Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Manayunk's Wilde Yarns project gets the neighborhood nod


Good stuff.

For a building that has sat vacant for years, and also sits right at the Gateway to Main Street in Manayunk, it's good to see another well executed reuse project on the books in one of Manayunk's ex-factories. These are well-built buildings, and it's good to see them get a new purpose in life.

Here are some of the details:

  • 43 residential units
  • 4 buildings (3 old, 1 new)
  • Sizes will range from 600 sq ft to 1,100 sq ft
  • Rents will range from $1,100 to $1,800
  • Main St location
  • Close to restaurants, shops, and multiple forms of public transportation
  • Completion Date will be Spring/Summer 2014

The biggest question everyone asks when something like this is being considered is, "What's the parking going to be like?" Rightfully so, Manayunk is a pretty tight place to park your car; and adding 43 more residences only makes the issue more visible (remember, some of these proposed units are going to have 2 bedrooms).

But does the developer really need to offer 1:1 parking for a large-scale project like this, in such an accessible location?

Another great question is, should the developer even have parking on-site? My fellow, loyal, and local Manayunk/Roxborough readers out there must be saying, "Tim, are you nuts?!?"

Although parking is an issue in Manayunk, community residents typically urge developers to "find" or "create" places for their future residents to park. This is usually in the form of an on-site or shared parking lot and/or garage.

Again, why is this necessary when you can walk to two separate train stations, and also walk to catch the bus. Oh, and you're at the intersection of Main St and Ridge Ave; the start of the neighborhood commercial district. The answer is, because most Philadelphians tell new people coming to the city that they need to park.

I understand the plight of the locals living in this area (I too once lived in a tight section of Manayunk where parking was an issue), but it's getting to a point where we are actually encouraging new residents in Manayunk to own a car. If people think the Green Ln bridge traffic in the morning is bad now, wait until a few years from now when the next real estate development boom is alive and well and more people have moved to the area (both renters and homeowners), and make the decision to drive to work.

Why is this the case?

Because that's the norm for new development in Philadelphia, even more so for places like Manayunk and Roxborough where parking is at a premium. Build a house, provide parking. I can see the logic behind a few, new individual homes on a tight, historic street, but for large-scale developments like this one, I personally believe that it can be looked at differently.

There are other viable ways to tackle this issue, and some may argue with me that they are unachievable; but "what if" local developers...
  • Didn't offer parking, but offered discounts on Public Transportation to its residents. Or better yet, offered monthly public transportation passes as part of the rent.
  • Didn't offer parking, but established new Zipcar and/or Philly Car Share (now known as Enterprise Car Share) spots for residents. This would encourage less/shared car usage; hence, less parking.
  • Didn't offer parking, but made access to trains/buses easier (e.g. better signage, SEPTA education, maps, attractive walkways, etc.).
  • Didn't offer parking, but had bike parking stalls/spaces to encourage more local shopping, etc.
I know, I know.

These are all very easy to talk about, and not easy to do; but not many developers are really suggesting them either. That's where the community groups and residents can come to the rescue.

Manayunk's parking problem is not going away anytime soon, so we might as well discuss what could and should be when a new project (like Wilde Yarns) comes about.

Let me know what you think, and if you agree or disagree.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Q: Where is most of Philadelphia's "Creative Class" living today?


A: Philadelphia's creative class is currently concentrated heavily in 2 major areas: Center City (e.g. Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill, Old City, etc.) and Northwest Philadelphia (e.g. Manayunk, Roxborough, Chestnut Hill, etc).

First off, what exactly does creative class even mean?

Well, today's standard definition is "workers in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture media and entertainment, and law and healthcare professions." In other words, it's a pretty wide variety of white collar workers.

If you're looking for more information on the creative class in general, check out the Wikipedia page here.

So, why am I even blogging about this?

Because it's an important topic centered around Philadelphia's current demographic trends, which also plays heavily into real estate (e.g. Buying, Selling, Investing, and Renting). I just finished writing a post yesterday about the recent population increases that Philadelphia has been experiencing, so I figured this article would piggyback nicely off of that (map included).

When most people think about the hippest part of Philadelphia, they immediately think of Center City and its surrounding neighborhoods. Manayunk, Roxborough, and Chestnut Hill are all hip neighborhoods that are nationally recognized, but in general they all play second fiddle to Center City.

Please don't think I'm favoring one side or the other. As an agent who works in all different parts of Philadelphia (and the surrounding suburbs), with clients from all over the US, I'm just speaking in generalities.

It's mainly because Center City is the center for business, contemporary living, culture, etc. Northwest Philadelphia's neighborhoods also possess these traits, just in smaller, less-dense doses. Hence, the generalities.

The bad news is that this article only embitters the fact that Philadelphia's working class population is shrinking; just as it is in other major US cities. The good news is that the incoming, creative class population is spreading out in Philadelphia; which creates more opportunity for other adjacent neighborhoods to follow, and strengthens the city as a whole.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Philadelphia's population continues to grow


Philadelphia's overall city population grows ... again.

