Building-Supply Big-Wheelers Construct Baronial Manses on Bainbridge

Rendering via Landmark.

Rendering via Landmark Architectural Design LLC.

We’re not used to thinking of Graduate Hospital as the land of million-dollar homes, but the 1400 block of Bainbridge Street has raised the bar in that department. Two new townhomes currently under construction at its east end are raising it even further.

Or would, if they were for sale.

These two cinderblock shells will by the end of the year become enormous Italianate mansions, each containing a total of 20,000 square feet of usable space – 16,000 of it indoors, and 4,000 of it outdoors on three large decks.

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A Look Inside Graduate Hospital’s Carpenter Square

carpenter-square-940

Now that interior work on the 11 luxury townhomes at the Carpenter Square development at 17th and Carpenter is all but finished, developer Mark Scott and Realtor Michelle Ashley of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors offered the real estate community a chance to look over the finished product last week.

The three-bedroom townhomes, designed by architects Christopher Schaumburg and Brian Johnston, are filled with enough green design elements to qualify for LEED Gold certification. Some of these features are easy to spot, such as the pervious pavers in the rear drive aisle, the green roof, and the ceiling fans in every room except the kitchen (“we had one there too, but took it out of the final design,” said Scott).

But one of the more noteworthy ones is not immediately evident to the visitor: the giant thermal chimney disguised as the home’s main staircase.

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Pew: Housing Market Is the Bright Spot in Philly’s Cloudy Skies

millennialsA younger, better educated, upwardly mobile horde has descended on Philadelphia, transforming swaths of the city into something barely recognizable to old-timers. This demographic touched off a residential building boom last year, the single strongest positive indicator of the city’s rebound, according to the Pew Philadelphia Research Initiative’s latest “Philadelphia: State of the City” update.

More than half of all Philadelphians are now under the age of 35, and 26 percent are between the ages of 20 and 34, when young adults are in the process of launching careers and households. Building places for these residents to live has become a growth industry: in 2013, the city issued building permits for 2,815 new housing units, the most in a decade. That new construction has an estimated value of $465 million, the highest on record.

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Race and the Roots
of Philly Transit Strikes

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

As this is being typed, the news reports about contract negotiations between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 sound increasingly optimistic. One of the main sticking points, pensions, has been resolved, and both the transit agency and TWU Local 234 head Willie Brown have issued statements saying that they hope a strike can be averted.

Yet some issues, including health care and worker surveillance, remain unresolved, and the union still stands ready to take a vote to strike when contracts for two TWU 234 suburban bargaining units expire on April 7th.

You may recall that initial strike threat was announced with incendiary language from Brown. Many, including this writer, found that rhetoric off-putting, or worse. But, as with so much else in this city, if you dig down far enough, you might just hear the ghosts of the past raising their voices through the mouth of Brown.

In this case, the ghosts are those of a racially motivated walkout that brought the TWU onto the local labor scene — and Federal troops onto the city’s streetcars.

The two events are connected: The TWU had just won the right to represent Philadelphia’s transit workers in 1944 — right in the middle of a three-year fight to get the Philadelphia Transportation Company (which ran buses and trolleys in the city) to end discrimination against black workers.

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NoLibs Neighbors Split Down Middle on Dwell

The warehouse that would be demolished if Dwell Northern Liberties gets built. Photo: Sandy Smith.

The warehouse that would be demolished if Dwell Northern Liberties gets built. Photo: Sandy Smith.

It might seem strange that in the neighborhood the Piazza finally put on the map once and for all, residents still have problems swallowing large apartment buildings.

But it took Bart Blatstein about two years and dozens of meetings like the one the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association held on March 26 to get the Piazza into its final form. And if that March 26 meeting is any guide, NoLibs resident Clay Chandler, CEO of The Klein Company, can expect to have several more himself before his company’s Dwell Northern Liberties development finally makes its way through the zoning variance gauntlet.

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Six Design Ideas SEPTA Should Steal Now

Stockholm_subway_radhuset_940x540

A recent article on The Atlantic Cities website made a point that is at once obvious and rarely made: Good design and strong imagery can attract more riders to mass transit.

Call it “branding” if you must, but the point remains: Easy-to-identify symbols and attractive stations and shelters make transit systems easier to spot and more pleasant to use. And a system that’s easier to spot and more pleasant to use will end up with more people using it.

This was the main point of my recent commentary elsewhere on how design does matter in transit, too. In it, I argued that SEPTA could stand improvement in that department, especially on its subway-elevated system and signage. Some readers agreed strongly with that argument, while others disagreed vehemently.

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A Builder’s Personal Palace Becomes Apartments With Personality

Original wood flooring. Photo: Sandy Smith.

Original wood flooring. Photo: Sandy Smith.

One of the really cool things about adapting old structures to new uses is that a little of their original personality rubs off on their new function. For a prime example of this, we can turn to 2013 Spruce Street, an 1868 Second Empire townhome now in the home stretch of being converted to 12 rental apartments by property manager AMC Delancey Companies.

2013 Spruce is the largest of a row of mansard-roofed mansions built by Ebenezer Burgess Warren and sold to some of the most prosperous Philadelphians of his time. Warren built 2013 as his own residence, and he had some pretty impressive neighbors: shipbuilder Randolph Wood, broker Joseph Seaver, machinists’ tool maker Walter K. Ludwig and jeweler G.W. Banks of Bailey, Banks and Biddle fame.

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Awesome New Postgreen Homes Coming to Fishtown

awesometown rendering

Awesometown rendering via Postgreen Homes website.

The folks at Postgreen Homes have a penchant for coming up with clever, cutesy names for their developments. ReNewbold. Duplexcellence. Avant Garage. And a project of cork-clad homes called – what else? – “Pop!” They also are on a mission to prove that building green shouldn’t cost a lot, a mission they embarked on with their very first project, the $100k House. Postgreen’s newest project, four years in the making, is something of an apotheosis of both corporate traits, then.

First of all, it has a name that sounds like it was coined by a teenage boy: Awesometown.

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Parke Place Progress Report

What Parke Place will have to offer. Image via Parke Place Townhomes website.

What Parke Place will have to offer. Image via Parke Place Townhomes website.

We were strolling up the Avenue of the Arts last week and decided to check in on the Parke Place townhouse development in the 1300 blocks of Kater and Bainbridge streets.

We noticed that the development had one piece missing – namely, the easternmost home on the Bainbridge Street side of the project.

It turns out that the foundation with no home on it is the first piece of the next phase of the project, according to listing agent Jim Onesti of the Mike McCann team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors.

As of now, eight of the 22 townhomes in the development are built out, with minor exterior work such as balconies remaining to be completed along with fitting out of the interiors.

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The One Question That Really Matters About the Proposed PGW Sale

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to sell the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works to a Connecticut utility holding company for nearly $1.9 billion goes before a skeptical City Council for review in the next few weeks. And while some of that skepticism arises from Council’s frosty relationship with the mayor, some of it also has a legitimate policy basis.

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