Posts Tagged ‘19106’

School Report Card: Gen. George A. McCall School

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Location: 325 South 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Enrollment: 615 students in grades K-8 in 2011-12

Student-teacher ratio: 12.7 in 2010

Demographics: African-American, 18.9%; White, 17.9%; Asian, 56.3%; Latino, 1.6%; all others, 5.3%. 7.2% of Greenfield students are classified as gifted, and 6% have learning disabilities. 49.6% are economically disadvantaged, and 24.4% are learning English as a second language.

Attendance area: The McCall attendance area takes in all of Center City east of Broad Street, including Chinatown, Old City, Society Hill and Washington Square West. It is bounded on the north by the Vine Street Expressway, on the south by South Street, on the east by the Delaware River and on the west by Broad Street.


Attendance rate (2010-11) 96.7%.

PSSA performance (2011, percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced):

Subject School District State
Math 90.8% 58.6% 77.1%
Reading 72.0% 52.0% 73.5%
Science 76.6% 34.8% 60.9%
Writing 73.6% 51.2% 75.0%

Profile: Named for the Army general who organized the Pennsylvania Reserves during the Civil War, Gen. George A. McCall School boasts up-to-date learning technology, a committed teaching staff and an active and involved Home and School Association that provides additional resources for the school. Instruction at McCall takes place in small learning communities in which teachers serve as coaches and mentors rather than lecturers. The school celebrates its ethnic diversity as well; as might befit a school where more than half the students are of Asian descent, its Chinese New Year celebration is a high point of the school year. Faculty and administrators work closely with parents, both individually and through the Home and School Association, to ensure that every child’s educational and developmental needs are met. The school ranks among the city’s top grade schools in academic performance. Extracurricular activities at McCall include Chess Club, Yoga Club, Yearbook, Drama Club, Choir, Homework Club, Computer Club, Math 24 Club, Competitive Cup Stacking Club and a basketball team.

Old City Holiday Shopping Guide, III: Food, Wine, etc.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Wedge + Fig

Now that we’ve given you a glimpse of what the merchants of Old City have to offer for your wardrobe and your home in Philadelphia, it’s time to show you what they can put on your table – and what they have to offer your animal companions.

If, like this blogger, you like cheese, you’ll love Wedge + Fig (160 North 3rd Street), the newish cafe/cheese/pastry shop from Flying Monkey Patisserie founder Rebecca Topie. The shop’s selection of cheeses – about 50 different varieties on hand at any one time – changes with the seasons and is complemented by an assortment of tasty treats from the shop’s on-site bakery. If you’re looking to grab a bite while shopping, Wedge + Fig has a menu of paninis and other light fare, most of it featuring cheeses in stock; if you’re looking to get something for the food lover on your holiday shopping list, ask about their custom gift baskets. They also offer seasonal baked goods, including pies and buches de Noel (Yule logs).


Now how about some wine to go with that cheese? Find it at Pinot (227 Market Street). In addition to just about every accessory and gadget a wine lover might want, this Best of Philly-winner specialty store also carries fine wines from Paradocx Vineyards, a family-owned winery located in the rolling hills of southern Chester County. In addition to blended, estate and vineyard wines by the bottle, Paradocx also offers something out of the ordinary for the entertainers on your list: paint cans of wine! Each can contains 3.5 liters of wine (about 4.5 bottles) and has a convenient pour spout.


BONeJOUR Pet Supply

BONeJOUR (53 North 3rd Street) is the destination for pet lovers. From food to grooming to fashion to accessories, BONeJOUR Pet Supply has everything for the discriminating pooch and puss. Everything in the store is top quality, tested by store staff, and 100% guaranteed to please. And not only is everything in the store pet-friendly, it’s budget-friendly too.

If you’re looking to surprise distant friends and relatives with unique gifts, visit the websites linked from these posts for information about ordering and shipping online. Your loved ones will be glad you did. And don’t forget to treat yourself – make a day of it by visiting one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants and galleries during your shopping trip.

–By Sandy Smith

All photos by the author

Old City Holiday Shopping Guide, I: Apparel and Fashion

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011


Living in Philly means there’s always something new and interesting to explore and discover. Take Old City as a shopping destination, for instance. Most of us who call Philadelphia home likely think of the area as home mainly to art galleries, restaurants and bars, but interspersed among all the art is a collection of unique and eclectic shops with gifts you won’t find anywhere else in the city. In this and the two posts that follow, we offer a brief guide to some of the best, where you’re sure to find items to satisfy just about any taste and budget.

