Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cira Centre South plans for "The Grove"

Rendering of the 33-Story housing complex

Well, it looks like Cira Centre South is finally about to break ground on 1 of the 2 proposed buildings for land right next to 30th Street Station.

The Grove at Cira Centre South is a joint partnership between Brandywine Realty and Campus Crest Communities, and will be built on the premise that UPenn will fill it with student housing.

What a great deal for all involved!

Brandywine can finally get this project moving (with the hopes of starting another building, per the original plan), Campus Crest will get an opportunity to cash in on the Philadelphia student housing market, and the University of Pennsylvania gets a top-notch housing complex that it can market to both prospective and existing students.

This is also great news for Philadelphia.

More construction equals more jobs, and more money spent in the immediate area while it's being built, as well as when it has been completed. It also helps bridge the natural divide (aka The Schuylkill River) by continuing UPenn's eastern expansion plans.

The cherry-on-top is that this project supports TOD, and will be located next to the 3rd busiest rail transit hub in the US (30th Street Station).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mixed-use is slowly becoming the norm in Philadelphia

What exactly is considered "Mixed-Use?" Well, in Philadelphia you can have C-1, C-2, and so on and so forth.

But what do those classifications actually mean? They mean that depending on what the developer wants to accomplish, he/she will have to conform to the City's zoning code.

Philadelphia's new zoning code (which was introduced in August 2012) was designed to meet 21st century demand: population increases in dense, urban areas. Therefore, the City is actually encouraging mixed-use projects throughout different neighborhoods; that is, depending on the neighborhood and scope of the project.

In my own personal opinion, a mixed-use project accomplishes a few things: 1) It allows the residents easy access to things they need (e.g. a local market, coffee shop, dry cleaner, etc.), 2) It allows the business to create a consistent flow of customers (by pulling/retaining business directly from the building), 3) It helps create a more dense, urban environment (which seems to be what every city is striving for these days), and 4) It can be more cost effective. Now #4 will vary with every project, but the goal is to create a "win-win-win" (a "win" for the resident, "win" for the business, and "win" for the developer).

If you like, throw in a fourth "win" for the City of Philadelphia. has produced a great story highlighting some mixed-use projects trying to hit the market in 2013.

Feel free to have a look-see.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Schuylkill Project starts to plan for Manayunk's "Park in the Sky," as well as other great projects

I wrote a post about Manayunk's "Park in the Sky" back in 2011, and now it's becoming a reality.

So much so that the necessary funds are already in place, the plan is ready to go, and construction bids are set to go out in June.


The bridge connector (on the famed Manayunk Bridge) will take bikers, hikers, runners, and walkers from Manayunk across the Schuylkill River to Bala Cynwyd and the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. It will also offer stunning views of the surrounding area with its wide river, massive trees, and rolling hills.

Expected Completion Date = 2014

The Schuylkill Project is also staying on top of other important tasks planned to make Manayunk's waterways nicer, safer, and and more functional for all.

Venice Island is currently undergoing massive changes down at Main Street's east end with a new performing arts center for Manayunk, as well as pedestrian improvements to the Lock Street Bridge. This will make it easier for residents and visitors to get on/off Venice Island.

Not only is Venice Island getting better, but the Manayunk Canal itself will have work done to it as well. Fresh water will be introduced to the canal (for the first time in decades, if you can believe that), and the sluice house will be rebuilt. This will give the canal a controlled flow and will improve the immediate environment.

Expected Completion Date =2014/2015

Additionally, the Pencoyd Bridge (also on Main Street's east end) is set to be restored and provide additional access between the city and suburbs. This project coincides with a new residential community being planned across the river from Manayunk.

Expected Completion Date = TBD

What does this all mean for the local real estate market?

All in all, these major projects (along with many smaller ones) are encouraging large-scale developers and individual investors to start building/rehabbing in the Manayunk/Roxborough area. Good news for both residents and local businesses alike.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Delaware Waterfront Trail is really starting to come together

From Spring Garden St to Penn St, along Philadelphia's Delaware River, the DRWC is spending $1.5M to link more trails together.

