What’s Developing in Your Neighborhood? This New Form Lets You Find Out

Even smaller projects like this residential rehab in Nicetown can have big impacts on their neighborhoods. While a project of this type would not have to complete it, a new Project Information Form aims to get accurate information about the impact of new construction into residents’ hands. | Photo: Sandy Smith

The whole point of the 2012 zoning code overhaul was to make it easier for builders and developers to build and develop in Philadelphia by making more projects by right. But there was a secondary goal as well: to make sure that if a project needed to go through review, everyone with a stake in the outcome — not only the builder and developer but also the neighbors and the larger community — got to provide knowledgeable feedback on the merits and demerits.

As it’s turned out, that’s worked out about as well as could be expected at the Civic Design Review level, which all large projects must go through. But there’s also the neighborhood review level, required before any project that requires a variance goes before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

And here, some neighborhoods had more and better knowledge than others. A new law introduced by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker (D-9th District) and passed by City Council May 19 aims to correct that imbalance. Read more »

Single-Family Workforce Housing Comes to East Poplar

Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Greg Heller (fifth from left), City Council President Darrell Clarke (to the right of Heller), representatives of BMK Properties and its parent The Riverwards Group and representatives of the East Poplar RCO and Meridian Bank pose after the formal ribbon-cutting May 24. | Photo: The Riverwards Group

Late on Wednesday morning (May 24th) in East Poplar, City Council President Darrell Clarke, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Greg Heller, and representatives of BMK Properties, a subsidiary of The Riverwards Group, cut the ribbon on the first 13 townhomes to be built under a city-sponsored program intended to stimulate the production of workforce housing.

These three-story townhomes, work on which began last November, have three bedrooms and two bathrooms each. They are equipped with dual-zone climate control systems and water heaters that are at least 92 percent energy efficient.

They sell for $229,900. To qualify for one, a prospective buyer cannot earn more than 120 percent of the area median income, a figure that ranges from about $67,000 annually for a single individual to $105,000 for a family of five. Read more »

Laura Blau Rebuilds Her Dream House

When all is said and done, Laura Blau’s Pine Street residence (with the boarded-up window in this photo) will be the healthiest, most energy-efficient house on its block. She, her husband Paul Thompson and her three tenants will be much better off for the effort. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Architect Laura Blau’s firm, BluPath, specializes in coming up with sustainable solutions to all sorts of design and construction problems. She was an early adopter in this region of the ultra-energy-efficient set of practices and standards that go by the name “passive house,” which in English carries a connotation that’s more restrictive than in the original German.

All the same, many of Blau’s projects have been residential in nature. She’s currently embarked on one of the more comprehensive such projects, namely, rebuilding her own 1850s townhome on Pine Street in Rittenhouse to meet passive house standards. Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: The Adams

The wraps are still on the cabinets and appliances in this almost-finished apartment in the Adams. Most of the units on the 12th floor are move-in ready, though one isn’t yet because it’s being used for construction staging. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Post Brothers’ Presidential City Rejuvenation Derby has entered the home stretch. When it’s finished, the iconic four-building apartment complex erected in 1951-53 by prolific Philadelphia builder John McShain (aka “The Man Who Built Washington”) will present a totally 21st-century face to passers-by.

Three of the four towers — the Washington, Jefferson and Madison — have been completed, as has the complex’s all-new on-site resort, the Sora Pool Club, which made its debut with a splash last summer. The Adams, the family-friendly tower of the bunch, is well past the halfway mark to completion of its makeover, with its upper floors ready to receive tenants. Read more »

The Divine Lorraine, (All But) Ready For Its Closeup

The lobby of the Divine Lorraine Hotel, the one remaining part of the restoration project to be completed. | Photos: Sandy Smith

I came to yesterday’s (Wednesday, May 17th) Urban Land Institute Philadelphia-sponsored tour of the Divine Lorraine Hotel prepared to be skeptical, for while I’d seen the marvelous raw material developer Eric Blumenfeld had to work with in the lobby on a prior visit, I’d also seen some early pictures of the rejeuvenation project’s progress on the apartments upstairs, and those photos made me ask, What was Blumenfeld thinking?

Now I know.

And I must say that the ebullient champion of North Broad Street’s lower reaches has done a damned good job with some pretty challenging raw material. Some of the problems he had to solve fall into the category of making lemonade out of lemons, while others were more straightforward, like keeping the whole thing on time and under budget. But — except for the lobby of the grand old hotel-turned-apartment building — everything fell into place quickly and with less fuss than one might anticipate. Read more »

Wawa Coming to East Market

Architect’s rendering of Ludlow tower with Wawa on ground floor: BLT Architects via National Real Estate Development

Remember when Wawa stores were thick on the ground all over Center City and adjacent neighborhoods?

