Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Hidden Treasure Hunt: Former home of…

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

As if we needed to remind you that the past is ever present in this town: We were out on our rounds recently, checking up on who’s building what where, when we ran across yet another reminder that ghosts remain among us just about everywhere we turn. Where did we spot this ghost of a business long gone?


Answer next week.

Photo by the author

Last week’s Hidden Treasure Hunt answer: That Indian head in last week’s quiz is one of a number of faux-traditional gimcracks embedded in what ought to be a plain contemporary townhome at 1420 Pemberton Street in Graduate Hospital. To learn why we have such disdain for this particular bit of architectural inconsistency, watch for an upcoming post on this property and its neighbors, one of which is being marketed by Noah Ostroff & Associates, the sponsor of this blog.

Lunchtime Quick Hits

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

While Philly has more to offer than Chattanooga, it faces some of the same challenges the Tennessee city does, including how to keep all those new young arrivals around for the long run – and there may be object lessons for Philly in Chattanooga’s approach to the issue; Existing-home sales nationwide slipped a bit last month, though not by as much as economists expected; A huge 862-acre tract at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station is now in play; and Germantowners come togther to figure out what life after high school might look like for Germantown High School (among the options being considered: a high school, maybe even more than one):

The Talent That Binds (Next City “Forefront”; purchase or subscription required)
U.S. Existing-Home Sales Slip — Update (The Wall Street Journal)
Ten developers vie for 862-acre Willow Grove air base (Philadelphia Business Journal)
What’s next for Germantown High School? (Flying Kite)

Rittenhouse Estates rising fast; sales progressing even faster

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Rittenhouse Estates construction site

Work is progressing at a steady pace on The Rittenhouse Estates, the followup to The Lombard Estates in Rittenhouse Square now being built by Realtor-developer Noah Ostroff, the sponsor of this blog.

We happened to be in the vicinity of the project site at 19th and Lombard streets last week, and thanks to a quirk in the construction process, found ourselves able to get some great pictures of foundation work nearing completion.

The quirk? In order to allow the cement trucks to deliver concrete to the site, the construction fencing had been lowered in several places, allowing us to take shots of the work in progress. We now share those photos with you. In the first of the photos below, we believe that the hole in the basement floor on the right is the place where the elevator equipment will be installed.

Foundations of Rittenhouse Estates townhomes

Cement delivery for foundations

View of cement delivery from 19th Street

Ostroff informs us that nine of the 10 townhomes in this development have already been sold. To refresh your memory, you can see what the completed project will look like on the outside here, and you can take a look at the floorplans here.

Boxers conversion starts, then stops, on Walnut Street

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

1330 Walnut

About two weeks ago, interior demolition work began on the former Ritz Camera store at 1330 Walnut Street in the Midtown Village-Gayborhood section of Washington Square West. As we reported earlier, this building will become the Philadelphia outpost of Boxers, a New York sports bar aimed at a gay male clientele.

As the wraps came off the walls, we could see some of the ceiling and wall covering had been removed, in the process answering a question about the building’s appearance that had puzzled us for some time. (more…)

Cella Luxuria gives itself a first birthday present: More room

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Cella Luxuria, left, and its soon-to-be expanded showroom, right

Cella Luxuria, left, and its soon-to-be expanded showroom, right

Time flies when you’re having fun, and Cella Luxuria’s husband-and-wife owners, Stefan Sklaroff and Cristina Leynes, have been having fun since their store opened one year ago in Washington Square West’s Midtown Village-Gayborhood section.

Lots of it, apparently: according to Leynes, business has been so good, the two-level store at 1214 Chestnut Street needs more room. So Cella Luxuria is expanding into the building next door at 1216 Chestnut.

The two structures are full of ironies: The building at left has the newer facade but is the older structure.

The two structures are full of ironies: The building at left has the newer facade but is the older structure.

This one-story structure with a balcony in its rear most recently housed a clothing store, Denim Code by Dr. Denim. Cella Luxuria will extend its showrooms into both the main floor and the basement of the building; an opening for a passageway to the building next door was covered up by boards when we stopped by recently.

