With a who’s who of Philly politics in attendance and a decidedly techno soundtrack (i.e. not TSOP), Carl Dranoff today announced the coming of SLS International. The hotel-condo tower, whose news the Hidden City Daily broke last month, will break ground in 2014 at 301-311 South Broad Street—the longtime home of Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records.
With 150 hotel rooms and 125 luxury condominiums, SLS International will stand at 47 stories and 562′ tall, the tallest original residential building in Pennsylvania. (Two Liberty Place, which is half residential, opened in 1990 solely as an office tower.) “Yes, that is taller than William Penn,” Carl Dranoff said to a laughing crowd. “The name pays homage to Philadelphia International Records,” he said. Acknowledging Kenny Gamble with a wave, he thanked him for everything he’s done for the city, then said that his favorite song was the O’Jays’ “Peace Train”—a faux-pas quickly corrected by someone in the front to “Love Train,” drawing more laughter from everyone, including Gamble (but perhaps not Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens). “Well, it was about peace,” Dranoff said, correcting himself.
Gene Kohn, principal of Kohn Pedersen Fox, the firm responsible for the glass tower with fins (“metal or stone, we’re not quite sure yet,” he mentioned), called the building a “marker on the skyline of the arts district.”
The Avenue of the Arts was indeed a recurring topic during the hourlong press event, and many, including Dranoff, Councilman Mark Squilla, and especially Mayor Michael Nutter, cited former Mayor and Governor Ed Rendell for his foresight and belief in the Avenue of the Arts as a district. “At this tipping point for South Broad Street, we need to recognize Ed Rendell,” Nutter said before half-jokingly saying that his staff always says how happy everyone was during Rendell’s eight years as mayor.
Nutter also suggested directly to Kohn, Dranoff, and Sam Nazarian, president of SBE Entertainment (parent company of SLS Hotels), to “be mindful of the man who made that building across the street—Kenny Gamble (and his wife Faatimah and partner Leon Huff)… to incorporate recognition of the history across the street,” not only as the home of Philadelphia International Records (and Cameo-Parkway Records), but also as the offices of Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first African-American mayor.
Nutter’s suggestion was the only hint of the demolition to come. Before 2014 even begins, two buildings will start the Lost Buildings of 2014 list. (We’ll present our annual Top Ten Lost Buildings of the Year before the year’s end.) Fortunately, an action plan has already formed for its replacement, and it includes people who get things done. And at least partially in name, the legacy of Philadelphia International will live on as SLS International.