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First Philadelphia Apple store reportedly in the works

Apple has reportedly jumped on a sudden vacancy left by a fine dining restaurant in Philadelphia's historic Center City district by signing a lease for its first retail outlet in the nation's one-time capital.

MacNN cites a source connected to the planning of the project as saying the Mac maker has inked an agreement to take over the former Brasserie Perrier, an American brasserie owned by Georges Perrier that served up French cuisine at 1619 Walnut Street since 1997.

The retail market in the Center City area surrounding Walnut Street has prospered in recent years, as young professionals and empty nesters have increasingly chosen the district as their home. Fine dining restaurants have reportedly grown by 240% in the area since 1992 while gyms, furniture stores, and banks grew 19, 20 and 25 percent over the past year, respectively.

The area of Walnut Street west of Broad Street is also believed to fit Apple's desired aesthetic, housing quality brand retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Steve Madden, BCBG, Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole, Barney’s Co-Op and Armani Exchange.

Although MacNN is short on further details, it reported that Apple appears to have tapped Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to design the store, the same architecture firm responsible for other high-profile Apple shops in Tokyo, New York and London.

BCJ will have its challenges, according to ifoAppleStore, which notes that the 39,000 square-foot building at 1619 Walnut dates back to 1937 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. That means that Apple will likely be tied to the structure's existing facade, which allows for windows on only the first of its three lower floors.

The site of 1619 Walnut Street in Philadelphia's Center City.

Up until January 2nd, the building housed the Brasserie Perrier on its ground floor and offices on its upper levels. But ifo, which also cited the location as a potential site for Philly's first Apple store back in 2006, said the booming retail activity in the area recently prompted the building's owner to negotiate a renewal buy-out option from the restaurant, which had been paying $19 per square-foot.

A cluster of retail developments have cropped up on Walnut west of Broad St.

Real estate records recently reflected availability for the ground, second and third levels, where the owner was looking to secure a new occupant willing to pay the new $57 per square-foot going rate for the area. The property sits just 10 blocks from the Independence Hall and Liberty Bell landmarks.