As the birthplace of the United States, Philadelphia is decidedly an all-American city. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t take a page out of Europe’s book once in awhile.
Take, for instance, the Piazza at Schmidts, the state-of-the-art residential/retail/entertainment venue that opened in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood in May 2009. Inspired by the sprawling piazzas of Europe, particularly the Piazza Navona in Rome, the Piazza at Schmidts is the ultimate place to live, work and play.
Three modern glass-and-concrete residential buildings featuring restaurants, shops, galleries and services at street level surround an 80,000 square-foot open air plaza, complete with a fountain, garden, and 26-by-16 foot high-definition wall-mounted LED screen. Adjacent properties like the ultra-sleek Rialto and Paris-esque Liberties Walk offer additional retail and residential space and set the stage for a unique, exciting experience.
Variety of Activities in a Fun Atmosphere Main Draw to Piazza at Schmidts
On any given day, there is plenty to do and see at the Piazza at Schmidts. Those who come hungry won’t leave disappointed. The Piazza boasts several restaurants to please palettes, including Swift Half Pub, a homey restaurant and bar operated by the same owners as Center City Philly’s wildly popular Good Dog Bar; trendy PYT, where patrons can enjoy an alcohol-infused Adult Milkshake and juicy PYT Burger while seated on an outdoor couch; upscale restaurants like Apollinare and Sonata, and Darling’s Diner, home to cheesecakes that give their New York brethren a run for their money.
Shoppers can find unique clothing, gifts, and products at stores like Fresh Melt Water Shop, which custom-prints clothing; Jinxed, a clothing/secondhand store hybrid; Lyla Designs, a handbag and accessories store featuring custom handmade goods; children’s clothing boutiques Genes and Fiona’s Fairys, and the Creep Records music store.
Northern Liberties, like most of Philadelphia, has a thriving artist community, which is celebrated at the Piazza’s numerous art galleries, including The Toothless Cat, Jinxed’s art gallery; Amberella Sugar & Sweet Gallery and Boutique, featuring female-centric pop art and jewelry, and R. Alexander Trejo Fine Art Photography.
Adjacent to the Piazza is Liberties Walk, a two-block retail/residential complex featuring stores and restaurants at street level and apartments above, all covered by a charming canopy of white twinkle lights. Visitors strolling along the paved-stone sidewalk can browse through stores like Delicious Boutique and Corseterie, Chic Petique, and Trophy Bike Garage, or enjoy a cup of coffee from 1 Shot Coffee with a cupcake from Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, or a slice of pizza from HomeSlice followed by homemade chocolates from The Little Candy Shoppe. Liberties Walk also boasts a variety of services, including Liberties Walk Dry Cleaners, DnA Salon, Eye Candy Vision,and Chez Bow Wow Pet Grooming Salon.
Additionally, the Piazza hosts a full slate of events year-round. Philadelphia sporting events are broadcast almost daily on the giant LED screen at the south end of the Piazza, where movies are also played during Friday Night Flea & A Movie, which features a flea market, live bands and an independent film. Local farmers offer fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy products and baked goods at the Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday. Special weekend events slated for summer include Super Adoption Day (May) for pets; Book Worms Weekend (June); On the Bride’s Side Bridal Expo (June), and the B. Art Craft Bazaar (Aug).
But restaurants, stores and galleries can be found anywhere in Philadelphia. What makes those at the Piazza special is the genial, relaxed vibe that permeates the plaza. Instead of feeling pushed to eat and run, patrons at the Piazza’s restaurants and bars are encouraged to stay awhile, as if they were guests in someone’s home (which, in a way, they are). Store owners keep their doors open, and chat with visitors who stroll in and out. Children frolic in the fountain while dog-walkers mingle on a patch of grass, and friends wave to each other from across the plaza. It’s exactly the type of atmosphere that Bart Blatstein, the brains behind the Piazza, was going for.
The Piazza at Schmidt’s Nearly a Decade in the Making
Blatstein, the founder and president of Tower Investments, Inc., started sowing the seeds for the Piazza in 2000, when he purchased the Schmidt’s Brewery site at Girard Avenue and 2nd Street.
Schmidt’s Brewery, which was once the country’s ninth-largest brewery, stopped production at the Northern Liberties site in 1987 after its parent company, C. Schmidt & Sons Inc., hit financial hardships in the 1980s, and sold the Schmidt’s brand name.
After purchasing the site, Blatstein had the crumbling remains of the brewhouse demolished, and began the long, expensive process of rebuilding the area from the ground up. Blatstein set out to create a “five-minute neighborhood,” where people have everything they need, from goods and services to entertainment all at their fingertips.
Today, the $500 million Northern Liberties project encompasses 28 acres, and is the largest private urban renewel project in the U.S. There are 600 residential units, 120,000 square feet of retail space, and 130,000 square feet of office space at the Piazza and adjacent properties, and there is more to come.
The Shops at Schmidts, a supermarket-anchored retail development, and the Residences at Schmidts, three residential buildings with a total of 600 units surrounding a one-acre park.