Leynes said the new space would feature new modern furniture exclusively. Though modern furniture has been Cella Luxuria’s stock in trade since it opened, the store has added a somewhat more eclectic mix of new and vintage furniture over the intervening months, in keeping with its commitment to “mindfulness” in preserving the environment. (The store’s offerings have emphasized the use of recycled, found and sustainably produced materials from the beginning, and recycled furniture is a natural fit with this philosophy.)

The expanded store should be open by next month.

Photos by the author

Planning Commission OKs Perry World House proposal

Monday, April 21st, 2014
Kappa Alpha house, front

The former Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Penn’s Locust Walk will become a center for international scholars under a proposal approved by the City Planning Commission last week.

The University of Pennsylvania will add a new venue for intellectual discourse and conferences for visiting international scholars and students to its campus.  The new institution, to be known as the Perry World House, will be located in the former Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Locust Walk, just west of 38th Street in University City.  The Perry World House will be a “gathering place for students” as well as international scholars who will speak and take part in seminars, conferences, and forums being held there. (more…)

Weekend Winners: April 18-20

Friday, April 18th, 2014
The Oval returns for a second season of outdoor fun with Farm Fest today and tomorrow. Expect more events like this every weekend from now through the late fall. Photos by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia.

The Oval returns for a second season of outdoor fun with Farm Fest today and tomorrow. Expect more events like this every weekend from now through the late fall. Photos by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia.

Farm-themed fun, flea markets and finery are on tap this weekend.

Friday, April 18

Down on the farm on the Oval: The first weekend of the 2014 season of the Oval brings a touch of the country to the city with “Farm Fest,” a weekend full of farm-ified food, music and activities for folks of all ages. This evening, visitors to the Oval can enjoy street fare from a variety of food trucks, beer from the Victory Brewpub Mobile Beer Garden, music from the Highwater Preachers and a screening of the made-in-Philly film Witness. Tomorrow, the festival has an Easter theme with plenty of kid-friendly events, including an Easter egg hunt, a petting zoo and tree-climbing. There’s also live clogging, blues-rock music and a food-truck feast.

Farm Fest at The Oval: 5 to 9 p.m. tonight and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Eakins Oval, 24th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway opposite the Art Museum. Free.

Saturday, April 19

Strawbridge’s comes alive again: We don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that Franklin Flea, the emporium that made its debut last fall on the first floor of the former Strawbridge & Clothier department store, is actually channeling the ghost of Stockton Strawbridge. The family patriarch wanted his store to be a place of wonder and discovery, and that’s exactly what Franklin Flea offers with its eclectic mix of merchants offering vintage goods and original creations. Its six-week indoor season, which starts today, will offer a changing mix of sellers each Saturday, thus keeping the experience fresh with every visit. New this spring is the Franklin Stove, a food booth that will give a different local chef each week a chance to shine. Inaugurating that space today will be Eli Kulp of High Street on Market.

Franklin Flea: 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. today and every Saturday through May 24 at the former Strawbridge & Clothier, 801 Market St. Free to enter; merchandise and food as priced.

Sunday, April 20

A South Street tradition returns: Philly’s oldest Easter parade returns to South Street for the 83rd time today. Put on your Easter Sunday best and make your way to 5th and South streets for the start of the South Street Easter Promenade at 12:30 p.m. From there, the parade heads down South Street to the plaza at 2nd Street, where judges will choose the best dressed promenaders in a dozen different age and gender categories, not to mention best-dressed pooch. The festivities include live performances from the Philadelphia Freedom Band, Easter treats, a “Bunny Hop” and more. And it’s all over around 2:30 p.m., giving you time to enjoy Easter brunch.

The 83rd Annual Easter Promenade: Parade steps off from Passyunk Avenue and South Street at 12:30 p.m. and ends at the 2nd Street plaza. Free.

Does Philly have a housing affordability problem, or doesn’t it?

Friday, April 18th, 2014
1430 South Street facade rendering

New rental properties at any price point, like this one planned for the 1400 block of South Street, will help keep renting affordable if the growth in supply outpaces the growth in demand – it’s basic Econ 101.

Whatever your opinion on the subject, there’s no denying that housing affordability has become one of the Issues of the Day. We’ve long maintained (for instance, here and here) that, at least by East Coast standards, housing remains affordable overall in Philadelphia, and the problems we do have stem more from the city’s high poverty rate and the desire to maintain a mix of incomes in gentrifying neighborhoods than anything to do with the cost of housing itself.

