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Jewelers’ Row construction will help one of Philly’s most historic areas evolve for a bright future | Opinion

President of Jewelers' Row District: Toll Brothers tower will change the look, but not the history of America's oldest diamond district.

As part of a new branding effort, the Jewelers Row District has been holding movie nights on Sansom Street. The series started with Silver Linings Playbook, which includes a scene  in the storied diamond district.
As part of a new branding effort, the Jewelers Row District has been holding movie nights on Sansom Street. The series started with Silver Linings Playbook, which includes a scene in the storied diamond district.Read moreJewelers Row District (custom credit)

Two years ago, Toll Brothers announced plans for a mixed-use tower on Jewelers’ Row, along the 700 block of Sansom Street. Since then, our businesses located within the oldest diamond district in America have been faced with an uphill battle due to some misinformation circulating about the project’s impact on the businesses within the Jewelers’ Row District.

As the first phase of demolition is now underway, members of the media, customers, clients, community members, and friends have been reaching out, expressing their concern for our future, with many asking when we’re being evicted and where are we moving. Some headlines and social media posts have led the public to believe this project is physically harming the businesses in the district, some even dubbing it the “death of Jewelers’ Row.”

This is not the case.

The Jewelers’ Row District is open and stronger than ever, and the commencement of this development marks the beginning of a new, exciting era. In a neighborhood shaped by many family-owned, multigenerational brick and mortar stores, we need development to strengthen our historic district. With 65 units standing 24 stories high, this project is expected to bring $382.4 million in economic activity to the city over the next 12 years, according to an economic impact study that Toll Brothers conducted. The new residential offerings will introduce fresh energy to our neighborhood and drive more people to our doorsteps. In addition, there will still be retail on street level, including some of the jewelry stores that were previously at the same location.

Yes, this new tower will change the way Jewelers’ Row looks, which is why many have spoken out in support of preserving our history. As the third-generation owner of a 67-year-old family-owned business on Jewelers’ Row, I recognize and respect the historic significance of our district. These are the streets where I would visit my grandfather at his jewelry store, where I learned the trade from my father, and where I now bring my son and daughter to enjoy many of our district’s family-friendly events like our annual Fall Festival, Bridal Showcase, Movie Night, and famous holiday lights.

The members of the Jewelers’ Row District are overwhelmed by the community’s recognition and support of our storied past, which dates back to the Row’s original development between 1799 through 1820. Back then, it was part of the first speculative housing developments in the United States and introduced the original row house. Today, only a few of the developer’s original buildings still exist due to growth and development that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries.

That said, many of us who live and work in the district understand that this community is continuously evolving. To grow, our neighborhood’s historic charm needs to be balanced with modernization, which includes blending our storied roots with new retail, dining, and living options. I believe this will solidify our position as one of Philadelphia’s premiere neighborhoods for both residents and tourists.

The Jewelers’ Row District is confident this development will create new energy in our community and help bring us into the next generation. The vast majority of the Jewelers’ Row District and well over 100 jewelry-related businesses will remain unaffected, open, and intact throughout construction and beyond.

Rich Goldberg is president of the Jewelers’ Row District, an association of 70 jewelry stores, retail shops, restaurants, galleries, and businesses of all kinds, spanning from Walnut to Market Streets and Seventh to Ninth Streets. He is the third-generation owner of Safian & Rudolph Jewelers.