You Could Be The First On Your Blok To Live in One of These

An example of a multifamily housing development built using Blokable's modular units. | Rendering; Blokable

An example of a multifamily housing development built using Blokable’s modular units. | Rendering; Blokable

The man who helped give physical form to “Earth’s biggest bookstore” and developed the checkout-free convenience store has now turned his attention to affordable housing.

His proposed solution combines high tech and kindergarten tech.

The building industry trade publication Builder reports that Aaron Holm, co-creator of the Amazon Go C-store and developer of the brick-and-mortar Amazon Books stores, has launched a new startup company called Blokable whose aim is to produce affordable housing that can be easily assembled and expanded. Read more »

Who’s Building Philly: Vince Viney

There's a touch of the Levitt approach in V2 Properties' strategy: standardize to keep costs low. It enables the company to offer more in its homes than others similarly priced. You should be able to spot the V2 homes on the 700 (left) and 600 (right) blocks of Mercy Street in Dickinson Narrows. | Photos: Sandy Smith

There’s a touch of the Levitt approach in V2 Properties’ strategy: standardize to keep costs low. It enables the company to offer more in its homes than others similarly priced. You should be able to spot the V2 homes on the 700 (left) and 600 (right) blocks of Mercy Street in Dickinson Narrows. | Photos: Sandy Smith

To understand why Vince Viney builds, all you really need to know is two basic principles:

Inexpensive new homes don’t have to be cheap.

And buying them shouldn’t be a nightmare.

Put another way, Viney doesn’t want home buyers to have the experience he did when he bought his first home.

“As a homebuyer, I was tired of seeing the inferior quality and lack of craftsmanship that I saw, and the poor service, especially after delivery,” he said. “It was the acceptable standard, but it was an acceptably bad standard.”

Viney, 45, grew up in Kensington’s Harrowgate section, a largely blue-collar neighborhood. When he was coming of age, success meant a house in the suburbs, and he followed that path to a new construction home in Collegeville, which he purchased in 1995. Read more »

Main Line Monday: A First Resort in Devon for $355K

5 Brettagne, Devon, Pa. 19330 | TREND images via BHHS Fox & Roach

5 Brettagne, Devon, Pa. 19333 | TREND images via BHHS Fox & Roach

This home in Devon’s Arbordeau condominium community just misses the cutoff for our “First-Time Find” feature, but it’s definitely within reach of many buyers today, and you get a lot for your money here — including, if you wish, an opportunity to take a mid-1970s home with strong bones into the here and now.

Given that the kitchen and bathrooms in this home were recently updated, all that may be required is the right furniture, for this home’s stylish contemporary bones are solid. The living room has a handsome brick-arched fireplace and striking floating staircase as main design elements and is flooded with light from the sliding glass door that leads out onto the patio, one of two attached to this home. There are also two balconies on the upper level, giving it plenty of private outdoor space. Read more »

It’s Hip to be Square on Avenue 30

The Avenue 30 development. | Rendering: KJO Architecture via The Riverwards Group and The Somers Team

The Avenue 30 development. | Renderings: KJO Architecture via The Riverwards Group and The Somers Team

There have been all sorts of attempts to solve the central problem of the Philadelphia row house, namely, the need to fit it into a long lot with narrow street frontage.

Over the years, these attempts have produced such distinctive features as incredibly small middle bedrooms and squarish houses with nonexistent back yards.

Fishtown-based developers The Riverwards Group faced just such a problem when they got their hands on a 300-foot-long, 110-foot-deep on Amber Street in East Kensington. The aim was to produce a large townhouse development with luxurious yet reasonably priced homes.

Their solution: Go wide, which is what they did with the new Avenue 30 development. Read more »

Kudos for a One-Man Community Development Corporation

Chestnut Villa at 40th and Chestnut streets, the building that launched Brooks on his real estate career. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Chestnut Villa at 40th and Chestnut streets, the building that launched Brooks on his real estate career. | Photos: Sandy Smith

For many years, the nicest building at the intersection of 40th and Chestnut streets in University City was the one with the sign reading “Chestnut Villa” on top of it. Neat and tidy, with crimson awnings over its storefront windows, it was a signal that at least one person cared about this sometimes-bedraggled crossroads on the fringe of the University of Pennsylvania campus.

The crimson awnings are still there, and it’s still neat as a pin. But redevelopment has caught up with it: across Chestnut from the Villa now rises a slick postmodern tower, the Brawer & Hauptman-designed Hub on Chestnut.

