Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Dec. 10, 2018

Home of the Week: 901 N. Penn St, R307

You work hard all week; home should be a place where you can escape from reality and leave your worries behind. Between the gorgeous finishes in the condo, and the bountiful amenities available, 901 N. Penn St, R307 offers you a sanctuary!

This sun-filled condo is the epitome of move-in ready, and features: a large living area with floor-to-ceiling windows that capture the river views; an updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances and glass tile backsplash; a home office tucked off the living room; and a restful master suite with walk-in closet and spa-like bathroom with double sinks, walk-in shower with rainfall shower head, and convenient laundry facilities.

Additionally, just some of the many luxury amenities Waterfront Square offers include: European-style spa offering massages and facials; a state-of-the-art fitness center with Yoga and Pilates classes; a semi-Olympic swimming pool (25 meters) with a poolside cafe; a riverfront sundeck with picturesque views of the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge; a multi-function room that can use used for meetings and events; a landscaped park and dog run; putting green; walking/jogging trail; shuttle service to/from Center City; 24-hour security and access-controlled entrance; shuttle bus service; doorman and concierge services; on-site convenience store; and so forth.

There's even a bike rental station at the entrance to the community. And not that you'd ever want or need to leave, but should you choose to, you can be in Center City or New Jersey in just minutes.

But please, don't take our word for it. Contact Susanna Kunkel to schedule your showing of 901 N. Penn St, Unit R307, and come see for yourself!

Dec. 7, 2018

An Inside Look at Phillys Newest Social Club, Fitler Club

We know you all have been dying to hear more about the Fitler Club, which is totally understandable. It's one of Philly's newest social clubs, and from all reports it is set to be amazing! We were able to grab the owner of the Fitler Club and ask him a few questions about this exciting up and coming project: 

 

Being the owner and creator of the Fitler Club, what do you imagine seeing when you walk through the club when it’s members are enjoying all the amenities & what conversations do you foresee overhearing as you walk through?

I imagine seeing a diverse community of Philadelphia's leaders and influencers coming together to work, socialize and play - and enjoying all the various areas of the club while socializing, working out or conducting business.  
 
How did you decide on the space at 2400 Market Street?
As soon as I walked into the building, I knew it was Fitler Club - the views, the dramatic ceiling heights and the proximity and access to not just Center & University City, but the western suburbs, 30th St station and ease of access to NYC and DC make it the true new "Center" of Center City 
 
How do you envision the shared office space to work? This is such a creative concept since it allows for many different types of industries to come together under one roof - the networking and business ideas that will come of this will be revolutionary.
We plan to make our collaborative office truly "one-of-a-kind" - in addition to being the only shared workspace with direct access to a world-class lifestyle club, we plan to elevate the offering further through a combination of design, exclusive programming and events.  We will be "industry agnostic" and plan to curate a unique group entrepreneurs and small businesses, including non-profits which we plan to support by making space available through our philanthropic initiatives.
 

 

 

We read that the architect had to adjust the design sense from the LA feel to accommodate the history of the building. Can you explain a bit further the history of the building and how you and your team chose to preserve some of its history & charm?

2400 Market Street is a classic early 20th century industrial building. Perched on the river, it features unimpeded views in many directions and a wide open floor plan. We decided to play up the views, light and ceiling heights by leaving as much of the original concrete as was feasible exposed, while still creating beautiful and distinct zones for our multiple bars, restaurants, lounges and other social and work spaces. Each area will bring Philadelphia squarely into the present while paying homage to the fact that Philly is also a city steeped in tradition. 
 

 

 

How do you see members utilizing the event space? If for weddings/parties, will this be limited to members only or will non-members be able to rent this space?

We will have Philadelphia's newest and most unique event space with over 10,000 square feet of programming including a 4,600 square foot ballroom, breakout and board/meeting rooms, private dining, a screening room and our trophy room which features flexible meeting space perched above a bowling alley, private bar, billiards and other games. Members will have preferred rates for events, but we will allow companies, charities and non-members to book events in the dedicated event space as well.  

 

 

 

Will there be any opportunity for non-members to rent out space in Fitler Club (ie. movie theater, dinner reservations, hotel, etc.)

As described above, non-members will only be able to access our event space which contains our ballroom, boardroom and trophy room (along with indoor and outdoor pre-function areas).  
 

