Whoa: Philly’s Market East tops national list of retail destinations

Wawa, City Fitness are among the latest additions to the neighborhood.

An artist's rendering of East Market, from 11th and Market streets.

An artist's rendering of East Market, from 11th and Market streets.

BLT Architects

Philly’s once-downtrodden Market East neighborhood is now seen as arguably the top destination for retail growth in the country.

A study released yesterday by the real estate research firm JLL pegged it as the No. 1 commercial corridor for retail affordability and desirability in the nation. The ranking highlights Market East for its relative inexpensiveness and growth potential. And puts the Philly neighborhood ahead of longtime trendy areas, such as Seattle’s Pike Market and Chicago’s Wicker Park.

Just a few years ago, this would have been impossible to imagine. Rundown storefronts offering cash for gold and stereos dominated much of Market East with few prospects for anything better in the future.

The area’s prospects started changing around 2014, when it was announced the Gallery would undergo redevelopment and National Real Estate would develop the massive East Market retail/residential project.

Now, Market East has a Target, the Gallery’s overhaul is underway and the East Market development is slated to get a MOM’s Organic Market and Iron Hill Brewery. Last week came word that the area had drawn a Wawa and a City Fitness. A Honeygrow is scheduled to join Market East this summer. An estimated $1.5 billion has been invested in the neighborhood.

“We had none of that two years ago,” said Lauren Gilchrist, JLL’s VP of research.

Market East’s chances for retail success hinge in part on the success of East Market’s residential towers. The two buildings, slated to open this year and next year, will have space for 560 people. They’ll be hitting the market at a time when many experts predict a slight downturn for Philadelphia.

“It’s clear that at some point in the future there will be a downturn,” Center City District Executive Director Paul Levy said last fall. “Hopefully it won’t be a big downturn.”

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