Atlantic Building Plans Shift Retail Paradigm


Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

Michael Pestronk, a principal in the real estate development firm Post Brothers, told the Hidden City Daily today that his firm’s reuse and renovation of the Atlantic Building, at Broad and Spruce, will include seven floors–110,00 square feet–of retail. The developers are marketing the space to department stores, large format restaurants, and big box retailers.

Designed by the architect Joseph Franklin Kuntz in 1922 as an office tower for the Atlantic Refining Company, the renovated building will also house about 200 apartments.

In comparison to New York and Chicago, there are few multi-story retail buildings of this nature in Philadelphia, said Pestronk.

“We definitely think there is a strong demand for retail space in Philadelphia from national firms,” he said.

One issue keeping such firms away from Philadelphia has been the configuration of downtown buildings. “The best retailers want to be near to each other on Walnut Street. The problem is that those spaces are only 3,000 square feet.”

Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

For the Post Brothers, with projects ongoing in Germantown and Callowhill, the Atlantic Building is the first foray into Center City. At 12th and Callowhill, where the firm is converting the former Goldtex factory to apartments, Post Brothers’ confrontation with city trade unions over the developer’s use of mixed union and non-union contractors has reached an “uneasy detente,” with union protests backing off and project continuing, albeit about three months behind schedule. The first tenants should move in in March, said Pestronk.

“No deal [with the unions] was made,” he said. “They decided to stop picketing. But, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what is going to happen.”

That same uncertainly surrounds the Atlantic project. Pestronk said the firm’s usual formula is still being followed. “All things being equal, we prefer to use union. We’ll bid the job out. Our hope is to be able to pick union bids because they will have offered us the best mix of cost, quality, and schedule.”

Photo: Nathaniel Popkin

Another challenge facing the project is the issue of retail signage on an historically certified building with facade easements. Any sign proposal will take four to six months for approvals by multiple agencies.

The art deco murals inside the building lobby will be preserved.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. His essays and book reviews appear in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, The Millions, and Fanzine.


  1. Oh very encouraging! I do wonder which department store could land here and do well. I don’t know if there is a market for Macy’s to plant a Bloomingdale’s here, but that would be great.

    Everyone always mentions Cheesecake Factory, so this could finally be that opportunity to put everyone’s caloric intake off the charts.

    We do need a Bed Bath and/or a Target, but I’d rather have that at Market East or maybe on Arch St. in Logan Sq. instead of this location.

  2. The property in question, 258-62 S. Broad Street, is not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Therefore, the Philadelphia Historical Commission would not review proposals for signage or other alterations to the building.
    Jon Farnham, Philadelphia Historical Commission


  1. Philadelphia 2035 - Page 85 - City-Data Forum
  2. Why are national retailers reluctant to locate in Center City? - Page 42
  3. Questioning Blatstein’s casino dreams | Atlantic Building mega retail | against Lit Bros roof sign | 21st and Bainbridge open | keeping winter rec programs
  4. Walnut Street renovations complete | Philadelphia Real Estate Blog
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