Will there be a cap to how many members are initially accepted? If so, how many members will be accepted at first? From there, how will it be determined when there will be more members added?

Yes - we can only accommodate a limited number of members when we open. We are nearing capacity for our initial target of 800-1000 members but anticipate that once we are open and stabilized, we will be able to admit additional members. 
 
What cuisine of food will be offered at the two restaurants, are both going to be overseen by Chef Kevin Spraga? Will both be open to all members or will one be predominately for investors and the other for members?
Kevin Sbraga will oversee two restaurants, two lounges and our catering and events menus. We will have world-class offerings in each with our signature restaurant featuring seasonal American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and our Back Bar restaurant serving as our gastro-pub. Both are open to our members only (along with their lucky guests!) 
 
As with many clubs, there are dress codes. What, if any, will be the dress code for members at Fitler Club? 
There is no formal dress code beyond what we are calling "occasion appropriate". We trust our members judgement!

Are all ages welcome? 

YES! So long as they are accompanied by their parents, children are welcome at the club including our restaurants and screening room, as well as during designated hours in our pool and trophy room. We also have babysitting in the field house for when you need a few hours to escape!

 

Are members able to bring guests? 

Yes, members are able to invite guests to dine with them and enjoy our social spaces. However we won't be able to accommodate guests in our field house and spa.

 

 

 

We’ve read a projected opening of early 2019, is there a more concrete month or date for the grand opening? Will there be any soft launches for members to attend leading up to the grand opening? 

We are still on track for a first quarter 2019 opening - we can't wait!

 

Posted in Philly News
Dec. 3, 2018

Home of the Week: 1918 Catharine Street, Unit B

What's so special about living in Graduate Hospital, fondly called "Rittenhouse South"? Picture this: after finishing your morning jog, you swing by Ultimo Coffee, pick up a cappuccino and use the two block walk home to cool down.

Once there, you grab a quick bite to eat, then head upstairs to the master retreat. In the spa-like bathroom, you ease your tired muscles with a relaxing soak in the tub, then towel off and make your way to one of TWO huge walk-in closets to figure out the day's outfit. Given that you're working from your home office, comfy clothes are a no-brainer.

You put in a hard days work; after the workday is done, you head over to Sprouts Farmers Market with grocery list in hand, to pick up supplies for the dinner party you're hosting. Back at home, using the abundant counter-space available in the stylish gourmet kitchen, you put together a delicious spread that your family and friends are sure to love.

Once everyone has had their fill, the party continues up on the killer roof deck, where you toast the sunset and city views; there's a convenient wet bar in master suite's sitting area, so you don't have to trek to the kitchen when someone needs a refill! After a long week, you can choose to entertain on your roof deck or have brunch at Sidecar Cafe with friends.

Later meet for a drink at Chicks followed by a casual Italian dinner at L'anima - just a few of the neighborhood gems. Sounds too good to be true, right? At 1918 Catharine Street, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with new construction and a 1-year builder's warranty and a 10-year tax abatement. Contact Fred Capp to find out more about your next home!

Nov. 30, 2018

Where to Eat in Philly on Christmas Day

 

If your tradition is Chinese take-out - perfect - however there are a ton of other great restaurants open and ready to serve you and yours this Christmas Day. We’ve gathered our information from Open Table as to which restaurants were accepting reservations for Christmas. Be sure to call to book your reservation before showing up...you never know!

 

  • Parc: A classic French spot just off of Rittenhouse Park, i.e. the perfect place to celebrate Christmas, or just a beautiful winter day. If it’s a cold and white Christmas, we recommend the beef bourguignon. A warm and hearty dish, perfect to warm up on a cold day.

  • Del Frisco’s: Nothing screams the holidays more than a nice steak, right? I guess it depends on who you ask, but for us, this is a winner! All the delicious flavors of the holiday without having to cook.

  • Buddakan: So you’re in the mood for an Asian flare but don’t want to eat it in sweats on the couch while binge watching A Christmas Story? Buddakan is the perfect solution! You can get anything from noodles & rice to tuna pizza.

  • Urban Farmer: Steak Tasting?! Yes, as if you were on the fence before now - we think that was the hook line & sinker. If not, think fries, charred cauliflower & yukon gold potato puree… these sides are the perfect way to spend your calories this holiday!

  • Jones: Comfort food coming your way if you make a reservation for Christmas at Jones. Start with the Matzo Ball Soup to really warm you up & then head into your main which could be anything from grilled cheese & tomato soup to a full Thanksgiving Dinner (offered year round btw). And of course, indulge in dessert with items like warm apple pie, deep dish chocolate chip cookie, chocolate peanut butter pie & so many other scrumptious options!

  • Bank & Bourbon: Did someone say 3-course meal? At Bank & Bourbon, yes! Open on Christmas & offering three dishes plus an additional beverage pairing for each! Enjoy dishes like roasted root vegetables, market salad, country ham with black truffle whipped potatoes, filet, chocolate espresso custard, eggnog apple cranberry tart and more. Book ahead to reserve your spot!

  • Red Owl Tavern & Square 1682: You could really make your holiday special with a staycation at either Kimpton Hotel in Philly. Check in and then hunker down for a long winter’s nap…or just an afternoon nap before walking (or taking the elevator who are we kidding!) to the hotel’s amazing restaurants. Both Red Owl Tavern & Square 1682 offer delicious options, both healthy & not so healthy!

  • XIX: The view alone is worth the reservation; however the food is outstanding to match. Offering a raw bar, meats & cheeses & more, you are sure to please everyone. If their Christmas display is anything similar to what they offered guests for Thanksgiving, it’s sure to be a treat!

  • PJ Clarke’s: New(er) to Philly & immediately welcomed; this is the perfect place to celebrate the holiday. It’s an eclectic mix of seafood, small plates, meats, pasta, burgers & more. If your family gets together but none likes to cook - this may be the reservation to book. You’ll find something on the menu for everyone from great grandma to the newest little addition!

Chart House: Immediately you think summer when you think Chart House however this is a stunning location to enjoy a cold winter evening. Overlook the Delaware River while indulging in a mix of seafood focused starters, a meat as a main & then a variety of delicious desserts. Of course this is just our suggestion, there is a full menu awaiting you and yours this season!

Posted in Philly News
Nov. 30, 2018

Where to Get in the Holiday 'Spirits'

Each year around this time we start to get in the spirit by decorating or playing holiday music...or both. This year, we thought there’s no better way to get in the spirit than by getting into the spirits! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite spots to cozy up by the fire, overlook an ice rink & just flat out get in the holiday spirit!

 

  • McGillin’s: Ready for the holidays? Then McGillin’s is the place for you to let out your inner elf! These halls are decked early for the season;  from floor to ceiling! Bundle up & head to McGillin’s!

 

  • Moriarty’s: If you’ve been to Moriarty’s in the past, you know it’s a warm spot with wings and beer - the perfect place to watch the Eagles on a chilly Sunday afternoon. Then Turkey Day comes & it’s game on - from the top of the bar, to every corner around the joint there’s greenery, ornaments stockings and more. It really is a site to see!

 

  • Parc: Nothing quite gets you in the holiday spirit like a charcuterie plate & a nice glass of bubbly. At Parc you get not just that but also a stunning view of Rittenhouse Square. The park will host its annual light night on November 27th at 5pm. From then on the park will be festively lit each night. And so will you if you indulge in the bubbly!

 

  • Rittenhouse Library Bar: Never been? Not surprising! This is a hidden gem just off of Rittenhouse Park, tucked away in the Rittenhouse Hotel. The reason we love this bar this time of year...well actually, there are quite a few! For starters, the the dim lighting and roaring fireplace simply make it feel like you’re sitting in your living room (sans the servers bringing you drinks). Next up, they have such a variety of drinks, especially seasonal drinks that will really get you humming jingle bells! Plus, it’s a tradition for us to walk through the park either before or after a drink at the Library Bar, so you’re immersed in holiday lights and the chill of the night.

 

  • The Lodge at RiverRink: This goes without saying; the rink is only here for the winter months & it’s full of holiday spirit! You can smell the fire pits from blocks away & immediately you anticipate sipping your drinks by the fires or inside the lodge on a rocker, or at a bench with friends! There’s only a few drinks to choose from, from what we recall from years past it’s warm drinks with your choice of liquor or beer. It may be different this year, but come prepared knowing you’ll be warming your belly with coffee & kahlua or cider & vodka!

