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By Timothy M. Garrity | Broker in Philadelphia, PA
  • Are "Innovation Districts" the key to Philadelphia's growth?

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  July 8, 2014 7:53 AM  |  39 views  |  No comments

    Maybe, maybe not. But here is something to think about.

    As the US population continues to choose cities over suburbs, the job landscape in cities is adjusting to meet that growing demand. People today want more (and better) choices for where they live their lives, choose their jobs, and enjoy their free time.

    This is where Innovation Districts come in, and cities in general.

    First, let's define what an Innovation District is. According to Bruce Katz at the Brookings Institution, the definition of an ID is as follows:

    "A geographic area where anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect small firms, start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. The area is physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically wired. The options for mixed-use housing, office, and retail are all present."

    The two main areas in Philadelphia that meet those criteria are Center City and University City. The Navy Yard is not far behind, but it's still lacking in the housing and retail areas (although there are plans for more of that in the near future).

    To redefine, isolated campuses in the suburbs that corporations have been flocking to for decades are slowly losing their appeal. Reason being, Innovation Districts are changing the model due to both the appeal of urban areas and the need for today's corporations to collaborate more.

    So, I found this cool article, saying that University City was recently recognized as 1 of 7 IDs (in the entire US) that are "on the rise." Katz from Brookings was quoted as saying, "We identified seven examples in our paper of districts to watch, and University City in Philadelphia, we think, has enormous potential, only a portion of which has been realized."

    Part of the reason University City was recognized was due to its accessibility to transit, its "iconic presence," and its track record of attracting start-ups and entrepreneurs.

    Good news for UC and Philadelphia!
  • Significant mixed-use project coming to Brewerytown

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  June 25, 2014 11:51 AM  |  155 views  |  No comments
    Rendering of Girard27 | Courtesy of Hidden City Philadelphia

    If I've said it once, (or about 6 other times on my blog ... here, here, here, here, here, and here) I'll say it again: Brewerytown has momentum.

    Not the kind of momentum where real estate developers, speculators, buyers, and tenants are guessing that Brewerytown will be one of Philadelphia's hottest neighborhoods. Brewerytown is one of Philadelphia's hottest neighborhoods for real estate.

    Both commercial and residential alike.

    If you're already familiar with B-Town's recent success, you're ahead of the curve. If you're not, here's how I personally look at Brewerytown's current situation.

    West Girard Ave (between N 32nd St & W College Ave) is a perfectly-sized "Main Street" for the dense, historic neighborhoods that surround it (i.e. Brewerytown, Templetown, Fairmount, etc). Stretching about 6 city blocks, this swath of W Girard offers mixed-use potential, interesting architecture, reasonable rent, and a captive audience.

    Not too small, and not too big.

    So, why am I even mentioning this commercial strip? Because it's potentially turning Brewerytown into the next Manayunk ... the next Fairmount ... the next Graduate Hospital ... the next Cedar Park and Spruce Hill.

    Those neighborhoods are all thriving today based on the same, traditional, old-as-time concept: community. Where the community is strong, the neighborhood is strong. And because Philadelphia was built/planned to embrace tight-knit communities, this concept still rings true today.

    Now that Girard27 has been planned for N 27th St and N Taney St, and received a decent enough reception from both long-time and newbie residents, my opinion is that this corridor now has a legitimate anchor. The new Bottom Dollar supermarket was a nice touch on the western border, and the Braverman project (which is just across the street from Girard27) will only add more appeal. Also, let's not forget about some of the other small businesses along W Girard (i.e. RyBrew, Shifty's Taco, etc).

    Needless to say, Brewerytown is coming into its own.

    Although this may seem like old news to some, especially those who already live in the immediate vicinity, I felt that adding a professional real estate opinion would help bring the good news home; and also provide a different perspective from someone on the outside, looking in.

    For those who have never been to Brewerytown, or have not visited for a while, good things are happening ... and the timing seems to be perfect.
  • Why so much buzz lately about Market East?

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  June 19, 2014 1:45 PM  |  211 views  |  No comments
    PREIT's rendering of the new Gallery at Market East

    The Market East section of Philadelphia that is, not the regional transportation hub.

    Maybe it's just me, but almost everywhere I look in the local media these days, people are buzzing about Market East.

    Some of those discussion topics, over the last year or so:

    Girard Square

    The Gallery

    Market8 Casino

    Times Square-esque Digital Signage

    Everyone is talking, and for good reason. Out of all the original Center City neighborhoods (Logan Square/Circle, Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Society Hill, and Old City), Market East (or Center City East) is really the only one left with copious amounts of potential.

    All of the others have already been redeveloped, or are in the process of.