Three Sirens Boutique (134 North 3rd Street) features women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories that run the gamut from classy to comfy, along with gift items like soaps and candles that appeal to a broader spectrum. The boutique’s jewelry collection comes from local designers, most notably Typhaney B. and Jill Ellen Designs, and the store’s shoe section is a partnership with local shoe boutique Bus Stop.


Classic clothing that combines vintage and contemporary style is Sugarcube’s stock in trade. Since 2004, Sugarcube (124 North 3rd Street) has specialized in introducing Philadelphia to original clothing and accessories for men and women from both new designers and classic names like Pendleton, which the store introduced to the city in 2007. The rustic style of the American Southwest is evident throughout the store right now, especially in its line of Pendleton clothes, blankets and accessories. Exclusive to the store this season is the Blksmith line of denim jeans – Sugarcube is  the Brooklyn firm’s second U.S. retailer – and a new fragrance called Moonshine, produced in France and bottled in North Carolina by a couple of Texans. Those looking for fun, inexpensive stocking stuffers should consider Sugarcube’s socks by Richer/Poorer, only $14 a pair.

In the air at Reward (55 North 2nd Street) is a more urban, punk sensibility, reflecting the tastes of the store’s owners. The store’s lines include both new designers with “forward-thinking perspective” and established names with reputations for quality. There’s something for everyone, male or female, here, all of it available nowhere else in the city.

This is just a sampling of the fashion and apparel choices available in Old City. From vintage to cutting edge, new to gently worn, it’s all here, and a visit for yourself will turn up gems as precious as these.

–Sandy Smith

All photographs by the author

Old City: Restaurants, Schools, and Points of Interest

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Old City

Old City, as you can tell from its name, is Philadelphia’s oldest neighborhood where William Penn first settled. Its borders are Front Street on the east, Sixth Street on the west, Vine Street on the north, and Walnut Street on the south. Old City contains many historical sites such as the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross house, as well as hip and trendy restaurants and bars. Art galleries, highly rated nightlife and loft-style condos have attracted have attracted many young professionals to this area.



Points of Interest:

Condo Sales Double 2nd Quarter of 2010

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Philadelphia SkylineCondo sales in Philadelphia nearly doubled from the first quarter of this year to the second, and the numbers were better than at any time since the housing downturn began here in August 2007, according to

Data from the Recorder of Deeds Office analyzed by Econsult Corp. vice president Kevin Gillen show that 604 condo sales closed citywide between April 1 and June 30. Of those, 477 units sold for less than $500,000, the analysis shows.

More than 200 separate condo locations were recorded, including some in Northeast Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and East Falls, according to Gillen’s analysis. The majority were in Center City and adjacent neighborhoods.

Newly Converted Condo Building in Old City having Great Success

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

28 N 3rd Street kitchenThe newly converted condo Building at 28 N. 3rd Street in Old City has been having great success recently with 3 of its 5 remaining units being sold almost instantly. This condo was recently voted the Condo of The Day by Philly Brownstoner. The building recently went through some major renovations which has made this one of the most luxurious properties that Old City has to offer. Of the remaining units, there is a large 2000 sq ft 2 bedroom unit for $585,000 and a large 3 bedroom unit for $575,000. All units come complete with Sub Zero refrigerators, Wolf Ranges, Asko dishwashers, Silestone Countertops and Toto toilets and tubs. With soaring 14 foot ceilings, this building is a must see.

FHA Mortgages: Recent and Proposed Changes

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Federal Housing Administration logoThe world of mortgage financing has been an ever changing landscape since its inception.  We have gone through times that the underwriting pendulum has swung to the left and we experienced easier guidelines and the ability to put more people into homes.  Unfortunately as the guidelines relax the foreclosure rate increased.  So the industry reacts by making the guidelines more rigid and thus swings the pendulum to the right.  We are currently going through one of those times when the pendulum is over to the right.

The Federal Housing Administration lost relevance in the first half of the decade when home prices soared and borrowers turned to easy-to-get subprime loans with lower upfront costs. But as the mortgage market unraveled, borrowers flocked back to the FHA. The agency does not make loans. It insures qualified lenders against losses if borrowers default. Since its creation in 1934, it has collected fees from its borrowers to pay lenders for loans gone bad. In the past year and a half, FHA-insured loans made up roughly 30 percent of all new single-family home purchase mortgages — up from 3 percent in 2006 — and about 20 percent of new refinancing deals.

