Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tim Garrity gets interviewed in another article for Metro Philadelphia

Check Metro out at: metro.us/philadelphia

My online/print media pal, Julia West who is a contributing writer with Metro Philadelphia, graciously extended another invitation for me to speak intelligently about Philadelphia real estate.

The subject, a boost of empty nesters into the current Philadelphia real estate market.

Julia's article is titled, "Where are the empty nesters moving?" No need for me to quote what you can read by just clicking right here.

Metro Philadelphia is a great website for local news on real estate, entertainment, and sports. Informative daily reading from your laptop/tablet/smartphone, or you can pick up a free copy at numerous local distribution boxes throughout the city.

Personally, I always grab one before hopping on the train to Center City. The articles are well-written and succinct, and I can usually get through the whole thing before arriving at either Market East or Suburban Station.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Will Drexel's Innovation Neighborhood look like this?

Hmm, not sure how to feel about this one yet.

The plan looks awesome and super-possible. But when you look at all of the moving parts involved with a project this impressive, it can be hard to fathom.

On the other hand, John Fry and Drexel have not been messing around in recent years. New buildings, new signage, and new plans. Not only have they done their homework, but they seem to have enough players in place (Drexel, Amtrak, & Brandywine) to get a big part of the project moving forward: Building over the 30th Street rail yards.

If they can pull it off, it may be one of Philadelphia's most impressive developments in it's 300+ year history as a US city.

Drexel now has an extensive double-plan in place for Philadelphia called, "Transforming the Modern Urban University + Drexel University Campus Master Plan." Both plans were recently presented as one, and were the findings of a year-long study to figure out how to best grow Drexel.

For starters, and probably most important, Drexel wants to expand its student population by 1/3 over the next 7 years (from the mid-20,000 range to the mid-30,000 range). Accomplishing this will not only be a boon to University City, but to all of the burgeoning neighborhoods surrounding the university as well.

Not to mention all of the additional jobs, housing, and retail that could/should follow a project of this size/scope.

There are 4 main principles in the Master Plan:

1. Distinguish Drexel's campus as a modern urban university district.
2. Bring the campus to the street.
3. Draw the community together around shared spaces.
4. Expand the innovation community.

Out of all 4 principles, I personally feel that #4 resonates the most for Philadelphia.

Our city has changed greatly in the past 10 years, and it's starting to dictate where the city might be headed in the foreseeable future. I have written posts about "Philacon Valley," as well as dropping an informational perspective on the new Comcast Innovation + Technology Center, and I'm starting to see a pattern.

Philadelphia is preparing itself for the new, urban, compact, shared tech economy.

Location ... check.

Dense city ... check.

Good bones ... check.

Public transportation ... check.

One of the best higher-education systems in the world ... check.

Annual population increases (with lots of millennials) ... check.

Affordable cost-of-living, as compared to local, neighboring metropolises ... check.

These are things people all over the world are interested in today, and it's why major metropolitan areas are growing at a rapid pace across the US. So it only makes sense for Drexel to play off of our city's strengths, and start planning for a future where skyscrapers may in fact sit above railroad tracks at 30th Street Station.

Nothing wrong with dreaming big, Mr. Fry. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Huffington Post has classified Philadelphia as the "Most Underrated City in America"

Boathouse Row | Philadelphia

Some people may read my blog post title and say, "That sounds a bit negative, Huffington Post."

Others (myself included) may say, "Damn straight, HP" (or "darn tootin" if you happen to not be from Philadelphia or the Northeastern US).

IMHO, it's a great accolade, which is what inspired me to write today.

Being an underdog is something that most long-time Philadelphians embrace (including myself, just a bit), which is due mostly to our local sports history ... and Rocky, of course. But as our city has progressed over the past 10+ years with an increase in overall population and a renewed sense of optimism, it's time to start embracing what the future could and should be.

Without getting ahead of myself here, these were Huff Post's reasons that I personally enjoyed the most:

1. Philadelphia has over 200 BYOB restaurants, and almost none of them have corkage fees.

This very-Philadelphian restaurant way-of-life, due to an influx of young/new chefs/restaurateurs and PA's archaic liquor laws (with hefty licensure costs), BYOBs have become the norm in our fair city. They accomplish 2 very important things: 1) They allow more people to open up restaurants, offer unique food options, and keep start-up costs low, and 2) They allow Philadelphians to explore these restaurants, pay less for a night out, and drink whatever they want and as-much as they want. Win-win in my book.

