Condo Development Starts Construction in Philadelphia's Historic Jewelers Row

The traditional view of Sansom Street will soon vanish into Philadelphia's past, as the Jewelers Row District makes room for the future.

October 18, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Jewelers Row

Payton Chung / Flickr

Inga Saffron reports on the final demise of Jewelers' Row in Philadelphia, the oldest diamond center in the United States:

After four years of official dithering at City Hall, preservation lawsuits, and uncertainty, Toll Brothers’ proposal to wedge a glassy 24-story condo onto the Federal-era street is finally a reality. A construction fence now surrounds the five doomed buildings, and demolition is expected to start any day now, followed by two years of construction. When the dust clears, what will be left from the old image?

According to Saffron, not everyone in the Jewelers Row District is entirely pessimistic about the epoch-changing changes coming to the area. There are new businesses in the neighborhood, which has expanded, for instance, while traditional businesses still flourish.

The changes are intended to strengthen this unique place, which remains, despite Toll’s incursion, an authentic, homegrown ecosystem of jewelry designers, fabricators, and retailers, and an important employment cluster for the city. But the decision to broaden its membership is also an acknowledgment that Philadelphia’s historic diamond district isn’t as thick with jewelry shops and makers as it once was. More restaurants have settled on the Row’s main street, the 700 block of Sansom. More property owners are converting the upper floors of their buildings to apartments.

The most pressing question for local businesses is whether they'll persist through the inconveniences of construction as the new development rises in their midst. Still, writes Saffron, Jewelers Row still "conjures up a disappearing Philadelphia…"

Previous Planetizen coverage of Jewelers' Row:

Philadelphia Renaissance Threatens Working Diamond District

Thursday, October 17, 2019 in The Philadelphia Inquirer

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