But as the agency’s loan volume expanded, its default rate shot up. The cash reserves the FHA has set aside to pay for unexpected losses have eroded to dangerously low levels. If FHA funds are depleted, taxpayers would have to come to the rescue for the first time in the agency’s history. The agency is now trying to protect itself against risk without undermining its key role in propping up the housing market. To that end, the FHA has tightened some standards while loosening others. Here are some of the changes underway.

Recent Changes…

Upfront insurance premium
What is it? A fee the Federal Housing Administration collects from borrowers that can be paid in cash at the closing table or rolled into the loan.
What’s changed? The FHA raised the premium earlier this year from 1.75 percent of the loan’s value to 2.25 percent.
Why? The money will replenish the funds FHA uses to compensate lenders for default-related losses.
How does this affect me? If you take out a $300,000 loan, you will now pay $6,750 in premium instead of $5,250. If you roll the premium into the financing, you will also pay interest on it during the life of the loan.

Cash-out refinancing
What is it? Refinancing a mortgage for a higher amount than is owed on the loan and taking the difference in cash — in effect, pulling equity out of the house.
What’s changed? Borrowers can tap up to 85 percent of the home’s current value. Previously, they were allowed to take up to 95 percent of value.
Why? Cash out loans are considered a riskier type of loan so they want to minimize the risk with lower Loan to Value.
How does this affect me? Cash-out deals have become tougher to find. Even with conventional loans, many lenders offer this type of financing only to people with top-notch credit and significant equity.

What is it? The practice of buying a home and quickly reselling it for a profit.
What’s changed? On Feb. 1, the FHA suspended a policy for one year that banned FHA borrowers from buying a home if the seller had owned it for less than 90 days.
Why? The goal is to encourage investors to buy poorly maintained foreclosures, fix them up and sell them to FHA buyers as soon as they hit the market. This in turn should help clear the glut of homes for sale.
How does this affect me? This opens up a wider range of properties to FHA borrowers. But inspections must be done to determine whether the home is in working order. If the price of the home is 20 percent higher than what the investor paid, a second appraisal is required to determine whether the increase is justified.

Condominium spot approval
What is it? To purchase a condo in a building that is not FHA-approved, FHA borrowers had to receive “spot approval” for the unit. The process required the condo’s management to fill out a questionnaire addressing the agency’s must-meet conditions.
What’s changed? The agency eliminated spot approval earlier this year. Now, any condo buyer with an FHA loan must stick to an FHA-approved building. A lender, developer/builder, homeowners association or management company can submit a package to the FHA seeking approval. The change was part of a broader initiative to tighten FHA condo policy. Some elements of that initiative have been temporarily loosened through Dec. 31 to try to stabilize the condo market.
Why? Condos are widely considered the market’s shakiest segment because they are popular with speculators and financially vulnerable entry-level buyers. A lot of foreclosure-related losses have come from condos, which is why industry policies have forced lenders to look more closely at the makeup of entire complexes before extending loans.
How does it affect me? As part of the temporarily loosened guidelines, the FHA will insure the loans on up to 50 percent of the units in a condo building, though it will back 100 percent if a project meets certain criteria. At least 50 percent of the units in a project must be owner-occupied or sold to owners who plan to occupy the units. As for new construction, 30 percent of the units must be pre-sold before an FHA loan can be financed there.

Coming Changes…

Seller concessions
What is it? Contributions that sellers kick in to help defray a buyer’s costs. They can include closing costs, inspections, appraisals and free upgrades.
What’s changing? The FHA proposes slashing allowable seller concessions in half, capping them at 3 percent of the home price instead of the current 6 percent.
Why? FHA analyses show a strong correlation between high seller concessions and high default rates, possibly because the concessions can lead to inflated home prices. The theory is that some sellers might make concessions only to add the cost to the price.
What does this mean to me? This buyer’s perk will soon become less generous. The proposal does not ban concessions above 3 percent. But concessions exceeding 3 percent would result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the home’s sales price and reduce the amount of the allowable loan.

Credit scores
What is it? Three-digit numbers that help lenders determine how likely a person is to pay back a loan in a timely manner. The FHA uses the most common scoring formula, called FICO, with scores ranging from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the better the rating.
What’s changing? This year, the FHA plans to impose a minimum credit score requirement: 500. Borrowers with credit scores below 580 would have to make a down payment of at least 10 percent instead of the usual 3.5 percent minimum.  These days the reality is that most lenders won’t loan to a customer below a 600 credit score anyway.
Why? Low-scoring borrowers default at a higher rate than more creditworthy ones. As of January, the percentage of FHA borrowers who were seriously delinquent was three times as high for borrowers with scores below 580 than for those with scores above 580.
What does this mean to me? Lenders are already imposing tougher credit score requirements on FHA borrowers than the agency is proposing, which could explain why only 1 percent of borrowers with FHA-insured single-family home loans have scores below 580.  Nationally 15% of Americans have a score under 580.

