looking like shit in 1981. The lot is on the right.
              In 2000, a mural called Reach High and You Will Go Far was installed on the party wall of the Diaphane Building and has probably locked this place in as a parking lot for all time. I say this because if ever someone comes along and makes it their business to put a building on this empty-ass piece of shit lot at a prime corner location, NIMBYs are going to start dropping from the skies screaming about how that dated-looking mural will be lost forever.
         Anyway, with 1924 Arch and CITC being built less than a block away, and Liberty Property Trust nabbing all the shitty lots and buildings on the 1900 block of Arch, this lot has a lot more potential than its had since ol' Sidney Elkman was interested in it. Hopefully the owners of the Diaphane Building understand this and will sell if off to someone who will make better use of it. Pfft.

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