A developer is making its first inroads into the city of Philadelphia, as Vitus Group has announced that it has agreed to a contract for preservation and renovation of two senior housing complexes.
The properties, Four Freedoms House in Germantown and Philip Murray House in West Oak Lane, will make up 590 units of affordable senior housing. The renovations are expected to take 12 months and be completed in December.
The Seattle-based Vitus Group has developed 95 properties in 18 states, and focuses on creating housing that emphasizes active living spaces at affordable rates. To ensure that, 500 of the units in the two properties are going to be saved for those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income, and the rest will be for those at 60 percent or below.
“I think when you own and develop the place where people live, particularly in low-income communities, you have an opportunity, and perhaps even an obligation, to look further to what you do to improve the lives of residents beyond just owning housing,” Stephen Whyte, the managing director and founder of Vitus Group, told Property.
Vitus also stresses wellness and active lifestyles in its developments. According to the statement announcing the contract, the group plans to “bring active design amenities to the properties.”
What are active design amenities, exactly? Whyte said they can be a number of things, such as gardens, walking paths or even just making stairs more appealing. “They’re not often attractive places, and our mission there is to come in and clean it up and brighten it up with colors and lighting, and encourage people to use the stairs,” he said.
In addition to these physical amenities, Whyte explained that Vitus Group, who has dedicated about half of its developments to senior housing, plans to offer social wellness amenities. These will include setting up functions and having a “Residence Services Coordinator” who would plan and promote the events.
The 14-story, 308-unit Philip Murray House is the larger of the two buildings. Four Freedoms House is a 12-story apartment building consisting of 282 rental units (efficiencies and one-bedrooms).
The new owners are planning a number of renovations to the buildings, including new roofs, upgraded masonry, and the replacement of in-unit appliances, cabinets and countertops.
Whyte insists this will not be an inconvenience for current residents. “This is something we’ve done many times over thousands of units, and that is make sure that residents are able to remain on site and they don’t have to move in with family or take a hotel,” he said. “Our contractors are very skilled at creating a residence inside the unit without destruction.”
The developer is also currently in talks to get one other as-yet-unnamed property in Philadelphia under contract, so be on the lookout for more from Vitus Group in the future.
“We look at everything we do as an opportunity to show examples of what it means to have affordable housing and have active design concepts,” said Whyte. “So that’s what is so great about working in a new city like Philadelphia—it’s an opportunity to show these things, and one that we certainly won’t miss.”