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N3rd Street: tech business corridor from Old City to Northern Liberties

In recent years, the corridor from roughly Market Street in Old City through Northern Liberties has been gradually filling with tech and web-centric office buildings and shared workspaces. Many there are calling it 'N3rd Street,' a play on "North 3rd Street."

Original illustration by Mike Jackson, Indy Hall Basic Member.
A stretch of North Third Street in Philadelphia is on its way to acquiring a new moniker: N3rd Street.

In recent years, the corridor from roughly Market Street in Old City through Northern Liberties has been gradually filling with nerd-centric office buildings and shared workspaces. If Philadelphia is to strengthen its case for being a hub of innovation, the city could use its fair share of blocks known for technological residents.

While certain neighborhoods here have already grown a reputation for intellectual capital — think, University City — narrow stretches that identify how Philadelphia is silly with digital smarts are successes themselves.

“The end result of [talent density] is success, ultimately in the fact that it’s really easy to find people who are not just physically proximal to each other but are also increasingly well-connected individuals. People are here to form relationships, not just sit next to each other,” said Alex Hillman, co-founder of co-working space Independents Hall that sits at 22 N. 3rd Street.

Like much of what Hillman backs, the N3rd Street concept isn’t a PR campaign or even a fully-fledged organization, it’s a community of like-minded technologists who compete, collaborate and inspire each other to do better work, he has said.

So who makes up the beginning of N3rd Street?:

  • Jarvus — the Northern Liberties web design agency, based out of its Devnuts coworking upstart, too, was an early proponent, conceiving of the brand.
  • Indy Hall — the Old City coworking staple helped envision the branding
  • SEER Interactive — the NoLibs SEO powerhouse opened its ‘Search Church‘ and joined the band
  • i-Site — the nearly 20-year-old web marketing firm is a grandfather of the movement, just a stone’s throw from Market Street.
  • Weblinc — Housed above geek culture bar National Mechanics, which itself is a N3rd Street anchor, the web firm, like i-Site, is technically south of Market, but is so close (22 S. Market, to be exact), that it’s hard to fault their inclusion.
  • Wildbit — the growing web tools developer is occupying a sleekly-designed floor above Indy Hall
  • DmgCtrl — the software development shop is headquartered in the same building as Indy Hall and Wildbit.
  • Drink Nation — the growing hub of city nightlife online news sites that focuses on its mobile apps is based steps off 3rd Street in the Old City corridor.

Having even a small cluster of nearby talent — all technically in walking distance of each other though the mile from Old City to Northern Liberties isn’t always the prettiest — makes the decision to set up shop and retain talent easier, Devnuts co-founder John Fazio has told Technically Philly in the past.

“This is good for Philadelphia,” he said.

And it’s a chance to more broadly brand Philadelphia in a way that is unique to this place, said Hillman, helping to attract, retain and grow businesses because this is the place they want to be.

“You don’t want to be more like New York, you don’t want to be more like San Francisco because everybody wants to be like that. My personal perspective on what we wanted Philadelphia to be was not more like New York or like San Francisco but a better version of itself,” Hillman said.

Newer members of the N3rd Street clan, like Devnuts, are driving the sense of community as much as one business that is nearly older than many of the Devnuts members.

Web design and marketing firm i-Site has called Philadelphia home since 1996.

“i-Site has been in this neighborhood for over a decade. And I think them being here was sort of a very positive sign for us,” said Hillman of Indy Hall’s 2007 start in Old City. “We came in, they were here, good people working on good stuff and also really interested in this just being a really strong, resilient community.”

The is a report done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods program, the capstone class for the Temple’s Department of Journalism.

Companies: Devnuts / Tonic Design / I-Site / Indy Hall / Jarvus Innovations / WebLinc / Wildbit
People: Alex Hillman / John Fazio
Projects: Philadelphia Neighborhoods / N3rd Street

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