Skyscraper planned on Philadelphia record co. site

PHILADELPHIA - December 17, 2013

The 47-story building, to be called SLS International Hotel and Residences, would replace the eyesore of the label's fire-damaged offices and serve as a catalyst for further development in the heart of downtown, architect Eugene Kohn said at a news conference.

The site currently includes a squat, three-story brick building where producers put out a slew of now-classic R&B hits including the O'Jays' "Love Train," Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" and McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."

Company executive Kenny Gamble recalled that great music and memories were made in the building, which he has owned for more than 40 years. But he said Tuesday that "time moves on" and the new structure would be "a beautiful addition to Philadelphia."

"We're getting old ... the music industry is not like it used to be anymore," Gamble said after the announcement, which he attended. "We had a good run. We had a good era, and we made a contribution to the world of music."

Plans for SLS International call for 150 hotel rooms, 125 condos and amenities including a restaurant, bar and spa. The project, which doesn't yet have all the required permits, is expected to break ground next fall and open about two years later.

Local developer Carl Dranoff said the glass tower would be the tallest residential building in Pennsylvania. He has partnered with SBE Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based firm with a portfolio of restaurants, nightclubs and SLS-brand luxury hotels in several major U.S. cities.

The word "International" in the Philadelphia hotel name pays tribute to record label. Still, Mayor Michael Nutter asked the developers Tuesday to think of additional ways to honor the site, noting the city's first African-American mayor once had an office there.

"We need to be mindful and respectful of that history that was created literally right across the street," Nutter said.

SBE founder Sam Nazarian said afterward that such discussions would be part of the ongoing design process.

Gamble and fellow producers Leon Huff and Thom Bell are credited with creating the lush acoustics of 1960s and '70s soul music that came to be known as the Sound of Philadelphia. They worked with artists including Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

Before Gamble purchased the South Broad Street property, it was home to Cameo Parkway Records, where Chubby Checker recorded "The Twist."

The offices were heavily damaged in 2010 by a fire that ruined about 40 percent of Philadelphia International Records' memorabilia - including gold and platinum records.

At the time, the building primarily served as the company's licensing arm, though it hosted tour groups and offered a small gift shop.

Grammy winners Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.


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