10 Best and Worst Markets for Flipping

RealtyTrac took a look at housing markets with 50 or more flips in the second quarter of 2014 to assess which market was getting the best return on investment (ROI) for the flips. No. 1? Pittsburgh, PA, where on average, the flipper bought a home at a 51 percent discount (below the estimated market value, that is) and resold it at a 4 percent premium above the estimated market value. That’s a 106 percent ROI. Nice job, yins!

Not surprisingly, the worst market for flips is San Francisco, where the second-quarter 2014 average gross ROI was -9 percent. That hurts my stomach.

The overall average for all the markets in the analysis? An 8 percent discount then a 6 percent premium.

Though Philadelphia falls neither on the Best or Worst list, York-Hanover is also on the Best list, a few slots below Pittsburgh. See the lists below.

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Long-Shuttered Department Store Will Finally Reopen

Castor and Cottman

Photo (and gallery below) by the author.

In 2003, the JCPenney on the corner of Castor and Cottman in Northeast Philadelphia shut its doors. I was in seventh grade at the time and, suffice to say, didn’t really think much beyond Wonder what they’ll put there next … oh my god, I hope it’s, like, a restaurant or something. What ended up going there was … nothing.

Wait, what?

Naïve? Yeah, probably. But up until that point whatever vacant buildings were in the area had been there for so long that they were just part of the streetscape. The norm. This closing was something else. Because here’s what happened: the neighborhood felt more dead than usual.

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At Last, Everyone and Everything in Accord at Goldtex

Photo by Liz Spikol.

Photo by Liz Spikol.

Less than a year ago, the news out of the Post Brothers’ Goldtex building was drama, controversy and inflatable rats. Which is why Inga Saffron, in today’s Inquirer, is expressing genuine surprise that not only have the former adversaries moved beyond attacking each other, but that the building itself seems to be – dare we say it – an example of good design.

In Saffron-ese:

The surprise is that the renovated factory emerged from the debacle with its architectural integrity intact.

“There must be something in the water,” she writes, explaining that both Electricians Local 98 boss John Dougherty and developer Michael Pestronk both expressed some regret over the affair.

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Morning Headlines: Is Bridesburg Really Getting A Waterfront Park?

Well here’s something to smile about! A waterfront park with access to Orthodox Street is coming to Bridesburg, a neighborhood which for too long has missed out on the possibilities offered along the nearby Delaware River bank. The news comes from a joint effort between PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey and Hidden City’s Bradley Maule to examine and report on new developments alongside the North Delaware Riverfront.

Apparently, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) have “nine acres of new waterfront parkland,” which it plans to develop despite there being no financial backing or design just yet. Tom Branigan, director of DRCC, told PlanPhilly that funding would most likely come from city and grant funds.

The land was previously under the hand of the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID) who emphasized its industrial use (it’s the site of the Philadelphia Coke Co.) when trying to attract buyers, but which, ultimately, resulted in unhappy residents. From PlanPhilly:

“Bridesburg has been cut off from the river for I don’t know how long, probably more than 100 years,” said Tom Branigan, director of DRCC, in an interview with PlanPhilly. “They’ve been looking for park space with access to the river for some time.”

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Morning Headlines: NIMBY Drama Stirs Up Between Residents and Swarthmore College

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Three things are set to happen once construction ends on the new development Swarthmore College has commissioned: First, more books will be available; second, the borough will get its first liquor license; third, Route 320 (Chester Road) will see a shift in traffic flow. Two of these are unwelcome changes for some Swarthmore residents.

As the Inquirer’s Laura McCrystal reports, an inn, bookstore, and roundabout are going to to be constructed in the area, the latter development starting this week. Hopes for the roundabout, which is planned for the intersection of Chester Road and Rutgers Avenue, include it “improv[ing] a dangerous intersection and connect[ing] the college to its community.”

However, opponents of the roundabout see it a different way: Read more »

Commission Approves Digital Signage on Market Street

A new rendering of 205 Race Street, courtesy of the developers.

The city’s Historical Commission has given the go-ahead to three landscape-changing projects in the area: signage for the Market Street side of the former Strawbridge & Clothier, the 205 Race Street development, and an addition to the former Warner Brothers Film Distribution Center.

In terms of 801 Market Street, PlanPhilly reports the Commission voted in favor of  “exterior marquee, awnings, banner signs, and lighting on the Market Street façade of the western half of the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store building.”

The lengthy going-back-to-the-drawing-board cycle for 205 Race has ended with the Commission’s approval of its most recent design. Construction on the mixed-use property, which will include 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and basement parking, is one step closer to reality.

The tower addition for the former Warner Bros. building on 13th and Florist also passed muster, following the Architectural Committee’s July recommendation for its approval — provided developers hew to five conditions. From PlanPhilly:

1. Details of the panel system, glazing, canopy, parapet wall, garage door, and fence are submitted;
2. Color samples of cladding materials for the addition in relation to the historic materials are submitted;
3. It is confirmed that the roof of the historic building will not be occupied;
4. Designs of any railings to installed on the roof of the historic building for occupancy are submitted; and,
5. The locations and configurations of all HVAC equipment are submitted.

• Historical Commission approves Warner Bros. building redo; 205 Race St. construction and 801 Market signage [PlanPhilly]

Morning Headlines: Flipping the Conventional Wisdom on Renters

Photo by Michelle W. via Flickr.

Photo by Michelle W. via Flickr.

Kellie Patrick Gates parses a hefty city planning commission survey at PlanPhilly this morning. Among the findings that might surprise you if you still subscribe to antiquated notions about renters: they are “highly committed” to their neighborhoods; many choose to rent despite their ability to buy; and the most highly committed renters in Philly appear to live outside Center City.

Among the findings that night not surprise you:

Other factors that respondents said kept them from buying included some Philadelphia-specific criticisms: School quality (31 percent), taxes (29 percent), the feeling they could get more house for less money outside the city (27 percent).

The report also found that Center City renters love exactly what you think they’d love. Restaurants, amenities and walkability. Renters in neighborhoods outside Center City cited closeness to friends and family as behind their decisions to rent where they do.

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Morning Headlines: More Info On Planned W / Element Hotels Coming Next Week

Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

1441 Chestnut. Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the developers of the planned W and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut (currently a parking lot) don’t need zoning variances to build their project. For this reason, their meeting with the Center City Residents Association next week, where they will present their new designs, will be for informational purposes only.

Here’s what to expect of the double tower:

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED Certification for the building.

Lenfest, if you recall, caused waves last year when he requested (and got) $33 million in tax breaks for the project.

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Morning Headlines: Roof Collapses At For Pete’s Sake Pub Building

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

Nobody was hurt, but that was a close one! The building that houses For Pete’s Sake Pub in Queen Village partially collapsed yesterday around 3:30pm. According to Philly.com, L&I is looking into what could have caused the roof of the three-story property (with apartments on the top two floors) to fall through.

Thus far, L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said “a zoning permit for interior renovations of the second and third floors” was granted to Peterbuilt Construction back in June. That permit was changed a few weeks ago to include floors and stairs, and an L&I inspector paid a visit to the site just last week to go over “building and fire safety with the contractor.”

No violations have been found at the site.

L&I probes partial building collapse in Queen Village [Philly.com]

In other news…

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