Monday, January 30, 2012

In Philadelphia, which one will it be?

Technology | Sustainability | Food | The Arts

That's a great question, and it's also why I posted this.

Philadelphia has always been known as a city of firsts. The First Zoo, First Stock Exchange, First Skyscraper, First University, and the First Library. It's really amazing once you stop and think about how many successful concepts that our country (and other developing countries) thrive on, and that got their start in Philadelphia.

But as a city that's now over 300 years old, Philadelphia is constantly reinventing itself. The problem is that things change so fast these days that it's hard to know what our focus should be. The good news is that Philadelphia is strong in many prominent categories, so it gives us the opportunity to pick and choose which direction might work best.

Here are 4 areas of focus:
  1. Technology
  2. Sustainability
  3. Food
  4. The Arts 
I could spend a lot more time talking up these different sectors, but this article is a great way to read and learn more about what Philly's new booming industry will be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

RDC moves Roxborough forward

For generations, Roxborough has held strong to its core beliefs that made it a thriving community back in the late 1600s.

Given that was over 300 years ago, communities do change; for better, and for worse. Change is never a bad thing, but strong communities must adjust to change if they want to survive over the long haul; and Roxborough is a community that's always looking to improve life in the neighborhood.

Back in 1992, the Roxborough Development Corporation was formed by both civic associations and neighborhood volunteers to accomplish one major goal: "To put residents and businesses together for the good of the community." To this day, that's still the RDC's main goal and it's being pursued by their Executive Director, Bernard Guet.

Bernard signed on as the RDC's new ambassador back in 2007; he and his team have achieved a lot in their almost 5 years together. They helped get facade grants for local businesses to improve storefronts, they found funding for street scape improvements when money was scarce, and they have brought in new businesses to keep the central business corridor strong. To say the least, all of these accomplishments have improved the quality of life along Ridge Ave and I'm of the opinion that it's only going to get better in the years ahead.

Learn more about Roxborough and the RDC and see what their plans are for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What to do with the old West Philly High?

There are currently many different ideas floating around right now (i.e. senior housing, condos, market-rate apartments, mixed-use, charter school, etc.). It's really just a matter of who wants to invest in it, do the neighbors like the proposal, and will the city approve it.

If you take a look through the pictures from the article, it's amazing to see how different things were built 100 years ago as compared to how they are built today. This was a school built with 97 classrooms and capable of holding almost 2,700 students (this was back in 1912). To give you perspective, the new West Philly High that was just built down the street currently has about 800 kids.

The good news is that the city is looking to sell this building sooner rather than later. The longer it sits, the more upkeep is needed (which costs money) and the worse it will be for the neighborhood (who wants to look at an old, abandoned school?).

My prediction is that the new zoning code will help move this property in the right direction. If I had to guess what it would become in the near future, I would say a charter school.

But hey, I could be totally wrong.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Metro Impact builds to suit in Graduate Hospital

You guys are probably getting sick of my constant blogging about Graduate Hospital all the time.

The truth is, it's not hard to keep talking about it. Graduate Hospital (a.k.a. Southwest Center City, South of South, or G-Ho) is always in the news and seems to consistently get positive press. So much so that it inspired my Broker and I to create some short videos highlighting a lot of the area's positive trends that are taking place as we speak. You can check them out on my YouTube channel. Plus, Graduate Hospital is also one of our office's prime real estate areas for buyers/sellers/investors/renters, and it's only a few blocks from where our HQ sits at 21st St & Locust St.

Bucks County builder, Metro Impact Homes, has been a driving force in this neighborhoods recent surge in popularity as well as overall value. What really attracted Metro to this area was the golden rule of real estate: Location, Location, Location. Because Graduate Hospital is in such close proximity to both Center City and University City, it seemed like an easy decision for them. The company has been building here now for years and has some very popular projects to show for it (i.e. 1910 Christian St, etc.), as well as some future ones on the horizon (i.e. Montrose Court, Fitz4, etc.).

Needless to say, if you're looking for the Center City/University City lifestyle and want to avoid overpaying for it, Graduate Hospital may just be the right place for you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading Terminal Market is getting bigger and better!

As if this place was not awesome enough already, Reading Terminal Market is expanding what is known as their "Eastern End" into multifunctional space.

Here are some highlights of the project:

  • Additional retail space for more successful vendors.
  • A demonstration kitchen for classes and the like.
  • Event space for meetings, parties, etc.
  • Expanded and renovated restrooms.
  • A permanent, museum-esque display of the Market's history.
  • Estimated completion date: April 2012.

The Reading Terminal Market is an enormous, diverse, urban market in the heart of Center City Philadelphia. From produce, poultry, and baked goods to cheesesteaks and Amish food, RTM has it all.

Learn more about the market here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

McDonald's brings "healthy living" to North Philadelphia

And how...

If you're ever in the area of Henry Ave and Roosevelt Blvd, make sure you take a slight detour over to 4200 Wissahickon Ave and check out the brand new, state of the art Salvation Army Kroc Center of Philadelphia. You will actually be amazed.

The neighborhood of Nicetown fell on hard times long ago due to the decline of Philadelphia's manufacturing empire. Now if you tour this neighborhood, you will see ruins that are deteriorating warehouses; one right after the other.

Enter Joan Kroc, philanthropist and widow to Ray Kroc (the McDonald's Corporation billionaire). When Joan passed away, she decided to leave $1.5 Billion (that's right ... Billion) to the Salvation Army. This money was to be used for the construction of community centers all across the country. Looks like her wishes are being met.

To learn more about Philadelphia's 130,000 square foot community center, this article paints a good picture.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Exciting new project for Graduate Hospital

If this area was not getting enough press already, here's some more good news for one of Philadelphia's hottest neighborhoods for real estate. A new large, anchor project at the corner of S 17th St and Washington Ave; right on the border of Rittenhouse Square and Graduate Hospital.

Here are the highlights of the project:

  • 11 new townhomes
  • 6 new condominiums
  • 2,000 sq ft of commercial space
  • Open space
  • Off-street parking

Here's some more information on the project, as well as on the developers. Happy MLK Day!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Outer suburban areas are losing their appeal

Back in 2005, at the height of the real estate boom, buyers were swarming to buy new McMansions almost 50 miles from the core of Philadelphia.

The real question was, why wouldn't they? They were getting more house for the money, everything was brand new, and they could escape city life. But is that really why the demand was there? No, it wasn't. It was because home prices were appreciating at an astonishing rate, getting competitive financing was about as easy as tying your shoes, and bigger just seemed better. All of these factors created an inflated demand for new construction housing never seen before in American history. As we can all see today, it was unsustainable.

The funny thing is that even though this happened only 7 years ago, it seems to be the complete opposite of how buyers think today. Today, buyers will sacrifice a home's size for close proximity to public transportation, they are buying fixer-uppers to add sweat equity to their bottom line, and they are doing everything they can to live within their means. There was a great story written in the New York Times titled "The Death of the Fringe Suburb." It's a very well written article and it really captures why things are the way they currently are.

Please also give Inga Saffron's latest Changing Skyline article a read. It focuses more on the Philadelphia area and how its demographics are changing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Single Family or Condo?

It's a popular question among buyers today, and even more popular in a dense city like Philadelphia.

What it really comes down to is, "What do you want?" What area of Philadelphia do you want to live in? What is your price range? Do you want a yard? Are you looking for amenities (i.e. gym, pool, etc.)? Maintenance or no maintenance? High-rise or low-rise? These questions are only the tip of the iceberg.