2. It is an American history nerd's promised land.

In Philadelphia, there are the globally known/touristy spots like Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, and the Liberty Bell. But how about ... Mutter Museum (medical history and oddities), Philadelphia Mint (the nation's first), Elfreth's Alley (the oldest residential street in America), and too many other options to list here. Since America was basically invented in Philadelphia, as we are sometimes referred to as the "Birthplace of America," naturally we would have the most to say about how we became the greatest country in the world.

3. It's an insanely easy city to navigate thanks to "Walk! Philadelphia." It's also the largest comprehensive pedestrian sign system in North America.

Since most people have some type of smartphone these days, Walk! Philadelphia is not as critical today as it was during its inception in 1995. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to have these circular signs posted everywhere in Center City to help you weave your way through different blocks and neighborhoods. In 2013, Philadelphia was dubbed the "4th Most Walkable US City," and our WP signs help back up that distinction.

4. The Philadelphia Eagles have the best fight song of any football team.

No need to explain this one. It's just an awesome song, even to those who aren't Birds fans. To those who are fans (again, such as myself), it's more-or-less our city's anthem. Good call, Huff Post.

5. It's bursting with a vibrant arts community, including numerous artist-run collectives.

Back in 2012, I posted about how Philly was named "#1 for Arts & Culture." Now it seems like our art scene just gets more expansive everyday. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Barnes Foundation, Kimmel Center, Academy of Music, and many more. We have world-class status when it comes to art, and we're also known internationally as the "City of Murals," showing off more public murals than any other US city. Recently, Philadelphia's CITYWIDE Project brought in 20 different art collectives to share their ideas and grow our city's art scene ... together. Art is in our history, and growing our future.

6. Some of the best restaurateurs in the world have set up shop in Philadelphia.

I don't know how many other US cities can claim that aside from NYC, LA, Chicago, and Vegas. Philadelphia has a dominant restaurant scene, and it only seems to get more legitimate every year. So much so that well-known Center City spots have started expanding into the local suburbs, as well as into other major US markets (like NYC and DC). We now boast 2 Top Chef winners (Kevin Sbraga and Nicholas Elmi), and 1 Iron Chef winner (Jose Garces). Oh, and don't forget about Starr, Vetri, and Solomonov. I don't know how much more credibility I need to showcase here, our dining scene speaks for itself.

7. Fairmount Park is one of the largest city-owned parks in the country.

One big reason why people decide to leave cities, they want to enjoy nature. Well, Philadelphia has excellent options for both urbanites and ruralists alike. Northwest has the Wissahickon Valley, and Northeast has Pennypack. But if you are more of a downtown kind of person, Fairmount Park backs right up to Center City and University City. So no matter where you live in the city, a park-like setting is always close by.

And there you have it, my take on a great article.

If you would prefer to read the whole list from Huffington Post yourself, check it out here. They posted 31 different reasons why Philadelphia is a great place to be.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Has Penn just secured an anchor for Grays Ferry?

Rendering of South Bank

Just last week, the University of Pennsylvania (aka Penn, UPenn, U of P) released detailed plans for a large urban/commercial/educational project called South Bank.

This development is part of a larger vision for the university, known as Penn Connects 2.0. The main goal is to continue expanding their local and global presence, create more open space, and create more jobs for both students and Philadelphians alike.

In other words, Penn wants to make Philadelphia a more promising career choice location for its alumni. IMHO, the city could not ask for a better long-term partner than that.

So why did I choose that blog post title?

First and foremost, I always go back to the golden rule of real estate: Location, Location, Location. There is a reason that saying exists, and why it will most likely never go away. You can change what's on the land, you can change the exterior of a home, you can change the interior of a home, and you can even change your landscaping, but you cannot change the location.

It's the reason people move, find new jobs, raise families, choose school districts, and so on and so forth. Location controls prices, taxes, and public services. It can be the reason why some neighborhoods thrive, while others decline. It's the base of any area's long-term strategy.

Still looking for some more information on that blog post title?

Well, from a Philadelphia real estate agent's perspective, you don't have to look too much farther than Center City and/or University City to understand how important location is. There is a reason these two sections have done so well over the past 10+ years, and it's not because they have the best cheesesteaks in town. In fact, CC and UC are probably the last places I would go to get a quality steak. I mean hey, I live in Roxborough where local competition creates some of the best quality steaks in the US.

