Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row Threatened, Reports Say

A developer’s plans for luxury apartments endanger America’s oldest diamond district

It’s not just 47th Street.

Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row—considered America’s second-largest diamond district and oldest in the United States—may now house far fewer jewelers if a local developer goes ahead with reported plans to knock down six iconic buildings and replace them with a luxury apartment complex.

The plan was first spotted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported that a “subsidiary of home-building giant Toll Brothers wants to replace a big chunk of Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row with 16 stories of housing that could forever alter the long-standing enclave of diamond merchants, watch shops, and gold sellers.”

Several businesses in the storied retail district, which dates from the 1800s, now fear they will have to move, the Inquirer reported in a follow-up article.

“This is all part of Philadelphia history that I would have thought worth preserving,” one said. “This is my life they’re screwing with.”

According to Hidden City Philadelphia, a spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that “given our current laws and codes the city had no choice but to approve this project. This is all by right and above board.… It’s our understanding that the Toll Brothers are preserving the cornice line, putting jewelers back on the ground floor, and doing a design that is in concert with the rest of the street, but we understand why the preservationists are still upset.”

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has been particularly vocal, writing in an online petition that “a suburban developer wants to demolish six buildings on Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row in order to put up a new luxury apartment tower. Its enduring charm comes from the intimate small scale shops and storefronts that have lined this brick-paved thoroughfare for 150 years. Gouging out these six buildings will forever alter Jewelers Row and ruin one of our city’s most iconic destinations.  Please help stop this outrageous and destructive land grab. Let’s help them find another place for their project.”

At press time, the petition has received more than 2,000 signatures.

JCK News Director