The Third Place Movement: DesignPhiladelphia Event Recap

For this year’s DesignPhiladelphia Festival, themed “home,” we put together an educational bar crawl #HomeSweetHood in our emerging neighborhoods to explore Philly’s “third places.”

As we become more connected people, we bring our work home. The lines of these places and their function are blurred. And as the transformation of our urban core draws more people to live and work here – the third place becomes a more common theme. We treat our favorite bars, cafes, restaurants, and outdoor spaces as extensions of our home and work.

We teamed up with Stokes Architecture, McGillin’s, La Colombe, and LPMG to examine the architecture and share the perspectives of the players that shape these rapidly-changing areas.




The oldest running bar in Philadelphia, McGillin’s Old Ale House has seen Midtown evolve while tucked away on Drury Street. Owner Chris Mullin entered a very different Midtown in 1993. McGillin’s was closed on the weekends then, and the neighborhood was not the vibrant nightlife central it is now. In the early 90s, 13th Street was a seedy, sex-driven block, not the thriving, proprietor-owned business corridor it is now. Mullin had great praise for Tony Goldman, the developer who took a risk to create what exists today, a bustling area of dining, bars, and shops.

WHAT’S NEXT: Commercial, residential, and mixed-use space is surging in Midtown, as evident by the Hale Building, the Steele Building, the Swartz Building, and East Market.




Zooming out slightly from the dedicated business owner, we heard from architects that design these “third spaces.” Richard Stokes shared what it’s like to lead the thoughtful transformation of such a buzzing neighborhood, Fishtown. Stokes Architecture has put their fingerprint on Fishtown, with projects Rich referred to as “amenities for the neighborhood,” like Frankford HallLa Colombe, City Fitness, and Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. Understanding the needs of the neighborhood, the needs of the community, and existing historical structures, Stokes Architecture has created cohesive, beautiful spaces throughout Fishtown. He commented that the surge in Fishtown’s growth shows the need to improve pedestrian friendliness, like crosswalks on Frankford Ave. But what other pieces contribute to making this neighborhood so successful? Dan Olsovsky of Wm. Mulherin’s Sons and Stokes collaboratively identified that Fishtown offers “formerly industrial spaces that result in much more square feet” to allow these unique projects to take shape, locale to public transportation, and people’s willingness to travel for a good product.

WHAT’S NEXT: Creative office space and hotels, both in-demand in the neighborhood and Philly as a whole.




A changing neighborhood is a product of a vision to better the area, cooperation from the community, and a drive developer. John Longacre is the champion behind Point Breeze, bringing amenity-based businesses that emphasize small business owners to Newbold. Longacre is a rare type of developer, one with a deep attachment and genuine investment in his community. Frequently spotted at zoning and community meetings, and in and out of his local spots South Philadelphia Taproom, American Sardine Bar, and Brew/Ultimo, Longacre’s impact is 15 years in the making. With the motto that people want to live near “cool shit,” Longacre has brought local businesses to better locations within Point Breeze, and created modern residential spaces that revived Newbold.

WHAT’S NEXT: By taking a formerly abandoned warehouse in Point Breeze, Longacre is constantly brewing up new businesses. The housing market in the area continues to surge, with noting the 19145 neighborhood as the second-fastest growing home prices of any neighborhood in America in 2009.



The common thread between these very different roles in creating the third places we know and love? A vision of the potential of Philly’s ‘hoods and the ability to see other spaces in the area as like-minded teammates, not as competition. Stokes noted the Fillmore as a positive for the neighborhood and another anchor that brings people to the edge of the area. For Mullin, he considers the overwhelming number of bars and restaurants in Midtown as a benefit for the neighborhood and its business owners, as it creates a safer neighborhood with increased traffic. Ultimately, every major player in each neighborhood wanted to see it succeed, with as many people involved as possible.