 

  • ITV: Always a cozy & quaint bar but this holiday season, Nick & his team are taking it up a level. Christmas pop-up Miracle, which takes over bars around the world come holiday time is back for a second year! With special events, guest bartenders & a limited time holiday drink menu ITV should definitely be on your holiday bar bucket list! Miracle is popping up on Black Friday and will take over ITV through the end of December.

 

  • Brauhaus Schmitz: Of course, we immediately thought Oktoberfest when we hear Brauhaus Schmitz but really...Germany and Christmas go together like PB & J! The first weekend in December they host a Brunch with Santa as well as a Goose dinner complete with traditional carolers & a tree lighting. Details on the event & tickets here.

 

  • Walnut Street Cafe: With it’s sleek white & grey ambiance you don’t exactly warm up here, however, the large windows make it great for looking at all of the city lights, and who know...maybe even a flurry or a snow shower. We spent one morning enjoying brunch when the snow was falling and it felt like we were sitting inside of a snow globe; a true winter wonderland.

Nov. 16, 2018

Philly Living Lux opens up the market for luxury homes for sale in Philadelphia


Projects like The Walnut Estates, now under construction, have taken PhillyLiving into the luxury home market. Now we have a team of experts that will help you sell your luxury home faster and at a better price.

Center City’s increased popularity has brought with it a new breed of luxury home buyer, one who is interested in exploring all of the high-end housing options Philadelphia has to offer. Up until now, finding a luxury home in the city meant dealing with a small circle of insiders who tightly controlled the market. That’s all changed now that the Philly Living Lux agent team is on the scene.

Philly Living Lux offers sellers access to a pool of buyers not just in the area, but beyond it—high-end home buyers interested in moving to this area for its high quality of life. This means that sellers’ homes stay on the market for less time and sell for closer to their asking price than many luxury homes do.

Buyers too get more: more listings and more variety, with properties in desirable neighborhoods throughout the city.

Homes this special also deserve special treatment, and Philly Living Lux offers three different marketing packages customized to move properties faster. Every seller who lists with Philly Living Lux gets personalized consultation on staging and marketing, 24-hour live call support, and the broadest possible exposure on national and luxury real estate sites. Premium services are also available, from a dedicated agent on hand for all showings to special-event open houses and complimentary consultations with a design professional and contractor.

For more information about the PhillyLiving Lux team and the customized marketing packages available, call 215-392-0230 or email team leader Kate Vail at kate@phillyliving.com

Posted in Rittenhouse Square
Nov. 16, 2018

Report: Center City housing boom sustainable, at least in the short run

New multifamily rental projects accounted for 68 percent of all new housing construction in Greater Center City last year, and 97 percent of all new construction in the city core. 

A continuing influx of residents, the bulk of them Millennials, has continued to fuel a housing construction boom in Center City and the areas to its immediate north and south, according to the Center City District's latest analysis of the state of the Center City housing market. And while this influx shows no signs of ebbing soon, there are a few issues the city needs to address if the housing market in Center City and the city as a whole is to remain healthy in the long run.

Production of new housing in 2014 remained strong, according to the report. The 1,983 new units that came on market was only slightly less than 2013's record-high 2,168 new units. And as in 2013, the great majority of these units were rental apartments: 1,358, or 68 percent of the total. Production of housing for sale, however, moved up sharply from last year: the 442 single-family homes and 183 condominiums accounted for 32 percent of the total, nearly double last year's 18 percent share.

Almost all of the new construction in the Center City core—the area within the 1682 city boundary, bordered by the two rivers, Vine and South streets—was multifamily rental, with two projects, 1900 Arch and Icon, accounting for the bulk of the 665 new units. The development picture in "extended" Center CIty - from Vine Street to Girard Avenue on the north and from South to Tasker streets on the south—was more mixed, with single-family infill residential construction particularly strong in Point Breeze. Toll Brothers City Living's second major Greater Center City project, the 68-unit 2400 South townhouse development, also came on market this year.