Personally, I have lived in a condo for close to a decade now and there is nothing I would change about it. There is no exterior maintenance needed, some of my utilities are included, and there are 2 swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and a gym on site. These were things I wanted when I was searching for a home back in 2003, and they're still things that I appreciate today. But not everyone wants the same things I want, so this is why I posed the question.

Some buyers would rather not buy at all than share a wall with another homeowner. It's completely understandable, and it comes down to personal taste. Your best bet is to look at both options in person, and then decide what might be the right option for you.

Sometimes you are forced to go one way or the other due to prices, fees, etc.; but you'll never know unless you look.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Philadelphia's "Loft District" is still going strong

Philadelphia's self-proclaimed "Loft District" is a small, ex-industrial section just north of Center City in the 19123 zip code. Right next door to the southern end of Northern Liberties and the northern end of Old City.

Once known as a semi-rough, working class neighborhood filled with opportunities in manufacturing (as well as housing both a brewery and a circus), it has since changed into a creative class paradise. Large factories have been transformed into luxurious lofts for both buyers and renters, while also having studio space and businesses on the lower floors. With its easy access to Center City, as well as trendy neighborhoods like Fairmount and Northern Liberties, it's no wonder why people are still moving to this small section in North Philadelphia.

Its boundaries are not set in stone, but they basically run from Spring Garden St to the north / Vine St to the south, Broad St to the west / N 8th St to the east. In other words, it's not very large but very dense and full of opportunity. To top it all off, CCD's proposed Reading Viaduct Project would be a huge anchor and could keep its momentum going in an upward slope.

Trendy restaurants/bars and artist venues are popping up left and right, and will most likely continue for the foreseeable future. Remember, most people moving to Philadelphia want to be in Center City; they just do what they can to avoid paying Center City prices.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Philadelphia ranked "#1 US City for Green Schools"


This seems like a random survey, but we'll take the positive news for our public school system. With all of the negative news out there about failing public schools and heated arguments on union contracts, it's good to hear that strides are being made in other areas; especially here in Philadelphia.

For me, it's kind of ironic that I'm writing about this post today after just watching the movie "Waiting For Superman." If you have not seen this movie yet, you need to give it a watch; whether you like documentaries or not. Personally, I've always been a fan of documentaries (i.e. "Supersize Me," "An Inconvenient Truth," etc.), so my standards for a decent documentary are relatively high. "Waiting For Superman" was very well done.

The story focuses on why US public education has not made any progress in test scores since the mid-1950s, and more specifically why urban areas are performing the worst. No matter which side of the fence you sit on, it's an eye opener to say the least; especially when you see the facts on how the US currently stacks up against developing countries around the world.

Now that Philadelphia has gained some recognition for its public school system, the next step is to start getting positive press on improving student performance.

One thing at a time...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What does the future hold for Germantown?

Germantown is a part of Philadelphia that is unique to almost anywhere else in the city. It has tons of history, incredible architecture, a functional Main Street, lots of public transportation options, close access to Fairmount Park, and beautiful tree lined streets.

Based on everything I just listed, it almost sounds like it should be a top neighborhood choice in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it's not. Why?

As stated in this article, Germantown lacks cohesiveness from its residents. After its largest community group (Germantown Settlement) went down in flames last year after the city discovered corruption and a total misuse of funds, the neighborhood is struggling to find firm footing. The good news is, they're trying.

Germantown has the potential to be just as successful (if not more successful) than its 2 neighbors to the west, Mt Airy and Chestnut Hill, but it will need a solid plan of action to attract the right investors and concerned neighbors to follow through.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What's in store for Market East?

Apparently, lots of potential changes.

Market East wants a new look. Not just the kind where sidewalks are repaired, new street lampposts are installed, and flashy news sidewalk banners promote the immediate area.

The city is looking for a complete overhaul.

New retailers (preferably big anchor ones), more street presence (because The Gallery is just not cutting it), and a glitzy, new Times Square look where advertisers will be lined up to invest in the US' 4th largest media market.

Welcome to 2012!