Developer Eric Blumenfeld is dreaming up a new future for the vacant Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice on Spring Garden Street east of Broad. Blumenfeld is in contract to acquire the building and wants to redevelop it into a mixed-use commercial arts and residential property.
You might know the Stevens building as host to the huge Common Threads mural
above the parking lot on the northeast corner of Spring Garden and Broad. But turn the corner and head east on Spring Garden and you’ll notice the vacant but beautiful 1920s school building clad in special Sayre and Fisher bricks
, accented by colorful terracotta tile flourishes.
The Stevens building is a gem and it’s been waiting for someone to give it a new purpose since the School District sold it in 2005.
Of course, development is bubbling up along North Broad from City Hall to Temple University, particularly near stops on the Broad Street line. From City Hall to Vine development is driven by government and big institutions, the area between Vine and Spring Garden streets is becoming Bartistan
, but from Spring Garden to Fairmount it’s Blumenfeld’s domain.
Blumenfeld is one of North Broad’s enthusiastic boosters. His company EB Realty Management is scooping up properties, emboldened
by their successful conversion of 640 North Broad
and partnership redeveloping the Wilkie Buick site at 600 North Broad
. Blumenfeld is the guy who brought Mark Vetri and Steven Starr to North Broad. Blumenfeld also recently made news for his dreams of creating a new educational campus at the Divine Lorraine
Of course the Divine Lorraine would be the keystone redevelopment project
for the corridor, but I think that all of the development interest at the intersection of Spring Garden - where Bart Blatstein and Eric Blumenfeld’s investments meet - is an important measure of how much North Broad is changing as bigger developers set their sites on the corridor.
Plans to redevelop the Stevens building could prove to be an instructive demonstration project in smart redevelopment of a historic school as the city faces even more school closures and surplus buildings.
The Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice was built in 1926 as an elementary school where it served as a teacher-training school, and consecutively served as a sort of proto-magnet school and regular neighborhood school into the 1970s. The Philadelphia School District closed the Stevens building in 1975, but continued to use the building for administrative functions until 2005 when it was sold to local development firm, Synterra
I first got inside the Stevens building tagging along with Penn students researching the property for a historic preservation course last fall. It’s got a ton of original features from its school days, like the beautiful multi-colored terracotta tiles inside and out, and it seems to be in pretty good exterior condition for a building that’s been vacant since 2005. Here's a slideshow peek: