Philadelphia is home to a sizable collection of intricately designed skyscrapers that were built between 1920 and 1940, which still stand out on the cityscape despite being drastically shorter than the modern towers of Center City. The east side of the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood features many towers built within that time frame, including The Lewis Tower, now known as The Aria Condos at 1425 Locust Street. The structure rises 389 feet and 33 stories tall, just one block to the north of the 375-foot-tall tower known as The Drake. The skyscraper was designed by Edmund Gilchrist, and Gravell and Hall engineered the steel structure. The Art Deco building was completed in 1929.
In the late 1980s, in rapid succession, a series of skyscrapers broke through the long-held “Gentlemen’s Agreement” that unofficially restricted Philadelphia’s buildings from rising above the 548-foot-tall pinnacle of City Hall, creating the now-iconic skyline of Center City. While the skyscraper cluster transformed the area to the west of City Hall, the Market East district to the east continues to lag behind in terms of an imposing skyline. However, East Market Phase 3, developed by National Real Estate Development as part of the East Market complex and currently under construction at 1101-53 Chestnut Street, will boost the local skyline with a pair of towers rising 364 and 288 feet tall. The buildings will bring one million square feet of medical office, residential, and retail space to the neighborhood, and add a sizable public plaza. Today we take a detailed look at the transformative project.