Labor Day Weekend Estate Sales

An example of one of the quirky items that will be offered at the Chestnut Hill estate sale on Monday. Photo via SalesByHelen.com.

An example of one of the quirky items that will be offered at the Chestnut Hill estate sale on Monday. Photo via SalesByHelen.com.

Is there nothing better than a good estate sale? You get to tromp through a home and really look at the condition of the items as they were used in the space where they were used. If the home is especially beautiful, that’s a bonus, as is the fact that prices tend to be very reasonable. And keep in mind that these days an estate sale is very rarely due to a person’s death. It’s usually because a couple of empty nesters have decided it’s time to move into the city, or because an elderly person is moving in with her kids (or, uh, to a nursing home, which is actually depressing, but just put that out of your mind). Or sometimes people just need to liquidate because they’re exhausted by owning all that crap and are planning to join the Tiny Home movement. Anyway, stop analyzing and start enjoying. Here are three of this weekend’s estate sales that we recommend.

1. Case in point: This rather poignant pre-demolition sale of a Walter Durham home in Penn Valley or Narberth, depending how you look at it. The company handling the sale specializes in big items. For instance, they liquidated the entire Waynesboro Country Club on Route 252 in Paoli and a block-long synagogue in Allentown. So think big for this sale, which includes everything: an antique wood pine mantel, dining room chandelier and sconces, antique brick patios and walkways, flagstones, loose stone walls, patio doors, insulated glass windows, garage doors, an HVAC system, plantings…as the company says on its website, “Remember, if it is there, it is for sale.” If you’re a Durham fan, you can go for a last look before the home comes down in a few weeks. 8/30/2014 9am to 3pm and 8/31/2014 10am to 2pm, Righters Mill Road, Narberth, PA.

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Harris Steinberg to Leave Penn for Drexel

harris-steinbergTomorrow Drexel University will announce to trustees and senior staff that Harris Steinberg, currently executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis, will become executive director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. The formal public announcement will come on Thursday, and Steinberg will start the new job — along with a faculty appointment at Westphal College — on November 1. Steinberg has been at Praxis for 12 and a half years, during which he’s expanded PennDesign‘s horizons beyond the classroom and into the community through planning, community development, civic engagement, nonprofit journalism, public art and other projects.

Steinberg’s new position will be in keeping with that pursuit. “Drexel is really doing some incredible work in the urban realm,” Steinberg says, “and it seems the right time to build on the work I’ve done at PennPraxis. It’s the kind of engagement that Penn pioneered in the ’90s.” He notes that Drexel’s current president, John Fry, was “one of the lead generals” in creating that framework.

As for the fate of PennPraxis, he says, “The hope is that things will keep going.” The dean, he says, has already requested a memo with information about who will take over his responsibilities in the interim. He’s equally optimistic about PlanPhilly, the website that is essential reading for people who care about what’s happening in the city’s built environment, from historical commission decisions to plans for new buildings. It’s invaluable, and Steinberg says that in both cases, “we have all of the players working hard to make sure that keeps going.”

Steinberg first stepped onto Penn’s campus 40 years ago — just one of many alums in his family tree. “My kids went here, my dad went here, I’ve got a lot of Penn ties,” he says, when asked if he’ll miss his current employer. “I’m only going two blocks.”

Parc Rittenhouse Condo: Can We Keep the Blue Sofa?

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We love this condo, of course. Parc is lovely. The amenities (24-hour doorman; pool; gym; etc.) are terrific. The views are great. The location couldn’t be better. This unit features customized closets, a Sub Zero refrigerator and wine refrigerator, a Nest thermostat system, a Juliet balcony with French doors… You get the picture (or you will after the see the gallery). There’s even a parking spot for just $168 per month, which for indoor parking near the Square, is pretty good.

To the new owner: Seeing as you’re paying $1.8 million or thereabouts, perhaps you’re also buying a new sofa? Or bringing one you like? In which case, I’m sure you don’t mind donating this sofa to a needy real estate editor, whose IKEA leather sofa and Pier One circa-2001 couch are no longer making the grade…

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On the Market: Danny Seo’s Bucks County Stunner

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Photo via Kurfiss Sotheby’s International

Reading, Pa. native Danny Seo is a male, environmentally conscious Martha Stewart — if Martha Stewart were busier than she is and not an ex-felon. He’s a published book author. He has a syndicated column called “Do Just One Thing.” He has a line of home products is sold at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods. He’s a Today show regular. He makes organic wines, and sells his bath products and fragrances on the Home Shopping Network. He’s a spokesperson for a couple companies. And now he’s a magazine publisher, with the first issue of Naturally, Danny Seo out this month.

As an introduction to Seo, the magazine features his Bucks County “glass house,” which is a mid-century modern-style beauty — a little Kahn-inspired jewel in the woods. An interview with him about the house does more to explain its appeal than any listing could. A few excerpts:

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Futuristic Dilworth Plaza Renderings to Become Real Very Soon

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A detail of life as we will soon know it.

For a Philadelphia space that was established by William Penn as the center of the city, Dilworth Plaza’s new incarnation — at least as seen in renderings — has always seemed rather futuristic. And in advance of today’s press conference (more about that here), the Center City District, which has a 30-year lease on the space, heralded the project’s more forward-leaning aspects, such as the “11,600-square-foot computer-programmable fountain fed with recycled rainwater.”