Sorry, sorry; getting off topic a bit. Back to South Bank and Grays Ferry.

South Bank has some cool things going for it, which help make it a potential anchor for Grays Ferry. Now, let's get to it:

1) South Bank is on the Center City/Grays Ferry side of the river: There is a reason Center City and University City are so distinct, they have a firm boundary line between them. And no boundary could be more firm than a river; in this case, the Schuylkill River. Although both sections have a great mix of jobs, schools, and retail/entertainment, CC is better known for business while UC is better known for education. Hence, two separate sections with two separate plans. Now that Penn has jumped the river, into South Philly and not into Center City mind you, it creates an opportunity. And no other South Philly neighborhood is closer to South Bank than Grays Ferry.

2) South Bank wants to become a breeding ground for new, innovative, and small businesses: Where there are start-ups, there are young professionals. Where there are young professionals, there are new businesses setting up shop. Where there are new businesses setting up shop, there is a demand for housing. Where there is a demand for housing, prices go up. When prices go up, people are happy. I don't know how many more connections I can make here, but I'm sure you're following along. This is how local economies are built, and it could have a significant impact on Grays Ferry.

3) Grays Ferry is reasonably priced for its location: There's your tip of the week. It happened in Graduate Hospital, and it's happening in Point Breeze. Grays Ferry may have been a longer stretch without any firm support from UC, but it looks like they may get it if South Bank delivers on its promises. GF already has the following positive attributes: close to jobs, close to highways, close to public transportation, and close to recreation (the Grays Ferry Crescent was a nice addition in 2012). Couple all of that with reasonably priced homes, compared to neighbors in Center City, Graduate Hospital, and Northern Point Breeze, and you have a recipe for potential.

Some may look at a project like this and think it's just the same old thing. "Penn's getting bigger, so what? They've already been doing that for years." Well, I'm here to tell you that there may be bigger potential just by looking at a map.

As both a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor (there is a difference between the two), there are guidelines and ethics we live by to help make sure we do not "persuade" and/or "convince" clients that one area is better than another area using our market knowledge. That real estate tactic is commonly referred to as "steering," which is both illegal and unethical. One of my main goals when starting this blog was to help educate the public on what's going on in/around Philadelphia, the city I call home.

When I look back at the over 200+ blog posts I've written since Philly Urban Living's inception, back in 2011, I can see that my original goal is still going strong today.

I have all of you regular readers to thank for that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Philadelphia's new Mormon temple generates additional development

There is a lot going on in Philadelphia these days.

If you don't believe me, just drive on I-76 East/West and/or I-95 North/South and count the cranes. Center City, University City, The Navy Yard, as well as many other neighborhoods, are building for the future (even in my own neighborhood of Manayunk + Roxborough). Some projects are commercial, some are residential, and some are both.

If you didn't know already, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is currently in the process of building a new temple at 17th & Vine, which will be the first in PA. Two spires will top the Mormon organization's 77th temple, and will cap out at 200 feet high. Overall, the new temple will have a unique look and blend in well with Philadelphia's other neoclassical buildings along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Okay, now on to the additional projects.

After the temple was approved and earth started in moving in 2013, a 2nd and 3rd building project was proposed in early 2014: 1) A Mormon Meetinghouse, and 2) A 32-Story Residential High-Rise. Although these projects coincide with the new temple development, they will both be open to the public (unlike the temple, which is limited to Mormon members). The meetinghouse will have a chapel, courtyard, and some multipurpose spaces. The high-rise will have over 250 apartments, over 10 townhomes, and retail space.

Mixed-use is a hot trend in Philadelphia these days, and rightfully so. We live in a dense city with great bones, so why not capitalize on vertical growth (as opposed to sprawl). 

My whole point in blogging about this project is to showcase Philadelphia's reputation as a world-class city. Not only did the Mormon church decide to capitalize on Philadelphia's ideal Northeastern US location for their new temple, but they also realized that there is opportunity in our residential market as well.

And if they have the money to do it, why not invest in something they know.

Philadelphia is considered an affordable city with tons of history, culture, and restaurants/entertainment; not to mention our city's storied history as being a place where religious freedom was one of the founding principles.

It's nice to see other religious organizations taking note, and investing in Philadelphia's future.