PSFS Bank and York Row to be Renovated

PSFS Bank and York Row to be Renovated. Long vacant, two Center City landmarks are about to be rehabilitated and given new life as part of a luxury apartment high-rise development known as “The St. James”. The project will -- in addition to the construction of the 45-story, 307-unit apartment tower on St. James Street immediately adjacent to the west side of historic Washington Square -- include the renovation of York Row (712-16 Walnut Street) and the PSFS bank building (700-10 Walnut). Until now, both of these landmark buildings had been shuttered for many years, facing an uncertain future.

York Row is an intact group of 1807 brick rowhouses in the Federal style. In the new development, York Row will be saved back to the ridge line of its pitched roof, and used for offices and retail stores facing Walnut Street.

The PSFS building was the second home of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (its last home was the better-known PSFS modernist skyscraper at 12th and Market Streets, now a Loews Hotel) designed in 1868 by architect Addison Hutton. Later additions, which mimic the original bank’s granite-faced Italianate style, were built in 1885 (Hutton) and 1897 (Frank Furness). Much of the main banking room, which retains significant Furness features, survives and will become part of a restaurant, along with other retail and office uses associated with The Saint James development.

Several years ago representatives of the Preservation Alliance met with the property’s owners in order to help broker a agreement in which the PSFS building and York Row would be saved and incorporated into the larger project. The developers initially wanted to demolish all of York Row, but agreed to retain the principal facades back to the roof ridge line.

Since that time, developers P & A Associates (along with joint venture partners Clark Realty Capital, LLC, and Lend Lease Real Estate Investments) have secured the necessary funding, and zoning and Historic Commission approvals. Ground has recently broken on the project; the general contractor is L.F. Driscoll Co.

P & A Associates has a track record of redeveloping historic properties. Among its projects are the Wallace Building (641 N. Broad Street), and the Corn Exchange Building (2nd and Walnut); P & A donated preservation easements to the Alliance for both buildings. According to P & A, renovating the PSFS building and York Row will “create a sense of community and enhance the area’s street life.”

Although arrangements have not been finalized, the Preservation Alliance hopes to offer a behind-the-scenes “hardhat” tour of the ongoing restoration project sometime next year. Tours details will be posted on this web site, and in the newsletter, Preservation Matters.