Philadelphia Phases In The New With These Big Developments

Taking a step away from some of the major new developments gathering buzz around Center City – the monumental new skyscraper for the Comcast Tower and the contested Toll Brother’s plans for Jewelers’ Row are a few that come to mind – we decided to take a look at some other notable projects shaping our neighborhoods.


Rendering for the new Yards Brewery at 5th & Spring Garden. Courtesy of Digsau.


  • Yards Brewery

Taking up a new home in the former Destination Maternity building at 5th & Spring Garden, Yards Brewing Company has a whole lot of space to fill in the whopping 70,000 square foot structure. Luckily the team behind Yards and collaborators at Digsau, a Philadelphia based urban design and architecture firm, are up to the talk. A $19 million dollar affair, this inspiring project includes a beer garden, large scale brewing facility, a tasting room sporting a full food menu as well, and potential space for other businesses. According to recent announcements there are plans for a Target to open in this space as well. With so many big box buildings with little commercial activity, this Yards facility could be just what is needed to attract more pedestrian activity along this stretch of Spring Garden Street.




The lot at the NW corner of Broad & Washington that Lincoln square will fill. 


  • Lincoln Square

Brought to the city by MIS Capital LLC and Alterra Property Group, this 3.4 acre, full city block development at Washington Ave & Broad Street is focused on mixed-use. Plans for the project include 322 apartment units, 100,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store, and 400 parking spaces. Visually, the building will have an 8-story apartment tower with two stories of retail below. Construction is scheduled to start this year, with completion set for late 2018. One notable feature of the project is the 1876 train depot included on the site which the developers plan to restore and most likely use for retail.


  • 1220 Frankford Ave Hotel

Brought to Fishtown by Roland Kassis’ Domani Developers Inc, of Frankford Hall, La Colombe, and, most recently, City Fitness fame this project might be the developer’s most ambitious undertaking yet. Kassis is working with architect Morris Adjmi to create a 114 room hotel, something previously unheard of in the neighborhood. Plans for this six-story hotel include a rooftop pool, skyline views, room prices ranging from $80-200 a night, a handful of restaurants, and office space. While WM Mulherin’s Sons at Front & Master Streets claimed the prize for the first hotel in Fishtown, 1220 Frankford Ave will achieve something of an even larger scale.



  • Fishtown Village, Suite Row, and Avenue 30

A number of plans for big housing developments in the Fishtown and Kensington neighborhoods are popping up boasting their status at gated communities. Marlborough Development LLC brings Fishtown Village at Marlborough & Wildey Streets, while further north in East Kensington a collaboration between United Makers and Philly Home Girls, Suite Row, is underway at Cumberland & Jasper Streets. Lastly, Riverwards Group & KJO Architects have recently broken ground on their own large gated townhouse community on the 2600 blocks of both Amber and Collins Streets. Starting prices for these homes range from $339-700,000.


Two renderings for the Reading Viaduct Rail Park: The access staircase at 13th & Noble (top) and one example of the seating and design (bottom). Courtesy of Studio Bryan Hanes.



  • Reading Viaduct Rail Park

Demolition is underway, with 80% completed, and on track for development at the highly anticipated Reading Viaduct Rail Park. Taking inspiration, and lessons, from New York City’s Highline project, this reuse and remodeling of a formerly abandoned viaduct rail will present a boon to the surrounding community. So far workers on the project have mostly been dealing with remediating soil, making sure the site is clean and safe for planting, and restoring stone walls in collaboration with Studio Bryan Hanes. The next stage will focus on building foundations for the access stairway that will be at 13th & Noble Street, repairing any damage to bridges and doing important waterproofing, installing metal railings along the edges for safety, and doing the first phase of planting and painting.


Construction is well under way at East Market.


  • The Gallery & East Market

In addition the much discussed total renovation at the Gallery on East Market Street, just down the street is another large scale development. While this is still part of Center City, the promise this project holds for this specific enclave of downtown is significant. East Market is springing up on the entire block between Market, Chestnut, 11th, and 12th Streets. The project consists of three buildings – two residential towers with retail on the ground level and office space at Family Court Building which is also being renovated. One residential tower, the Ludlow, designed by BLT Architects is geared more towards millennials with a younger vibe and smaller units, while the other, a collaboration between Morris Adjmi and BLT Architects will target more established professionals and families. One special feature here is the pedestrian-only street that will cut through the middle of the block, connecting Market & Chestnut. This project checks off most of the design and planning boxes with its focus on mixed-use development, pedestrian accessibility, and underground parking.


Check back in the upcoming weeks for more information about how Solo Realty is getting involved in Philadelphia’s new construction boom with our own project – Kensington Yards. We are really excited about this development and look forward to giving some updates about its progress and more features on our various collaborators.


Featured image via Map data ©2017 Google.

New Digs: Craftsmanship and Craftiness in East Kensington

Through the 1960s, Kensington was a manufacturing hub known as “the Workshop of the World.” Step into Jayme Guokas’s rowhomes, and you might think it still is. With Solo, Jayme bought property in East Kensington early and often, securing them at low prices and transforming the interiors.

Jayme was Solo realtor Jeff Carpineta’s first client, back in 2004. Jeff was, and still is, a champion of the East Kensington neighborhood, himself a resident, a leader of the East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA), and helped start the Kensington Community Food Co-op. Jayme knew he wanted to buy in the area because he had been priced out of West Philadelphia.

“Jeff did a lot of work for his money for that house,” he recalls with a smile. Together they looked at 18-20 places in the area. East Kensington was affordable at the time, but there was aggreesive competition from speculative buyers pricing out aspiring homeowners on almost every deal. They ended up putting in three offers total, the third time being the charm. Jayme was able to beat the competition and closed in early 2005.

Jeff recalls, “I knew Jayme was a great soul with multiple tremendous talents and wanted to help him drop anchor here. I’m blessed to have him as a neighbor, a client and now a close friend. He’s a bright light in the community.”

When he decided to purchase the house next door a few years later, he reached out to Jeff again, and successfully closed on that property as well. A little over five years ago, he acquired the house on the other side of his original property, and that’s the one you see here; the one that he and his wife call home.

Jayme Guokas in front of one of the three adjacent rowhomes he owns; he and his wife live in this one
Jayme Guokas in front of one of the three adjacent rowhomes he owns; he and his wife live in this one


Inside, no surface is left untouched by his unique, sustainability-minded craftsmanship. Hardly any original features remained (or remained in tact) in the property when Jayme purchased it, so he had a blank canvas, and carpentry and other skills to apply to it.

One would assume Jayme has been a carpenter and concrete-pourer from a young age—surprisingly, not the case. His art history degree led him to an administrative job at the University of the Arts, where he was able to take classes free of charge. So he took woodworking. And then took it again. And again. Eventually, Jayme had advanced to the point where he could do the highly skilled work you see here, with the collaboration with his friend, architect Stephen Sedalis.

The living room is decked out in locally-milled wood—including a custom-built window seat—exposed brick galore, restored hardwood floors, and the original mantle, which were some of the only original features salvageable.

The custom built-in window seat in the living room, which cleverly conceals ductwork for the HVAC system
The custom built-in window seat in the living room, which cleverly conceals ductwork for the HVAC system

Proceeding further into the house yields a truly one-of-a-kind kitchen. While conventional home design aesthetics become increasingly sleek and monochrome, Jayme’s kitchen is refreshingly rustic yet modern, and radiates with the warm earth tones of cast concrete, wood cabinets, and ceramic subway tile.

One-of-a-kind kitchen with custom built cabinets, cast concrete countertops, custom-cut slate tile backsplash
One-of-a-kind kitchen with custom built cabinets, cast concrete countertops, custom-cut slate tile backsplash

At the top of the stairs, what looks like (and was) the front door to another house actually leads you into the bathroom. Peak through the mail slot or open the door to find a delightful interplay between a minimal cast concrete and wood vanity and the seafoam-hued penny tile shower stall.

From left to right: Repurposed front door, cast concrete & wood vanity, and seafoam penny-tiled shower
From left to right: Repurposed front door, cast concrete & wood vanity, and seafoam penny-tiled shower

More exposed brick and locally milled wood characterize the music recording room and practice space. Jayme kept the HVAC ducts visible so he didn’t have to sacrifice square footage or ceiling height to soffits. The vertical duct is cleverly hidden in a space built out between two bookcases, creating the illusion of built-in shelving.

Cozy practice and recording space for Jayme's band Glitter
Cozy practice and recording space for Jayme’s band Glitter

The bedroom is soaked in natural light thanks to a massive window constituting most of the back wall, which Jayme resourcefully purchased on Craigslist for mere peanuts. Privacy from the rest of the house is afforded by another reclaimed door. “Contractors are happy to let you take those doors of their hands,” he advises, “I’ve also gotten several doors at ReStore in Port Richmond.”

In the master bedroom, another reclaimed door and an impressively large window
In the master bedroom, another reclaimed door and an impressively large window

The third floor houses an office/guest room hybrid, and a second bathroom with what it quite possibly the world’s funkiest shower. A galvanized cattle feeding trough forms the walls of the shower basin, with poured concrete forming the base, which a cedar platform perches atop. “Everyone wants to use that shower when they stay over,” he jokes.

There's a first time for everything: galvanized cattle feeding trough as shower basin
There’s a first time for everything: galvanized cattle feeding trough as shower basin

Even the backyard is completely customized, with a handmade fence and slate slabs that Jayme salvaged from Palmer Cemetery.

If you’re wondering how your house could ever undergo such a transformation, you’re in luck! Jayme runs a design firm called Craftwork Home that specializes in custom furniture and cabinets, ergonomic modern kitchens, and cast concrete countertops.

His work is inspired by his Bucks County origins, drawing on woodworker and designer George Nakashima, and the arts and crafts aesthetic of Henry Mercer. But the results are right at home here in the former workshop of the world, East Kensington.

New Digs: Seeking Fewer Compromises in Philly

“The difference between New York City and Philadelphia is the difference between perpetually renting and actually setting down roots.” That wisdom comes from Gregorio, an art director, who after living for years in New York City made the decision to embrace home ownership in the East Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.


Before his move to the City of Brotherly Love, Gregorio spent nearly a decade living in a loft apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Those familiar with Bushwick know that the area, once one of that city’s roughest, has recently experienced tremendous redevelopment and gentrification. For all the good that development has done though, Gregorio ultimately came to feel pushed out by the community’s rapid change “My landlord wanted to raise my rent from $1500 to $1900, and honestly I didn’t want to be around the people who would pay that for 500 square feet in Bushwick.” While he considered buying an apartment in the area, the city’s runaway real estate prices ultimately made Gregorio feel like he was fighting a losing battle.


With his dreams of owning a home on the back burner, Gregorio made a fateful trip to Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum. As a Southern California native, he had little experience with our city, but was immediately impressed by Philadelphia’s authenticity, lack of pretension and deep cultural heritage. Gregorio is quick to note that, as someone who used lived in Italy, Philadelphia feels to him like “the most European city in the United States.”


With his visits to Philadelphia becoming more frequent, so too did Gregorio’s doubts about living in an increasingly expensive New York City. He eventually made the choice to contact Solo Realty, deciding he was ready to look in Philadelphia for a real house where he wouldn’t have to compromise on space or the little luxuries of home ownership.


Gregorio worked with Solo Real Estate’s Alex Franqui, asking to see rowhomes with outdoor spaces in great, up-and-coming Philadelphia neighborhoods. “I think we saw 20 houses in one day” Gregorio laughs, saying that he felt drawn to East Kensington both for its energy and sense of community. Eventually Alex called Gregorio, then back in Brooklyn, and told him he had found a great place that he needed to see immediately – “I rented a car, came down and knew it was perfect right away” Gregorio says with a smile.