So Chestnut Villa’s owner, Ronald Brooks, has decided to renovate the building he has owned for the past 40 years to reflect the changed face of its surroundings. To mark the occasion, many of the other people whose lives and businesses he has helped fix up turned out to pay homage to him on Tuesday (April 11th) in a currently vacant storefront in his building. Read more »

Survey Finds More Renters Plan on Staying Renters

A new Freddie Mac survey finds that those now renting have less interest in buying. | Rendering of 1900 Market by Barton Partners

A new Freddie Mac survey finds that those now renting have less interest in buying. | Rendering of 1919 Market by Barton Partners

Homeownership may still be a crucial element of the American Dream for most Americans, but there’s an alternate version taking root that doesn’t involve it at all. A new survey conducted by the Harris Poll for Freddie Mac documents the spread of this “American Dream 2.0.”

As reported in Multifamily Executive, the survey, which was released April 10, found that a growing number of renters say that their financial situation is improving and that they plan to remain renters even if rents increase. Moreover, fewer of them are working towards the goal of owning a home. Read more »

A Fabulous Farmstead in Bucks for $2.495M

5595 Ridge Rd., New Hope, Pa. 18938 | Photos courtesy Addison Wolfe Real Estate

5595 Ridge Rd., New Hope, Pa. 18938 | Photos courtesy Addison Wolfe Real Estate

You can find classic 18th-century farmhouses all over central and upper Bucks County. You can even find some on large lots like the 12-acre one this stunner sits on.

But you’re going to be hard pressed to find one that’s guaranteed to retain its country character forever like this one is.

That’s because this intelligently updated, impeccably maintained estate farmhouse is encircled by 1,000 acres of protected open space.

What that means, among other things, is that you will always be able to invite your city-mouse friends out for a true weekend in the country and be able to accommodate and entertain them in style. Read more »

Food Fight at 40th and Walnut

Penn has announced that Acme Markets will open a new store at the 40th and Walnut birthplace of the Fresh Grocer chain. But first, the Fresh Grocer has to move out. No word yet on when that will happen. | Photo: Gabriel Gottlieb, Philadelphia Heights blog

Penn has announced that Acme Markets will open a new store at the 40th and Walnut birthplace of the Fresh Grocer chain. But first, the Fresh Grocer has to move out. No word yet on when that will happen. | Photo: Gabriel Gottlieb, Philadelphia Heights blog

The University of Pennsylvania and Acme Markets announced yesterday (April 10) that Acme has signed a lease to open a new store in University City at the northwest corner of 40th and Walnut streets in a parking garage with ground-floor retail owned by the university.

According to the announcement, Acme plans to invest millions in upgrading the 34,500-square-foot supermarket in order to provide “a first-class urban grocery experience.”

No date for the store’s opening was included in the announcement, and there’s a reason for that: The current operator of the supermarket hasn’t vacated the premises yet. Read more »

Rent Reports: Garbage In, Garbage Out

iStock photo

iStock photo

According to one of the three monthly rent reports produced by the major apartment-search sites, rents for one-bedroom apartments continued their steady upward climb in March, rising 2.2 percent from February’s level, part of a trend that has rents 3.8 percent above year-ago levels.

According to another one, rents also rose hereabouts last month, but by rates that shouldn’t get anyone too anxious yet: they’re only one percent higher than they were both last month and last year at this time.

No, they’re not, says the third. In fact, they’re down, and down by a lot: 8 percent, the third straight month in which local one-bedroom rents have fallen. And this decline was the second-steepest of any city this site tracks in the United States.

Millions of apartment-hunters use these three sites each month to find suitable digs for rent, and local real estate media, including this site, have reported on these figures reliably when they come out.

But can we really rely on the figures produced by these sites — in order: Zumper, Apartment List and Abodo — when they vary so widely in mapping trends in the same city? Read more »

Tax Abatement Huge Shot in Arm for City, Study Finds

The 10-year tax abatement program has led to an explosion of new housing in the city, much of it at the lower end of the market, a BIA study finds. And when the abatements expire, the city's balance sheet will be better off for it.

The 10-year tax abatement program has led to an explosion of new housing in the city, much of it at the lower end of the market, a BIA study finds. And when the abatements expire, the city’s balance sheet will be better off for it.

Consider the 10-year property tax abatements on new construction and rehabilitation a down payment on a future gusher in revenue for the city thanks to the huge jump in construction activity it has triggered, argues a study released in late March by the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia.

The abatement, which freezes property taxes on improvements to commercial and residential property in the city for 10 years from completion, has completely reversed the trendlines for new construction activity in the city compared to its suburbs, states the BIA report, “Philadelphia’s 10-Year Property Tax Abatement” (PDF). Since its implementation in 2000, new home building in the city has increased by 376 percent, while in the suburbs, it has fallen 11.25 percent on average across the four collar counties.

That means a future flood of revenues into city coffers. Read more »

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