In December 2020, SkyscraperPage forumer FairmountFellow revealed a pair of renderings showing a skyscraper situated atop the prewar building at 1826 Chestnut Street in Rittenhouse Square, Center City, which they purportedly observed in a “local cooperative presentation.” The rendering shows a floor count of around 42 stories and indicates that the project would be developed by Goodman Properties. The development’s location next to the proposed high-rise at 113-121 South 19th Street suggests a height of around 550 feet. Although there are indications that the development is still active, no permits have been filed in the meantime and information on the project remains exceedingly scarce. We dispatched our photographer to the site to check for signs of progress, yet none were to be found, with a CVS Pharmacy still operating out of the former theater building.
The existing building at the site is notable for its stories history. In 1921, the property opened as The Aldine, a movie theater with sumptuous interiors once described as Center City’s “most brilliantly lit movie house.” The theater was notable not only for its selection of motion pictures, such as Al Jonson’s groundbreaking yet controversial “The Jazz Singer,” but also for its refusal to accept African-American patrons, a common and unfortunate practice in many upscale establishments in Center City at the time.
In the mid-1920s, Raymond Pace Alexander, the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, filed two discrimination lawsuits, the second of which promoted the theater management to drop its discriminatory policy and issue a public apology.
Historian Kenneth Mack noted that “The Aldine’s choice to exclude Black theatergoers sparked perhaps the most sustained set of conflicts over public accommodations in the city,” which continued with similar lawsuits at other establishments, both by Alexander and others, boycotts, and other actions that paved the way for the passage of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Law in 1935 and a further route in the civil rights movement.
As stated above, new information on the project since the original image leak is virtually non-existent. However, notes from a Center City Residents’ Association (CCRA) meeting from September 13, 2021, stated the following:
19th and Chestnut CVS – Rick G. reported that Goodwin Properties’ proposal to develop a 40-story tower at 19th and Chestnut raises concerns about congestion given that Pearl is already developing a tower at 19th and Sansom. To alleviate congestion, the two developers are in negotiation to share delivery space on Sansom Street.
Sparse as it may be, the statement indicates that some sort of development plans are clearly still in progress, or at the very least were at the time of the CCRA meeting last year. As such, we expect to hear more about this promising proposal in the future.