But the welter of conflicting arguments and reports on the issue have begun to make our head spin. The latest: a report from real estate data site Zillow that states that rents in Philly may be bumping up against the threshold of unaffordability.

According to Zillow figures as reported by NBC10, a household earning the area median income will spend 28.2 percent of it on the rent on the median-priced rental property. That’s a significant jump from its historic level: from 1985 to 2000, rents ate up only 18.2 percent of the area median income.

While that 28.2 percent figure remains below the national average of 29.6 percent, it is worrisome because the rule of thumb for rentals is that rent and utilities should account for no more than 30 percent of income.

(And if that 28.2 percent makes renting in Philly almost unaffordable, then it appears we do have a nationwide housing affordability problem.)

But when one considers the lower median income in the city itself, affordable rental housing does become a matter for concern. According to numbers provided to NBC10 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia is $1,135. A renter would have to earn an hourly wage of $21.83 — $5 an hour more than what an average Philly renter earns, according to the NLIHC — in order to afford that apartment.

The easiest solution to the problem is the Econ 101 one: Build more rental units, period. Even an increase in the supply of expensive apartments frees up existing units for other renters, and if the increase in supply outpaces the increase in population, then rents will fall for the vacant units as landlords try to lure renters to their empty apartments.

At least in Center City and environs, builders have increasingly been doing just that, according to a recent Center City District report. A number of initiatives launched by City Council members also seek to increase the supply of affordable housing. But most of those focus on subsidizing the cost of construction. The real issue is enabling the would-be renter — or buyer — to afford what is being built, and that calls for different approaches.

Rents Unaffordable in Philadelphia: Study (

First-time buyer? Learn the ropes at this Saturday seminar

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Philadelphia Real Estate

The road to your first home can be intimidating. Our First-Time Buyer Seminar this Saturday will help make the journey easier.

Thinking of becoming a homeowner, but intimidated by the complexities of real estate? A seminar this Saturday from the team will help you overcome your fears and buy a new home with confidence.

At PhillyLiving’s First-Time Home Buyer Seminar, to be held this Saturday, April 5, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., you will learn the ins and outs of buying a home and how you can move into your first home with as little as one percent of your own money for an upfront down payment.

“In my seven years of experience working with first time buyers, I have found that taking time to support and educate consumers helps transactions run smoothly and lays a foundation for a lifetime of real estate investment success,” said PhillyLiving CEO Noah Ostroff.

The seminar is the first in a series of Real Estate Seminars PhillyLiving will sponsor throughout 2014. Future seminars will offer advice for those looking to buy property for both personal use and investment purposes. Watch this space for news about upcoming conferences.

All seminars will be held at the Coldwell Banker Preferred Old City office at 223-25 Market Street.

A Buyer’s Market? Not In Center City

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Center City Market Action Report

Homes in many Philadelphia neighborhoods are selling faster and fetching better prices than they were one year ago.

Industry buzz is that the spring selling season is off to a slow start in Philadelphia. Yet local news reports say that agents nonetheless are optimistic about how the season will turn out.

So are we. If you are thinking of selling your Greater Center City home, now is a good time to act.

While a recent Zillow report ranks Philadelphia as one of the top 10 buyer’s markets in the country, many city neighborhoods are performing far stronger for sellers. According to Philly Living’s latest Market Action Report, median sale prices in Northern Liberties in February, for instance, rose 78 percent from the same month last year, and average days on market fell 44 percent. Other local markets, including Queen Village, Bella Vista, Hawthorne and Passyunk Square, are also performing strongly.

Center City District data show that the Greater Center City area – the territory between the rivers from Girard Avenue on the north to Tasker Street on the south – continues to experience a surge in population and that housing production has boomed since 2012. While many of these new arrivals are Millennials starting out in their careers, many are looking for homes to buy as well, stimulating construction surges in neighborhoods like Northern Liberties, Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze.

What does this mean for the home owner looking to sell? It means opportunity. With the help of an experienced Realtor (we happen to know one), a Center City homeowner can expect a positive outcome: a better sale price and a quicker sale.



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