Changing Skyline: Developer Roland Kassis Transforming Fishtown Into Hip Haven

Every changing neighborhood in Philadelphia seems to have one: a developer who dominates the scene.

In Northern Liberties, it’s Bart Blatstein. In Newbold, it’s John Longacre. In Point Breeze, it’s Ori Feibush. On South Broad Street, it’s Carl Dranoff. They amassed their real estate holdings when the neighborhoods were cheap, then became the masters of their destinies when the places emerged, Sleeping Beauty-like, from slumber.

Now, it’s Fishtown’s turn, and Roland Kassis is the reigning developer. Over 25 years, Kassis estimates, his company, Domani Developers, has collected a million square feet of property, mainly in old manufacturing buildings along Frankford Avenue, the neighborhood’s commercial spine. That’s almost as much space as the Comcast Tower holds.

Kassis, 44, who was born in Lebanon, raised in Liberia, and speaks French, exhibits the same manic energy and insatiable appetite for abandoned factories as the other neighborhood titans, but he has a sensibility more in tune with Fishtown’s arty, DIY, tattoo-and-vintage-loving culture. He not only nurtured a yoga studio on Frankford Avenue, he practices there and eschews meat. It’s hard to imagine many other Philadelphia developers chanting “Om.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20150306_Changing_Skyline__Developer_Roland_Kassis_transforming_Fishtown_into_hip_haven.html#AgDY2fTHVBtIvMvF.99

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Grand Plans For Riverfront Hotels, Wedding Halls In Fishtown

Developer Bart Blatstein and caterer Joseph Volpe say they have signed a contract with Exelon Corp. to buy the former Delaware Station electric plant on the Delaware River in the city’s Fishtown section.

The property boast a 1,000-foot stretch of waterfront and includes a pier.

“We envision two boutique hotels, each leading into their own ballrooms with 55-foot-high ceilings,” said Volpe, owner of Cescaphe Event Group, which organizes 600 wedding receptions a year at its five Philadelphia venues.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind property,” said Blatstein, best known for the Piazza at Schmidt’s and other housing-and-retail projects that have helped transform some of the city’s older, grittier neighborhoods.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150116_Grand_plans_for_riverfront_hotels__wedding_halls_in_Fishtown.html#yu0DdUDgHTFBg6HI.99

Icehouse Condos’ Next Phase Begins In Fishtown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nearly a decade after he started the project, James Maransky has finally finished the second phase of the Icehouse, his 36-unit condominium development at Thompson Street and Columbia Avenue in Fishtown.

EnVision Group, his company, now will break ground on a third phase. One block over from the Icehouse on Columbia, it is developing Moyer Street Court townhouses.

Maransky, founder of EnVision and a green-roof professional who specializes in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified construction, said many of his colleagues in the industry did not make it through the financial crisis.

He knows how hard it was – and almost had to stop work himself. The Icehouse’s second phase was on ice, figuratively, during the financial meltdown as banks backed away from new projects. But, Maransky said recently as he looked out on the project’s common green-roof area, “I was so confident that once the first phase was finished, the second phase would sell out – and it did.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/classifieds/real_estate/20140914_Phase_III_of_Icehouse_beginning.html#0keucPoskwfxbgLA.99

Open For Risky Business: Philadelphia’s Vacant Properties

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With its broken plywood door and faded graffiti, the former hosiery mill on Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section is a contrast to the quarter-million-dollar townhouses and upscale lofts nearby.

1101 Frankford is not just a four-story eyesore, says Thomas Fasone, who owns an antique lighting shop next door. He rates it a magnet for trouble.

“It’s so easy to get into these buildings,” says Fasone, who has complained to the city. “They can go in to keep warm, start a fire, do drugs, fall asleep, and a fire breaks out.”

The place is supposed to be sealed. But on two recent visits, an Inquirer reporter found it open. The owners have problems, too. One of them, a Drexel Hill man, is accused of dealing marijuana

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20140310_Open_for_risky_business__Phila__s_vacant_properties.html#5hYIOdF5lTCuGBHK.99

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Fishtown Baseball Factory To Become 30 Homes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday to grant a handful of variances to Domani Developers, which is planning to convert a former baseball factory at 1701 Tulip Street in Fishtown into a 30-unit apartment complex. (Yes, that’s an empty factory that used to make baseballs: the A.J. Reach sporting goods company.)

The building has been vacant since 2004, according to developer Roland Kassis, and he was unable to find a viable industrial use for the property, which is zoned I-2.  Kassis said that the city in general and Fishtown in particular have seen a growing demand for small, one- and two-bedroom apartments, which is what he intends to put in the building.  According to the zoning application, the developer intends to build a fifth-story addition, roof deck space, and a canopy over the first floor.

The project, designed by architects at Cecil Baker Partners, won the support of the local RCO, Fishtown Neighbors Association, by a vote of 107 to 77.  A quick calculation shows that that is not a unanimous vote, and the reason seems to be parking: the planned apartment complex contains none.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/Former_Fishtown_baseball_factory_into_30_residences.html#kImEFmot6HpZBt4m.99

Changing Skyline: Cool Affordable Housing For Young Teachers

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s easy to imagine the sprawling 19th-century brick mill on South Kensington’s Howard Street as just another high-end apartment complex for twentysomething professionals, the newest outpost on Philadelphia’s ever-advancing frontier of gentrification.

Situated a few blocks north of Fishtown‘s hipster bars and BYOB food shrines, Oxford Mills preserves the kind of authentic architectural details that make young, and not-so-young, renters swoon: high ceilings, huge windows, thick wooden beams.  The amenities hail straight from the wired generation’s handbook.  Plans call for an office incubator that rents desk space by the day and a public cafe that spills onto a sliver park furnished with outdoor tables and a fire pit.  You know, for those cool, late summer nights when you want to linger with friends.

But Oxford Mills, which will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday, ventures down an uncharted path.  It is being built by a private company, D3 Real Estate, which intends to market the units as affordable housing to teachers, especially novices working in programs like Teach for America, and others who fall into the growing category known as “the working poor.”

Newly minted professionals with college degrees are not generally seen as the target demographic for low-income housing, a term that still brings to mind no-frills residential complexes built for the chronically poor, elderly, or disabled.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20130415_Changing_Skyline__South_Kensington_housing_development_for_low-wage_workers_is_a_socially_driven_project.html

Creating A Buzz For 14 Philadelphia Neighborhoods

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting West Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To some, they are former diamonds in the rough, locales that a decade or so of change has polished into something now truly unique.

And many have made the cut as city neighborhoods that the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. will be showcasing in a new, two-year campaign.

The 14 areas, to be unveiled Friday as part of the campaign’s launch, are: Fairmount, Spring Garden, Graduate Hospital, Callowhill, Bella Vista, East Passyunk, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Queen Village, Pennsport, Cedar Park, Spruce Hill, University City, and Powelton Village.

“Philly is a city of neighborhoods. What does that really mean?” GPTMC president and chief executive Meryl Levitz said of the impetus behind the campaign. “We want people to go one block farther. People haven’t felt this good about Philly as they do now.”

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130405_Philadelphia_s_gems__Its_neighborhoods__that_is.html#ixzz2PbMBcjXg 
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