Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New projects are increasing Philly's curb appeal

Center City, Philadelphia | View from Penn Park

What is curb appeal exactly?

Well, according to, curb appeal is defined as:

"The general attractiveness of a house or other piece of property from the sidewalk. This term is often used by Realtors trying to sell or evaluate a piece of property. There are many things that can increase the curb appeal of a piece of property. A new paint job, landscaping, and siding can go a long way toward accomplishing this. Though not as easily measured as something like square footage, curb appeal plays an important role in property valuation."

This article lists and describes 5 projects that are changing Philadelphia for the better, in what they are calling a "cultural face-lift." As an agent, I would call it curb appeal.

Curb appeal plays a big role in why someone would buy or rent a home. For starters, it's their first impression of the home. Have you ever heard the expression, you eat with your eyes first? The same is true in real estate. Your impression of the exterior, yard, and block are the first things you digest (no pun intended) when looking at a home.

Hence, curb appeal is important.

That's why I'm classifying these projects as enhancements to our city's curb appeal. They make the city more attractive, and more desirable, to those who are looking to move here. Whether you grew up in the surrounding metro area, or you're relocating from the west coast, Philadelphians are putting time and effort into making their city more appealing to the masses.

You can see the difference for yourself.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Whole Foods to headline at Rodin Square

A lot has changed on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway in recent years.

First, there was the plan. The goal was to turn the BFP into a more walkable, resident/visitor friendly boulevard. It's definitely on the right track with streetscape improvements, new parking/street lines, and improved public spaces (such as The Oval).

Second, there was the relocation of the Barnes Museum from Lower Merion, PA to Center City, Philadelphia. That one definitely worked, even though there was a documentary made about it. So much so that it has increased Philadelphia's art rep from around a 6 to about an 8. Just throwing out numbers here, people; but I'm probably not too far off.

Third, there was the Made In America concert (which first took place in 2012) on the parkway. Hosted by Jay-Z with appearances by DJ Shadow, The Hives, Run DMC, and Pearl Jam, it proved to be one of the best settings in America for a multi-day, outdoor music festival; especially, considering it took place downtown in the 5th largest US city. In case you haven't heard, Made In America is coming back in 2013.

Now, there is Rodin Square. A modern, sophisticated, block-long development just steps from the BFP (and the new Barnes Museum). With current estimates coming in around 300 apartments, Rodin Square is promising popular urban perks (e.g. super-walkable location, mixed-use living, landscaped rooftops, etc.). To top it off, the project will be anchored by a brand new Whole Foods (designed by MV+A Architects).

Sounds pretty awesome to me.

Since the fine details are still pretty fresh, I'll let you conduct your own online detective work. If you find anything good, please feel free to share it in the comments section.

In the meantime, you can live happy knowing that the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is taking another step closer to becoming one of America's premier downtown stretches.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Let's Trade: Multiple City-Owned Vacant Lots and Houses - FOR - 31 New / Mixed-Use / Eco-Friendly Homes

These roof decks should have awesome views!

I would say that's a good deal.

All kidding aside, it wasn't an actual trade but a purchase by a private developer for city-owned real estate. Nonetheless, it will be a nice change for an already-on-fire neighborhood. Postgreen's Folsom Powerhouse project promises a few things to its future customers: Convenient Mixed-Use Development, Energy Efficient Design, and Affordable Units for Varying Income Levels. Based on Postgreen's past development history, I'd say it's doable.

Francisville is going through a building boom right now, due to its highly-accessible location (right next to Fairmount and Center City) and an abundance of vacant lots. Well, there used to be an abundance of them. Most have either been bought by developers, or are being developed as we speak.

If you've never heard of Francisville before, you're not alone. Most residents of this area refer to the entire 19130 zip code as either Fairmount or the Art Museum Area. It's the locals who have lived there for a long time (sometimes for generations), that know the difference between Fairmount and Francisville.

The unofficial borders of Francisville are Girard Ave (North), Broad St (East), Fairmount Ave (South), and Corinthian Ave (West). These are the borders typically listed online, and they are also the ones that real estate agents use most often. Again, since I'm not a Francisville local, I apologize for any errors with defining your neighborhood.

So, why is Francisville being reinvented?

There are a few reasons why (IMHO):

1) Its Location: Francisville is super-conveniently located just east of Fairmount (which has been going through positive neighborhood changes for a few decades now), and just north of Center City (which allows those who work downtown to either walk, bike, or hop on the subway during their daily commute).

2) Its Changing Demographic: The new residents seeking shelter in Francisville are typically young professionals, families, and empty nesters. The same type of people who are currently buying in Center City. They want access to Center City (and its surrounding area/amenities), but do not want to pay Center City prices (per sq/ft). Hot real estate, for less money, equals high demand.

3) Its Housing Stock: Due to the large proliferation of vacant lots in Francisville, it has allowed developers to get in fairly easily, build what they want, and still make a good profit (probably better than most Philadelphia neighborhoods). New construction townhomes/condos, with upgraded amenities and roof decks, is the most common theme. All for less than what you would pay for similar real estate in Center City (most of the time). On top of that, there are many different new construction homes to choose from due to all of the new development; so buyers can be a little picky, even though the current trend is slowly changing to a seller's market. In a neighborhood like Rittenhouse Square, new construction is hard to find due to its denser, and more established, layout.

