Smallman Street. Image courtesy of McCaffery.

As the Strip District transitions into a new phase, stories of its past are never far behind.

“People tell me about being packed up in their grandfather’s truck, buying tomatoes from the produce terminal,” says Pamela Austin, senior project manager at McCaffery. “A lot of people talk about going in the wee hours in the night when it was cool because there wasn’t always refrigeration.”

McCaffery, the Chicago-based company that’s redeveloping the Strip District’s famous, five-block-long Terminal building, decided to do something with the stories they keep hearing. They’re making a website to collect stories of the Strip, and asking the public to contribute their own personal tales of the Strip District’s past. Stories about the Terminal building are, of course, especially encouraged.

“The former Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit and Auction building has a rich history in the Strip historic district,” notes Austin.

Anyone is invited to submit a story to Stories of the Strip, which can be written, or a video, song, poem, sound bite or original art. The first 25 submissions will get a $25 gift card to a Strip District business, such as DiAnoia’s Eatery, De Fer Coffee & Tea, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company or Enrico Biscotti Company.

“Right now businesses are struggling, and this is a fun way to remind people how special the neighborhood is,” says Austin. “Right now is a time when people are thinking about what’s important in their lives, thinking about families and friends and neighborhoods — those are things people are rallying behind. The story of the Strip plays along with that theme.”

Stories should be submitted to The project will run through June 15.

The Strip District Terminal is currently being redeveloped into a mixed-use project with 165,000 square feet of retail. The giant building across the street at 1600 Smallman is also a current McCaffery redevelopment project. Construction on the project recently resumed, though Austin would not commit to a timetable for completion. A Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection store is the only announced tenant so far.

“I think it’s going to be a nice transition between the old part of the Strip District, the Penn Avenue commercial zone, and the new part — all the residential along the river,” says Austin.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.