Arsenal Adrift

 

The Hospital (left) and Building 124 awaiting demolition. photo: Rachel Hildebrandt

Demolition has stalled at the Frankford Arsenal, where developer Mark Hankin has proposed a suburban-style shopping center to replace dozens of historic structures. Hankin, who is from the same family that turned Willow Grove Park into a shopping mall, purchased most of the Arsenal–think “Navy Yard north” for its historic and architectural significance–in 1983. Mayor Nutter and other officials joined Hankin in announcing the proposed shopping center in July, 2010.

Then, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported that demolition would take eight months and construction would begin during the first quarter of 2011. Over a year later, demolition appears to be paused. When I visited, there were no signs of activity at the site and many of the buildings slated for demolition remain, standing forlorn behind piles of rubble and empty foundations.

Rubble and empty foundations. Photo: Rachel Hildebrandt

The developer certainly understands what’s at stake. In 1979, the US Army commissioned John Milner Associates to assess the Arsenal’s buildings in order to guide future development. Milner ranked each of the 246 buildings on a scale of 1 to 4, with category 1 buildings defined as “historic properties of great significance,” while category 4 buildings contain “little or no historic value.” He recommended preserving category 1, 2, and 3 buildings.

With plans to demolish three category 1 buildings, one category 2 building, and a few dozen category 3 buildings, Hankin was in the process of clearing 45 of the Arsenal’s 85 Arsenal’s acres. Now, the Arsenal adrift, we wonder if there is hope for a reevaluation of the project. Neither Hankin or leasing manager John Swanson were willing to provide us with additional information, but watch this space for further news and analysis.

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a recent graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a program associate at Partners for Sacred Places.



1 Comment


  1. It’s amazing how poor choices are made when it comes to development in the philadelphia area. I’ve seen so many beautiful classical structures demolished because of big box development. And all big box development always finds a way to place itself right along waterways as well. Now I know who runs america and it’s not people who respect the past or future of philadelphia.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
SEPTA Spruces Up The Underground With Downtown Link

SEPTA Spruces Up The Underground With Downtown Link

January 18, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us on a tour of the city's extensive pedestrian underground concourse network, soon to be rebranded by SEPTA as the "Downtown Link" > more

The Vanishing Of Northeast Village

The Vanishing Of Northeast Village

January 16, 2018  |  Vantage

David Coyne traverses bramble and broken blacktop along Roosevelt Boulevard to reveal a military housing community that was evacuated and demolished in the 1960s > more

A Field Guide To Demolition

A Field Guide To Demolition

January 12, 2018  |  Vantage

Peter Woodall spotlights specific building types facing the most development pressure in four high-profile neighborhoods > more

From Prints To Trivets, Art Imitates Life Of Manhole Covers

From Prints To Trivets, Art Imitates Life Of Manhole Covers

January 11, 2018  |  Vantage

Contributor Jonathan Schmalzbach talks with a designer and a printmaker about their obsession with manhole covers and public utility as creative muse > more

Little Corner at 10th & Market Reveals Big Legacy

Little Corner at 10th & Market Reveals Big Legacy

January 8, 2018  |  The Shadow Knows

Reading Terminal, Philadelphia Mint, Drexel Institute--all prominent landmarks built by contractor Charles McCaul. The Shadow uncovers the little-known legacy of the big time builder at a nail salon on 10th Street > more

For The Love Of Carpenter Lane

For The Love Of Carpenter Lane

December 28, 2017  |  Vantage

Tony Aiello takes a stroll down Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy where an historical timeline can be traced in architecture > more