    The reason I found this story so blog-worthy, was because of that aforementioned potential. Center City has become so prominent/noticeable in Philadelphia's comeback story, that it has literally spawned an entire army of coveted neighborhoods.

    Graduate Hospital

    Passyunk Square + East Passyunk





    Northern Liberties


    The #1 reason why these varying and unique neighborhoods have caught fire within the local real estate market, is because of Center City's success (and University City's too, if you want to get technical).

    Original Center City has become expensive and is short on supply, which is why the spillover demand has landed in these neighborhoods. In reality, there was really no where else to go but to follow the concentric circles.

    Now, it's not just because of CC + UC that Philadelphia has changed so much over the last 20+ years.



    East Falls

    Chestnut Hill

    Mount Airy



    As you can now see, the demand is spreading all over town, into historic neighborhoods, and for different reasons. Main Streets, universities, small businesses, networking groups, night markets, food trucks, and everything in between.

    Market East may currently be the trendiest name in town, but it sure is not the last.
  • Plans unveiled for the "New" Fairmount Park

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  May 28, 2014 9:39 AM  |  366 views  |  2 comments
    Fairmount Park Waterworks, South Garden | Philadelphia

    If you thought Philadelphia's famed Fairmount Park could not get any better, you would be mistaken. The funny thing about FP is that it gets mixed results from those who live around it ... seriously, it does.

    Some love Fairmount Park, and some hate it. Some think its potential has been reached, and some think there is only room for improvement. Some Philadelphians use it every day, and some locals have never set foot in it.

    For being one of the world's largest urban park systems (aka "The Largest Landscaped Urban Park in the World," according to Wikipedia), I personally feel that the park itself is underutilized. There are so many different elements to this 9,200 acre Philadelphia green space, that it's too hard to recognize all of them. The most recognizable places include (but are not limited to): Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Zoo, Boathouse Row, Please Touch Museum, and Bartram's Garden.

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    What I really love about Fairmount Park is that it's so well protected and preserved, considering it's located in the 5th largest US city. What was originally an 1858 agreement to protect Philadelphia's main water supply (aka the Schuylkill River), has turned into a phenomenal public park system (63 different neighborhood parks, to be exact). This gives all Philadelphians the option to escape the busyness of city life (any day of the week), and still be within close proximity to their homes.

    Okay, that should be enough background and history to get us started here.

    Close to 1 year ago, Philadelphia Parks & Rec teamed up with local community groups and Penn Praxis (the design arm of UPenn) to discuss how East/West Fairmount Park could be better connected and utilized as a whole. The result, a comprehensive plan called "The New Fairmount Park."

    As to not deviate from my usual approach, let's break this jawn down in traditional PUL fashion:

    - "Why East & West Fairmount Park?": Well, simply put, East/West Fairmount Park are the core of Fairmount Park as a whole. They both touch Center City (East) and University City (West), which both happen to be the biggest growth areas in Philadelphia today. On top of that, no other city in the US can match East/West's combined size and overall value to the health of local residents. From a tourism standpoint, these 2 park sections draw 7M visitors every year, are home to some of Philadelphia's most significant cultural institutions, and offer a wealth of sculptures and public art. In other words, East/West are a big draw for tourists. From a recreational standpoint, there are 54 trail miles, 16 creeks, and 4 playgrounds. In other words, East/West serve as a huge public playground for those younger and older alike.

    - "The Big Vision": This one has to be seen on the plan itself. In general, it capitalizes on some of FP's greatest assets: creeks, trails, and park entrances. To see some of the graphics depicting the plan's ideas and calls-to-action, click here.

    - "First-Steps": With any comprehensive plan, the goal is to start small by meeting short-term goals for long-term gains. That's exactly what the plan calls for in this section. Things like improving watersheds, traffic studies, and pedestrian accessibility all contribute to exposing the park's physical attributes and overall beauty. Simple things like painting bike lane lines on bridges that cross the Schuylkill River will help connect East and West. Making park entrances more visible to those walking, riding, or driving by will increase Fairmount Park's curb appeal and encourage more usage. Steps like these do not cost millions of dollars to complete, they just require a plan and some attention to detail.

    - "Focus Areas": This section of the plan focuses on 5 key areas, and they mostly revolve around the same simple concept: bring people to the water sources in Fairmount Park. By following the 16 creeks that flow down to the Schuylkill River, park users will have a natural path from uphill to river (and vice-versa). The funny thing about the neighborhoods surrounding FP, is that many residents in those communities don't realize how easy it is to access the park. Both natural and man-made barriers are the culprits. The goal is to use waterways as a guide to increasing park usage and park access.

    Done and done.

