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Retailers Along East Chestnut Street Hope For Dramatic Neighborhood Changes

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Efforts to transform East Chestnut Street in Center City from the 'hood into a high-end haven for shopping has been slow. Business owners are hunkering down and hoping for change.

A stroll east down Chestnut Street near Broad Street seems promising. There's a Capitol Grill, Lucky Strikes and Macy's. But once you hit 12th Street, the scene changes to vacant buildings, discount shops and seedy characters.

"It's still a little iffy," says Khara Cartagena, "We have a lot of homeless people and it gets a little sketchy at night."

Cartagena owns The Velvet Lilly, a luxury lingerie and adult toy shop. She moved in a month ago from Northern Liberties, hoping for more foot traffic and a higher end client.

"We have really good quality products from Paris and France and Sweden," she says, "but it's hard because we have people who want lower price points."

Several high-end furniture stores are creating their own furniture row on Chestnut, which helps raise the quality of retailers on Chestnut near Broad. There's also Philly Cupcake and a few high-end eateries.

"There's sort of been a gap between 6th Street and Broad," says Ben Reiff, who works at KW Commercial and has worked in commercial real estate for 20 years. Reiff says he helped put Fogo de Chao in it's space on Chestnut Street. He says Brickstone Realty and other developers bought properties on Chestnut and he predicts there's more to come.

"The opportunity to take advantage of more favorable lease economics is now," he says, noting the success of the many restaurants and the booming commercial corridor on 13th Street.

"Following the huge success of 13th Street and what Goldman properties did with Midtown Village," says Reiff, "People are flocking to the 13th street corridor."

And Reiff isn't the only one optimistic. Lorenzo has worked on Chestnut street as a security guard for more than 16 years. He's been attacked, had to dial 911 numerous times because of crimes, but these days that is rare.

"There's a lot more police patrols here," he says, "it's gotten much, much better."

"They have condos next door and across the street and more to come down Chestnut," he says, "I think if you come downtown in like ten years-- you're going to be like...unbelievable!"

But some think the change will come much sooner.

"I think, in the next 2 to 5 years you're going to see Chestnut Street and the surrounding vicinity change dramatically," says Reiff.

We'll see.

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