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Philadelphia Attempts Urban Intervention to Fix Its 'Most Boring Street'

Surrounded on all sides by glassy, modern towers, Philly's West Market Street has lacked the sort of attractions that have brought downtown workers to neighboring streets.
December 21, 2015, 11am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Philadelphia’s "most boring street," according to Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron, is overdue for needed improvements. West Market Street was "designed to be dull," writes Saffron—modeled on the canyon of financial towers along Park Avenue in Manhattan. However, building owners surrounding the street are beginning to see the potential benefits of adding amenities such as restaurants and retail outlets. Unfortunately, these improvements are proving to be a mixed-bag, with some converting formerly public space into unfriendly walled off private spaces.

At 1601 Market and Independence Blue Cross, the new owners have recently walled off their arcades behind glass. In theory, sacrificing these slivers of public space could be a good thing if it helped attract more interesting retailers to the street.

But 1601 simply increased its rentable square-footage without giving anything meaningful back to the public. Instead of finding an interesting tenant, it welcomed back the same boring bank at 16th Street, one of the city's most heavily trafficked pedestrian corners.

While these attempts to bring amenities to the neighborhood are in their infancy, neighborhood enthusiasts find additional hope in the arrival of new residential apartment buildings along West Market, which may yet breath new life into the moribund street.

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Published on Friday, December 4, 2015 in Philadelphia Inquirer
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