Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays, all!

I would like to personally wish all of you loyal readers out there a happy and safe holiday!

Enjoy your time with family and friends, and check back in with Philly Urban Living soon for more exciting news in 2015. It should be both a busy year for real estate and local development.

Below are some holiday shots of the "City of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection." Enjoy!

Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
Love Park, Philadelphia
("The New") Dilworth Park, Philadelphia

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Philadelphia development will take a different approach to high-rise living

Marketplace Design Center, Philadelphia | Image courtesy of Bradley Maule

In general, apartment living in Philadelphia is pretty standard and predictable.

Your most common options are: "Studio," "1 Bed," and "2 Beds." Once you need "3+ Beds," the most common options are rowhomes, twins, or single families; not apartments/condos.

In 2015, the real estate status quo will shift due to changing demographics.

If you are unfamiliar with the Marketplace Design Center, let me paint the picture. When you are driving along I-76 (east or west) and you reach the downtown vicinity, there are multiple overpasses/bridges from both I-676 and Center City/University City connections. If you look across the Schuylkill River from I-76, you will see a large waterfront property with a giant mural on it. The mural is an ocean scene with whales swimming; officially known as Robert Wyland's "East Coast Humpbacks," circa 1993.

That's the place.

Now that you have a point of reference, let's talk about the latest project to grace the MDC (as there have been other recent attempts to redevelop the building, due to its prime location). PMC Property Group is looking to reconfigure the building into a modern, mixed-use destination (e.g. office space, ground-floor retail, hotel rooms, and apartments).

Unfortunately, it sounds like Wyland's mural won't make it through the rehab; bummer.

In order to fit all of these new elements, the building will expand vertically to accommodate the new apartments and hotel rooms. New entrances and lobbies will also make the building more inviting from the street.

What about the "different approach" you mentioned in the title? How does that play into this?

Okay, this is how Philadelphia's new approach relates to a city like NYC. The apartment/condo lifestyle in Philadelphia mostly caters to 2 groups: students/young professionals, and empty-nesters. Reason being, most people in those demographic groups only need a maximum of 2 Beds.

But what if someone wants to keep their apartment/condo lifestyle after they start a family? This is what PMC wants to accomplish.

In NYC, you can get apartments/condos/co-ops with 3+ Beds (and even 4+ Beds). Meaning you can live in a high-rise building and still have a large living space. Reason being, NYC is the densest metropolitan area in the US; therefore, NYC grows vertically to accommodate population growth.

So, if Philadelphians are flocking to Center City to enhance their lifestyles and the population is rising, we should now offer the same options as well.

That's why instead of the typical "Studio," "1 Bed," "2 Beds" approach, the new Marketplace Design Center will feature "1 Bed," "2 Beds," and "3 Beds" options in the residential section of the building. This can now cater to both young families (1-2 children) and extended families (nuclear families living with relatives); or, to those who just want/need more living space.

No matter which way you look at it, Philadelphia is currently experiencing a housing gap for the high-rise family lifestyle.

The project is expected to kick off in June 2015, so keep your eyes peeled for activity.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The "King of Prussia Line" will change Philadelphia forever


As PBJ quotes, "All aboard the KOP Express!"

For those who are unfamiliar, KOP is a local acronym for King of Prussia, which is considered to be the largest mall in the US (when measured by total retail space). It's a slippery slope, as Mall of America has more "stores."

No matter which way you slice it, KOP is a big and awesome place.

Now, to address the article that inspired this post. There has been lots of talk as well as various plans presented (remember the Schuylkill Valley Metro) for a new rail line out to KOP ... for years. For the most part, the plans were always too big and the cost was too extreme.

Enter, the "King of Prussia Line."

Since SVM is basically dead, and the need for convenient rail out to KOP is more alive than ever, the simplest and most doable approach seems to be an extension of the Manayunk/Norristown Line. Over the last 2 years, there were 30 different options being explored based on location, number of stops, cost, etc. Those 30 options were then whittled down to 16 different options, and today there are only 4 options being considered.

In other words, progress is being made.

With over 30,000 jobs (just within KOP Mall and its surrounding office parks alone), and 25M visitors each year, $500M to get something like this done kind of sounds like a small investment to make for such a large and significant improvement. Not only will it make 76 East/West (in between Manayunk/Roxborough and KOP) more bearable to drive, but it will create a more efficient business/residential/tourist environment for everyone in the Greater Philadelphia area.

As for real estate, you only have to look at the Main Line for an example of transit oriented suburbia. This large part of suburban Philadelphia has thrived since the 1830s, when rail was constructed in areas like Malvern, and it continues to do well today due to it's storied history, generational families, top-notch schools, and convenient location.

Today, it's suburban areas like Radnor, Ambler, and Conshohocken that continually do well from a market value perspective, and much of it has to do with their access to convenient SEPTA rail lines.