Brickstone: Mercantile Library to Become Coworking Space

The Mercantile Library at 1021 Chestnut, as seen in 1964. Photo courtesy MSC.

The Mercantile Library at 1021 Chestnut, as seen in 1964. Brickstone aims to make it a coworking space. Photo courtesy MSC.

This morning’s membership meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC) at the Union League was standing room only, and it wasn’t for the coffee and danish. The numerous guests in attendance were there for “New Center City Demographics: The Upside for Retail Leasing & Development,” a panel moderated by Center City District’s Paul Levy that included Larry Steinberg, Senior VP of CBRE|FAMECO; John Connors, VP of Brickstone Realty; and Eddie Gindi, VP of Century 21 Department Stores.

Despite interesting overall updates on the Center City residential market (Levy) and its retail market (Steinberg), the crowd was perhaps most interested in the presentations by the two who got specific about the projects they’re bringing to Market East — projects that will radically alter the shape of the neighborhood, or at least that’s what everyone is hoping.

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Springfield, PA Ranks High on “Most Like The Simpsons” List

Bart Simpson messes with your head, via

Bart Simpson messes with your head, via

Estately Real Estate Search analyzed 11 different data sets to arrive at its rankings of which actual cities most resemble the fictional Springfield portrayed on “The Simpsons.”  The chart below shows the criteria as well as each state’s ranking in each category. As you’ll see, Pennsylvania does well not only with power plants, which we knew, but with businesses named “Moe’s,” which I would not personally have assumed.

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Will the Elkins Estate Become a Solis Hotel?

solis hotel

This Solis hotel, as seen on their website, is not in Elkins Park.

The exquisite Gilded Age Elkins Estate — a cluster of mansions designed by Horace Trumbauer — may become something more accessible than its current iteration as a Catholic spiritual retreat and drive-by curiosity (“what was that?”) for those not from Cheltenham. It would be a long road, but development company Apeiron is interested in buying it from the order of nuns and turning it into a luxury hotel — and this wouldn’t be their first spin on that particular dance floor. According to the Inquirer,

Apeiron is a relatively new firm.  Its founders have worked on some of the world’s grandest hotels, including the St. Regis in Rome and the Waldorf Astoria in Shanghai. But for now, the Elkins property is planned as an independent boutique hotel.

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Morning Headlines: The Fight Is on In Washington Square West


The idea of a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) in the area from Locust to South and Broad to Seventh streets is proving controversial, which became obvious at this week’s community-wide meeting about it. From PlanPhilly:

Around 100 people showed up, and a majority—or at least the loudest—cried foul.

Whose idea was this? they wanted to know. What problems even need to be solved? How much are we being asked to pay?

The latter question is a reasonable one, as the 2,800 property owners within this NID would pay an assessment, based on a property tax bill, for whatever changes are made to their community. The group that tried to answer the question — the NID steering committee — was composed of members of the Washington Square Civic Association and other neighborhood groups, who presented the NID idea to see if there was even enough traction to pursue it.

At this early stage, they don’t yet have definite numbers, though they did present some estimates. From PlanPhilly:

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Preservation Alliance Awards Wrap-Up: Bowties and Bonhomie


The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has been handing out its Preservation Achievement Awards for 21 years. Last night’s honorees were a disparate group, from the looming behemoth Municipal Services Building to a one-man guard station in Fairmount Park. Unlike many other awards ceremonies (Oscars, Keystone Press Awards), this one was brisk, informative and flawlessly executed. Emcee Tracy Davidson, of NBC-10, was superb, and I say that without any hint of local-news-directed snark, I promise.

Here are my own superlatives for the evening.

Most Ridiculously Deserved Award
Boyd Single Screen Movie Theater Philadelphia
The Henry J. Magaziner EFAIA Award to Friends of the Boyd’s Howard Haas for his preservation efforts on behalf of the Boyd Theatre (above, in a photo from the Irvin R. Glazer Theater Collection, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia).

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Heat Map: Home Prices in the Last 10 Years

RealtyTrac released this heat map today, and it’s pretty interesting if you can wrap your head around the various data points on which the map is based:

RealtyTrac analyzed median residential property prices from January 2004 through March 2014 in 1,567 counties nationwide, identifying the peak and trough prices and the months in which those occurred. The analysis also looked at the percentage from peak for median prices in March 2014 as well as percentage peak in each year from 2004 to 2013.

Note this local bit:

724 counties (46 percent) were still 30 percent or more below 10-year peaks in March 2014, including Philadelphia County, Pa., at 31 percent below peak.



Jules Gregory’s Butterfly House Is Back on the Market


Our favorite area Jules Gregory home to hit the market in recent memory was probably this Lambertville housewith a double conoid roof and interior work by George Nakashima.

But there’s also the down-at-heels “Butterfly House” in Delaware Township, NJ. Built in 1955, it is entirely emblematic of Gregory’s style and of the mid-century aesthetic in general. But it’s yo-yoing through the market and has now hit a new asking price of $249,000.

See the gallery below:

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Philadelphia Gets a 3-Park Bench Rating on ParkScore

From The Trust for Public Land,

From The Trust for Public Land, Click to enlarge.

The third annual ParkScore index from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land has been released, and Minneapolis took top honors: a perfect 5-park bench rating. Philly came in at No. 20, with a 3-park bench score. The index bases its ratings for the country’s 60 largest cities on three factors:

Park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile);
Park size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks;
Services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending.

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SOLD: Whitney Houston’s Offensively Marketed NJ House

What a lovely property description. Listing photo via

What a lovely property description. Listing photo via

After five years on the market, Whitney Houston’s Roundhouse-resembling New Jersey mansion finally sold to an ER doctor who moonlights (successfully) in real estate. A self-described Houston fan, he nabbed the enormous, untended five acre estate for $1.5 million — which isn’t bad for all that land plus 13,607 square feet of a five bedroom home. Oh, plus a tennis court, a swimming pool, two Jacuzzis (do people Jacuzzi anymore?), soundproofed recording studio, media room with retractable screen, and all the other stuff you might expect of a home that was built in 1987, hosted a Houston-Bobby Brown wedding in ’92, and was the setting of the couple’s short-lived reality show in 2005.

It’s hard to say why it took so long for the house to sell, but some of the marketing was truly offensive. As Denver Westword’s Dave Herrera reported in 2012:

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Listed: Main Line Mansion With Multiple Lives

TREND photo via BHHS Fox&Roach Haverford Station.

TREND photo via BHHS Fox&Roach Haverford Station.

This Merion Station mansion is beautifully maintained and has an interesting pedigree for musical history enthusiasts: It once belonged to acclaimed concert pianist Josef Hoffman, who was the first director of the Curtis Institute of Music.

This home was also once the Buten Wedgwood Museum, which was run by a family that had amassed an incredible collection — the country’s largest — of the famous china.

Built in 1900, the home has wonderful period details. Look at the plethora of carved wood trim; the peg and groove hardwood floors; the hand-blown glass door panes adorned with musical notes; the “great hall” with paneled walls and marble fireplace; glass-fronted built-in cabinetry; the hand-smithed Samuel Yellin ironwork. And from whatever period it is: that bathroom! What a looker.

Enjoy the gallery.

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