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Changing Skyline: Putting Pizzazz into Market East


By Inga Saffron

What influences the public’s perception of Market East more: The mobs of rampaging teens who have descended on the Gallery mall over the last few weeks? Or the building’s gloomy fortress walls, which have weighed down Philadelphia’s traditional shopping street for well over three decades?

My vote goes to the blank walls.

It often feels as if the Gallery has been in decline ever since it opened in the late ’70s, as the nation’s first urban mall. Back then, Philadelphia could at least take satisfaction in having a retail amenity associated with the rising suburbs. But now, shopping malls everywhere are fighting for their lives, as anchoring department stores go the way of other general-interest pleasures, and Philadelphia finds itself stuck with an unattractive, underused box in the center of its downtown.