But it’s all happening (as Penny Lane would say), and it’s happening now. Lest you think the rainwater business is the equivalent of realtor-speak (“rainforest shower” for a completely normal bathroom), this emphasis on sustainability is important to all involved. Nutter has said, from the beginning of his mayoralty, that he was going to focus on making Philly a green city; and the project’s design and construction firms — KieranTimberlake, OLIN, Urban Engineers, Gilbane Building Company and Daniel J. Keating Company — all have experience and commitment to sustainable design and/or building.

That’s partly the reason the name is changing: from Dilworth Plaza to Dilworth Park, to emphasize things like its tree groves and flower beds, and perhaps to encourage residents to see it as green space. (Some of the greenest elements of it won’t be done until October, though, including, according to CCD, the lawns and walkways to South Penn Square.)

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Some Restoration In Store For Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute

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The Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a famous architectural gem by Louis Kahn, is under threat.  The wood-and-concrete property, which sits near the beaches of the Pacific in La Jolla, California, has not been situated in the greatest of environments and its starting to show on the building. As Brigitte Brown of Architizer writes:

“It’s perfectly tranquil in all of its concrete and wood glory — but, because of the structure’s proximity to the salty and sandy marine environment, it is at a preservation disadvantage. Visitors today can clearly note how the teak wood “window walls” are taking a beating.”

Fortunately, the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative is here to save it. And other buildings in the process too.

CMAI, a partnership between the Salk Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute, is trying to develop a plan that will help conserve Khan’s architectural masterpiece. However, as whole, CMAI is looking to “help with the distinct challenges of conserving modern architecture” because despite “all the innovative techniques and use of materials,” many, like Kahn’s Salk work, are “rapidly deteriorating.”

This Is How You Save a Louis Kahn Masterpiece [Architizer]

Morning Headlines: Was Revel’s Design to Blame for Its Failure (VIDEO)

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Looking back at its two-year life (and the process leading up to it), it’s easy to see where things may have started to go downhill for the Revel Casino Hotel. But could one of the falling dominos that factored in its demise have been its design?

The Architect’s Newspaper recently published a piece pondering this question, and referred back to a New York Times article that pointed out Revel’s design issue last week:

But in terms of Revel, specifically, its design may have been its fatal flaw. “The enormous cost of the property, its vast size and its peculiar configuration—patrons had to ride a steep escalator from the lobby to get to the casino, the 57-story hotel and the restaurants—made it difficult to turn a profit,” reported the New York Times.

Indeed, this “peculiar configuration” did not go unnoticed by critics. In June, the Inquirer’s Harold Brubaker mentioned many felt Revel’s layout faults “include[d] a long distance between the casino floor and the hotel’s front desk, a casino floor that fails to engage gamblers, and vast empty spaces that make Revel expensive to heat and cool.”

One of said critics was Alan R. Woinski, chief executive of Gaming USA Corp., who happened to be interviewed by NPR just a few days ago, and had this to add about the shuttered resort: Read more »

10 Cool Instagram Shots of PNB Letters Coming Down

The letters on the flatbed truck, destined for the scrapyard. Photo: Bradley Maule.

The letters on the flatbed truck, destined for the scrapyard. Photo: Bradley Maule.

One South Broad Street, a Beaux Arts building commissioned by the Wanamaker family that opened in 1932, underwent a quarter of a transformation this weekend when three of its iconic, 16-foot-high PNB letters — installed more than a half-century ago — were removed on Sunday.

The change was due to new ownership of the John T. Windrim-designed building: Aion Partners bought the building for $68 million in April, but as Hidden City reports, the removal of the letters has been a long time coming: “Removal of the letters was first approved by the Philadelphia Historical Commission in 2005, when Wachovia wanted to replace the PNB with branding of its own. (The Founder’s Bell and its belfry are on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, while the building itself is not.)”

Below, some Instagrammer shots (including my own) of the letter removal, which will continue next week, perhaps, though the precise date hasn’t been nailed down. The letters, by the way, are headed to the scrapyard. Shame Vanna White isn’t in town.

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A Swoon-Worthy Garden and Patio in New Hope

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo by Laura Kicey.

At first, Sally Weisman did not want to move. She’d been living in Princeton, New Jersey for 13 years in a beautiful home. She was reluctant to downsize because she loves to have friends and family over. But she was ready for a smaller space. She considered going back to New York. Then she found a townhouse in New Hope. The clincher was the available lot next door.

Her interior designer, Helen Walton, first suggested that Weisman buy the available lot. When her builder agreed that it was a great idea, things started to take shape. Weisman moved in November and the garden was finished last month.

“I really couldn’t live without a garden or some outside space,” Weisman said.

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Law Firm: Divine Lorraine Developer Eric Blumenfeld Owes Us Nearly $750K

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A law firm alleges that Eric Blumenfeld owes $120,000 for services rendered in relation to his development of the Divine Lorraine, pictured above in a rendering commissioned by his company.

Update: 8/15/14 3:35PM: Blumenfeld called us yesterday evening to say, “That matter has been resolved.” Today a firm spokesperson told us, “Stradley Ronon Chairman Bill Sasso and Eric Blumenfeld have reached a verbal settlement on the matter that will be committed to writing in the very near future.”

The law firm of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP has filed a suit (embedded below) against Eric Blumenfeld’s EB Realty Management Corp. The complaint alleges that Blumenfeld hired the firm in March 2012 to advise him in various real estate matters, including the Abbotts Square condo complex; the Stutz Building, where Stephen Starr’s catering empire resides; and the following development projects:

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