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Why this data center on North Broad has its own ZIP code

The home of one of the largest internet hubs in the Northeast has a cool connection to the city's old-school mail system.

401 N. Broad St. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

Across Philadelphia’s various neighborhoods spanning the Delaware River, into West Philly and up to the Northeast, live buildings and companies claiming their own ZIP code.

Out of the nearly 90 postal ZIP codes in city limits, 37 are dedicated to a company, organization or post office box. A handful are for a single building.

Thanks to the internet toolings of Comcast Accessibility Product Manager Michaelangelo Ilagan, we learned that one of these is the data center at 401 N. Broad St., home to a Sungard Availability Services’ data and workplace recovery center and Netrality Data Centers, which bought the building in 2014.

The company has customers like NYIIX and PhillyIX that are internet exchange points (IXPs), which allows for data to travel close to home. If you call up some content on your phone or computer — a Netflix show, for example — your service provider has to pull the content to you. For someone sitting in a Fishtown apartment, their episode could first travel to Cherry Hill or New York City before streaming on their device.

But IXPs cut down on those travels. They like to keep traffic local. And here, it’s done all in one ZIP code — 19108.

The 19108 ZIP code. (Screenshot via GoogleMaps)

What? How? Why? The Philadelphia Inquirer looked into the mystery of single-building ZIP codes last summer, when a reader wrote in asking why the Wells Fargo Building at 123 S. Broad St. got its own code, 19109.

“Unique zip codes are used for governmental agencies, universities, businesses, or buildings that receive such extremely high volumes of mail that they may need their own zip codes,” USPS regional spokesperson Ray V. Daiutolo Sr. told the Inquirer.

Like the Wells Fargo building, Netrality’s space at 401 N. Broad, called the Terminal Commerce Building, is on the National Register of Historic Places, a mark it earned in the 1990s.

The building was crafted between 1929 and 1931, and takes up the entire city block on Broad Street between Callowhill and Noble. Its past lives include time as a department store, manufacturing facility and rail-related transportation facility.

In 1943, high-trafficked mail areas were given their own postal code, and  401 N. Broad was assigned code 08. And in 1963, the USPS integrated a five-digit “zone improvement [ZIP] code” system, the Inquirer reported.

Thus, 401 N. Broad became the only building with the ZIP code 19108.

And although the art-deco building is now home to one of the largest hubs of  high-speed internet across the Northeast Corridor, you can still send them some snail mail.

Companies: Netrality Properties
People: Michaelangelo Ilagan

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