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Welcome to N3rd Street

7 minute read
by Alex Hillman

In early summer of 2007, Indy Hall wasn’t a place, but it was a nomadic tribe. We were moving from bar to cafe to restaurant to living room – anywhere with wifi – in the pursuit of a better working experience than working alone in our apartments.

At the time, Old City didn’t really jump to mind as the ideal place for us to settle. Compared to other neighborhoods, it was pricey. None of us lived in Old City. And on the weekends…well, the area attracted Philadelphia’s “bridge and tunnel” crowd.

But a few things drew us in.

For one, while none of us lived there, the 2nd Street subway station and the bus routes provided easy access to the neighborhood.

Second, one of the bar/restaurant spots we’d been frequenting was the geek friendly National Mechanics.

And third was the opportunity we found to rent this beautiful loft, and the lovely couple who took a chance letting us rent it to try out our “unorthodox” business model.

We Found Other Nerds on 3rd St

National Mechanics isn’t a geek-friendly spot by accident – it’s actually the “downstairs” of Weblinc, a quiet but powerful leader in the Philadelphia technology community and a supporter of everything from meetups, parties, and happy hours for groups of all sizes and flavors.

Weblinc provides their own enterprise-class eCommerce tools to companies that I’m sure you’ve heard of, and they employ some of the sharpest tech and business crew in Philadelphia. Jason and Darren Hill, the brothers who own National Mechanics and Weblinc, became quick friends and – for me personally – mentors, as they’ve been growing a tech business in Philly since the early 90’s

Just across the street from National/Weblinc, we found I-Site, another Philadelphia veteran web company. Founder Ian Cross doesn’t SOUND like a Philadelphian, since you’ll likely notice his british accent before you get too far into conversation with him, but Ian most certainly bleeds Philadelphia and has a lot of love for nerds of all kinds in this city. In addition to leading a successful creative/tech agency, Ian is active in many arts, culture, and civic circles across Philadelphia, always bringing his a-game.

There were other technology companies in Old City, of course, but these were the first two we found that not only had a critical mass of their own, but went out of their way to welcome and support other tech businesses coming into the neighborhood, and they both happened to be on 3rd street.

Head North, Young Man

We settled into the groove in Old City quickly. The easy access from anywhere in the city was a big attraction, but so was the bountiful lunch spots, the dozens of after-hours drink spots, and the close proximity to historic Philadelphian landmarks like the Liberty Bell and the other  Hall of Independence. Our members loved inviting their clients to Old City for meetings for these reasons and more.

It was also really great to be so close to the old city arts community – First Fridays provided endless people watching and opportunities to scope out the galleries latest shows.

When we started looking for a new location to grow into in early 2009, one of our members found a vacant floor in the Daniel Building. We showed the spot to our members and everyone agreed – this new spot north of Market street would bring us a myriad of improvements over our original office, not the least of which were a main street positioning over our Strawberry St “alley” location. The owners – Miles & Generalis, were supportive of what we were doing. They “got it”, and had a similar origin story themselves. M&G partners Tom and Alex are artists themselves, and identified strongly with our goals of bringing people together for creative and business endeavors. I think we brought a familiar identity to their building, and they’ve been supportive the whole way.

We joked that we didn’t think it would have been possible to move closer to National Mechanics, and yet – that’s exactly what we did.

We opened our new North 3rd St location – equidistant north of Market Street from National Mechanics/Weblinc’s building, in May 2009 and continued to grow and fill out our 2nd floor clubhouse.

Colonizing The Daniel Building

Indy Hall’s never been great for teams bigger than 2 or 3 – so when a couple of our members (one of whom lent us money for our move into the Daniel Building) began to quickly grow their company, they jumped on the opportunity to move and have space for their burgeoning team…up one floor in the Daniel Building.

Earlier that same year, Indy Hall friends and supporters Frank Roche and Sarah Chambers were looking to move their team at iFractal across town, and fell in love with an office… in the Daniel Building.

And as of this week, the growing Philadlephia contingent at Wildbit – decided to officially move to…the Daniel Building.

As of this week, Indy Hall & friends account for 36% of the 14 units in the Daniel Building.

Weblinc Expands North

Earlier this year, Weblinc bought and renovated another building on the stretch of 3rd street…right between the Daniel Building and market Street. This is after spending several months in temporary space…you guessed it…from our offices in the Daniel Building.

It doesn’t stop there

Continue north on 3rd street corridor and you’ll run into the Devnuts office, home to the John Fazio, Chris Alfano, and Matt Monahan’s and their unusual tech-talent bootcamp. I’d been watching them closely since they opened Devnuts, and it’s been really fantastic to watch them literally fill their North 3rd Street loft just across the street from Liberty Lands Park with some of the brightest young minds in Philadelphia and whip them into shape. Earlier this year, we joined forces to work on my newest adventure, DynamicWear.

Slash7 – Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs’ joint for producing their cheerful webapps like Freckle and Charm relocated to the neighborhood earlier this yearfrom Vienna, Austria. They just signed a lease on an office of their own just a couple of blocks away as their team has recently more than doubled in size.

And this is just a sampling of companies that I know well – DrinkPhilly’s office is at 3rd and Chestnut. Agency M and QuirkBooks are around the corner on Church Street. I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out – if we’re N3rd St Neighbors, say hello in the comments!

N3rd Street Only Goes One Way: Up

It was while hanging out with the crew that we realized that N. 3rd Street could easily be read as N3rd Street, the “leet” spelling of nerd.

It’s been really, really great to make N3rd Street our home over the last couple of years, and contribute to the gravity that is attracting more and more tech and creative companies to the neighborhood.

That’s really the difference though – it’s starting to feeling like a neighborhood. I don’t just love the area, I love our neighbors. I love seeing people I know on the street while I’m walking around, saying hello, and finding out what they’re up to.

Even better, though, is that it seems like all of the companies on N3rd Street are growing. It’s a great energy for all of us to be sharing in.

Things are good and only getting better on N3rd Street.

If you’re running a tech/creative company on or near N3rd Street, say hi in the comments! Thinking about moving to the neighborhood? Let me know if you have any questions!

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.