    My hope is that this blog post will serve as a launching point for all PUL readers to see how great Fairmount Park really is, and how much greater it will become in the not-too-distant future.
  • What has long been in store for Market East, is now coming to fruition

    Posted Under: General Area in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  May 19, 2014 8:10 AM  |  463 views  |  No comments
    This image lays out the entire plan, click to enlarge.

    My last post on PUL.com talked about Paul Levy and some of the projects he has worked on over the years to help move Center City Philadelphia forward.

    One such project I mentioned, "The Road to Dilworth Plaza Park," is a solid anchor for Market East, from City Hall all the way down to Old City. Not to mention that it will also serve as an anchor for the recent activity on Market West, but let's keep our focus toward the east for now.

    Well, good things are being talked about in the news.

    If you have ever taken SEPTA regional rail to Market East, walked through the sets of doors to the escalators, taken the escalators up to street level, and walked through the additional sets of doors onto Market St, you have probably noticed an outdated, unsuccessful string of retail shops directly across the street.

    This retail strip is known locally as Girard Square.

    To be honest, these stores are pretty weak for where they sit in proximity to both Midtown Village and Old City. Not even considering the fact that they're right across the street from one of Philadelphia's busiest public transportation hubs.

    If you shop at Girard Square, please do not take offense. I just think Philadelphia can do better, and they are about to make good on that statement.

    Come summertime, Girard Square will be no more. In its place will be an updated, modern, mixed-use, shiny new development that will include new shops, new restaurants, and new residences, along with large digital marketing displays outside (now allowed along Market East, per a new zoning ordinance). Finally, Market East is starting to realize it's potential, as I have blogged about this before (over 2 years ago).

    Here are some of the details, per the article from PBJ that inspired this post:

    "The 4.3-acre site takes up an entire city block bound by Market, Chestnut, 11th, and 12th streets. The building fronting Market St will be taken down, and the first phase will rise in its place. It will total $230M and encompass 650,000 square feet.

    "That initial phase will include constructing a 17-story tower that will have the first two levels dedicated to 160,000 sq ft of retail space, and the remainder an apartment structure with 322 units. It will also involve renovating the 200,000 sq ft family court building and preparing that for retail space on the street level and office space above."

    Right on, Market East!

    Not only do I like that the developers are phasing this project properly (supply and demand), but the most visible part (remember that picture I just painted for you in Paragraph 4, walking out of Market East station) is first in line for redevelopment.

    All in all, the project is shooting for 2M total sq ft of brand-new, mixed-use space, and a total investment of $500M.

    Not bad, not bad at all.
  • Philadelphia Marketwatch Report - March 2014

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Philadelphia, Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia  |  April 30, 2014 12:06 PM  |  662 views  |  No comments
    Click to see the numbers up close

    If you're a regular PUL reader, you have seen my MWR blog posts before. If you're new to PUL, I encourage you to read this regular post!

    The MWR from Trend (or the MLS as most people call it), focuses specifically on real estate in/around Greater Philadelphia. There are individual reports available for the entire 5 county area in Southeastern PA (and also for Berks County, so let's call it 6), as well as for Southern NJ and Northern DE.

    My focus is always on the Philadelphia report specifically, as that is the center of our local real estate market. The same data/report is available for each of the other aforementioned counties as well.

    The report for Q1 2014 (aka March 2014) is still moving in a positive direction overall, as was the Q4 2013 report that I posted back in February. The report's key metrics show that Philadelphia's Average Sales Price is up, Closed Sales are down, Homes for Sale (aka Supply) are down, and the Average Property Marketing Period (aka Marketing Time) is down.

    Please note that these stats are based on year-over-year changes, to help compare the real estate market in Q1 2014 to Q1 2013. I wanted to reiterate this so people don't assume these statistics are month-over-month, which is a hard comparison to make in the real estate industry (due to weather changes, school calendars, etc). These factors play an important role with people looking to buy/sell real estate.

    So, let's break these down one-by-one:

    1. Average Sales Price: $200,320, up 10.1% from Q1 2013, which is a big jump. Why do real estate prices go up? Simply put, supply and demand. If supply is low, demand is high; and vice-versa. That is what's happening here, and that is also what allows homeowners to build equity. Building equity is one of the prime reasons people decide to buy real estate in the first place.

    2. Closed Sales: 2,252, down 12% from Q1 2013. That is the first decrease reported since I began putting this regular blog post together. The only thing I can attribute it to was the brutal winter we just went through. As a real estate agent working on the street everyday, I would say it's the most likely reason why the numbers dropped. When there is a snow storm going on, you cannot look at homes, you cannot make offers, and you cannot have closings. Philadelphia had its fair share of storms this winter. For those who need another reason besides weather, it could also be attributed to the sharp increase in prices and a lower level of inventory. That has been a recent complaint from buyers all across the US. If there aren't enough homes for sale, the number of closings will go down.

