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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

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

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Rainier in background

Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy

The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.

February 2 - The Urbanist

Green alley under construction

Green Alleys: A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management

Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.

February 2 - Curbed

Aerial view of residential neighborhood in La Habra, California at sunset

Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.

February 2 - Orange County Register