Spread Bagelry, the popular Montreal-style bagel eatery, is spreading its wings (pun intended) and opening a bakery across the street at 269 S. 20th Street in the former Brown Betty Peitite space. In recent weeks, a ‘Coming Soon’ sign has appeared and the name of the new bakery has been revealed: Spread Bake Shop. The new Spread will specialize in muffins, biscotti, scones, baked pies, and loose bagels for those who don’t want to stumble across the street for their fix. While high-rise projects are exciting, developments such as these should not be taken lightly as they are a sign of a neighborhood’s enduring vitality – small shops such as Spread are entirely dependent on a healthy amount of foot traffic and neighborhood density to exist and they add to the quality of life for nearby residents.
While Spread’s opening is a good sign for Rittenhouse’s current health as a neighborhood, a number of existing regulations threaten its viability long term. According to the most recent State of Center City report, Rittenhouse is one of the slowest-growth neighborhoods in Center City, adding 8.3% to its population between 2000 and 2010. On top of this, the demographic trend of the neighborhood since 1990 shows growth slowing. As Rittenhouse has become more and more in demand, empty lots have been built upon, rents have risen, and the wealthy have converted multi-family townhomes into single family residences. On top of this, overly-restrictive regulations cap new development heights at 45 feet for a large majority of the neighborhood. If these issues are left unfettered and regulations left in place, Rittenhouse will max out in population and eventually dedensify and lose the vibrancy it currently enjoy. Shops like Spread and other will no longer be able to rely on constant foot traffic, close up shop, and the neighborhood will become as homogenous in use as it is in income level.
Is this what Rittenhouse wants or does it want to maintain its appealing mixed-use environment with a number of great, active districts like 20th Street? As demand continues to push rents upward, the 45′ height restriction needs to be lifted and a larger amount of housing (yes, in taller buildings) needs to be supplied to meet the demand. To still maintain the neighborhood’s character, taller buildings should only be allowed in certain places, likely along South Street and at key intersections where mixed-use districts are in full swing. This will allow higher densities to be achieved in Rittenhouse, leading to more Spreads opening up and more vibrancy and diversity created for residents to enjoy.
-By Greg Meckstroth for PhiladelphiaRealEstate.com