Features: The Condo Revolution!

Suburban empty nesters willing to pay $1 million and more for the romance of urban life are driving a luxury condo boom that’s about to turn our rowhouse town into the Upper East Side. What’s our cut on the deal? Maybe the world-class city we say we’ve always wanted

Sammy sits on Roy’s lap and snorts at me.

“Even Sammy made the transition well,” says Roy Murray, as he pats his pug on the head. In April, Roy and his wife Judy sold their four-bedroom home in Cherry Hill and moved into 108 Arch Street, a new 12-story brick and zinc building tucked between 19th-century rowhouses in Old City. They bought a two-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot condo on the third floor. Which is where we’re sitting, at their round marble kitchen table. To my right is a 14-foot private balcony; to my left is an open kitchen with a six-burner Viking range, black granite countertops and wenge cabinets.

“I was very worried about coming down in size,” says Judy, “but Roy said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re not even going to be home that much.’ And that’s the truth.” Since they moved, they’ve walked everywhere — to parks with Sammy, to nearby BYOBs like Chlöe and Bistro 7, to Sabrina’s for breakfast, to the Book Trader on 2nd Street. They’ve furnished their condo with lacquered Cappellini cabinets and a nine-foot Italian suede sofa from Minima, a “FatFat bed” from OLC and housewares from Foster’s. They walk to the Ritz to see a movie. And every month, there’s First Friday.

“The energy on the street is unbelievable,” says Roy.

“The sounds, the smells … it is a lot of energy,” agrees Judy. “We’re feeling such a part of it. It’s so different being here.”

Roy, at 56, has retired from 40 years in the construction business. Judy’s still in her 40s. She’s working weekends as a CAT scan technologist — back in Cherry Hill. Nonetheless, she was the one to start talking up Philly as soon as her last child left the house. They sold their place in Cherry Hill for $410,000 and paid $570,000 for their condo. So far, it’s a good investment: When Roy got it reappraised in June, it was valued at $630,000. But all the talk about condo prices, and whether they’re going up or down and whether there’s a bubble … that’s so boring. That’s the last thing they want to talk about.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” says Judy.

“We’re staying here,” says Roy. “We’re happy.”

Then off they go to their new hangout, Fork, Etc., a four-minute walk away.

Laurence Roy Stains has been writing about real estate for Philadelphia magazine since 1986. He directs the magazine sequence at Temple University’s Department of Journalism.