Luxury Condos Versus Philadelphia's Jewelers' Row

Downtown gentrification threatens to displace skilled artisans in a district where workshops go back five generations. Some of the jewelers own their premises, but the rewards for building pricey condos are tempting.

1 minute read

April 14, 2015, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Philadelphia Jewelers' Row

Terry Robinson / Flickr

Inga Saffron writes, "Maybe because working factories have virtually vanished from the urban landscape, we rarely think of Philadelphia - never mind Center City - as a place where stuff gets made. Yet, right in the shadow of Washington Square's pricey high-rise condos, dozens of workshops [...] have somehow managed to survive on the upper floors of historic Jewelers' Row."

Philadelphia's Jewelers' Row is one of the last "maker spaces" still operating in a major American downtown. Calling to mind an age of local manufacturing and distribution, the area is ripe for development into luxury housing.

The jewelry business encourages vibrancy and a mix of uses that might disappear once the standard downtown gentrification narrative takes hold. Building owners connected to jewelry face a choice between tradition and profit.

From the article: "If [building owner David Perlman] is tempted to build high-rise apartments there, the city will lose an important makers space. The term still conjures up a room full of hobbyists learning to rewire old lamps, but such small manufacturing-friendly centers are actually crucial to helping cities bring back industrial jobs, says Ilana Preuss, whose company, Recast City, advocates for makers."

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