Monday, April 21, 2014

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week: The Pearl

111 North 9th Street

So that's where I left my tissue box!
           Ugh-- that's all I can say about this shitbird building when I see it. Years of anticipation spent waiting for this barren deadzone to get a building on it and this is what we get. A fucking block-long gray and white rectangle that comes equipped with a gigantic surface parking lot in back (the side?). I don't care how successful the project was and how great it has been for the neighborhood... I accept that shit. I'm just pissed off by how fucking boring and mediocre this Lego Longhouse is. I've seen better looking parking garages.
          As implied above, the block that this property sits on was once a decades-strong surface lot that only got re-enforced by the long-ass construction of the Center City Commuter Connection Tunnel in the mid-80s. Even back then, Pan-Am Realty was interested in acquiring the lot and building some new residential and retail to add to the already short-of-available-housing Chinatown and boost development in the gigantic deadzone between there and Franklin Square. The problem was, they couldn't afford to buy the space off of the Re-Development Authority, who controlled it for years (before the CCCC tunnel's construction it was part of Independence Mall's property, which is weird).
        In 2003, they teamed up with Parkway Corp to develop just this one property, forming the ridiculously-named Nine Arch Associates (its at 9th and Arch, get it?). They commissioned the firm of Vollmer Associates to come up with a design for a new condominium, some of the first new construction to his this area since the CCCC tunnel tore through. By 2005 they were ready for an official proposal. The new condominium would have 90 units, 12 retail spaces, 6 floors, and 121 surface parking spaces.
         The design was, shall we say, ABSOLUTE TAINT!
One of the final renderings
          The proposal got rejected by zoning... not for being an ugly shoe-box-looking piece of ass mucus OR for having way more parking spaces that it would ever need, but for the simple fact that it was 76 feet tall, 16 feet higher than the area's idiotic height limit of 60 feet! In November of '05, Nine Arch appealed the refusal and were granted a variance. Construction went throughout 2006 and the project was complete by the end of 2007.
Under construction as seen from the sky. They couldn't wait to get the parking lot done. Images from Google.
           The new building was named "The Pearl", which is the name of about a million other residential buildings around the U.S. Even more confusing is that there is a local developer named Pearl Properties that has nothing to do with this (though the Granary Apartment building they developed seems almost like The Pearl's much better-looking sequel). The new condos featured tax abatements and free parking in the gigantic parking lot. The project was marketed to middle-income, first generation Chinese immigrants that were relegated to the burbs due to a lack of middle-class housing in Chinatown. It worked. The units sold like hotcakes and the retail spaces got filled in no time. Despite being ugly as fuck, the new building was incredibly successful.
            You'd think that a condo that sold out so quickly would spur more development in the deadzone to the north and east, but it still hasn't happened. The renovation of the PPA Eighth Street Parking Plaza is now underway and a new quasi-halfway house/old folks home will soon be built on the same block as that garage... but other than that, NIENTE! Maybe Parkway needs to get into another Marvel Team-Up with a local developer to get another project like this going. Please... don't make it so fucking ugly next time.

Cool dragons, shitty surface lot.

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