Looks like they will be once again, for this morning, in a news conference fueled by plenty of free Wawa coffee, officials at National Real Estate Development (National Development) announced their latest tenant signing for the retail portion of the East Market project: a Wawa store to go on the 12th and Market corner.

“We are delighted that Wawa, one of the most beloved brands in our region, will be our next partner in reshaping the East Market neighborhood,” Daniel Killinger, National Development’s managing director, said in a news release. “Together, with all of our tenants, we are creating a dynamic urban neighborhood, transforming Market Street with active ground floor retail tenants. Wawa is a perfect anchor for East Market on Market Street.” Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: Cinnaminson Hill

The first six homes in the Cinnaminson Hill development. Eighteen more are slated to follow. The open house took place in the second home from the right; the Hard Hat Tour, in the homes on either side of it. | Photos: Sandy Smith

Some of you may have seen me refer to Northeast Philadephia at one time or another as “our vast in-city suburb.”

With all due respect to the denizens of the Northeast, I must now state here that I got this wrong. If what you’re looking for is the look and feel of outer suburbia and an address with a ZIP code that begins with 191, the place you should be looking is Upper Roxborough.

I came to this realization as I hiked down Cinnaminson Street past the point where its sidewalks disappeared to reach an open house PRDC Properties was holding last week for its latest work in progress, Cinnaminson Hill.

The first six homes in this 24-unit development are in various stages of completion, and one of the six was complete enough for PRDC CEO David Perlman and his crew to invite everyone in. Read more »

43 New Townhouses Coming to Northern Liberties

Rendering of Liberty Square townhouse project by Atrium Design Studio via PRDC Properties

This landed in the Property inbox a few days ago: an announcement from PRDC Properties that it would soon begin work on a 43-unit townhouse development at the southern edge of Northern Liberties.

Designed by Atrium Design Studio, the project hits all the usual high notes: sleek modern design with brick, steel and glass outside, and roomy (3,100- to 3,800-square-foot) three- and four-bedroom units with such features as 10-foot-high ceilings, quartz countertops in the kitchens, Porcelanosa bathrooms, enchanting roof decks and community green space. And, of course, garage parking for one or two cars per unit: even though PRDC CEO David Perlman said in a news release that “the project was designed with walkability in mind,” this is Northern Liberties, after all, and no residential project that would put more resident cars on the street would pass muster with the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association.

The name of the project: Liberty Square.

Which is also the name of a much larger development now under construction a little bit to the north, on the South Kensington side of Girard Avenue. Read more »

Resort-Style Living for the Active Senior Set Comes to King of Prussia

Canvas Valley Forge’s front door. | Exterior renderings: KTGY via Bozzuto Development Company

Club Med it ain’t, but Canvas Valley Forge comes awfully damn close — the only thing missing is the beach.

The new 55-plus residential community Bozzuto Development Company is now building at the Village at Valley Forge is, if not the first, one of the first in the country to adapt the all-inclusive resort ethos to what we really can’t call “senior living” any more.

That’s because the “seniors” at whom this residential community is aimed have no intention of “retiring.” They’re the Baby Boomers who raised their kids in the ‘burbs but are now ready to downsize their lives. What Bozzuto is banking on is that while they may want a smaller living-space footprint, they’d rather keep the amenities they enjoyed, and then some. Read more »

Carl Dranoff Takes the Wraps Off One Riverside

(Left to right) Planning and Development Director Anne Fadullon, Carl Dranoff, City Council member Kenyatta Johnson (D-2nd District) and Managing Director Mike DeBerardinis cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of One Riverside May 2nd. | Photo: Sandy Smith

(Left to right) Planning and Development Director Anne Fadullon, Carl Dranoff, City Council member Kenyatta Johnson (D-2nd District) and Managing Director Mike DeBerardinis cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of One Riverside May 2nd. | Photo: Sandy Smith

Surrounded by examples from each of the stages of his career as a developer here in Philadelphia, Carl Dranoff officially cut the ribbon on his latest contribution to the Philadelphia skyline, the One Riverside luxury apartment tower, in a ceremony yesterday evening (May 2nd).

Joining him in marking the occasion were the building’s architect, Cecil Baker; officials from the tower’s builder, Intech Construction; and the local officials who helped smooth the project’s path to completion, including Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla and Al Taubenberger and city Managing Director Mike DeBerardinis.

Dranoff’s own assessment of the end result can best be summed up in this sentence from his remarks at the ribbon-cutting: “World-class buildings like this one elevate Philadelphia to a world-class city.” Read more »

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