Market East “is building this,” and Market East “is improving that.” Wait … Market West?

Vintage shot of West Market Street, Circa 1925 | Courtesy of


That’s right, you heard me correctly. Market West is becoming a hot topic within Philadelphia’s development community.

But it’s difficult to say what it could/will look like in the near’ish future.

Over on Market East, projects have already been approved, money is in place, and shovels are in the ground. In other words, there is already a level of certainty that change is happening, and that it’s all positive development (e.g. East Market, Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia, 11th/12th + Chestnut, etc). Plus, we pretty much know what these projects are going to look like when they’re completed; which is comforting.

As for Market West, first of all, who the h*ll even refers to Market Street between City Hall and 30th Street Station as Market West? Well, I guess I just did … and others are too.

Some call it “The Business District,” some call it “Downtown,” and some call it “Rittenhouse” or “Logan Square.” Personally, I’ve always just called it Center City, but today Center City has been split into so many specific pieces/parts due to popular neighborhood names (e.g. Fitler Square, Midtown Village, etc), additions to what is now “considered” Center City (e.g. Fairmount, Graduate Hospital, etc), and the complete separate identity of the ever-growing eds/meds capital of Philadelphia, University City.

So needless to say, you have to be careful with your Philadelphia-neighborhood-based assumptions these days. Otherwise, someone may try to bash you with their Internet muscles.

Over on West Market Street, a big portion of the street frontage has recently become a hot spot for large/proven developers (i.e. those who have a successful track record in Philadelphia, and financial resources to make something happen), who are buying up pieces of real estate as if it were a game of Monopoly: Hey, I just bought my first “color-group” from “the bank,” and I want to start building “houses” and “hotels” (ha, what a great game).

But, why? What’s the draw? What’s the play?

Well for starters, a lot of it was owned by one guy/group/company: Richard Basciano. That name may sound familiar, as it was one his properties that collapsed unexpectedly at 22nd & Market in June 2013. My condolences to anyone/everyone who had a loved one there that day.

Also, Richard has been “speculating” on that long stretch of Philadelphia road for decades, which means he bought low and is now selling high. If you have not read recently, 2015 is a great time to be selling large pieces of Center City real estate.

Finally, large parcels are very hard to come by in Center City these days. Not only for a reasonable price, but just to buy in general. Now that Richard is a willing seller, developers are starting to see this as a great opportunity to close the gap between City Hall and University City. Connecting the two with large anchor projects, which could also spur a building frenzy for smaller projects.

Welp, there you have it. My professional take on one of Philadelphia’s next big development zones. More blog posts will follow, as soon as more news comes out.

More positive news for North Broad Street

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If you have ever tried to drive from Northern Liberties to Fairmount in Philadelphia, you know that the streets just north of City Hall can be busy. What’s up, Spring Garden! When I have to make that particular journey, I take Callowhill St from N 2nd St to N 20th St.

It’s an easy cut-through, you should try it sometime.

On my way to Fairmount, I always get caught at the traffic light at N Broad St & Callowhill St; it’s almost inevitable. If you know this intersection, then you already know that there are 2 parking lots on the southeast and southwest corners. Not parking garages, surface parking lots. This puts you about 1/2 mile north of City Hall in Center City, Philadelphia.

In 2015, those 2 lots are prime real estate. Believe it.

North Broad St has come into its own over the past few years, meaning that developers are finally starting to consider large anchor projects along the northern stretch of this famed Philadelphia boulevard. This is in part due to the resurgence of neighborhoods like Fairmount and Northern Liberties, as well as all of the new development now surrounding Temple University.

I’ve blogged about other North Broad developments over the past few years. Here, here, here, and here. Today, I am sharing another exciting article about North Broad development … here.

There is a lot going on in Philadelphia these days. Some say it’s just the start of something great (I typically fall within that crowd), and others believe it’s the beginning of the next real estate bubble (I can see some logic on that side as well).

As for me, I tend to look at real estate in 2 very simple ways: 1) Renting, and 2) Buying. If you do not buy real estate, you are a renter; unless you happen to have a super-cool family that supports your housing needs, and you in turn are okay with that arrangement for the rest of your life. But if you do not rent real estate, you are a buyer.

“Renting” and “Buying” both relate to the theory of supply/demand in real estate. When renting is up, buying is down; and vice versa.

That’s why renting has become so expensive over the past few years. Buying was slow following 2008, and remained slow for the years that followed. Rentals have been performing well since 2008, and this is what has caused rental rates to rise in Philadelphia. But buying has become a more viable opportunity today, and the momentum is now shifting.

Because I personally look at all markets as “Rent vs. Buy,” it’s easy to make correlations on how a certain city and/or metro area is performing.

In 2015, many markets offer buying opportunities that are less expensive than their rental counterparts. But now that most US metro areas are considered “Sellers’ Markets,” with some metro areas already being sellers’ markets for some time now, that may be changing sooner than we all want to believe.

In Philadelphia, renting is not cheap in 2015. Especially if you want to rent a home/apartment that is brand new. Popular neighborhoods in Center City and University City still remain expensive (think Rittenhouse, Old City, UPenn/Drexel area, etc), and popular neighborhoods in other parts of Philadelphia are not cheap either (think No Libs/Fishtown, Fairmount, Manayunk/Roxborough, etc).

But … while Philadelphia currently has many expensive homes for sale, there are still many reasonably priced opportunities to be had as well; and they might just be right down the street from where you want to live!

North Broad is having a moment, and good things are happening around projects like this one.

The “Live-Work-Play Vibe” in University City

Science Center - 3
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The reason I have “Live-Work-Play Vibe” in quotes, is because it was not my wording; but that from this article with Stephen Tang, CEO of the Science Center.

Live-Work-Play has been a common theme in urban areas across the US for the last decade or so. It symbolizes a lifestyle where local residents can live in a great neighborhood, get to work easily, and go out for drinks/dinner/shopping in the same neighborhood as both their home and job. Basically, it means that you have more free time to enjoy your life, rather than commute a long way to work or drive a far distance for entertainment.

This is the lifestyle you get whether you live in Center City, University City, or any other dense Philadelphia neighborhood. It’s a major reason why more people are choosing to live in cities today than in years past, and it’s also why Philadelphia is doing so well as a desirable place to live. Our city is designed to support that kind of lifestyle (e.g. dense, vertical, walkable, etc), and the infrastructure is there to build on it even more.

Once you think about it, the suburban lifestyle was built on the opposite: get a single family house with a yard, create space between you and your neighbors, and then park in your driveway/garage so that you can easily drive to work, the supermarket, the mall, Walmart, Target, you name it. It’s the complete opposite of the urban lifestyle.

Now to be honest and upfront, I personally do not feel that one is better than the other, as many different people have many different ideas/opinions on how to live their lives. I think there are pros and cons to both ways of life. Therefore, there is plenty of room for either lifestyle to exist in most large US metropolitan areas.

I have also helped both buyers and sellers in Philadelphia’s city proper, as well as in suburban Philadelphia, so I understand both sides and why people choose one over the other. Lastly, I have lived in both environments myself.

Alright, back to UCity and the Science Center.

To put things in perspective, the Science Center today has 17 buildings across 17 acres of land. It is considered to be the “oldest and largest urban research park in the US,” establishing itself in 1963. It currently employs 15,000 people, contributes almost $65M in tax revenue, and provides Philadelphia start-ups with the office and lab space they need to get their ideas off the ground.

In other words, the Science Center is a very large incubator.

If what you just read about SC isn’t large and significant enough for you, the organization plans to double in size over the next 10 years. The plan is to partner up with Wexford Science + Technology, expand to 4M square feet of office/lab/residential/retail, re-imagine the former University City High School, and build on additional open parcels to increase the size of the current campus.


I know, I know. When things are good in real estate (as well as in the general economy) grand visions seem to emerge everyday. We will build this, it will be the best ever, and people will come to us.

This project is different, and it’s planned around consistent/well-thought-out concepts: Philadelphia has many local universities and hospitals that can support this type of project, people around the world are just starting to discover how conveniently located Philadelphia actually is (to other major US markets, as well as its ease of access to the rest of the world), and Philadelphia is slowly becoming one of the top US hubs for the life sciences.

More information about the Science Center here, and more information about their growth plans here.