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Some Kiosk Merchants Forced Out Of Gallery Take Case To City Council

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Merchants who've been operating kiosks at the soon-to-be-renovated Gallery were shown the door this past week and they promptly took their plight to City Council.

About a dozen Gallery kiosk merchants showed up City Council's regular meeting Thursday, asking for the help of lawmakers in their eviction from the Gallery. Among them was Irma Lopez, who said they want to be allowed to stay until the primary tenants are also sent packing.

"Other vendors are still there. So they chose who to put out, who to mislead that there wasn't going to be no more Gallery. Let us stay there until everybody's bought out and everybody's out. You know, we want to feed our family."

But Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes the Gallery, said the Gallery's owner, the firm known as PREIT, has not been misleading about the timetable and did allow the kiosk merchants to stay beyond the original December 31st deadline, in order to be open the week of Valentine's Day.

"They did do that rent-free. And they did tell me that the Gallery One will be closed, and in Gallery Two, there are some contracts that they need to buy out, and leases that they need to fulfill. But they are in the process of actually trying to close down everything."

Squilla told the merchants that they need to focus now on finding new locations as the Gallery renovation gets underway.

"We need now to work with where to go, how can we help these vendors go to other locations. And how can we help them to get a good relationship with PREIT to come back once the Gallery is open."

PREIT has not yet divulged its precise renovation plans. Officials with the Center City District last year speculated that the firm will turn the building "inside out," replacing what are now blank walls with street level retail and restaurants.

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