For a city that did not have an increase in population (even a small one) for about 50 years, it's a good sign that we have now grown every year for the past 6 years. Although they've been small victories (percentage-wise), our total population now sits at 1,547,607; which also makes us the 5th Largest US City.

Try not to confuse "Largest US Cities" with "Largest US Metros." "City" refers to population within actual city boundaries, and "Metro" refers to population around a city's recognized metropolitan area (which can sometimes include both suburban towns and even other cities). In Philadelphia's case, our "Metro Area" also consists of the areas in/around Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE.

Why is this important?

Well for one thing, it means that Philadelphia is a relevant city (by today's standards) and people are attracted to living within its boundaries (regardless of taxes, schools, etc.). It also means that more businesses (small, medium, and large) are attracted to Philadelphia, and are setting up shop to cater to its new residents.

Urban living has become a popular trend all over the US in recent years, and it's also part of my inspiration for the website and blog you are reading right now.

I was born and raised right outside Philadelphia's city limits (in Abington, PA; which is part of Philadelphia's "Metro Area"), and went to both grade school and high school in the Abington area as well. Abington was an awesome place to grow up, and it's still a great town today. It wasn't until I went to college (at La Salle University) that I was able to experience living within Philadelphia's boundaries.

It definitely made an impact on me; a very positive one. The rest is history. Now over 15 years later, I still call Philadelphia my home and just bought a new home in Roxborough.

So if anything, it looks like my own personal tastes have followed the current trend toward urban living; and I'm still writing about it today.

Friday, March 8, 2013

FringeArts is making an economic impact through reuse


What a cool project, and it's coming Fall 2013.

An abandoned pumping station, where Columbus Blvd and Race St meet, is about to undergo a $7M renovation. The goal is to transform the existing property from a vacant, historic, industrial building, to a thriving, music/arts destination.

Here are some of the details:

  • 800 sq ft of rehearsal space
  • 240 seat theater
  • 125 seat restaurant/bar
  • Offices for FringeArts' staff
  • Available space for art shows, and the like

Not bad at all.

Philadelphia is already highly regarded as one of the Top Cities in the US for art and art culture. FringeArts' new HQ will only add more value to that distinctive brand.

I can't help but think that Philadelphia's solid investment in the Race Street Pier is really helping spur additional development along this section of the Delaware River Waterfront.

FA HQ is just one more example, and I'm sure others will follow suit.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Development is rising, and it's changing Point Breeze

American Sardine Bar | 18th & Federal

You may be familiar with Point Breeze in Philadelphia, and you may have never even heard of it.

If you're like me and you consistently keep up with news and development in Philadelphia, you hear about PB weekly; almost daily.

Change.

Controversy.

"Lotgate."

Gentrification.

Those are just some of the buzz words that have been thrown around over the past year or so, by longtime residents, neighborhood newcomers, and unbiased onlookers.

But who's right?

Well, neither the long-timers or newcomers are; in my opinion. I feel that it's more a matter of, "How can everyone work together to deal with the changes currently taking place?"

Point Breeze is currently at the epicenter of a few urban issues: 1) Changing Demographics, 2) Non-Profit vs For-Profit, and 3) Old vs New.

Let's start with "Changing Demographics." PB used to be comprised largely of diverse, working-class Philadelphians, and the neighborhood was supported by local businesses, churches, and families. Once "The Breeze" began to change in the 70s and 80s (due to drugs and crime), residents moved out of the neighborhood, values declined, and homes were left unattended; leaving behind blocks and blocks of decaying real estate.

When I say "Non-Profit vs For-Profit," I am generally referring to projects in the neighborhood developed by local organizations (both residential and commercial), versus those funded by private developers. Since the neighborhood started changing some 40 years ago, and the population declined (which is never good for any neighborhood), local civic leaders worked hard to stabilize Point Breeze; and they're still working on it today.

Then you have a very common problem in Philadelphia that I am calling "Old vs New." Problems stemming from the differing opinions of current residents and new residents is nothing new for any of America's older, larger cities; and it's certainly not new in Philadelphia. This problem can become even more exacerbated when property values and taxes come into play.

Being a Realtor who works in all of Philadelphia's diverse and unique neighborhoods, I feel that I can clearly see the changes taking place in Point Breeze, from a real estate perspective; it's a case of Supply & Demand. Some 40 years ago, demand was low and prices dropped. In 2013, demand is high and values are rising. Couple that with the drastic effect AVI will likely have on most of South Philadelphia's property taxes, and you now have major issues that are of a concern to PB's longtime residents.

Personally, I can see why both sides would be upset, but I have never been a proponent of resisting change just because its different. Change can be both good and bad, and it has to be carefully planned with lots of community input; but resisting change altogether can yield some of the worst results. Point Breeze is a dense, urban neighborhood, that's affordable, walkable/bikable, and in a great location (close to Center City, jobs, restaurants/bars, shopping, public transportation, and major roads/highways). PB has a great housing stock, and offers all of the advantages of big city living in a tight, historic, residential neighborhood. It's all of these factors that have created a renewed sense of demand for real estate in Point Breeze.

There is no doubt that PB is changing: new homes, new residents, new businesses, higher demand, higher values, and higher taxes.

It just depends on who you ask, whether it's good or bad.