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Indie boutiques are being priced off of Walnut Street, replaced by national chains better equipped to handle monthly rental rates said to reach as high as $34,000. Sad fact to some, but to those who've spent years championing the Rittenhouse Row shopping district, the area's desirability among national chains should be great news, not an indication that the Walnut Street has lost its local flavor.
Here, Rittenhouse Row Executive Director Corie Moskow addresses the media backlash, challenges those who see the district's blossoming popularity as a negative, and gives reasons why Walnut Street should never be likened to the King of Prussia Mall.
I have the best job in the world. I serve as the Executive Director of Rittenhouse Row, a non-profit whose job it is to promote all of the things that make Philadelphia, and this special uptown pocket of energy known as Rittenhouse, awesome. The recent press about the "mall-ification" of Walnut Street leaves me feeling a bit like a retail-marketing version of the Lorax. Who will speak for the independent retailers who make this city so special? I will.
Here's what I think: Rittenhouse Row is not even close to becoming King of Prussia. We are not in the middle of a doomsday retail scenario where everything that is special and cool is threatened. Also, this is not anything that we did not see coming. In fact, it's something that all of us involved in commercial real estate and Philly-boosting actually willed to make happen.
Rittenhouse Row is a district. It is not just a street. In fact, it's kind of a big district: It spans from Broad Street (from City Hall down to Symphony House) to the Schuylkill River (yes, Filter Square, you are a part of Rittenhouse) and includes everything in between the Parkway and South Street. We include this territory because if you stay in the Four Seasons, Rittenhouse Row is where you eat and shop, and if you are hurt anywhere in this area, you go to Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse to be healed. Just take a look at all of the residential real estate marketing materials that promote their lifestyle as part of Rittenhouse. In fact, Rittenhouse Row was established in 1997 to take care of supporting all of the points of commerce in this expanded area—not just Walnut Street.
The fact that Walnut Street real estate prices have risen is great news! As our city and our reputation improve real estate prices should rise; we should worry if they do not. After years of trying to woo exciting national brands, we did it. We have some impressive national tenants that the country's fifth largest city ought to have. Intermix, Barneys, Lululemon, Barbour, Cole Haan, Theory, Madewell, Zara, Kenneth Cole, Stuart Weitzman—these are all, I think, must-haves for a dynamic metropolitan retail area. We are so glad they are here and I think they are monuments to the success that our commercial real estate community has had in showing the world why Rittenhouse is awesome. The national tenants do not want to stand alone—they want the indie/chain mix and come here instead of the KOP Mall because we have this mix.
Our local, independent retailers have made Rittenhouse Row attractive to national retailers and are integral to the area as a shopping destination. Knit Wit and Plage Tahiti have been here and thriving for longer than I've been alive. Boyds is an exquisite temple to fashion and matches the level of offering of any department store anywhere. Town Home crams more style into a closet sized space than I ever thought possible. SA VA keeps us fashionable without killing the environment. Sophy Curson should have a landmark sign in front of it. Aoki brings a pop of worldly cool to 21st Street, and Kembrel feeds our need for the newest and greatest.
Then there's Joan Shepp. Ahhh...Joan Shepp. I think that Joan's need to move from 1616 started this panic about our beloved Walnut Street. Joan went big when she opened, and it is my personal belief and hope that she will not go home, that she will stay somewhere in Rittenhouse Row. Fingers crossed on this one.
I'd be remiss not to mention that in Rittenhouse, if you are an innovator and have a dream, it is a very supportive and nurturing place to launch your dream. Here you will find kind, effective and proven business leaders that have done it. Look at Steven Lagos and his worldwide jewelry empire and Larry Korman and his worldwide luxury brand AKA, and Stephen Starr's East Coast domination. They are right here, on Walnut, helping to preserve Rittenhouse Row as a top urban Street.
As long as there are people like Jim Pearlstein, Alan Domb, Stephen Starr, Jose Garces, Ann Gitter, Danny Govberg, Larry Korman, Jeff Glass, Susan Schwartz, Bruce Penzur, Billy Mignucci, Wendy Born, James Barrett, Dana Bank, Tony Rim, Nick Berardi. Sarah Van Aken, Steve Lagos, Rob Wasserman, Greg and Julie Vernick, Kevin Sbraga, Linda Berman, Cliff Balter, Joe Beckham, Sal D'Angelo, Audrey Claire Taichman, Zama Tanaka, Alex Stadler, Kelly Monk Reed, Warren Leighton and Barry Terris, Marc Feldscher—the list goes on and on—Rittenhouse Row will never be the mall.—Corie Moskow.
· Racked Philly Poll: Has Walnut Street Jumped the Shark? [Racked Philly]
· K of P Downtown [philly.com]