Monday, June 22, 2015

Tim Garrity talks about Philadelphia's "green space" in Metro Philadelphia

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I received an email recently from one of my online/print media contacts, Julia West.

Julia is a contributing writer for Metro Philadelphia, and asked me to help on one of her recent articles titled, "Homes on Rittenhouse Square are like 'beachfront property.'"

Our conversation focused on the following, "What kind of effect does 'green space' have on the real estate around it?" Whether it's a neighborhood park, local running/biking trails, tree-lined streets, etc.

We discussed this subject from a few different perspectives:

Have there been any local studies done on green space?

How does green space help the people who live around it?

How does green space improve Philadelphia's neighborhoods?

Since I had to be short and sweet, as there were a few other Philadelphia real estate agents being interviewed, I have included some of the thoughts that were shared with Julia:

1. Have there been any local studies done on green space?: I found one study through some online due diligence conducted by Wharton at UPenn in 2006, and it said that "Philadelphia homes in close proximity to new tree plantings showed a rise in valuation of 9%." Now, that's a very defined statement, but I believe it rings true in Philadelphia nonetheless. If a buyer is looking to purchase a home in a dense Philadelphia neighborhood, and they had to choose between a tree-less street or a tree-lined street, I'm sure you would agree with me that the buyer would most likely choose the tree-lined street. Please know that the home's location, price, size, and condition would all play important roles, but if block appearance and curb appeal were the most important factors, that's probably how it would play out. Since there are many blocks in Philadelphia where trees have been removed due to sidewalk issues and/or neighborhood neglect, I can see why new tree plantings help as much as they do.

2. How does green space help the people who live around it?: In my professional opinion, I feel that green space offers 3 major benefits to those who live around it: 1) Better quality of life, 2) Healthier residents through recreation, and 3) Stronger/Safer neighborhoods. Again, this is just my own opinion and not fact (as I did use the word "safer," which is a no-no for Realtors), but I feel there is some logic behind it. More green space can lead to a more-attractive neighborhood, accessible green space allows the neighborhood to use it more frequently, and if neighbors take care of their local green space on a regular basis it can lead to a more-involved/more-aware community (e.g. Rittenhouse Square, Franklin Square, Fitler Square, etc). Much of Philadelphia's green space is a shared resource, which means that healthy green space can become a desirable amenity.

3. How does green space improve Philadelphia's neighborhoods?: In a city like Philadelphia, which has many older/dense neighborhoods due to rowhousing, narrow blocks, and tight sidewalks, green space can make a neighborhood feel more inviting. Tree-lined streets, small parks, or even close access to Fairmount Park can make a big difference in peoples' lives. A more livable neighborhood, is a more desirable neighborhood; therefore, it can be perceived as a more valuable neighborhood from a real estate perspective.

I hope you found this information valuable, and I hope to contribute to future articles on Metro Philadelphia.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The "Live-Work-Play Vibe" in University City

Photo courtesy of

The reason I have "Live-Work-Play Vibe" in quotes, is because it was not my wording; but that from this article with Stephen Tang, CEO of the Science Center.

Live-Work-Play has been a common theme in urban areas across the US for the last decade or so. It symbolizes a lifestyle where local residents can live in a great neighborhood, get to work easily, and go out for drinks/dinner/shopping in the same neighborhood as both their home and job. Basically, it means that you have more free time to enjoy your life, rather than commute a long way to work or drive a far distance for entertainment.

This is the lifestyle you get whether you live in Center City, University City, or any other dense Philadelphia neighborhood. It's a major reason why more people are choosing to live in cities today than in years past, and it's also why Philadelphia is doing so well as a desirable place to live. Our city is designed to support that kind of lifestyle (e.g. dense, vertical, walkable, etc), and the infrastructure is there to build on it even more.

Once you think about it, the suburban lifestyle was built on the opposite: get a single family house with a yard, create space between you and your neighbors, and then park in your driveway/garage so that you can easily drive to work, the supermarket, the mall, Walmart, Target, you name it. It's the complete opposite of the urban lifestyle.

Now to be honest and upfront, I personally do not feel that one is better than the other, as many different people have many different ideas/opinions on how to live their lives. I think there are pros and cons to both ways of life. Therefore, there is plenty of room for either lifestyle to exist in most large US metropolitan areas.

I have also helped both buyers and sellers in Philadelphia's city proper, as well as in suburban Philadelphia, so I understand both sides and why people choose one over the other. Lastly, I have lived in both environments myself.

Alright, back to UCity and the Science Center.

To put things in perspective, the Science Center today has 17 buildings across 17 acres of land. It is considered to be the "oldest and largest urban research park in the US," establishing itself in 1963. It currently employs 15,000 people, contributes almost $65M in tax revenue, and provides Philadelphia start-ups with the office and lab space they need to get their ideas off the ground.

In other words, the Science Center is a very large incubator.

If what you just read about SC isn't large and significant enough for you, the organization plans to double in size over the next 10 years. The plan is to partner up with Wexford Science + Technology, expand to 4M square feet of office/lab/residential/retail, re-imagine the former University City High School, and build on additional open parcels to increase the size of the current campus.


I know, I know. When things are good in real estate (as well as in the general economy) grand visions seem to emerge everyday. We will build this, it will be the best ever, and people will come to us.

This project is different, and it's planned around consistent/well-thought-out concepts: Philadelphia has many local universities and hospitals that can support this type of project, people around the world are just starting to discover how conveniently located Philadelphia actually is (to other major US markets, as well as its ease of access to the rest of the world), and Philadelphia is slowly becoming one of the top US hubs for the life sciences.

More information about the Science Center here, and more information about their growth plans here.