Friday, April 9, 2010

Unbuilt Philadelphia: Twin towers at the Gallery II

Hot on the heels of the opening of the Gallery in 1977, the second major phase of the city's Market East redevelopment plan began to take shape. In 1978, the city began construction of the epic $325 million Center City Commuter Tunnel, including the underground Market East Station. The new commuter rail station was to be connected to the original Gallery by the Gallery II, a major expansion of the bunker-like shopping mall from 10th to 11th Streets, also developed by the Rouse Company.

One of the more ambitious components of the original plan was the eventual construction of two twin office towers rising on top of the Gallery II, pictured above in a rendering from 1979. The planned towers would have risen over 20 stories, providing up to 440,000 square feet of new office space at the northwest corner of 10th and Market (above the former site of the Harrison Building).

Since engineering work for the Gallery II anticipated the office tower complex, construction proceeded on the new shopping mall in the early 80s while the city negotiated with potential developers. However, the Gallery II struggled to attract its anticipated customers after its rainy opening day in 1983, and never lived up to the Rouse Company's nor the city's expectations. Furthermore, repeated efforts to sell the building's air rights throughout the decade were ultimately unsuccessful. The last serious push came and went in 1993, when the site above the Gallery II was one of four locations under consideration for the consolidated offices of SEPTA, which ultimately took up residence at 1234 Market Street.

The story isn't over, however. The structural engineering of the Gallery II remains in place, and the Market East Strategic Plan released last year by the Planning Commission points out the ongoing potential for high-density development above the mall. Over three decades after its conception, this dream for Market East has yet to completely fade to dust.

1.Brown, Jeff. "SEPTA's search for a new home: major stakes and twisted arms - The Redevelopment Authority has a proposal."
Philadelphia Inquirer. 7 Mar. 1993: C01.
2. Kennedy, Sara. "The tunnel: mud to steel - on schedule and grinding ahead quietly." Philadelphia Inquirer. 14 Nov. 1982: B01.
3. Lin, Jennifer. "Opening day - despite rain, a festive air reigns at Gallery II. " Philadelphia Inquirer. 13 Oct. 1983: B01.
Image: "P086218 - Drawing of office complex to be built over Gallery II." 1979. Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photographs. Temple University Library, Urban Archives. 6 Apr. 2010.,1727.

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