Philadelphia Inquirer’s Inga Saffron Features The National

January 17, 2019

Old City has been many things in its history: a colonial-era neighborhood, a warehouse district, a manufacturing center, a cheap place for artist studios, a nightlife district. In its latest incarnation, it has become a residential neighborhood again. Since 2010, its population has swelled by 14 percent — to over 5,000 residents — making it the second-fastest growing neighborhood in Philadelphia after Northern Liberties.

Judging by the number of buildings under construction, many more people are coming.

Because of its eclectic past, Old City has never been a homogeneous place architecturally, in the manner of Society Hill. The buildings range from toy-like colonial homes to muscular 20th century factories. Their only constant is their adaptability.

Even though Old City is a designated historic district — protected, in theory, by the Historical Commission — its multilayered collection of buildings could easily be overwhelmed as more developers move in, turning it into a more generic place. But two new arrivals, The National and 218 Arch, offer some lessons for the future. Although they’re both budget-minded buildings, they actively incorporate elements of Old City’s heritage into their designs. Their architecture is the better for it, and so is the neighborhood…”

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