Apartment Buildings

A Midcentury Modern Makeover in King of Prussia

Like its counterparts in the city, 251 DeKalb had gotten long in the tooth, so its owners gave it a total refresh.

A model apartment living room at 251 DeKalb. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Followers of this channel should be aware that midcentury modernism is now history. That is, it’s become the subject of preservationist interest and action to preserve and update its iconic buildings.

This area saw three large midcentury modern apartment complexes rise over a span of about 15 years: Presidential City in the early 1950s, Park Towne Place in the late 1950s, and the 251 DeKalb Pike complex in King of Prussia in the early to mid-1960s.

Having documented the transformation of the first two, I was only too happy to accept the invitation from 251 DeKalb’s new owners, Candlebrook Properties, to take a look at what they’ve done with the third.

What they’ve done with the $50 million they spent on this makeover is quite impressive. Besides bringing the complex into the 21st century with a total replacement of all the fixtures and systems in the complex’s five towers, they’ve given them a bunch of new amenities designed to support an active live/work/play lifestyle and a touch of eco-friendliness to boot. Each building (the five towers are arranged into three buildings; the East and West buildings consist of two towers with a shared entrance lobby) has distinctive common spaces that set it apart from the others, but all of the facilities are available to all complex residents. Many of these amenities match or beat anything you’d find at apartments in the city — save perhaps for its two midcentury modern siblings.

The aesthetic Varenhorst Architects developed for the renewed buildings respects their modernist heritage while taking advantage of evolving technology and design and throwing in just a whiff of Art Deco sensibility. Each building has distinctive common spaces that set it apart from the others, but all of the facilities are available to all complex residents. Many of these amenities match or beat anything you’d find at apartments in the city — save perhaps for its two midcentury modern siblings.

Candlebrook CEO Neil Rubler led me on a tour of the revitalized complex. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here. As you view them, you may spot elements this makeover has in common with those at the two in-city complexes.



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Sandy Smith Home and Real Estate Editor @MarketStEl
ssmith@phillymag.com