What is it? Lenders must document information about the property (such as its value) and the borrower (such as income, debt, credit score) to assess whether the person is likely to repay the loan. Most lenders typically feed that information into an automated underwriting system for an initial approval.
What’s changing? High-risk borrowers whose loans were flagged by the automated system could soon be subjected to a more in-depth manual review by the lender’s underwriting staff.
Why? The agency is trying to reduce its exposure to risk by limiting the discretion lenders have in approving loans.
What does it mean to me? Borrowers whose loans are manually underwritten would be required to have cash reserves equal to at least one monthly mortgage payment. Borrowers with credit scores below 620 would be more closely scrutinized. For instance, their overall debt would not be allowed to exceed 43 percent of their income.

Short refinancing
What is it? A new program that allows borrowers current on their mortgage payments to refinance into an FHA loan if they are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.
What’s changing? Borrowers who have no equity in their homes would be allowed to refinance into an FHA loan. The FHA would allow refinancing of the first mortgage only. If there is a second mortgage, the two loans combined cannot exceed the current value of the home by more than 15 percent once the first loan is refinanced.
Why? Many people are vulnerable to foreclosure because their home values have plummeted, making them unable to refinance or sell their properties if they lose their jobs or face a financial setback. This programs aims to help them.
What does it mean to me? Refinancing in this manner will probably hurt your credit, and qualifying won’t be easy. The lender or investor who owns your existing mortgage must voluntarily reduce the amount owed on that loan by at least 10 percent. Also, you generally must have about 31 percent or more of your pretax income available for the new monthly payment for all mortgages on the property.

I hope this snapshot helps you understand what’s going on mortgage financing.

Home Prices continue to get slashed

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Price Reduction Sign24 percent of listings currently on the market in the United States as of July 1, 2010 experienced at least one price reduction. This represents a nine percent increase from the previous month. The total dollar amount slashed from home prices was $27.3 billion and the average discount for price-reduced homes continued to hold at 10 percent off of the original listing price, according to Trulia.

What does this mean for homes in Philadelphia? If you list your home at the right price from the beginning, you will avoid the months of waiting and hoping to get that “pie-in-the-sky” number.  Whether it’s a good economy or a bad one, homes that are priced well, and show well, will sell fast!

Philadelphia Real Estate – Best Places to Live

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

So you have decided to move to Philadelphia, but are not too familiar with the area. You have talked to your family and friends, and everyone seems to point you in different directions. Your head is spinning because you don’t want to make any mistakes, and I don’t blame you! There are areas to run to, and areas to run away from. I am going to tell you about a few of the best areas in Center City Philadelphia to live in.

You have to consider a few things when deciding on a place to live. The first and most obvious is price. How much are you willing to spend on your dream house, and how much can you actually qualify for? (A pre-approval from a mortgage lender will answer this question)

The second thing to consider is location. Where do you work? Where do you like to spend your free time? What is important to you about location? The first two items go hand in hand with each other, The more desirable the location, the more expensive the house will be.

The third item to consider is safety. Center city has some extremely safe neighborhoods, but nestled between those safe neighborhoods are neighborhoods you want to avoid. Once you have ranked the first three items, you will be able to get into specifics.

According to the Trend MLS 2010 1st quarter economic report, the top 2 most expensive zip codes are as follows:

19103- Average sales price – $564,600. This area is known as Rittenhouse Square, and is known as one of the most prestigious areas in Center City. The boundaries are South of Market, North of Lombard, West of 15th, East of 22nd.

19106- Average sales price – $562,200. This zip code is made up of Old City, which stretches from the Delaware River, south of Vine Street, north of Walnut Street, and east of 7th Street; and Society Hill, which goes from South of Walnut, North of Lombard, West of Delaware, East of 6th.

Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill and Old City are all very desirable areas where value continues to remain steady. These neighborhoods are built out for the most part, and it is difficult to find raw land for a reasonable price in these areas. If location is your top priority, and price will not stand in your way, these areas may be good places to look for a house. There are tons of restaurants and stores, and many nice parks for kids or dogs.

If price is a concern, and you are looking for something with more space and possibly some parking, Graduate Hospital may be a better choice for you. You will have an easier time finding a newer house for a more reasonable price, and parking is not as big of an issue there. The borders of Graduate Hospital are South of Lombard, North of Washington, East of the Schuylkill River, West of Broad, although I caution you about the specific streets you choose.

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