On the Drawing Board: Living XXL in Franklintown

The NOVO Philly development. | Renderings: Atrium Design Studio

The NOVO Philly development. | Renderings: Atrium Design Studio

From the architect who brought you 7inSPIRE and a good chunk of Northern Liberties comes something huge: 10 luxurious, light-filled townhomes just off Logan Square, right across from the Latter-day Saints’ meetinghouse, temple and apartment tower.

The project is called NOVO Philly, and its architect, Shimi Zakin, has upped his usual stylish game with these homes.

Like 7inSPIRE, NOVO is designed to relate to its site and neighborhood. Read more »

Who’s Building Philly: Carl Dranoff

Carl Dranoff atop his One Riverside condo. | Photo: Jeff Fusco

Carl Dranoff atop his One Riverside condo. | Photo: Jeff Fusco

“Those who succeed over the years can steer their way through choppy waters, and that includes things you can’t control.”

Carl Dranoff, the man who said that, should know. The CEO of Dranoff Properties rode historic preservation to national prominence before a change in the law brought his business to its knees. The lessons he learned from that career setback have informed the rise of his business and his development strategy since then.

“Actually, I’ve had three careers,” said Dranoff. His first was as a garden-variety home builder. The firm he founded in 1975 built single-family tract houses, working principally with Kaufman & Broad, whose South Jersey division he managed. “That was where I cut my teeth on mass production.”

But his first foray into mass-produced suburban single-family tract homes was also his last. Ever since, he has focused on the multifamily market, with an emphasis on urban development. Read more »

Live Like a du Pont in Wilmington for $5.5M

900 OId Kennett Rd., Wilmington, Del. 19807 | Photos and TREND images via Long & Foster Real Estate

900 OId Kennett Rd., Wilmington, Del. 19807 | Photos and TREND images via Long & Foster Real Estate

We usually don’t venture beyond Southeastern Pennsylvania in search of outstanding homes. But every so often, an outstanding home within the Philadelphia region but outside the five counties comes to our attention.

This magnificent estate in Wilmington’s tony northwest suburbs is one of those.

Located in the middle of a 550-acre nature preserve, “Stonehouse” is one of the finest mansions in Wilmington’s “chateau country.” The French Provincial home was built to last in 1939 by socialite Margaretta “Gret” du Pont and her husband, Crawford “Greenie” Greenewalt, who served as a president of the DuPont company for 14 years. Greenewalt’s concern for safety, strength and durability led him to construct this home out of steel and concrete: each floor has a 12-inch-thick concrete base, and even the walk-up attic has concrete stairs and floors. Read more »

Homes Get A Little Less Affordable, Both Here and Nationwide

Atypical Philladelphia home gort | Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

A typical Philadelphia home got a little harder for a homeowner to afford in the fourth quarter of 2016.  | Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

As housing markets nationwide continue their recovery from the 2008 market collapse, it appears that affordability may be one of the things falling by the wayside.

A quarterly survey of the Philadelphia housing market produced by mortgage resource site HSH.com shows that the income needed to afford a standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on a median-priced home here rose 2.82 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2016, even though the median house price dropped 5.62 percent from the previous quarter.

The annual salary needed now to afford the mortgage and taxes on a home priced at the market median of $221,600 is $53,077.09, down $30.45 from the previous quarter. Read more »

Ooh La La! The Adams Gets a Parisian Makeover

This rendering by Philippe Maidenberg shows how his use of color will enliven the residents' lounge at the Adams.

This rendering by Philippe Maidenberg shows how his use of color will enliven the residents’ lounge at the Adams.

If you’ve followed my reporting on Post Brothers, you should know that I’m a huge fan of the Pestronk brothers’ theatrical flair. Whether it’s in design, marketing or public relations, Post Brothers knows how to grab your attention and hold onto it.

Now, as they turn to renovating the last of the four towers they’re making over at Presidential City on City Avenue, they’ve taken their eye for style and talent for showmanship above and beyond their usual standard.

To do this, they’ve enlisted outside help, namely, internationally known French architect Philippe Maidenberg, who has added a dash of color and whimsy to the lobby and model units at the Adams.

(Wait. Wasn’t it Jefferson who went to Paris? No matter. Neither I nor Post Brothers insist on slavish devotion to every historical jot and tittle when invoking past Presidential glories.)

Post Brothers CEO Mike Pestronk explained why they decided Maidenberg was the right person for this renovation project. Read more »

First-Time Find: A Step Up in East Passyunk for $229K

924 Sigel St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148 | TREND images via Alpha Realty Group

924 Sigel St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148 | TREND images via Alpha Realty Group

Row homes like this one in East Passyunk Crossing are common all over South Philadelphia: two stories, one bathroom, a small rear courtyard and three bedrooms.

