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Retailer Century 21 to occupy former Strawbridge's space

City officials, Gallery owner excited about new arrival at 8th and Market.

FOR YEARS, city officials have pushed for a revival of Market Street East, a bleak landscape of "unattractive storefronts, neglected historic assets and large, vacant parcels," as a 2007 Center City District report described it.

Yesterday, outside City Hall facing Market East, Paul Levy, the Center City District executive director, was in a small crowd gathered to hear news that Century 21, a New York-based discount designer department store, will move into the Gallery at Market East in October.

The Century 21 store will occupy the first two floors of the Strawbridge's building at 8th and Market streets.

"Philadelphia is hot, and the Gallery is well-positioned to take advantage," said Joseph F. Coradino, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), which owns the Gallery.

Coradino said he was excited about the deal with Century 21 - which is not affiliated with the real estate company of the same name. He described the store as "a very iconic brand" with eight stores in the New York metropolitan area.

The agreement was signed Tuesday, but Coradino said PREIT had been courting Century 21 for five years. Most of the space has been vacant since 2006.

Coradino pointed to Philadelphia's population of 18-to-25-year-olds as "the third-largest" in the nation as a factor in wooing the department store.

He said PREIT officials drove store officials around town and they saw a boom in outdoor cafes and nighttime activity.

Levy noted that plans for a beer garden at 6th and Market streets were announced in February.

Change also is coming to 12th and Market, where the Kmart store is vacating the Gallery, to be replaced by what Coradino said will be smaller stores.

"This is an important first step as we reimagine the landscape of Market East," Mayor Nutter said.

"Century 21's decision to open a store in Philadelphia is yet another out-of-town expression of confidence in our great city."

- Staff writer Jenny DeHuff

contributed to this report.