Center City District Executive Director Paul Levy noted that continued strength in home sale prices helped support increased production of homes for sale. "The median sale price has passed its 2007 peak," he said, reaching a high of $307 per square foot, and average sale prices rose 6 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Equally good news from the perspective of landlords is that the flood of new apartments has been absorbed by the market. With the notable exception of Rittenhouse Square, the city's highest-rent neighborhood, median rents per square foot rose throughout Greater Center City last year, with most of the greatest increases occurring in the lowest-rent districts. Point Breeze, the second-cheapest neighborhood, led the way with a 17 percent increase, and bottom-dweller Grays Ferry posted the third-highest gain, 11 percent. In between these two was Callowhill/Poplar (the "Loft District" in agent-speak), where rents rose 14 percent. All other Greater Center City neighborhoods posted single-digit increases ranging from 2 percent in Washington Square West to 9 percent in Society Hill. Rittenhouse Square rents fell by 5 percent but remain the highest in the city, at $2.47 per square foot.

New single-family residential construction projects like the RIttenhouse Estates, shown here under construction in the summer of 2014, accounted for a mere 3 percent of new housing units produced in the Center City core in 2014.

The CCD report notes that if recent population growth trends continue over the next five years, the market should continue to be able to absorb the new units both under construction and projected to start. Currently, 3,681 new units are in the pipeline, with apartments accounting for 75 percent of the total (90 percent in the core), and another 1,733 apartments and condos are on the drawing boards. Should Greater Center City's population continue to increase at the 1.6 percent average annual growth rate of the period from 2008 to 2013, the market should be able to absorb all of these units without a hiccup assuming they come on the market gradually over the next several years.

Going forward, the locus of action within the core is shifting to the east of City Hall, with the East Market mixed-use project leading the way. "This is a good sign for the future of Market East," Levy said, "and the shift will help reinforce the retail trends we now see developing on Market East."

Levy noted that in Philadelphia since the 1970s, "we didn't have a back-to-the-city movement as much as a stay-in-the-city movement." Center City's population stability was masked by the continued decline in outlying areas for much of that period. But some demographic and employment trends point to possible problems further down the road.

The more recent population surge in Greater Center City has been largely fueled by Millennials from 25 to 34 years of age, whose population has exploded since 2000. Residents in this age group, most of whom were Generation Xers in 2000, represent the largest demographic group in Greater Center City.  But, as Levy noted, "if all of those younger residents in 2000 had aged in place, the demographics above Millennial would be significantly larger." Instead, the population of older Center City residents has fallen since 2000 in all demographics save 55- to 69-year olds—Baby Boomers who have returned to the city after emptying their suburban nests.

This points to one of the two main challenges facing both Center City and Philadelphia as a whole in the years to come: Strengthening education. The report notes that ensuring adequate funding for education is one of two keys to the city's future health. The other is employment. Center City and University City now account for 55 percent of all jobs in the city, but growth trends in the city remain anemic. In addition, office-based employment has fallen 5.7 percent since 2000 and has not even returned to pre-Great Recession levels. (The conversion of a number of former office buildings in the Market Street West and Rittenhouse Row corridors into residences is actually a sign of the trouble.) 

Levy noted that the losses were offset somewhat by a huge surge in self-employment and sole proprietorships, which have jumped 55 percent in the city since 2001. But much of the growth in this category comes in fields that do not require a college education and thus don't pay as well: while the average income for wage earners citywide was around $71,000 last year, the average income for the self-employed hovered around $22,000. The bottom line? "We need to add jobs across the city," Levy said. Smart tax policies can help the process along, the report concluded.

 

Nov. 16, 2018

Penn trustees OK design for Pennovation Center

The University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees last week signed off on the design for the Pennovation Center, the first major component of the university's planned Pennovation Works project on the east bank of the Schuylkill River in Grays Ferry, just south of the Penn campus.

The Pennovation Center project will repurpose a former DuPont Co. materials research lab into a hub for enterpreneurship, innovation, research and social interaction.

The redesign by HWKN (Hollwich Kushner Architecture) of New York features a dramatic northern facade of angled glass that at once points towards the Penn campus (and the future), offers great views of the campus and Center City skyline, and gives the building's eastern profile the appearance of a ship on a voyage of discovery. In an homage to the many high-tech startup firms founded in garages, a series of garage doors on the ground floor of the eastern facade open directly into studios for use by collaborative research teams. A landscaped plaza at the building's south end will provide informal social space in good weather.

The three-story building will contain co-working space on the lower two floors and the Penn Engineering Field Research Center on the third. The co-working facilities are aimed at both university-affiliated and private-sector startup companies in search of affordable office space. The Pennovation Center will organize and house workshops, programs and professional development resources for its co-working community; a bleacher-like social gathering space on the first floor will also serve as a meeting and event space for these activities.

