What $500K Will Buy You in Northern Liberties

The first neighborhood to catch the wave of renewal still has plenty of choices in the middle of the market - including new construction.

105 Brown St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 | Bright MLS image via Coldwell Banker Preferred

For about 20 of the nearly 35 years I’ve lived here, people were touting Northern Liberties as Philly’s “next hot neighborhood.”

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And this was back when Philadelphia was still sleepwalking through its long and painful decline. But even then, renewal was taking place here and there — just not in Northern Liberties. “Its time is coming,” the boosters would say.

Then sometime around 2000, I woke up one day to find that Northern Liberties’ time had indeed come.

The renewal of William Penn’s original suburb seems to have run its course now, yet one still hears hammers pounding and saws buzzing here and there. House values have risen smartly, and its varied mix of styles and types has wide appeal.

The homes currently for sale in the middle of the market in Northern Liberties reflect that variety. You’ll find homes both traditional and contemporary, old and new, standalone and condo. The four you see here give you an idea of Northern Liberties’ enduring and endearing eclecticism.

105 Brown St. (above) | 3 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths, 1,576 square feet, $499,900

Speaking of eclectic, here’s a prime example: This contemporary home looks very traditional on the inside — about the only thing missing is crown moldings. You’ll find wainscoting in the entrance hall, a wonderful vintage wall behind the dining table in the kitchen/dining area, and check out those neat weathered vanities in the two full bathrooms. Every one of its rooms save the den in the basement has either French doors or sliding glass doors that let in lots of light and air; on the upper floors, they open onto Juliet balconies, and the door in the kitchen opens onto a backyard that just cries out for landscaping. This home also has a highly prized amenity: a one-car garage built into it. If you’re like its current owner, however, you may find it more useful for storage, as this home is in a highly walkable location that’s close to local shopping and dining as well as public transit.

105 Brown St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 [Tim Brogan | Coldwell Banker Preferred – Old City]

Bright MLS image via Vue Real Estate Group

901 N. Penn St., Unit P702 | 2 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths, 1,552 square feet, $525,000

The owner of 105 Brown St. calls your attention to the views of the Ben Franklin Bridge from its upper-floor front windows. But for a view of the bridge to die for, this Waterfront Square condo is the clear winner. A southeast corner location combined with floor-to-ceiling windows gives you a panoramic view of the bridge and the central Delaware riverfront. It also has a southeast-corner balcony so you can take in the view unhindered by windows. Do I really need to say anything more about this home? Okay, each of its bedrooms has an en-suite bathroom, it has a nicely outfitted kitchen, it comes with a deeded parking space and its building has some very nice community amenities. Somehow all that seems anticlimactic.

901 N. Penn St., Unit P702, Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 [Rosann Cozza | Vue Real Estate Group]

Bright MLS image via Allegiance Real Estate

962 N. American St. | 2 beds, 3 baths, square footage unavailable, $490,000

This week’s roundup ends with two examples of new homes that further drive home the point about NoLibs’ variety. This one is all-new construction of a type you find in many rising Philadelphia neighborhoods; in fact, I could probably find one of these on the market right now in Fishtown, Point Breeze, Pennsport, Graduate Hospital, East Passyunk, South Kensington, Brewerytown and Hawthorne. It’s a standard contemporary three-story home with projecting window bay on its upper floors. The angle shaved off one side of the window bay makes it a little different from the norm. Inside, it’s a series of gray boxes that you can fill with your imagination or the contents of the latest Ikea catalog. It has some nice upmarket touches, like the tilework and shower heads in the bathrooms, and it has a nice roof deck with a dry bar. But on the whole, this home is about as generic a new mid-market Philly townhouse as you can find.

This home’s sale price was reduced twice last month, first by $10,000 on Jan. 5 and then by $9,000 on Jan. 24.

962 N. American St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 [Bryan Reese | Allegiance Real Estate]

TREND image via BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors

1011 N. Randolph St. | 3 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths, 2,052 square feet, $475,000

And once again, I’ve saved the best for last. This roomiest home of the bunch is a brand-new home inside an early 20th-century shell, and its renovation makes the most of its classic character. Of course the main floor has been opened up completely, with the kitchen and breakfast area raised above the living/dining area by a couple of steps. The hardwood floors and the ceiling fan add warmth to what could otherwise have been a cold space, and the kitchen has a distinctive pendant lighting fixture over its island. Upstairs, you’ll find charm and character aplenty, from the brick fireplace in the second-floor front bedroom to the built-in bookshelves in the second-floor hallway to the cathedral ceiling with exposed beams in the top-floor master bedroom. Ceiling fans throughout add to the character while saving energy. In back there’s a nicely landscaped patio to round out this strikingly handsome bit of rejuvenation. I do have a question for the agent: Was this a trinity once upon a time? The staircase from the second floor to the third offers a tantalizing clue to its possible past.

1011 N. Randolph St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 [Mike McCann | BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors]