New Digs: Brett & Nichole Peanasky

When Brett and Nichole Peanasky first came to Philadelphia, they didn’t necessarily have long term plans to stay here. Yet, by the time Brett finished graduate school, the couple were comfortable in the city and saw no reason not to extend their stay.


Eager to ditch their small Fitler Square apartment for an upgrade in the form of a South Philly rowhome, the Peanaskys turned to Solo Real Estate. It was actually Brett’s tenure at Penn Design that brought the house hunters to Solo. Brett and Alejandro Franqui were classmates at Penn, so working with the Solo realtor was the obvious choice.


Alejandro was incredibly helpful to Brett & Nichole throughout the ups and downs of their house search. There were certainly some surprises along the way for the first time home buyers. Yet, Franqui helped them stay realistic and optimistic during the whole process.


The Peanaskys have future plans to figure out what’s going on underneath that facade.


Then, one day while walking around what would become their neighborhood of Passyunk Square, the Peanaskys chanced upon 1225 Ellsworth Street with a for sale sign out front. While it didn’t look like much from the outside, this South Philly rowhome turned out to be just what they needed.


In terms of location, this South Philly hub is ideal. The proximity to Brett’s Center City job as a land use attorney was really appealing. It was also important to find somewhere close to the highway to ease Nichole’s commute to New Jersey where she works as a nurse practitioner.


The Peanaskys were pleased that kitchen was pretty much as pictured when they bought the house


The home had all of the important stuff such as the kitchen, floors, and mechanicals already updated. It was mainly cosmetic finishes that remained to be done. In a way, this was the best of both worlds for these first time home buyers. They got to add personal touches to their new home without the stress and financial burden of bigger renovations.


After closing on the home they set to work putting in all new windows, repainting the interior, adding a new banister, and fixing up the stairs. Down the road they hope to do more work on their home. For example, they would love to take off the paint and restore the brick on the house’s facade. They’ve also discussed plans for tearing up the back patio to plant more vegetation. Another pipeline project would be building a more usable roof deck off the third floor.


The new railing where there previously was none was an important addition.


For now, however, the couple are busy exploring their new neighborhood with their five-month old Arlen and dog Louie. Beyond being thrilled with their home, the Peanasky’s love their South Philly neighborhood. One thing they mention right off the bat are the mix of long time residents and new, young families. The proximity to popular sights like Columbus Square, the Italian Market, and Passyunk Square sweeten the deal as well.


Solo’s Ten Picks For Holiday Fun In Philly

When it comes to the holiday season, Philadelphia has no shortage of festivities. From the neighborhood light shows to official Center City holiday markets, if you are itching to celebrate, you will not have to look far to satisfy your festive winter urges. This week we decided to round up just a handful of the many, many holiday events going on throughout the city. Check out some of our personal favorites below!


Photo of the Miracle on South 13th Street in Passyunk Square by unexpectedphilablog.com.


Miracle On South 13th Street

We wrote about Philadelphia’s longstanding tradition of block-wide holiday light displays last year. The most famous of these shows is the Miracle on South 13th Street, and this always tops our list for sites to check out around the holidays because it represents so much of what this city is about – community, collaboration, and festivity. For some info on a few other notoriously decorated blocks in the city check out our previous blog entry on the topic.



Crowds gather at LOVE Park for the opening of the Christmas Village. (Photo by Tud09851 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Christmas Village in LOVE Park

Despite the construction at LOVE Park, the Christmas Village is up and running this year! Take care of all your holiday gift shopping needs here at this open-air market. Vendors stationed in old fashioned wooden vending stalls will have items ranging from crafts, jewelry, art, toys, ornaments, and other holiday fare. For a list of vendors and special events head over to the Christmas Village website.

Dilworth Park Wintergarden

Just across the street from the Christmas Village you’ll find even more Center City holiday festivities. At Dilworth you can enjoy an ice skating rink, seasonal food & drink, a made-in-Philadelphia market, and plenty more!



A nighttime scene at the riverside skating rink.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

For an even larger rink to show off your ice skating skills on head over to Penn’s Landing to experience the amazing riverside ice rink. Fun seasonal cocktails and snacks are also available for purchase at this beautiful winter wonderland.


Chanukah Wonderland at Please Touch Museum

On December 13 swing by the Please Touch Museum for a pop-up Chanukah event with crafts, music, games, and more! Discover all that holiday fun that surrounds Chanukah. The event is free with regular admission to the museum.

Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle

The Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle is a holiday light show like you’ve never seen before. Watch the scene as more than 50,000 lights illuminate the park along with a festive soundtrack. The show pops off every 30 minutes from November 9 through December 31 excluding Christmas Day. Sundays through Thursdays the show runs 4:30-8:00 pm and until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

A Longwood Christmas

While not in Philadelphia proper, we couldn’t resist including the Longwood Gardens Christmas display on our list. See the beautiful gardens transformed into a festive holiday season extravaganza. This year’s theme is French-inspired and will feature topiaries, wreaths, decorated trees, and floating cranberries, apples, and gilded walnuts. The holiday display is viewable now through January 7th, but act quick since advance tickets are required! Find out more here.

A Very Philly Christmas at Fairmount Park

This year, in conjunction with Parks & Recreation, five beautiful historic homes in Fairmount Park will be decked out in holiday decorations and filled with fun events for all ages to enjoy. Different events consist of musical performances, house tours, seasonal treats such as hot cocoa, and children’s activities. Find out more about visiting here.


Macy’s holiday display. Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jcapaldi/11358573735/.


Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City

A longstanding cornerstone of the Philadelphia holiday scene, the light show and Wanamaker Organ Concert are sure to become a staple of your holiday routine. The light show and concert, complete with floating reindeer and snowflakes, run through December 31 every two hours starting at 10:00 am and with the last show at 8:00 pm. So stop by the Center City Macy’s, located in the historic Wanamaker Building at 1300 Market Street for some classic Philadelphia holiday cheer.


Photo of Boathouse Row all lit up by michaelwm25 [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Chanukah Candle Lighting

Join the Center City Kehillah at Rittenhouse Square for the annual candle lighting. Mingle with the local community and enjoy some holiday treats as well! The event will take place on December 18 at 5:00 pm. Check out the details here. If Rittenhouse Square isn’t convenient for you, there will also be a menorah lighting on December 12 on Boathouse Row.



Featured photo is of Rittenhouse Square taken by Marc Cappelletti https://www.flickr.com/photos/marccappelletti/11515689706.

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.

Philadelphia Neighborhoods Show Off Holiday Spirit

It is hard to pinpoint how far back the immense, extraordinary holiday light displays in Philadelphia date. Including strands of lights draped across streets, big inflatable Santa Claus and reindeer, wreaths dotting windows, and more, sprinkled throughout every neighborhood, this city has no shortage of holiday spirit.

There are a few blocks in particular that stand out among the swaths of holiday decor citywide. Some of these streets have been organizing these sizable exhibits for a couple decades, others have only joined in the festivities in that past ten years or so. Regardless, each block brings a unified, striking display to the revelry.

Close-up of the Miracle on South 13th Street (Photo by unexpectedphilablog.com)

Just tucked away from the Passyunk Square action is the Miracle on South 13th Street. The 1600 block of South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris has risen to the top of the charts for holiday light displays. The entire block has organized over the years to include lights lining each house, draped between the rows, and wound around each tree, inflatable Santas, presents, and reindeer, wreaths and window displays, and the iconic electronic icicles.

After Travel + Leisure named the street a Top 50 Holiday Destination nationwide last year, even more attention was drawn to the already popular site. One result of this awareness is increased funding, most notably from Samsung.

The corporation gifted the block with its new SmartThings technology which means, for the first time ever, the entire block can be turned on and off at once, and certain displays are now motion sensored. This new technology helps to conserve energy and cut back on electric costs.

2700 block of South Smedley Street (Photo by unexpectedphilablog.com)

Far northeast of the Miracle on South 13th Street, another longtime contributor to the city’s holiday lights tradition also works on ways to cut the cost and environmental impact of their festivities. The residents of the 4200 block of Greeby Street in Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood have been rallying their holiday spirit into decadent light shows for around 17 years. These neighbors make use of energy efficient LED lights to allow the most over-the-top displays without placing too much burden on the environment or their wallets.

Greeby Street in Tacony lights up for the holidays. (Photo by James J. Kelly)

Some other popular blocks in Philadelphia that have come together to display holiday spirit through lights and decorations include, in South Philadelphia, the 2700 block of South Smedley Street and the same block of Colorado Street, and the 3500 block of Oakmont Street in Mayfair.

What all of the residents of these blocks have in common is the desire to bring the neighborhood together through holiday cheer. Many neighbors cite the tradition as a strong unifier in the immediate community and for the city as a whole. Some of these neighborhoods are especially diverse, and the lights and decorations provide a way for everyone to celebrate and enjoy the festivities together.