What started as a project overseen by Penn Praxis and volunteer Philadelphians, is now starting to really turn into something cool: progress. Planned areas for development, added green space, and running/walking/biking trails are all on the books for the Delaware River Waterfront's future. Which are all necessary elements if Philadelphia is truly serious about making the Delaware Waterfront world class.

Add in the Race Street Pier, and recent "Connector" projects, and I would have to say that things are moving along as they should.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Has the Kensington renewal already begun?

New lofts are coming to Kensington

I know, I know ... that's a bold statement; but I thought it would grab your attention.

The interesting part is, the title to this post is probably long overdue. Kensington has already started to change, and this article is providing insight into how much changing it plans to do. When boundaries are challenged, bigger plans are in place.

In fact you may have already heard of new sections of Kensington being referred to as "Old Kensington" and/or "East Kensington," to differentiate itself as a part of Kensington that's embracing neighborhood change. Now whether it's good change or bad change depends on who you ask. In my opinion, anytime you bring in new residents, new businesses, and increase property values, it usually creates positive change, but some may refer to that as gentrification (which can sometimes be looked at as a negative trend).

Either way, change is coming to this section of Kensington, whether people like it or not. Plus, it only makes sense to start in this area because it's the closest part to both Fishtown and Northern Liberties; natch.

If you haven't been to this part of Philadelphia for a while, take any major highway/road to East Girard Ave and then start heading north on Frankford Ave. This is the heart of Fishtown's thriving art and commercial district and it will give you a general glimpse into the future of Old/East Kensington.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Roxborough is becoming more popular for businesses and development

It's no secret that Roxborough is one of Philadelphia's oldest neighborhoods (established in 1690, and incorporated into Philadelphia in 1854).

But with age, comes change.

Once known as one of Philadelphia's wealthiest neighborhoods, due to the high income level from Manayunk's mill owners, Roxborough is still thriving today. There was a bit of a real estate and population lull back in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, but since then Roxborough's population and average real estate values have almost tripled.

What does that mean for Roxborough as a neighborhood?

It means that demand is up, driving growth, density, and value for both residents and businesses alike. In fact, Roxborough's average home price has barely moved since the real estate bubble burst back in 2006. That says a lot about Roxborough as a neighborhood. Affordability + livability are a recipe for real estate success in the long run.

Bernard Guet, Executive Director of the Roxborough Development Corporation, has experienced these positive changes in Roxborough, and more specifically in Roxborough's Central Business District. "Developers are looking for areas of the city that can be financially viable," says Guet. "I look at Roxborough and Manayunk as a village of 40,000 people who wish to be able to shop where they live."

Bernard Guet and the RDC recently helped in landing a deal with Planet Fitness, which is currently in the process of building a new facility at an old car dealership on Ridge Ave. It's anchor projects like Planet Fitness, The Foodery, and the expansion at Stanley's Hardware that will bring additional businesses to Roxborough and the Central Business District.

As for residential development, it's taking shape all around the neighborhood. Anything from a 1-5 home infill project, to the upcoming 32 home development called Kingsley Court (right off of Ridge Ave). It's projects like these that not only strengthen a neighborhood's population and keep the demand for real estate strong, but they also help bring in new businesses (as mentioned above) to support its new found residents.

On the flip side, the increased demand for new development has also caused Roxborough to lose some of its history like the architecturally significant Bunting House. The Bunting House was a hot topic of discussion for months as the owners/developers wanted to tear it down and utilize the value of the land, whereas local neighborhood groups wanted to keep the structure in tact and find a suitable tenant.

As it turns out, the building was torn down to make way for new development; which is yet to be known. It was definitely a loss for Roxborough's residents, but it paved the way for a future action plan.

"I think that was a wake-up call, especially for newcomers who share the pride and neighborhood values with longtime residents," stated Kay Sykora, who is the Director of The Schuylkill Project. "If you don't get these issues in front of them, it is easier for developers to come in and do what they want."

Lesson learned.

Now let's see what the future has in store for one of Philadelphia's greatest neighborhoods. My prediction is that the future will only get brighter for Roxborough in the years to come.