Thursday, April 28, 2011

Empty Lot(s) of the Week-- April 28

The CCCC Tunnel Mega-Lot

From the Corner of N. 9th and Filbert going north through the middle of the 800 blocks of Arch, Cherry, Race, and Vine Streets.

So big only an aerial view can show it all. Holy shit.
              This is one gigantic motherfucker of a lot. It spans entire blocks and continues across the street. It's the Center City Commuter Connection Tunnel Mega-lot. Many modern Philadelphians know very little about the Centery City Commuter Connection even though it was in the center of Philly politics and redevelopment from the 1950's to the 1980's.
               Long story short: Badass Motherfucker Pro Tempore Richardson Dilworth, whose mayoral administration effects every Philadelphian living today, was sick and tired of having to use two different train lines from one side of the city to the other. His ho's were especially angry. He proposed a train tunnel that would connect the two underground. The city said "fuck you" because it would cost too much money. The train companies said "fuck you" because they hated each other and didn't have trains capable of traveling through the tunnel. The Federal Government said "fuck you" about trying to help fund it. Dilworth and the mayors that succeeded him were fucked....
             Until the Five-Star Admiral of Badass Motherfuckers came along... Mayor Frank Rizzo. He said "eat shit" to every other kind of transit improvement and convinced the Federal Government and the state to throw funding at the project by giving everyone involved one gigantic collective headlock. Construction was an ongoing mess of blocked traffic and pissed off pedestrians for six years.
             Extreme care was taken when constructing the tunnel under the Masonic Temple, City Hall Annex, Reading Terminal, and Strawbridges' Building. The Aramark Tower and shitty-ass Gallery were under construction at the time so constructing the tunnel through them was easy. Then it needed to turn north to connect to the track the Reading Viaduct used to come from. After all that effort to buttress under those buildings, the construction got to Chinatown and they just said, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown. Mow it all down motherfucker!", and they did. The result was a 4 block long hole that later got covered with surface lots. Check the picture above. The buildings outline the path of the CCCC.
              Fast Forward 27 years. Twenty-seven goddamn years and you still have an empty lot that extends for blocks. I used to think that no buildings were built over the CCCC due to noise, weight, and vibration concerns... until I found out that the deepest part of the track is in that area AND that the track was designed to be sound and vibration proof... SO WHAT FUCKIN' EXCUSE DO WE HAVE? There should be 20 buildings in the regions that this lot extends! That ugly-ass Pearl Condo box was built as an attempt to slightly un-fucktify this mega-lot but there needs to be more. This makes me soooo angry. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu......


  1. There's some history there you may not be aware of.

    It's wasn't until Rizzo's day that all of the railroads when bankrupt and were combined into Septa (plus Amtrak, Conrail, NJT and more). Having one public entity instead of two private ones made it more more possible.

    Chinatown back then was on the edge of what was called The Tenderloin, which was Philly's skid row, filled with drugs and prostitution. The Roundhouse was one of the first pieces of the urban renewal that destroyed the Tenderloin; it was built there for that purpose. The Convention Center and the final cleaning up Franklin Square were the final blow to what remained of the Tenderloin.

    What got knocked down probably wasn't actually part of then Chinatown, most likely flophouses and drug dens.

    One of David Goodis' novels, Of Tender Sin, takes place in a candy store in Kensington and the Tenderloin. It's a fascinating read; both of those neighborhoods are way different now.

  2. Wow.. thanks for the info. I knew that the section destroyed for the CCCC was full of nasty stuff, but there were probably some viable rowhomes and industrial structures that could have been cleaned up and re-used by now. In my view, having an empty building is better than having an empty lot.. though I am aware that things in that region of Center City were much different than they are now, so there might have been nothing worth saving. I guess it just pisses me off that nothing managed to get built there lo these past 27 years. I'll do some more research and see if I could find out what type of buildings were on those blocks and if any of it would have been usable today. Here's some info about the CCCC project: . The 1973 film Trick Baby has some scenes filmed in the old Tenderloin.

  3. I put Trick Baby in our Netflix cue and watched thru our Wii last night (ain't technology amazing).

    What a great flick, thanks for the recommendation. It's amazing how little of the background looks to familiar to me. I'm pretty sure one of the chase scenes was in a pre-Gallery Filbert Street.

    Talking about movies with stuff that ain't there anymore, check out Prince of Marvin Gardens. From the early 70s, with Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, it mostly takes place in pre-casino Atlantic City (most of which got knocked down for ugly casino buildings) and a little bit of early 70s Market West.

  4. I took some stills from Trick Baby to try to figure out where they are. From what I could gather, part was filmed on Ridge Ave by Bolton St. and another part was filmed on the 1000 block of Filbert, which looked completely different at the time. I'll post them up here once I can get good pics from those spots.

  5. This 1960s combined Phila Redevelopment Authority booklet, if you can find it, contains pictures of the area before demolition, and the rationales for tearing everything down (one of which was "not enough parking space"): Independence Mall [Redevelopment Area], Center City Redevelopment Area (Philadelphia, PA: City Planning Cmsn., October 1962, December 1963, January 1966).

  6. Crap, it looks like you DID do the lot I mentioned in my other comment (for the Podiatric Medicine Building). I had no clue about the CCCC tunnel, although I take the chinatown line nearly every day. But god, those lots are ugly and poorly maintained. Maybe the expansion of the Convention Center will help...we can only pray.