From Trash to Treasure: The Story of the Ugliest House in America

HomeVestors franchisee Tom Beerley turned this ugly duckling in Springfield into a swan. | Photos courtesy Tom Beerley via HomeVestors

HomeVestors franchisee Tom Beerley turned this ugly duckling in Springfield into a swan. | Before photos: Tom Beerley via HomeVestors; after photos: Pravada Photography via HomeVestors

You’ve seen those big yellow billboards that proclaim “We Buy Ugly Houses,” right?

Those are the work of HomeVestors, a company that franchises its services to investors who would like to help owners of properties in distress.

Each year, the company sponsors a competition among its franchisees to identify the “Ugliest House in America” as a way of showcasing the work HomeVestors buyers do.

And “showcase” is precisely what the 2016 Ugliest House in America, a two-story home built in 1945 in Springfield, Delaware County, became thanks to the efforts of franchisee Tom Beerley.

The home could hardly have been more distressed. Nor could its owner. Read more »

Apartments Proposed Atop Ardmore Christian Science Reading Room

The Christian Science Reading Room on Rittenhouse Place in Ardmore would get a two-story apartment building on top under a proposal submitted to Lower Merion's historical review board. | Google Street View image

The Christian Science Reading Room on Rittenhouse Place in Ardmore would get a two-story apartment building on top under a proposal submitted to Lower Merion’s historical review board. | Google Street View image

Developers Chris and Ryan Tobin want to join the parade of builders adding apartments to downtown Ardmore. Their modest proposal, however, would add two stories to a one-story historic building, so it got referred to the Lower Merion Historical Architecture Review Board.

The Main Line Times reports that the board voted to send the developers back to the drawing board to address concerns about the project’s design and its effect on neighboring structures. Read more »

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

500 S. Waterloo Rd., Devon, Pa. 19333 |Photos: Herb Engelsberg via Jack Aezen

500 S. Waterloo Rd., Devon, Pa. 19333 |Photos: Herb Engelsberg via Jack Aezen

Some mansions have more than elegance to recommend them. This home in Devon is one of those, because it has a story behind it.

That story begins in 1903, when Philadelphia attorney and philanthropist William C. Bullitt built this home as a summer residence on 12 acres of land near Waterloo and Exeter roads. He called it “Oxmoor,” after his family’s ancestral home in Louisville. His will provided for the home to pass to his two sons, William C. Jr. — the first U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the FDR administration — and Orville H., one of the founders of Blue Cross of Greater Philadelphia (now Independence Blue Cross) and a board chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, upon his death.

That took place in 1919, whereupon the sons sold it to Francis R. Welsh, who renamed it “Nirvana.” With its beautifully landscaped grounds and classically elegant detailing, the name certainly fit. Read more »

CDR Panel Gives Toll Jewelers Row Tower a Mixed Review

The CDR panel's advice to Toll's architect: Make up your mind what kind of tower this is supposed to be. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The CDR panel’s advice to Toll’s architect: Make this building modern or make it neotraditional, but make it one or the other. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

Toll Brothers City Living’s proposal for a 29-story residential tower with ground-floor retail on Jewelers Row went before the design doctors yesterday (February 7th). Their diagnosis: The building suffers from a case of architectural schizophrenia.

Curbed Philly’s report on the Civic Design Review meeting indicates that only one of the members of the CDR panel, developer Leo Addimado, liked the proposed design. But even he urged Toll and project architect SLCE to make the design more frankly modern. Committee members referred to the structure as having split personalities throughout the meeting. Read more »

Toll’s Tower Design: An Almost Successful Compromise

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

Given that the controversial condo tower Toll Brothers City Living plans to build at the east end of Jewelers Row is a by-right project, it really wasn’t necessary for the company to meet with neighboring building and business owners to discuss its plans. But it did, and given what it was proposing to build and where, the natural question those neighbors, both supporters and opponents, had was: Well, what will the thing look like?

A lot of other people well beyond Washington Square West wanted to know too.

We all got that question answered at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee, where representatives of Toll Brothers’ City Living division and the project architect, New York-based SLCE, revealed renderings of the tower.

