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Long-awaited Old City project, The National, starts leasing

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A peek inside the apartment building

Rendering by Barton Partners

It’s been a long road for The National apartment project—located smack dab in the middle of Old City—but an end is finally in sight.

The building owners Buccini/Pollin Group of Wilmington, Delaware, announced this month that they’re officially leasing out apartments, and plan to move residents in as early as next week. The mixed-use building has 192 apartments, six stories, and 4,000 square feet of retail space. There are also amenities, like a roof deck, pet spa, and two-story clubhouse, according to a statement from the group.

Anyone who’s been to Old City recently has likely noticed the building. It sits right in the middle of the historic neighborhood, at the corner of Second Street and Elfreth’s alley, offering a very different look compared to the surrounding brick and stone structures. The National has a grey exterior with streaks of orange and large windows. On the ground floor, a terra cotta face is meant to pay homage to the project’s namesake, The National Products building, which used to sit at the site.

Moonloop Photography

The apartments range from studios to two-bed places, and they’ll feature kitchens with quartz countertops, washer and dryer in unit, and full length windows with views of Old City and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The new structure serves as a kind of rebirth for the site, which long held the National Products building, a restaurant supply store with an iconic and modern orange tile facade. That facade earned the original National building a place on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2002. Normally, that would ensure a building is safe from demolition, but not in the case of The National.

The structure, closed since the mid-90s, fell into disarray, leading the Philadelphia Historical Commission to approve plans to demolish and rebuild the structure, Hidden City reported.

Thus began a long Odyssey for the site. Starting in 2003, numerous proposals came and went—as did owners—until Buccini/Pollin Group finally went ahead with the six-story building plan.

The original structure was torn down, along with its historic facade, in 2015, and developers broke ground on this newest project in the summer of 2017.

After all that, owners plan to make sure the original place is not forgotten.

The new, terra cotta first floor facade, “boast(s) a re-creation of the site’s iconic orange tile facade and the original stainless steel signage that stood out for decades along 2nd Street,” the group said in a statement.

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