By Jessica Green | August 25, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
A revamped residential building, a new luxury hotel, and an out-of-this-world attraction lead the booming real estate market.
From its perch in the Market West District, The Sterling rooftop offers panoramic views of Rittenhouse Square and Center City on one side and University City on the other.
Standing tall on JFK Boulevard is The Sterling Apartment Homes (1815 JFK Blvd., 215-220-4314), a luxury apartment building finished in 1961 spanning 29 floors. Aimco, the company behind The Sterling, as well as other Philly staples—Park Towne Place, Chestnut Hall, The Riverloft—recently redeveloped the complex, investing $36 million to revamp the interior with new apartments offering designer kitchens, wood floors, and large floor plans. The renovations also include a new 3,500-square-foot fitness center with updated machines, a roof deck with a pool, fire pits, and seating, and a tech lounge for business professionals complete with free Wi-Fi.
“We are investing in The Sterling because of its location in the heart of Philadelphia’s growing Market West District, directly adjacent to Comcast and its expanding headquarters,” says Patti Shwayder, Aimco senior vice president of government relations and communications. “The Sterling is close to the central business district, Rittenhouse Square, and University City. It is a true live/work environment.”
Although the building is situated in the business district, a variety of potential residents are interested in The Sterling. “[We are] attracting a broad range, from young professionals to empty nesters to graduate students,” says Wes Powell, Aimco’s senior vice president of redevelopment. Lending to this are the new amenities—specifically the rooftop pool, which is accompanied by underwater speakers, resort-style cabanas, and outdoor televisions. “We’ve gone all out in designing this area, which we think will add a whole new dimension to outdoor gatherings,” adds Powell.
The surrounding area also received a makeover. The newest location for Misconduct Tavern (the first is at 15th and Locust Streets) is on the first level of The Sterling, along with Square One Coffee and Old Nelson Food Company. “We are repositioning the retail; there are 13 retail bays on the first floor and we’re trying to activate the street on both corners. There’s a need for more street level in the area,” says Shwayder. “We are looking to put in a fitness center, coffee shop, a sushi restaurant, and a pizza place.”
Denver-based Aimco has properties in 24 states and the District of Columbia, but according to Shwayder, whose colleagues refer to her as “the Philly girl,” Philadelphia is a key market. “We have eight communities in the city, all of which have been placed on the state and national registers of historic places,” says Shwayder. “After the downturn, when we looked at our properties across the country, the Pennsylvania properties were the gems in fantastic locations that could really be upgraded to make them unique. The Sterling was part of that plan, [so] we started renovation a couple of years ago, [bringing the property] to 21st-century standards while preserving its historical features.”
The Logan, aka “Philadelphia’s Hotel,” brings big-time amenities to Logan Square, including a rooftop lounge set to open in the spring.
It’s no surprise that when the Four Seasons Philadelphia closed in June, a deep sense of nostalgia took over for one of the city’s most respected hotels. In its 30 years on the Parkway, the property had hosted celebrities of all kinds: musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs. But as the Four Seasons awaits its new space at the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center (the hotel is set to open in 2018), its former home will transform into The Logan (1 Logan Sq., 215-963-1500). “We talked to Philadelphians to get their feedback about the hotels here,” says Walter Isenberg, president and CEO of Sage Hospitality, the development group behind The Logan. “[This hotel] is designed to create a place in Philly for people to go to. It’s stylish, it’s modern, and it’s open to everyone.”
The Logan hotel—which Sage refers to as “Philadelphia’s Hotel”—is paying homage to James Logan, a colonial Pennsylvanian who was known for his service to the public. An anticipated fall opening (they will begin receiving hotel reservations this November) will bring an updated look to the previous façade. Artwork will span the walls, and color will be a big component in the décor. A new ballroom for weddings and events, an updated meeting space, and a new spa and fitness center will complement the hotel’s latest public amenity—a rooftop lounge set to open in the spring of 2016.
And it wouldn’t be a Philadelphia hotel without a great restaurant as an anchor. Urban Farmer, a farm-to-table steakhouse with a focus on local and organic foods, will open simultaneously with the hotel. “Having lived and worked in the city earlier in my career, Philadelphia holds a special place in my heart,” says Peter Karpinski, COO of Sage Restaurant Group. “I am looking forward to returning with a concept I know the community will love.” The restaurant looks to local farmers to source its ingredients, creating a sense of comfort in both its food and style. “We are dedicated to developing restaurants that are specifically tailored to their surroundings,” says Karpinski. “We’ve enjoyed spending our time forming close relationships with the local farmers and artisans who will contribute to Urban Farmer Philadelphia’s menu and design.”
The view from the One Liberty Observation Deck, at almost 900 feet above street level, shows off the building’s shorter sibling, Two Liberty Place.
An attraction in the sky, the One Liberty Observation Deck (1650 Market St., Ste. 5700, 267-675-7068) will offer tourists and locals a new place to view the Philadelphia skyline this fall. Fifty-seven floors (883 feet) above street level, the deck will be the tallest standing attraction in the city. Beyond vistas of the horizon, the deck will also offer artwork displays that depict the city’s history, and technology will be put in place to improve the viewing experience.
“Philadelphia has so many compelling stories to tell,” says Evan Evans, the general manager of hospitality group Montparnasse 56, which includes One Liberty Observation Deck. “The best part is we can tell many of them from our vantage point [from the] Deck. We will offer intriguing factoids about [the city’s] sports, culture, and music, things locals and visitors may have never known about Philadelphia. This is what really drew me to the project.”
The design is integral to the experience. “The architectural design will take a [cue] from the geometry of the building to create dynamic, flowing spaces,” says Mark Brungo, senior associate at Gensler, the firm handling the interior architecture design. “Angular walls will echo the faceted shape of the tower and gently guide the flow of visitors, making the space fluid and strengthening the connection between the interior and exterior.”
“It’s amazing what happens when people enter our space,” says Evans. “Everyone rushes to the window to look for something they can identify and identify with. There are powerful emotions as you identify things in the view: Grandma’s house, your high school, an old hangout, that great restaurant you forgot about. The memories are unlocked by looking for things that are familiar.”
Evans also focuses beyond the structure and on the feelings people experience when they are 883 feet above street level. “You feel like you are on top of the world, having conquered something and reaching new personal heights,” he says. “It’s fun to watch the expression on people’s faces; that ‘wow’ or ‘amazed’ look will always be inspiring to me.”
photography by Steve belkowitz (one liberty obServation deck); courteSy of aimco (Sterling)