“The Pennovation Center design creates a truly iconic landmark for Penn’s innovation ecosystem and a dynamic hub for Penn’s culture of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “The Center is designed to bring the university’s eminent researchers and scientists, along with our extraordinary students, together with the private sector to foster creative exploration, entrepreneurship and new alliances and to generate economic development for the region. We are excited about the discoveries that will come out of the center and about the kind of real societal and economic impact they will have in our region, the country and the world.”

This first phase of the Pennovation Works project has a budget of $37.5 million, which includes landscaping, infrastructure and signage work in addition to refashioning the former DuPont Marshall Laboratory. In addition to HWKN, the team that worked on this initial phase includes architect of record KSS Architects, landscape architect Land Collective and consultants Bruce Mau Design.

The Engineering Field Research Lab is slated to open in the late fall of 2015. The rest of the center and the first phase of the site improvements are scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2016.

Nov. 16, 2018

Huge new affordable housing development progresses on Chinatown fringe

Philadelphia's Chinatown, one of the oldest on the East Coast, is also one of the city's most densely populated neighborhoods. It's also largely built out, with very little land available for building; most construction activity in the neighborhood consists of renovations of or additions to existing structures.

But the neighborhood's fringes do contain vacant land, much of which is used for parking. One of those lots has disappeared to make way for one of the largest new construction projects the neighborhood has seen in some time.

When these photos were taken about two weeks ago, three floors of what will be a nine-story mixed-use structure had been erected at 810 Arch St.

When finshed, the building will have 94 affordable supportive housing units for homeless men and women and the general Center City community. Project HOME owns and will operate the building, which will also have commercial space on its street floor. The architect's rendering below shows what the finished development will look like.

This project, the fourth in a series of Project HOME developments funded by a gift from Leigh and John Middleton, took a little while to make it from idea to reality. The journey began a little more than two years ago with a trip to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Even though the lot it sits on is zoned CMX-5, the densest mixed-use category in the city's zoning code, the project still required review by the ZBA because it lies in multiple zoning overlay districts whose restrictions applied to the proposed building. The ZBA gave its blessing to the proposed development on Nov. 6, 2012, and a zoning permit to allow construction was issued on Dec. 27 of that year.

A little more than a year passed before the project advanced further. During that time, it was downsized slightly, from 112 units to the current 94. Project HOME took title to the lot from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in a nominal transaction on June 24, 2014, four days after Licenses and Inspections issued the new construction permit for the building.

Ground was broken for the development last September, and progress has been steady since. The building will also have a fitness center, offices for staff providing supportive services for residents, 38 bicycle parking spaces and seven spaces for staff parking. The building is located close to Jefferson Station on SEPTA Regional Rail, Chinatown station on the Broad-Ridge Spur, and the 8th and Market subway complex, enabling residents to access employment throughout the region as well as nearby services.

Project HOME has partnered with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation on this development, which is designed to create "innovative supportive housing that is compatible with the neighborhood’s character and will expand the diversity of housing opportunities in a multicultural community."

The project is scheduled for completion in October.

Posted in Chinatown
Nov. 16, 2018

Fishtowners rant about parking, then rave about Frankford Ave. hotel proposal

That 19th-century former light industrial building with the Shepard Fairey mural just up from Frankford Hall on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown moved one step closer to getting a new lease on life when the Fishtown Neighbors Association voted overwhelmingly last night to support developer Roland Kassis' request for variances needed to turn it and two adjacent parcels into a boutique hotel and co-working facility.

But first, before the lopsided vote to support the project, Fishtowners peppered Kassis with questions about the proposal and vented their frustrations with parking, traffic, noise and other issues that have followed in the wake of the Frankford Avenue revival largely engineered by the developer.

Kassis' presentation to the crowd that packed the community room of the First Presbyterian Church of Kensington made it clear that he is aware of the neighbors' concerns and is taking steps to make sure this project addresses them as best it can.

