Introduced as interior designer for the 152-room SLS LUX Philadelphia Hotel, the iconic Phillipe Starck found it easy to strike the right chord with his audience of city movers and shakers.
Turning to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the Frenchman thanked the recording impresarios for giving him "the kind of music that has allowed me to make good projects."
"This is my opportunity," Starck said of his first Philadelphia project, "to be able to pay my debt to you and your music," to which he listens as he designs.
With speeches, gold bricks, and daytime fireworks Friday at the Kimmel Center's Hamilton Garden, developers Carl Dranoff and Sam Nazarian, CEO of Los Angeles-based sbe Entertainment Group, led the tributes to Gamble and Huff.
The music producers' building at 309 S. Broad St. is being demolished for the 47-story SLS LUX Philadelphia Hotel & SLS International Residences, at Broad and Spruce Street. It will be the tallest structure in Pennsylvania built for residential use.
The old building, simply called "309," was the home of Philadelphia International Records, where the two men produced 175 gold and platinum discs by the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Teddy Pendergrass, to name three of many.
"When we [Gamble, Huff, and Thom Bell] tried to buy the building [in the early 1970s], no one would give us a mortgage, so we had to go to New York to Chemical Bank," Gamble recalled.
"These two men established a gold standard we intend to meet," said Dranoff, who announced the plans for the $220 million project, designed by New York-based architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 15 months ago.
Starting on the 18th floor will be 90 one-, two- and three-bedroom condos and two penthouses at undisclosed prices.
Construction is set to begin in the fall.
Mayor Nutter said the hotel-condo tower would reshape the city's skyline.
"The project will embrace the great history of this location and diverse musical legacy," he said.
The building was home from 1957 to 1967 to Cameo-Parkway Records, which produced Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, and the Orlons, among many others, Gamble said.
Projects such as SLS will "continue to shape Philadelphia," said Nutter, quipping that Dranoff's nearby buildings had helped create "a Love Train on South Broad."