First-Time Find: Urbane Renewal in Fishtown

1515 E. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19125 | Photos courtesy Custom Philly Homes

1515 E. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19125 | Photos by Plush Image, courtesy Custom Philly Homes

You’ve seen houses like these before in neighborhoods across the city: smaller rowhouses set back from the street, shrinking violets that often exude charm but not much else.

But we’ll bet you’ve never seen a house like this before. That’s because more than the porch on this home was filled in. This unassuming-looking home got a total gut renovation and now epitomizes contemporary Fishtown style. Read more »

Main Line Monday: A Woodsy Midcentury Modern Retreat in Penn Valley

326 Sprague Rd., Penn Valley, Pa. 19072 | TREND images via Coldwell Banker Preferred

326 Sprague Rd., Penn Valley, Pa. 19072 | TREND images via Coldwell Banker Preferred

Midcentury Modern homes come in two basic varieties: homes that stand in defiance of their environment and homes that embrace their environment. This home is firmly in the latter camp — so much so, in fact, that it looks like it grew out of its hillside lot in Penn Valley instead of being built on it.

Designed by architect Robert McElroy in 1965, this home features several trademarks of his signature style: gently peaked roofs that form vaulted ceilings inside, exposed beams, a wraparound deck, and walls of glass that let in abundant natural light.

What’s so mesmerizing about this particular home is its easy flow from room to room. The main living spaces extend naturally from the skylit living room just behind the main entrance. The open floor plan contributes to this sense of an airy home and makes effective use of every square foot of space. Read more »

A Celebration of the Woodwards, The Family That Made Chestnut Hill

The Chestnut Hill Community Centre in 1918, | Photo courtesy PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records

The Chestnut Hill Community Centre in 1918. | Photo courtesy PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Chestnut Hill’s “town hall,” the Chestnut Hill Community Centre. To mark the occasion, ensure the building lasts another century, and honor the family that gave it to the community, Chestnut Hillers gathered at Chestnut Hill College the evening of June 9 to honor the role the Woodward family has played in the shaping of Chestnut Hill.

And Charleston.

Elizabeth Woodward, who married George Woodward’s son Charles, hailed from the South Carolina port city and got the family involved in the preservation of its history and improvement of its public realm. The attendees at last night’s gala dinner for the Woodward Celebration heard ten-term Charleston Mayor Joe Riley describe the “scheme” by which the family enabled the city to build a prize-winning waterfront park two years ago.

But that’s a tangent to this story. The legacy being celebrated in Chestnut Hill is one of stewardship and social conscience, construction and charity, and above all concern for the qualities that made Chestnut Hill a standout neighborhood. Read more »

A Midcentury Modern Apartment Complex Gets a 21st-Century Redo

The rejuvenated South Tower and amenities complex at Park Towne Place. | Photos: Sandy Smith

The rejuvenated South Tower and amenities complex at Park Towne Place. | Photos: Sandy Smith

I will confess it’s a little unsettling to report on a ribbon-cutting that includes the unveiling of a historic plaque on an apartment complex that was built the year after I was born. But Midcentury Modern architecture is now reaching the point where it’s the subject of historic preservation efforts, and in that sense, the revamped Park Towne Place, which city officials and Aimco executives rechristened June 9, is one helluva preservation project.

Actually, the project not only rehabilitates the 959-unit, four-tower development but upgrades it with new and improved apartments and amenities that bring the complex in line with 21st-century residents’ tastes and desires. Along with the redesign comes a new name: Park Towne Place / Museum District Residences. And in honor of that new moniker, the complex has also become the city’s newest art gallery. Read more »

Cambria Hotel Breaks Ground Before It’s Ground

You can't stick a shovel into a steel plate, but there were shovels all the same at today's ceremonial groundbreaking. The participants: Top row, left to right: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Wunderling, DAS Architects Principal David Schultz, Pearl Properties Principal Jim Pearlstein, Choice Hotels Chief Development Officer David Pepper. Bottom row, left to right: DAS Architects Principal Sue Davidson, Visit Philadelphia CEO Meryl Levitz, Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, Pearl Properties Principal Reed Slogoff, Choice Hotels Senior Vice President for Upscale Brands Janice Camron, Choice Hotels Director of Development Guy Gridley. |Photo: Sandy Smith

You can’t stick a shovel into a steel plate, but there were shovels all the same at today’s ceremonial groundbreaking. The participants: Top row, left to right: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Wonderling, DAS Architects Principal David Schultz, Pearl Properties Principal Jim Pearlstein, Choice Hotels Chief Development Officer David Pepper. Bottom row, left to right: DAS Architects Principal Sue Davidson, Visit Philadelphia CEO Meryl Levitz, Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce, Pearl Properties Principal Reed Slogoff, Choice Hotels Senior Vice President for Upscale Brands Janis Cannon, Choice Hotels Director of Development Guy Gridley. |Photos: Sandy Smith

No actual ground was broken in this morning’s ceremony at the site of the future Cambria Hotel and Suites on the Avenue of the Arts, but it was a groundbreaking event all the same.

