Old City says goodbye to The Shirt Corner, plans CVS

     Jennith Kim works in Old City. She is not happy to see a  CVS is in the plans. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Jennith Kim works in Old City. She is not happy to see a CVS is in the plans. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Some call it a pop-art landmark. Others call it an eyesore. Whatever you call it, the Shirt Corner at Third and Market streets in Philadelphia is being restored and converted into a CVS.

    Old City resident Marco Gagliardi says he’s been waiting to see the vacant property rejuvenated.

    “It’s red, white and blue, and all these other buildings are made out of brick,” Gagliardi said. “I always wondered why it was over here because everything else around here is pretty nice.”

    The Shirt Corner and its brother stores — The Tie Corner and The Pant Corner — became a part of the Third and Market business district in the ’60s. Former owner Marvin Ginsberg admits he chose to paint the three buildings brighlty because he wanted to “make a splash.”

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    “I went to David Beck, the architect, and I said, ‘How do you take a small business and make it look big?’ It worked for the time, really well. I had a wonderful 50 years there,” Ginsberg said.

    He said his family will continue to run the consolidated Suit Corner on the other side of the street.

    Richardson Dilworth, a board member of the Historical Commission of Philadelphia, was part of the decision-making process for the Alterra Property Group project. The plan involves 11 buildings on the corner to be converted into 59 apartments and a CVS. He says the commission doesn’t have much authority over the tenants.

    “I know the developer has said that having CVS as the anchor tenant is what makes the project financially viable,” Dilworth said. “In a lot of respects, it’s good. Usually they’re meeting a genuine need of people who live in the area or work in the area.”

    Dilworth says Alterra will restore the property to its 1860s roots, despite the presence of a CVS.

    “The thing that’s not great about it is CVS stores are uniform, they look generic. The claim is that the new storefront will be more in line with the historic era for which the district is designated, than The Shirt Corner,” Dilworth said.

    Jennith Kim works in the area and is dissapointed to learn of the new tenant.

    “I’m not too happy about the fact that it’s going to be a CVS,” Kim said. “I’m going to miss seeing it because it kind of makes this area unique, but if they can do something to better the area, I think it’s good.”

    As a resident of Old City, Gagliardi said he’ll welcome the convenience of a CVS.

    “Usually you have to walk to South Street,” he said. “There’s really nothing else around here and when I’m tired in the morning I don’t feel like walking down to South Street.”

    A construction crew working on Market Street says a similar nationally known venture is in the works across the street: A 7-Eleven. Crew member Jason DeNofa summed up his feelings with this:

    “There goes your Old City. Now they’re bringing in these big stores like 7-Eleven and CVS, I guess that’s more important. It’ll definitely change the historical feel of the area,” DeNofa said.

    Leo Addimando, managing partner for Alterra, said he’s gathered mostly positive feedback about the project, which is set to start this month.

    “The vast majority of residents are happy about the project,” Addimando said. “That strip has been neglected for many years. We’re going to restore it and bring it back to life.”

    He says the work will include stripping the red, white and blue paint and restoring the brick facade of the building.

    “We’ve thought of every detail,” Addimando said. “We’re selecting fixtures and woodwork that will complement the time period the Old City historic district is known for.”

    He expects to complete the project in early 2015.

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