Make that two actual bedrooms and an incredibly small “bedroom” in the middle. Yes, you can fit a mattress in that room, but once you do, there’s barely room for anything else. And often, it has no closet.

Consider this a feature, not a bug, of this very nicely updated and renovated home, for that middle bedroom on the second floor is just the right size for a home office, or a nursery or bedroom for a small child, or for extra storage space. Read more »

Collingswood Buys Ugly Houses Too

Collingswood Borough officials hope buyers will flip over the abandoned homes they're buying and restoring to stop blight before it spreads. | Photo: Emma Lee/WHYY

Collingswood Borough officials hope buyers will flip over the abandoned homes they’re buying and restoring to stop blight before it spreads. | Photo: Emma Lee/WHYY

The abandoned homes of Collingswood may not be in as dire shape as that “Ugliest House in America” we told you about last week, but they are every bit as much a drag on its neighborhoods as that disaster in Springfield was.

To help combat the blight, borough officials are taking a page from the HomeVestors playbook: They’re buying the ugly houses themselves.

Newsworks reports that Collingswood officials have taken advantage of a decade-old New Jersey law to sue for possession of some abandoned homes within its borders. The borough will use the proceeds from a $1 million loan and volunteer labor to restore the homes and sell them at market value to new buyers. Sale proceeds will then be reinvested in additional house restorations. Read more »

Why Valley Forge Is Banking on Sports to Lure Visitors

Making the pitch for a regional sports facility in Montgomery County at a Feb. 16 news conference at Center Ice in Oaks were (left to right) Chris Branscome, CEO, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer; Andy Carl, sports sales manager, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board; Jennifer Shipman, director of sales, DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia/Valley Forge; LIsa Karl, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships, VFTCB; Mark Shepard, King of Prussia Fire Department, and Mike Bowman, president and CEO, VFTCB. | Photo: Sandy Smith

Making the pitch for a regional sports facility in Montgomery County at a Feb. 16 news conference at Center Ice in Oaks were (left to right) Chris Branscome, CEO, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer; Andy Carl, sports sales manager, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board; Jennifer Shipman, director of sales, DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia/Valley Forge; LIsa Karl, vice president of sales and strategic partnerships, VFTCB; Mark Shepard, King of Prussia Fire Department, and Mike Bowman, president and CEO, VFTCB. | Photo: Sandy Smith

For an investment of just under $50 million plus a modest annual operating subsidy, Montgomery County hotels and restaurants could see $100 million or more pour into their coffers within five years if a new multi-sport tournament-ready playing facility is built in the county.

To get the ball rolling towards that goal, the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board held a kickoff news conference last Thursday (February 16th) at Oaks Center Ice to mark the formal start of raising funds and soliciting proposals for a Valley Forge Sports facility. Read more »

What $500K Will Buy You in Rydal

1017 Lindsay Lane, Rydal, Pa. 19046 | TREND image via Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty

1017 Lindsay Lane, Rydal, Pa. 19046 | TREND image via Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty

Back before Willow Grove Park Mall, Jenkintown was the shopping center of the northern suburbs. The department stores have all departed now, but the town retains its walkable charm, and it’s the hub of the north-side SEPTA Regional Rail system: its train station is the busiest outside of Center City.

Just up the road and two stops up the SEPTA West Trenton Line is Rydal, which shares its zip code but is a little more suburban — maybe it’s all those car dealers lining the Fairway along its northern edge that make the difference. Away from the autos, though, you’ll find a leafy community developed largely after World War II, filled with homes that reflect the styles of their era, some with a little updating in places. Take a look at these three homes to see what we mean: Read more »

Is The Center City Housing Boom Sustainable?

Center City's housing market is on a tear, with new units being built at a record pace. A new Center City District report looks at its building blocks. | Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia™

Center City’s housing market is on a tear, with new units being built at a record pace. A new Center City District report looks at its building blocks. | Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia™

Center City may have just regained momentum as a job generator, thanks largely to adjacent University City, but its housing market has taken off like a rocket, and the Center City District’s new report on housing, “Building on Optimism,” explains what’s produced this meteoric rise in great detail.

As for whether the core-city housing market can continue to build on that optimism…well, the devil’s in the details, and that rosy report points out where the thorns are.

But first, let’s smell the roses. Greater Center City — the area from Girard Avenue on the north to Tasker Street on the south between the rivers — has become one enormous construction site, with a record 2,506 housing units produced in 2016, the most since the district started keeping track of residential construction in 2000. Even more units are in the pipeline: 5,379 units are slated to be completed in the next two years, with the bulk coming on line this year. Read more »

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