The Washington Building at Presidential City | All Photos by HughE Dillon
If you tend to travel (or sit in traffic) on the Schuylkill Expressway, there is no doubt you’ve seen the transformation of the musty Presidential apartment complex that towers over the highway at City Avenue.
The project by Post Brothers–dubbed Presidential City–is quite massive. Four hulking, 12-story buildings are being re-skinned on the outside and getting a luxurious overhaul within. The complex will boast an outdoor pool club and amenity space–free for residents–that CEO and co-founder Michael Pestronk told us will be “really world class.” It all comes together in a tasteful rebirth of a 1950’s-era development by an iconic Philadelphia builder, John McShain. Known as “The Man Who Built Washington,” McShain’s work includes the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial and the Kennedy Center (to name a few). Oh yeah, the cost of the project is expected to by $100 million, when all is said and done.
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In 2013, the Post Brothers bought the prestigious Presidential City and are underway with a $100 million renovation of the highly visible complex on the edge of Fairmount Park and the drives. Last week they held a party to celebrate the first of the four buildings renovated, which already has tenants moved in. The Presidential was built in the 1950s, and maintained that style of living all the way down to the window air conditioning units that dotted the building’s exterior. Since the renovation, the Post Brothers installed central air in the units, expanded some of the windows to create a floor-to-ceiling effect, replaced the wiring, upgraded the piping and completely gutted each unit, installing top-of-the-line appliances. The Presidential offers studios to two-bedroom penthouses with wrap-around views of Fairmount Park, soaking tubs and showers. There are plenty of amenities that make the Presidential apartments very attractive as a new home, including the Sora Pool Club with its pool, saunas, massage rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center.
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Philadelphia’s Goldtex apartment building has come a long way.
From its start as a shoe factory to its time as an abandoned graffiti haven, the colorful apartment building has been widely praised, so much so that Inga Saffron even approved of the residential structure in Philly’s loft district (or ‘Eraserhood,’ depending on who you ask).
Photographer Conrad Benner recently got a look at Goldtex, whose artsy modern interior calls back to its days as graffiti-filled blight. From Benner’s Streets Dept blog:
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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.
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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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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Photo by Ben Weldon for Philadelphia Magazine
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Matt Pestronk — one half of the development team the Post Brothers — is taking pleasure in witnessing the legal difficulties faced by the Ironworkers union. He hasn’t said anything of the kind. But given his own struggles with the building trades, he can’t be unmoved by recent developments.
After all, his own business is still hampered by ongoing legal entanglements with the unions, which he talks about here with WPHT’s Dom Giordano:
Dom Giordano Talks With Real Estate Developer About Alleged Union Harassment [CBS Philly]
A rendering from Rafael Viñoly Architects website.
Back in September 2013, Rafael Viñoly Architects — best known locally for the Kimmel Center — announced that the firm would be handling the adaptive reuse of the Atlantic Building at Broad and Spruce, which was purchased by the Post Brothers in the summer of 2012 for $22 million. The plan was to turn the high-rise into a mixed-use retail/residential space, with construction by Vinoly & co. to begin at the end of last year.
While construction (or demolition, depending on your point of view) is under way — scaffolding went up more than a year ago, in fact — neither Viñoly nor the Post Brothers’ Matt and Mike Pestronk have been talking up the progress. Yet between the architect, the developer, the location, and the building, this is a major project. Why the quiet?
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Still from the commercial
The union siege against the Post Brothers continues, and it just gets more surreal. For Halloween, IBEW Local 98 is releasing a commercial “featuring a ‘ghostly’ cartoon version of John J. Dougherty” to promote its film about the Post Brothers’ Goldtex Apartments. The commercial also has another goal: “taking time to remind parents to check their kids’ Halloween treats before allowing them to eat them.”
That’s such a bizarre pairing of agendas, we don’t even know what to say.
The commercial will air tonight during the Flyers game (know your audience — that’s lesson No. 1) and will terrify and confuse children watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on Halloween on ABC. It’ll also air, according to the press release, on AMC, Comedy Central, ABC Family, FX, SPIKE and SYFY.
Pardon the informality of the headline, but this simply cannot be believed. Philadelinquency spotted a post on Philadelphia Speaks in which forum member fiveomar described an interaction at 20th and Chestnut with a “union goon” (now, that’s not nice) who was handing out anti-Post Brothers fliers. According to fiveomar, the fliers included “some pretty ridiculous claims about the Post Brothers storing and smuggling heroine [sic] and cocaine.”
We have tried to maintain some degree of objectivity here, but if the building trades are now painting Matthew Pestronk as Pablo Escobar, that has to be the last straw. What’s next? Mike Pestronk is actually Walter White?
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Yesterday there was a lot of union activity from the organized laborers of the area. Not long ago, we wrote about the latest in a long line of volleys between the Post Brothers–developers and managers of numerous buildings in the city–and building trade unions, which have been largely absent from the Post Bros.’ work sites (except as protesters).
The most recent dustup came when Post Brothers co-owner Matthew Pestronk told us residents were being videotaped by members of Local 98 as they walked in and out of Rittenhouse Hill, a Post Brothers property. Initially, Local 98 spokesperson Frank Keel was skeptical of the claims, but after seeing photos of the men involved, he conceded it was, indeed, union members–but they were only there for one day and only to monitor the placement of their protest signs on the lawn.
Subsequently, Pestronk sent us photographs of guys with videocameras outside the residence date marked from several different months of this year and last, suggesting it was not, in fact, a one-day union project.
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