Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:
McMahon, Kevin. (2011). Philadelphia's 13th Street Passages: A Model for Urban Main Street Development. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


To a large extent, this thesis will investigate how 13th Street was successfully revitalized using a strategy similar to that of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program, a broadly applied framework for the revitalization of historic commercial centers in downtown communities nationwide. The success of the Main Street program, as outlined in its Four-Point Approach to revitalization, relies on early and strong community organization and small business partnerships. However, because there was such little concern among business owners on 13th Street, and because the City of Philadelphia was unable to take a leading role in redevelopment, a different solution was needed. That solution was a public-private strategy – with an emphasis on private – led by a real estate development company that took an approach that in many ways followed Main Street ideas and principles.

It is an uncommon strategy for a private-sector developer to take a large-scale and long-term interest in a historic neighborhood. This study will therefore have to answer the following questions: How did Goldman adapt a Main Street approach – which is traditionally used in the downtowns of small communities – to 13th Street, which is only one part of a much larger urban fabric? How did the developer balance physical improvements with the long-term need to attract businesses and promote this new (or recreated) place? The answers to these questions are grounded in historic preservation and urban policy, economics, and design.



Date Posted: 04 May 2012