Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can Drexel University create and build an "Innovation Neighborhood" ... over rail yards?

Inside 30th Street Station

It's a tall order, that's for sure.

John Fry is Drexel's current president. He's also a former UPenn higher-up (behind then-president Judith Rodin), as well as Franklin & Marshall's former president. Despite not having the typical credentials of an esteemed university president (e.g. dean/provost job experience, research/teaching expertise, doctorate degree, etc.), Fry has catapulted his way to being the leader of one of the most respected universities in the US on an NYU MBA and good, old-fashioned entrepreneurial spirit; pretty impressive.

So why does Fry want to build on top of Philadelphia rail yards?

Is it because Chicago has done it successfully (e.g. Millennium Park)?

Is it because both New York and DC are also in the planning stages of rail yard projects?

My guess is no.

Just look at where these rail yards are in Philadelphia. As you go east on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76 East to all the the out-of-towners) and approach Center City, the yards are on the right next to 30th Street Station and the Cira Center. In other words, very prime Philadelphia real estate.

The trick is can a platform be built, and enough new development created on top of it, to cover the cost of materials/labor (i.e. Philadelphia union labor)? That is what Fry is set on finding out, and a few million dollars says he'll have the answer to that question in about 2 years.

I'll keep my eye out for further news on this topic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is the real estate market better today than it was 4 years ago?


Well, it depends on who you ask. But if you asked me, I would say yes.

For someone who worked in the real estate industry and saw the highest-of-the-high back in 2004 and 2005, and the lowest-of-the-low back in 2008 and 2009, it's easy to see if/when the housing market wins small victories: appreciation, affordability, etc. It's these small victories that add up over time and create more demand for real estate.

Are we still in a buyer's market, or has it already turned into a seller's market?

Without a doubt, we are still in a buyer's market and should be for some time. Prices are low, rates are unbelievably low, and contracts still favor buyers (e.g. prices, contingencies, etc.). Supply has gone down, but not enough to stir a home buying craze just yet.

If the real estate market is better today than it was 4 years ago, wouldn't that mean we are now in a seller's market?

Not necessarily. The poor market we are clawing out of was one of the worst (if not the worst) housing markets in US history. Values dropped considerably, supply piled up, and jobs were lost. All of the ingredients needed to start a recession, which we are still in to an extent.

When will real estate finally be back to normal?

That's a question nobody can truly answer. But to provide some evidence, check out the chart in this article to see how some of the major housing indicators are doing now as compared to a few years ago. If the momentum keeps swinging the right way, you may see me writing a post next year about how we are now in a seller's market.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wanna go for a ride?


Uh, a bike ride that is.

It's no secret to local Philadelphians that people love to ride their bikes around town, especially in Center City and it's surrounding neighborhoods. So much so that if you drive around those areas regularly, you are constantly on the lookout for bikers when you attempt to either make a turn or parallel park your car; I know I do.

But it may come as a surprise to some of you that in 2011 Philadelphia was voted the "#1 US City for Bicycle Commuting." Not only were we seen as number one, but we had almost double the amount of commuters; crazy, right?

Philly loves to bike, and it's getting more popular every year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tim Garrity and Philly Urban Living get quoted by Realtor.com


I've been meaning to post this link for a while, but the summer kind of got away from me. Sorry, loyal PUL readers.

Back in July, a Community Manager from Realtor.com reached out to me after perusing through some of my past, online blog posts about real estate investing in Philadelphia. That introduction then led to a series of specific questions about the Philadelphia real estate market, which in turn led to an official, mini-interview on the subject.

Needless to say, they printed it.

It's not much, but I thought I would share it anyway.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Philadelphia's own Post Brothers is expanding ... and hiring


You may have heard of Post Brothers before, probably because they became instant local celebrities when they went head-to-head with Philadelphia's building-trade unions.

Long story short, Philadelphia's building-trade unions wanted Post Brothers to use 100% union labor (at union prices), and Post Brothers wanted a hybrid of both union/non-union workers at its Goldtex project (to save on costs); understandable.

Needless to say, Post Brothers won the battle. They even managed to sneak a crane past union protesters so as to not fall behind on schedule; genius.

Now that PB has a good understanding of the building/development process in the City of Brotherly Love, and all of its quirks and eccentricities, they are investing heavily by taking on more urban projects and increasing their staff.

With real estate on the rise once again, it's only a matter of time until more and more new construction opportunities become available to interested Philadelphians. For now, they are advertising some local opportunities.

Check out their website here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Philadelphia ranks 2nd for "Affordable Housing + Transportation"


This may come as a surprise to some, but not to me.

Through my US travels, I've always thought of Philadelphia as a very affordable place to live for what it has to offer its residents. Please bear in mind that I'm comparing Philadelphia to our local competition: Boston, New York, and Washington DC (although, DC was the only other city to rank better in this study; who knew).

I'm not going to compare Philadelphia to cities like Indianapolis or Cincinnati. They're great cities, but very different from the Northeastern US and both have completely different locations/offerings. My reasoning, I'm trying to do an apples-to-apples comparison; not apples-to-oranges (as the saying goes).

All of The Big 4 cities offer similar things such as large historical metropolises, dense populations, thriving downtowns and/or central cores, convenient locations, and similar climates. Plus, they all have easy access to mountains, rivers, lakes, beaches, the Atlantic Ocean, and each other. Hence, they are easy to compare and contrast in a general sense.

When you look at these 4 cities side-by-side, Philadelphia has a lot to offer at an affordable price. This is a great article that talks in further detail about why Philly ranked 2nd.

Check it out when you have time.