There are more reasons why Philadelphians are flocking to this small section of the city, but I'll let you do a little Google'ing on your own to learn more about why Francisville is one of Philadelphia's 10 hottest neighborhoods for real estate.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Oval" is just one small example of how Philadelphia is embracing its public spaces

As stated by Harris Steinberg in this article, Philadelphia has a sense of "renewed urbanity." That's a great way of putting it, but it requires more reading to fully understand it.

The Oval is a great example of Philadelphia's new found embrace of its public spaces, but it's definitely not the only one. Sister Cities Park and the Race Street Pier are other relevant examples or reusing what we have.

In the last 10 years or so, Center City has truly taken off. Not only from a real estate agent's perspective, but from a resident's perspective as well.

Back during my undergrad days at La Salle University (that's right, the recent NCAA "Sweet 16 Cinderella"), from 1997-2001, Center City was almost an afterthought for people my age. Unless you went to Penn or Drexel, you really didn't venture down there that often; unless there was a specific reason to (e.g. museums, famous sandwiches, etc.). In other words, people in their late-teens/early-twenties were more focused on Manayunk. Don't get me wrong, there was definitely a lot of development going on in Center City during the last boom, but it was different than it is today.

It's interesting how things change so fast. That was only 15 years ago.

Now, Center City is booming. So much so that it has inspired University City to get up and form solid working relationships with their local universities and hospitals, while also breaking borders with their own neighborhoods in/around Center City. These days, when people refer to Center City, they are thinking beyond 19103, 19102, 19107, and 19106. They are talking about Fairmount, Graduate Hospital, Bella Vista, among others.

That is what has been happening since my undergrad days.

Center City is no longer a place to either work or party, it has become a way of life; a true urban lifestyle. Whether you go to school, go to work, or raise a family, there are almost too many things to do on a daily basis. Bike lanes have started to slow down cars, new parks (as well as skate parks, pop-up gardens, and parklets) host weekly events, and the Ben Franklin Parkway is now pedestrian friendly.


Who would have thought this was all possible in 15 years, and today it's moving faster than it ever has. Which means there is a lot more to come, especially on the back of a new real estate boom.

Manayunk is still an awesome place to be (as I live in the area, and know it well), but even that has changed. When I frequented Main Street in 2000, almost every bar catered to a college crowd. Now we have Han Dynasty, Cooper's, and the highly-anticipated spots Rubb and Taqueria Feliz. On top of all that, a new state-of-the-art charter school is being built just off of Ridge Ave in Roxborough.

Things are changing for the better.

Why am I even talking about all of this, and what does it mean? It means that living within Philadelphia's city limits has gone beyond its gimmicky reasons for visiting and/or hanging out just 15 years ago.

It means that being a Philadelphian today (whether you are a student, young professional, family, or empty nester), makes you a part of something special.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What is a CityNext Showcase City?

Seattle ... not Philadelphia.

Well for starters, Philadelphia is 1 of only 13 cities (globally) to be named one. We were also the only North American city selected.

Microsoft is the creator of this program, and it has carefully selected cities around the world to take part in it. As stated in this article, here is what the program is trying to accomplish:

"CityNext is a global initiative empowering cities, businesses, and citizens to re-imagine their futures and cultivate vibrant communities. Cities are centers of industrial, economic, and entrepreneurial activity that fuel the rest of the world’s success. But cities increasingly encounter compelling forces, such as rapid urbanization, modernization mandates, and economic austerity pressures. Microsoft CityNext offers cities a vast and diverse Microsoft Partner Network of more than 430,000 technology experts across the globe to innovate today and create a better tomorrow. Leveraging a broad portfolio of familiar and security-enhanced consumer to business software, devices and services and Microsoft’s history of successful education and social programs, CityNext is a collective effort that enables cities and their people to accomplish what’s next."

So what does this mean for Philadelphia? It means that Microsoft will give us 3 years of solid focus and support to try and accomplish the goals stated above. They want us to embrace technology, improve communication, and increase efficiencies across all city departments; a tall order, but something that's definitely needed.

Now, the goals stated above are rather vague and general, IMHO. But what I like about us getting selected for this program is that a powerhouse like Microsoft is taking note of Philadelphia, and the great energy it has. Philadelphia has a long, storied history of entrepreneurial success, and it seems like everyday now that we're taking another step in the right direction toward embracing that spirit as a global, forward-thinking city. Our technology scene is doing very well, and our open office culture is leading the charge across the US.

As a city, I also think it's smart to jump at opportunities like this one because it's available to those who want it. In other words, Microsoft has put its neck out there to support cities who want to embrace technology as a way to enhance Philadelphia's quality of life and the customer service of its citizens. Our job was apply and accept; smart move.

I think it's a no-brainer to jump at an opportunity like this. It's also cool to know that we were the only American city slected.

Nice job, Philly.