The result is a good news/bad news story. Read more »

Toll Takes Wraps Off Jewelers Row Tower

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Rendering: SLCE Architects

The Sansom Street elevation of the proposed Toll Brothers condo tower. | Renderings: SLCE Architects

Toll Brothers City Living finally revealed what the condo tower it plans to build in place of three structures on historic Jewelers Row will look like before a packed meeting of the Washington Square West Civic Association Zoning Committee at Thomas Jefferson University last night.

And to the surprise of Toll Brothers City Living Division Vice President Brian Emmons, most of those who attended liked the design produced by SLCE Architects of New York.

That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone liked the building. Several in attendance, most notably a group of residents of the buildings slated to fall, managed to make their displeasure known to the committee, Emmons, and City Councilman Mark Squilla both during and after the meeting. Read more »

Barnes Foundation to Build $5.8M Addition

The Barnes Foundation will build an addition to its building's northeast corner that will allow it to expand its restaurant and accommodate more educational programs. | Photo: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

The Barnes Foundation will build an addition to its building’s northeast corner that will allow it to expand its restaurant and accommodate more educational programs. | Photo: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

What do you do when 93,000 square feet of space just isn’t cutting it anymore?

Well, for the Barnes Foundation, the answer is simple: expand.

The institution is set to break ground this week on a $5.8 million project to allow more space for educational programming and expanded dining services. The new Garden Pavilion, a 4,000-square-foot multi-use space, will sit on the northeast corner of the Barnes Foundation’s Philadelphia campus at 21st Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway. Read more »

Checkmate in East Kensington? Broker Rearranges the Chessboard

Bishop Square | Renderings: KJO Architecture via The Somers Team; Photos via The Somers Team

Bishop Square | Renderings: KJO Architecture via The Somers Team; Photos via The Somers Team

I’ve gotten lots of pitches from real estate agents and others that lead me to ask, “What’s in a name?”

The answer, it appears, is, “Tens of thousands of dollars.”

Buyers are far more willing to pay top dollar for a property in a neighborhood they perceive to be desirable than in one that may also be on the rise but they know little about.

And so it is that The Somers Team touts its new, six-unit residential development, Bishop Square, as a hot property in Fishtown. Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: The Amperium

The future home of Riverwards Produce. Work on the apartments upstairs is further along. | Photos: Sandy Smith unless otherwise noted

The future home of Riverwards Produce. Work on the apartments upstairs is further along. | Photos: Sandy Smith unless otherwise noted

Over on Be Well Philly, Adjua Fisher was positively jubilant about the news that Riverwards Produce, which operated a pop-up produce market in Fishtown this past summer, will become a permanent tenant of the first floor of a converted firehouse at 2200 E. Norris St. starting sometime in March.

Over here on Property, I’m positively jubilant about the firehouse it’s going into.

So is its owner, Rory Scerri-Marion. In fact, he fell in love with it so much, he renamed both his real estate investment company and the building for the business that had occupied that first-floor space for 63 years.

But before we get to that part of the story, let’s rewind to this building’s beginning, which is why it’s on the city and national historic registers. Read more »

Why Parkway’s Doubling Down on North Broad

Parkway Corporation's proposed development at Broad and Spring Garden would add offices to the residence-retail mix found in other North Broad projects currently underway. | Rendering © BLT Architects

Parkway Corporation’s proposed development at Broad and Spring Garden would add offices to the residence-retail mix found in other North Broad projects currently underway. | Rendering © BLT Architects

Along with Eric Blumenfeld, Parkway Corporation has become one of the most important developers along the North Broad Street corridor. And like Blumenfeld, Parkway sees the street as having untapped potential as an all-day live/work/play environment. (The folks at Parkway should know: the company headquarters is at Broad and Race streets.)

What’s different about Parkway’s latest development proposal is that it seeks to combine all three of those elements into a single package at a convenient location.

“It’s my dream to build significant office space there, to get some jobs into that neighborhood,” said Parkway CEO Robert Zuritsky. “The retail and residential are a slam dunk, but [North Broad] is also an important commercial district.” Read more »

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