Monday, March 23, 2015

Parking Garage of the Week-- Avenue of the Arts Garage

1501 Spruce Street

               I'm coming back to doing Parking Garage of the Week just for this bitch-bastard of a behemoth right here. This juggernaut of automobile storage isn't the ugliest garage in town but as it ages, its just going to look more and more like trash. What's worse, its called Avenue of the Arts Garage even though its on 15th street!
               It sort of started in 1986 when Parkway Corp bought up an old surface parking lot and cleared even more cool old buildings until it stretched all the way to Latimer Street. Even back then, there were talks of a large public building replacing the shitty lots and buildings at the southwest corner of Broad and Spruce.. some said it would be a new Convention Center, others said it would be a the Regional Performing Arts Center that was promised as far back as 1963.

The old surface lot in 1950.
           In 1999, the Arts Center was the one that finally got built there, and while it was under construction, people started to crow about how this great new place was going to need some supplementary parking, even though an underground garage was planned for it (that underground garage is managed by Parkway). It was estimated that an additional 500-spacer would be needed to accommodate all these new visitors that were supposedly coming.
Excerpt from the Extending the Vision for South Broad Street report from 1999. Literally everything else from this plan, save the Kimmel Center that was already under construction at the time, didn't happen. Of course, at least 4 more above-ground parking garages were involved.
               Parkway was ready to roll. In the middle of the year 2000, they proposed a 668-space parking garage with roughly 15,000 to 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. The design was by Bower Lewis Thrower, whose work of the period was pretty crappy (I think their new design for East Market is pretty good, so maybe they're getting better).  The working name of the garage was going to be the Shops at Fifteenth and Spruce, kind of like the Shops at Liberty Place.
           After making adjustments for the ZBA and the CCRA, and getting some government cheese with Tax Increment Financing, construction began with a target opening date of January 2002. The place had no problem securing retail tenants... Buca di Beppo signed on for a five year, $31,875/month lease while the thing was still under construction. Fox & Hound and Starbucks were about ready to come in right when the big-ass garage opened.
          13 years later, the Kimmel Center isn't quite the draw people thought it was going to be, but this garage seems to nonetheless be doing shitloads of business. The Buca di Beppo announced that they would close after their lease was up in 2007 but ended up renewing and sticking around until 2012. They've since been replaced by the Philadelphia location of Howl at the Moon, a Chicago-based piano bar chain that finally came here after opening 15 locations in lesser cities.
        The other two original tenants are still going strong. Fox & Hound is still the notorious bro bar that its been for many years and the Starbucks is yet another Starbucks that proves that these places stay open even when there's another location 1-2 blocks away in every direction.
       Ok, so this isn't the worst parking garage I've ever encountered-- it keeps its storefronts filled, it actually has a facade, the glass elevator shaft is kind of cool... but that doesn't mean this is a good thing... the surface lot that was here could have easily supported a real building instead... or better yet, an underground garage. I don't know what kind of structure this thing really has but it would be nice if some kind of tower could be built on top one day-- it would sure make up for fucking up this corner for so long. Oh well, we're going to be stuck with this motherfucker long after other older garages vanish. Guess we should just get used to it.


  1. Front filled!

  2. Good by to my 10 month exhibit (get the book at