A once-thriving factory neighborhood in Philadelphia is currently undergoing a massive makeover. Similar to Brooklyn in New York, Fishtown was once full of abandoned property, but is now slowly becoming gentrified. In place of dilapidated homes and lower-income tenants, million-dollar real estate projects have created chic urban apartments and storefronts in the hopes of bringing in expensive clientele.
Before the end of the year, a new entertainment complex could also come to Fishtown, seriously redefining the neighborhood’s landscape. House of Blues Entertainment, a subdivision of concert giant Live Nation, unveiled a $32 million project today. Plans include two brand new music venues in place of the old Ajax Metal Co. factory: The Filmore which holds 2,500 people and Foundry, which only holds 450. Rob Benson, HoBE’s CEO, claims that the complex will be “the most beautiful in our entire chain,” which as of today is 58 venues across the US.
While things look promising for both a neglected part of the city and Live Nation, who already operates the Theatre of the Living Arts as well as the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, it’s more unnecessary competition in an already struggling city. Though The Fillmore is being marketed as an homage to the old San Francisco rock venue, it’s foolish to believe that Live Nation wouldn’t book major DJs there too. With venues like The Electric Factory, The Trocadero Theatre, and even Festival Pier (and there are many others), crowd attendance is already stretched thin on nights where there are multiple big DJs in town. The Fillmore, and more importantly its purchasing power, could create an even bigger headache for these venues, especially in the summer when college students (who are the target audience) have left the city.
Still, this concern is nothing new, as heavy competition has been in place ever since dance music expanded in 2012. There’s a chance that the Fillmore could be what Philadelphia needs to jump start the dance music scene, attracting big artists who rarely (if ever) play here. It could also be a chance to revitalize a part of the neighborhood, one that has been plagued by crime in recent years and skipped over in favor of more family-friendly areas like Northern Liberties and the Waterfront. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the next 6-8 months play out for dance music fans in Philadelphia.