Pa. Book Center finds new home

The University and the Pennsylvania Book Center have signed a letter of intent to relocate a beloved independent bookseller to the 3900 block of Walnut Street.

The agreement will spell a happy ending for patrons who in forums across campus vociferously bemoaned the possible loss of the store to upcoming University development.

The new store would be next to Eat at Joe's, the late-night diner scheduled to open on that block in February.

The deal was brokered by Tom Lussenhop, managing director of Real Estate at Penn, who is working to re-establish retail in the area.

"Pennsylvania Book Center is an ideal component of a cosmopolitan, university-oriented environment with night life and eclectic retail use," he said. "We wanted badly to retain that kind of tenant in the 40th Street area."

New developments in that and other areas around campus are part of a University effort to increase retail space.

"Much of the retail infrastructure has been acquired and converted for University academic and housing projects," Lussenhop said. "Thus the University created, in some respects, a tight supply of retail space in its inventory."

However, the University now recognizes the need for more retail space on campus, Lussenhop said.

"The demand generated by the University has always far outstripped the capacity of local retail space inventory," he said. "We have to look to retail opportunities to 40th Street and beyond. We need to drive development."

Lussenhop's personal interest in keeping Pennsylvania Book Center on campus grew out of his own memories of eclectic bookstores.

"Everyone in University City has fond memories of the book stores you hung around in, in your university years. I grew up near the University of Minnesota and hung around numerous first-class, highly intellectual, high-caliber book stores," Lussenhop said. "I wanted to see that the spirit represented by the Pennsylvania Book Center stayed."

Store owners Peter and Achilles Nickles declined comment until a lease for their new location is final.

Originally published on January 14, 1998