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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Post Bros.’ Goldtex Building Gets a “Neighborhood Tavern”

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

According to Zagat as reported in Foobooz, the Goldtex apartment building’s ground floor will soon be getting a restaurant. Mike Welsh, formerly of Franklin Mortgage and Lemon Hill, will open Brick & Mortar — “a neighborhood American tavern” — sometime in November in what’s currently 3,500 square feet of raw space.

One issue with Goldtex has been its location–what people call, variously, the Loft District, Eraserhood, or Chinatown-ish–Philadephians have a hard time seeing that area as warm and neighborhoody. But it sounds, from Welsh’s talk with Danya Henninger for Zagat, that the restaurant/bar’s vibe hopes to change that:

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Huzzah! Pier 53 Is Officially Washington Avenue Pier

Photo by Douglas Bovitt courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

Photo by Douglas Bovitt courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

Today was the formal opening of the Washington Avenue Pier, which you may remember — from yesterday — as Pier 53. Part of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, the Pier Formerly Known As 53 is now a very lovely and educational park, with pretty incredible views, from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman Bridge, and from Philadelphia to New Jersey. And, of course, the mighty Delaware River.

The photos below show the variety of seating, educational components, boardwalk, and natural habitats designed and built by Applied Ecological Services and Neshaminy Contractors. You’ll also see photos of “Land Buoy” by artist Jody Pinto (best known round these parts for “Fingerspan” in the Wissahickon), whose family has a fascinating story related to the pier, which was once an immigration station.

Gallery below.

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

divine-lorraine-940x540

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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Changes In Artisan Lofts Project in East Passyunk

Photo credit: Google Street View.

Photo credit: Google Street View.

Artistan Lofts, a planned apartment complex for the corner of 12th and Jackson by Rufo Properties, has had its proposed 172 units scaled down to 151. The developer presented this revised proposal to the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association last night, according to the Passyunk Post.

In any case, anything is better than what’s there now: the property, which was once a brush factory, currently stands as a blighted eyesore just a stone’s throw away from South Philadelphia High School. If and when the project reaches completion, the complex will have 1-and-2-bedroom units ranging from $800 to $1,800/month.

Developer lowers number of apartments in proposed Artisan Lofts at 12th and Jackson [Passyunk Post]

The Newly Revamped Pier 53 Has Its Ribbon-Cutting Tomorrow

Once the most beautiful development site in the city, Pier 53 is now done and ready to go. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the new park, which claims an elevated boardwalk and river access among other things, will take place tomorrow at Washington Avenue Green at 10am.

Features it will have, as per the press release:

  • Public access to the end of the pier and panoramic views of the river
  • An elevated boardwalk as well as access to the rivers edge so visitors can touch the river
  • Public art by Jody Pinto that recognizes the site’s significance as an immigration station
  • Innovative ecological improvements which will provide environmental and habitat benefits

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Zillow + Trulia = Godzulia?

The cover that has people talking.

The cover that has people talking.

The cover alone has been making waves, but it’s the inside headline that really has people talking: “Zillow Shares Could Fall By Half.” When Barron’s speaks, investors listen, so this cover story is probably not what Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff wants to see just weeks after announcing a merger with former rival Trulia.com. Until now, it’s been a good year for Zillow on Wall Street, with shares rising about 70 percent, according to Barron’s writer Bill Alpert. Trulia’s shares went up in the wake of the merger announcement too. And until now, market watchers have been optimistic. Perhaps too much so, Alpert says:

Bulls have dubbed the planned combination Godzulia, imagining that the two sites will grab a big piece of the $10 billion that realtors spend annually on advertising…Godzulia, however, may not be as awesome as feared. Neither company is expected to make a profit this year under generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, nor produce much free cash flow.

Not only that, but Barron’s says both sites have the same problem every other content-based website does: an inability to turn high traffic numbers into dollars:

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New Project: Double Preservation Win in Gladwyne Means Church Conversion

The former United Methodist Church of Narberth is just one of a few church buildings slated for residential conversion. Photo credit: Laura Kicey

Over the years, Main Line reBuild, a development partnership consisting of developers Mac Brand, Tom Harvey, and Scott Brehman, has established itself as a stalwart of preservation, “flipping” neighborhood landmarks without compromising their historical integrity.

Among said conversion projects are the former United Methodist Church of Narberth (soon to be condo apartments with lower-level parking), the First Baptist Church of Ardmore (a plan still in the works, but which may include “elevator-capable condo units,” Philly.com reports), and now, the Gladwyne Methodist Church and Odd Fellows Hall.

Aiding the preservation and conversion of the two latter properties is a recent zoning code amendment, which the Main Line Times’ Cheryl Allison says allows for the residential conversion of these buildings with “provisions for historic preservation.”

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Morning Headlines: A Mini PSFS Building? Historical Commission Makes Final Decision In One Week

Big Brothers Big Sisters Warner Bros film exchange 230 N 13th Street

Could a smaller model of the PSFS building rise from the corner of 13th and Florist? That’s what Inga Saffron seems to think after reviewing the planned addition for the former Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters, a proposal the Historical Commission must decide on next Friday.

See, soon after the historic property went on the market last June (it was once the Warner Bros. film exchange building), Baywood Hotels expressed interest in adding a tower on top of the original Art Deco building, in pure Hearst Tower-style.

A July 11th vote by the commission approved this proposal, despite its architectural subcommittee protesting its design and subsequently offering suggestions for improvement. Spg3, the architect Baywood hired, took some of these suggestions, resulting in what Saffron calls a “not-so-subtle copy of the shaft of the PSFS building.”

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Morning Headlines: Queen Lane Apartments Getting Cleared Out For Demolition

queen lane apartments

Don’t worry, months of waiting are almost over (but not quite yet)!

PlanPhilly’s Aaron Moselle reports the demolition prepping for the Queen Lane Apartments is still coming along, and that, although an official date has not been set, an October implosion might be in order once the city gives its approval to the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

So why exactly is demo preparation for the sixteen-story building taking so long? Well, it’s a painstaking process to say the least: “Crews have to remove all appliances, cabinetry, debris and other materials from every floor.” (Emphasis mine.) Yikes. Also, let’s not forget it was put on hold when a discovered burial ground was discovered on the property.

Once the building is taken down, a 55-unit building will take its place.

Crews clearing way for impending Queen Lane Apartments implosion [PlanPhilly]

In other news…

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