    3. Homes for Sale & Months Supply: Down 12.5% and 17.6% from Q1 2013. As stated before, if supply is low, demand is high. If demand is high, prices go up. If prices go up, there is more competition to buy real estate. If there is more competition to buy real estate, there are more bids for each property. And so on, and so forth. Low supply is good for sellers, and bad for buyers; which means we are transitioning from a Buyer's Market to a Seller's Market.

    4. Average Property Marketing Period: 102 days, down 7.7% from Q1 2013. This means that the average seller requires less time to accept an offer on his/her home. When sellers have to wait for long periods of time to accept an offer, what typically happens? They lower their asking/listing price to attract more buyers and buyer agents. When sellers don't have to wait as long to accept an offer, what typically happens? Prices remain stable and/or start to go up.

    Most of these metrics may seem self-explanatory, but I personally find that it helps to break them down individually and explain what it means to the local Philadelphia market. Please note that this is a general overview of what is currently going on in Philadelphia, which means that some neighborhoods will be different than others.

    If you would like the most recent MWR report (for your specific county), please don't hesitate to contact me via phone/email/text.

    I will email you a customized PDF.
  • Traffic patterns in Philadelphia are changing real estate development

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Philadelphia, Home Selling in Philadelphia, Investment Properties in Philadelphia  |  April 10, 2014 3:13 PM  |  793 views  |  No comments

    If you don't believe me, check out this article. It's pretty sweet.

    The subject caught my attention for a few reasons, as cited within: 1) Major highway traffic is lower than forecasted, 2) Suburbanization is now trending toward the city, and 3) Millennials like to use mobile devices while in transit.

    In traditional Philly Urban Living fashion, let's break these down.

    1) Major highway traffic is lower than forecasted: This one actually surprised me, as I do drive on the Schuylkill regularly. The decrease in traffic was not only true for the PA Turnpike, I-76, and I-95, but it was also true for the NJ Turnpike (where since 2005, overall volume has decreased by 10%); seriously? So what does all of this mean, and why am I blogging about it? It means that urban populations are rising, it means that downtowns/cities are reaping both private/public investment dollars, and it means that cars are becoming less desirable for many people (especially younger people; we'll get to that). We can get into the nitty-gritty and talk about The Great Recession, rising gas rises, overall car prices, and parking, but in general, public transportation is on the rise in major metros across the country (not just in Philadelphia). This is changing the way we think about getting around our respective neighborhoods/towns/cities, and how we live our lives.

    2) Suburbanization is now trending toward the city: As stated in the article, "We had a 50-year period of unrestricted suburbanization, and now there's a dramatic shift." I've talked about this one in past blog posts, many times over. Not because it's my opinion, but because it's constantly being buzzed about in the media. Philadelphia's suburbs are not declining, it's just that preferences are changing; especially amongst the younger crowd. Millennials are a big reason why Philadelphia's population has risen over the past 7 years. There are lots of jobs in Philadelphia. There are lots of restaurants and nightlife/entertainment options in Philadelphia. There is a lot of history, culture, and events in Philadelphia. It's home to our beloved Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. But at the moment, our crime rates are still high and our public schools are very undesirable. Whereas suburban Philadelphia has enjoyed relative safety and great public education since the 1950s. Fix Philadelphia's fledgling public schools, and the biggest reason to flee the city goes away. But as it stands today, preferences are trending toward cities.

    3) Millennials like to use mobile devices while in transit: No, really? I feel like I hear about millennials every day of my life now. What do millennials like? What do millennials want? Why do millennials love Twitter? Why do millennials hate Facebook? Why do millennials order pizza, with pepperoni, in their dorm room, on a Tuesday night, before exam week, and pay with AmEx? I don't know, but you get the picture. One thing this article mentioned that really caught my attention, is that you can actively use your mobile devices while riding on public transportation. This is so true, and it's also a reason why so many people text and drive today. People love their phones, and can't stop using them; myself included. If you can read, work, socialize, blog, text, or tweet while you ride to work or dinner, why wouldn't you choose a train/bus over a car. You're there before you know it, and you got some things done on the road; awesome. As we all know already, the most convenient public transportation options lie within Philadelphia proper.

    So as you can see, traffic is starting to affect how people think, live, and choose their home. It also affects how investors buy, rehab, and develop real estate.

    Who knows, 10 years from now, the President of the United States may be talking to all of us about how we need to create more rail lines. Rather than he/she talking to us about expanding our highways.
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