Gregorio's artwork, including this fabulous portrait of actress Tilda Swinton, decorates his bedroom (left), while potted plants liven up his new home's backyard (right).
Gregorio’s artwork, including this fabulous portrait of actress Tilda Swinton, decorates his bedroom (left), while potted plants liven up his new home’s backyard (right).


After a quick negotiation, Gregorio purchased a three bedroom home not far from the El’s Berks Station. The home came with great built-ins, thanks in part to its woodworking former owner. And with his artist’s eye, Gregorio also made his own series of unique design choices, all complimented by the home’s beautiful hardwood floors.


As for his job as a freelance art director, Gregorio has found that Philadelphia makes a great base for his work, which can take him across the country. Best yet for this native Californian, he was able to purchase a car along with his new home, something he’d only fantasized about in Brooklyn. “I don’t use it that much because the area’s just so walkable” Gregorio says, adding however that “it’s still a great little perk of living here.” That choice seems to be indicative of Gregorio’s whole Philadelphia experience, using his new home here to enjoy the urban lifestyle to its fullest.

New Digs: Industry and Artistry in East Kensington

Buying a house is a huge financial decision. But it’s more than that too. Our homes and neighborhoods define who we are and the lives we’ll lead. In New Digs, our latest blog series, we speak with Solo clients about the lessons they learned finding a new place to call home.


The Milk Depot Lofts in East Kensington look like the too-good-to-be-true urban apartments you see on TV. With a collection of airy, industrial-chic dwellings housed in a 25,000 square foot converted milk processing plant, a loft here is the polar opposite of the kind you’d find in a typical, cookie-cutter city apartment building. And that’s just what arts educator Ruth McGee loves about her new home.


Ruth, a teacher at a local Quaker high school, spent the past three years living in a highrise building along the Delaware River. Eventually, she decided that the building’s short-term leases and separation from Center City kept it from having the community feel she craved. Contacting Solo Realty, Ruth was willing to look nearly everywhere to find an apartment that was both in a great neighborhood that would and also gave her room to practice her passion for clay sculpting. Bouncing from open house to open house, Ruth was focused on finding a space with which she truly connected, saying that “I figured I’d know it when I found the place for me.”


Ruth worked with Deborah Solo, who eventually brought her to East Kensington to see the Milk Depot Lofts. “I think Deborah had a really good sense of what I was looking for” Ruth notes. After scoping out the area (and being impressed by its short distance to the Market-Frankford line’s Berks Station), she got a chance to go inside and see building’s quirky charm, which includes two enormous vintage milk boilers and an inviting central courtyard. Impressed, Ruth continued on to Apartment 201 and knew she had found her new home.


The Milk Depot Lofts (left), seen from Amber Street, are full of industrial relics, like this huge original milk sanitizer (right).


With high ceilings and expansive windows, this corner unit gets hours of bright sunlight, something that Ruth, who has begun to paint in addition to her clay work, found to be a great asset. The apartment’s somewhat raw space also gave her room to adapt it to her needs. Finally, the building’s relatively small number of units, populated by artists and creative professionals, was a great antidote for the anonymity of her Delaware Avenue highrise. “I appreciated the fact that there are artistic people around. It really adds to the community feel of the building” Ruth says.


The apartment's soaring ceilings (left) and bright, natural light attracted artist Ruth (right) to Unit 201.
The apartment’s soaring ceilings (left) and bright, natural light attracted artist Ruth (right) to Unit 201.


Quickly going into contract, Ruth says her neighbors in her old building were a little shocked, not just because she was moving to a loft, but because that loft was in Kensington. But with the building’s hip location and industrial charm, along with its ample room and bonus basement-studio space, Ruth says the decision was an easy one.


Ruth still has some changes to make to the apartment, but overall she’s very pleased with her decision. Better still, as an artist who draws inspiration from her environment, Ruth is excited by the ways in which the industrial aesthetic of her new home and neighborhood will influence her sculpting and painting. “I can’t wait to see what happens!” Ruth declares with a smile.