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January 29, 2015

Saving beloved Little Pete's in Center City

Center City residents gathered Thursday for a meeting on the fate of the longstanding diner

Food Restaurants
01.29.15_LittlePetes John Donges/Creative Commons

The Little Pete's on 17th and Chancellor is one of two remaining locations in Philadelphia.

For several months, plans have been afoot for developers to bring a 13-story boutique hotel to Center City at the location of 17th and Chancellor, part of a wave of new properties that have driven downtown Philadelphia's rise to a destination status over the past 15 years. 

With that bump has come the risk of losing some of the city's vestiges of character in the process. 

The Center City Residents Association will meet Thursday to try to salvage one of downtown's most widely trafficked restaurants, Little Pete's. The 24/7 diner, known for its vintage atmosphere and durability through decades of new development, finally appears to have hit the end of its run beneath the concrete parking garage at 17th and Chancellor.  

None recently reported that the proposal by Chancellor Hotel Associates, L.P. to construct the boutique Hudson Hotel was practically a done deal. Approval was granted in November of last year by the Philadelphia Planning Commission to remap the area's zoning, and in the months since there have been attempts staged by residents to try to keep Little Pete's alive in one form or another. 

"They e-mail me. They tweet about the diner," said City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose constituents greeted his proposed rezoning bill for the Hudson Hotel a few months ago with a #savelittlepetes Twitter campaign.

"People think that Little Pete's is a staple," said Johnson, who says he would like to see the Hudson go up and Little Pete's stay, somehow.

The 36-year-old diner, founded by Greek immigrants, became a mainstay for people of all persuasions. It has attracted everyone from high profile Philadelphians to local denizens with a fond attachment to its familiar, low-key, affordable fare in Center City. 

Designed by DAS architects, the Chancellor hotel proposal includes 310 units with commercial/retail space on the first and second floors. It will cost an estimated $125 million with an expected opening in 2016. 

One possibility includes Little Pete's securing a position within the hotel, should the plans for construction move forward. In that case, the building that houses Little Pete's, a flower shop, a nail shop, and a parking garage would all be razed. 

Supporters are welcome to attend the meeting at the 10th Presbyterian Church at 1700 Spruce Street. If the location does not survive, however, there will still be one last Little Pete's to treasure near the Art Museum.