Groundbreaking because it marks Cambria parent Choice Hotels’ first venture into the upper end of the Center City Philadelphia market. Its closest previous foray, a mid-range Comfort Inn at Penn’s Landing, changed hands several years ago and is now a Holiday Inn Express. (There are also two franchised Choice affiliates catering to the budget traveler in Center City: a Sleep Inn on Race Street in Chinatown and a Rodeway Inn on Walnut Street in Washington Square West’s Midtown Village/Gayborhood section.)

Choice Hotels executives, the hotel’s developer and its architect, and representatives of the city’s tourism promotion machine all turned out this morning to celebrate the hotel’s impending construction and welcome Choice back into the thick of things. Read more »

A Great Start for a Rookie Developer

1705 Pine St., before and after reconstruction. | Photos: Francesco DiCianni

1705 Pine St., before and after reconstruction. | Photos: Francesco DiCianni

It hasn’t been all that long since Frank DiCianni graduated from Drexel University in 2012. But the 26-year-old has his sights set on becoming a serious player in the local development game. His first construction project has gotten him off to a good start down that path.

DiCianni, who lives in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, had been noting with some concern the condition of the former Rittenhouse Cleaners building at 1705 Pine Street.

“A dark cloud hung over that building for eight years,” he said. After the cleaners shut down in 2007, the owner of the building and the business sold the building to a buyer from New York City.

From that point on, the building slowly deteriorated. And that worried DiCianni. One decaying building with boarded-up windows, he said, can set off “a chain reaction of not caring” among other property owners, and if the reaction goes on long enough, pretty soon an entire block becomes blighted.

So DiCianni decided he would launch his career as a developer by breaking the chain before another link could be added to it. Read more »

A Penthouse Sells for a Sky-High Price

The balconies at 500 Walnut are extra-large to appeal to suburbanites used to large yards. The penthouse's terrace, shown here, is especially spacious and striking - and the unit just sold for an all-time record price. | Renderings courtesy Scannapieco Development Corporation

The balconies at 500 Walnut are extra-large to appeal to suburbanites used to large yards. The penthouse’s terrace, a possibility for which is shown here, is especially spacious and striking – and the unit just sold for an all-time record price. | Renderings: Cecil Baker + Partners, courtesy Scannapieco Development Corporation

The two-story penthouse condo at 500 Walnut is stylish and very spacious. And it just set a new record for ultra-luxury sale prices locally.

Scannapieco Development Corporation announced today (June 2nd) that it has sold the 8,900-square-foot penthouse for a record $17.85 million, the highest price yet for a luxury residence in Philadelphia. In addition to breaking the record the company set six years ago with the $12.5 million sale of the penthouse unit at 1706 Rittenhouse Square, the sale also set a new record price per square foot: $2,003, also well above the previous record of $1,613 for the 1706 unit. Read more »

The Piazza Gets New Name, Adds Co-Working to the Mix

WeWork has taken 30,000 square feet of space in the last surviving remnant of the old Schmidt's brewery. It's the office linchpin of the makeover now under way at The Schmidt's Commons. | Photos: Courtesy Edelman Public Relations

WeWork has taken 30,000 square feet of space in the last surviving remnant of the old Schmidt’s brewery. It’s the office linchpin of the makeover now under way at The Schmidt’s Commons. | Photos: Courtesy WeWork/Max Hoagland

Small entrepreneurs and startup companies in Philly now have another option when it comes to flexible co-working office space.

This one comes with beer. And stadium seating. And a host of support services. And a community of other entrepreneurs ready to share their experiences and tips with you virtually as well as physically.

All of this can be found at the new Philly location of WeWork, the newest addition to the mix of offices, shops and restaurants at the Piazza at Schmidt’s. Read more »

A Look at Villanova’s New Lancaster Avenue Building

Villanova's new mixed-use development will enliven the corner of Lancaster Avenue (foreground) and Ithan Avenue. | Rendering © Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy Brian Communications

Villanova’s new mixed-use development will enliven the corner of Lancaster Avenue (foreground) and Ithan Avenue. | Rendering © Robert A.M. Stern Architects, courtesy Brian Communications

With its announcement that it will build a new, 1,100-bed student residence hall with street-floor retail across Lancaster Avenue from the main entrance to its campus, Villanova University has taken a small but significant step towards making its campus look and feel more like a community.

That’s because the mixed-use building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects in partnership with Voith & McTavish Architects and to be built by Torcon, will replace what is now a large surface parking lot at the corner of Lancaster and South Ithan avenues.

It will also make Villanova students themselves more a part of a community, according to Chris Kovolski, assistant vice president for government relations and external affairs at Villanova. Read more »

A Preview of the New 2400 Market

The latest version of 2400 Market Street. | Rendering: Varenhorst/Gensler via Philadelphia City Planning Commission

The latest version of 2400 Market Street. | Renderings: Varenhorst/Gensler via Philadelphia City Planning Commission

We knew that what PMC Property Group had planned to put on top of the former Marketplace Design Center was not going to be a simple tower slab.

What we hadn’t expected was that it would be this interesting visually.

The final design Varenhorst and Gensler Philadelphia submitted to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for Civic Design Review is a little more restrained than the fairly restrained preliminary one, but both are still an improvement over the taller conceptual design PMC released when it first announced the project. Read more »

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