Another interesting element to these now very popular holiday attractions is the lasting effect the practice has on real estate values. Residents of South 13th Street and Smedley Street alike note that people move to these blocks because of the holiday customs. In fact, when a home on one of these blocks hits the market, a rare occurrence in the first place, it hardly lasts long at all before being claimed.  

2700 block of Colorado Street in South Philadelphia (Photo by unexpectedphilablog.com)


Photo in headline of the Miracle on South 13th Street by unexpectedphilablog.com.

For a more comprehensive visual of the Miracle on 13th Street, check out this video by Philadelphia filmmaker and photographer Cory J. Popp:


New Digs: DIY Dreams Come True in South Philly

Unlike many buyers, Caitlin Perkins was not looking for as much square footage as her budget could buy. Nor was she looking for recently rehabbed. Caitlin was looking for a house as small as possible with a sound structure, in South Philadelphia, to be her canvas. Solo found her just the place.


As a mixed-media artist, print maker, and painter, she knew she could peel back wallpaper, pull up carpet, and build furniture. Aside from structural integrity (and a basement), her priorities were size and location—and not in the typical sense.


As for size, Caitlin was inspired by the sustainability of the Tiny House Movement and originally sought to purchase a genuine “tiny house” on wheels (usually around 170-300 square feet), and a vacant lot to park it on. However, no bank would give her a mortgage for a house with wheels or vacant land.


Then a colleague pointed out that many houses in South Philadelphia fall within the tiny house criteria of 172-875 square feet. Added bonus for Caitlin was the fact that her employer, Fleisher Art Memorial, participates in Philadelphia Home-Buy-Now, an employer down payment matching program providing assistance for employees purchasing homes, typically near the workplace—in this case, zip codes 19147 and 19148.


The tiny house (left) and Caitlin, the tiny house owner and visionary (right)


With her budget and specifications in place, she needed a realtor to help her find and buy her future canvas. Caitlin reached out to several agencies to set up introductory interviews. “Deborah Solo was the only agent who took time to meet with me in person,” she recalls. “Everyone else was too busy to bother and just sent me a brief email back.” Deborah, on the other hand, thoughtfully walked her through the home buying process before Caitlin had even committed to being her client. Caitlin was sold.


Deborah was able to quickly identify properties that met Caitlin’s criteria and budget. Within a few showings, they found the perfect property in the Whitman section of South Philadelphia, and immediately put in an offer. Two other developers also put offers on the house. Deborah encouraged Caitlin to write a personal letter to the owners in addition to going in at the full asking price that the developers were offering. The letter worked, and the seller selected Caitlin’s offer!


Did we mention that the house, weighing in at 728 square feet, had drop ceilings, wood paneling, velvet wallpaper, and 30-plus year old carpet? In other words, in Caitlin’s eyes, “I knew this was the perfect house.” On March 1st, a week after closing, she began peeling back the layers on the walls, floors, and ceilings in the house to get down to the original structure, with the help of her friend and handyman Tom Karu. Caitlin began adding her custom, creative finishes from there.


The dining room before (left) and after (right). Caitlin cleverly painted the wood panelling and installed new pine flooring to bring this room into the 21st century


By the time the photographs were taken for this article in mid-May, Caitlin had made an astonishing amount of progress. Exceptionally astonishing considering she did all the work on the property while working her full-time job. “I find it energizing,” she explains.


Only an energized individual could remove five layers of flooring from the living room, layers of wall paper from each wall, lift drop ceilings, build custom kitchen shelving and countertops, patch plaster walls and use the historically accurate technique of lime washing.


Caitlin built this sideboard (left) out of a wall cabinet from the kitchen, and crafted a bedroom closet (right) with three folding chairs


Out of these and many more accomplishments, the only thing that temporarily thwarted Caitlin was the staircase. “It almost broke me,” she recounts, “it had carpet, then linoleum, then several layers of paint and adhesive…it took forever.” The results of her hard work? A house that is a Pinterest DIY dreamscape, and a homeowner who lost four sizes in the process!


The stunning kitchen counter, custom-made with metal pipes, butcher block, and a repurposed cabinet


Not only has the house itself been a canvas, Caitlin also plans to use much of the space in the house to create art in. The front room will be primarily a painting studio, the basement a printmaking studio, and the second bedroom is her writing room.


The living room, desperately in need of an update before (left), elegant modern painting studio after (right)


We may have to make a second visit to Caitlin in a few months, at the rate she’s enhancing the property, it has many more dramatic transformations to come! She has already decided that creating a water-saving washing sink in the bathroom will be her next project.