In addition to the hotel and co-working facility, this development includes two restaurants, a banquet hall, a jazz club and a swim club. It preserves the existing five-story building at 1224 Frankford Ave. and extends it southward by building a new addition where a one-story building currently sits between it and Frankford Hall. This building will contain a jazz club, part of the hotel lobby, the bulk of the co-working facility, the banquet hall and a top-floor restaurant. To its north will rise a six-story building almost as tall as the existing structure; it will contain more co-working space, trash storage and support space, a street-level restaurant, the building's loading dock, and 125 hotel rooms arrayed around an interior courtyard that will also contain outdoor seating space for the restaurant. A pool tops off this new structure.

Kassis said that his project drew on multiple sources for inspiration. The hotel, he said, was inspired by two New York boutique hotels - the Wyse, whose designer, Morris Eisele, is designing this hotel, and the Ace, "where everybody hangs out." The coworking facility takes its cues from New York's Neuehouse, but where that facility largely caters to individuals and businesses in the fashion and design industries, some attributes of this facilityincluding the jazz club and a recording studio—indicate that Kassis, at least as of now, envisions it as appealing to music industry professionals.

Kassis stressed that the rooftop pool would be a members-only facility—not even hotel guests would have access to it—in order to avoid the kinds of problems with noise and loud partying that arose when a similar pool was placed atop the Gansevoort Hotel in New York's Greenwich Village. He also explictly stated that the club would not be run like the North Shore Beach Club, next to The Piazza at Schmidt's in nearby Northern Liberties.

Kassis also assured those in attendance that the Fairey mural, which will be obscured by the new addition, will remain intact and visible from interior hallways.

Many in attendance praised Kassis for the quality of his developments, and his reputation for producing high-quality, high-style buildings no doubt contributed to the vote in favor. But there were some skeptics in the crowd who apparently carried memories of projects past where changes took place on the way from conception to completion. For instance, when one abutter asked when the loading dock would be in use, Kassis replied that it would only operate between 9 a.m and 4 p.m. "I don't believe you," the abutter replied. A few other residents rang similar changes in the post-presentation discussion, claiming Kassis would change plans after gaining approval, but another defended him: "I don't think he's playing us for suckers," the resident said. "I think he's trying to be as open and transparent as possible." The meeting moderator noted that the letter the FNA would write in support of the variances would also contain all the commitments agreed to in the discussion "so we can hold him to it if he doesn't do one of the things he said he'd do."

Parking also proved to be a point of friction. One of the variances Kassis requires arises from the need to provide 107 parking spaces on the site; Kassis proposes to put them on a lot he owns on the west side of Front Street just below Thompson, a few steps west of the hotel. Many in attendance argued that 107 spaces were way too few for a project that includes a hotel, banquet hall, two restaurants and a music venue, but an FNA staff member pointed out that the city cannot make a developer provide more parking than is called for in the zoning code. (Which doesn't keep some civic groups from negotiating more parking anyway, as any developer working in Northern Liberties could attest.)

Residents also raised several other concerns. One resident asked whether a traffic signal could be installed at Frankford Avenue and Thompson Street; Kassis agreed this was an excellent idea but noted that PennDOT would need to okay it as Frankford Avenue is a state secondary highway. Another asked how many jobs would be created at the site; Kassis cited the example of a co-working facility that started with 15 businesses, then doubled in size quickly. One of his responses, to a question about the projected crowds at the restaurants on a weekend—"I'd love to see it packed"—probably did nothing to allay the fears of abutters, some of whom spoke of problems with noise coming from Frankford Hall, another Kassis project. But his response to a question about giving back to the community—"I already do"—was enthusiastically endorsed by another audience member who is active in Friends of Adaire, the support group for the neighborhood's public school, the Alexander Adaire School.

During the post-presentation discussion, one resident's comment offered an inadvertent insight into what might be better characterized as friction between Philadelphia past and Philadelphia future as represented by this project, and it too concerned parking: "Philadelphia has been a very car-centric city," she said, "but we have the El just around the corner. Maybe we will start using our public transit more."

Given the concerns voiced over parking and traffic, the moderator said that the letter would also state that the FNA's endorsement was provisional upon Kassis' receiving variances for the Front Street parcel; those will require the support of South Kensington Community Partners. But that was enough to keep some potential "yes" votes from turning into "no" votes, and when the ballots were counted, both near neighbors living within 500 feet (by a 57-9 margin) and neighborhood residents in general (by a vote of 82-7) agreed to support Kassis' variance requests.

The proposal now heads to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance hearing.

Posted in Fishtown, Philly News