PHILADELPHIA — Yaron Properties is expanding its presence in Old City by adding two additional residential projects, switching its successful Merchants’ Row apartment complex into condominiums, and breaking out a new concept for the building that housed MTV’s “Real World” cast.

Yaron has already amassed 10 buildings in Old City and invested more than $100 million in redeveloping the properties into mostly residential structures. Many of the properties have a mix of retail and residential components. It’s a section of Philadelphia the developer has focused on since taking a stake in the neighborhood eight years ago.

“There is something about Old City that I find very charming,” said Michael Yaron, owner and principal of Yaron Properties.

Yaron isn’t the only developer keen on Old City. Historic Landmarks for Living led the way in the mid-1980s, buying historic properties in the neighborhood and redeveloping them into apartments.

Developer interest in the neighborhood continued to rev up in the 1990s as restaurants and trendy lounges came on the scene. Additional apartments and condos were made available in the neighborhood as part of an overall residential boom under way in Philadelphia that has been spurred by tax abatements on conversions and new construction, as well as historically low interest rates.

“Everything people are building is selling, and the process keeps going up for the units,” said Steve Clofine, an investment broker with Mallin Panchelli Nadel who has sold 40 buildings in Old City to developers. “I think it’s still exploding. Everything I list is sold right away and we have seen no stall or sign of things slowing down.”

Yaron has positioned himself to continue creating a critical mass in Old City. He plans to keep identifying what he calls “key properties” in the neighborhood that will have an effect on the direction of Old City. His gusto for the neighborhood and desire for more projects comes after he threatened to halt any future ones after what he called a “fiasco” last year when the city’s unions picketed the former Merchant Seamen’s Center, a building he owns at 3rd and Arch streets where MTV’s “Real World” was preparing to shoot the show, because the work site was non-union.

Arcadia Land Development paid Thomas Richter $4 million for 26 acres at Walker Road and Old Eagle Road in Tredyffrin. Arcadia had been taking plans for the site through the approval process since 2010 and a subsequent settlement with the township has the developer building Wayne Glen, a residential community of 91 villas and carriage homes. Arcadia had planned to built upwards of 240,000 square feet of commercial space on an adjacent 10 acres fronting Swedesford Road at Old Eagle, but that isn’t proposed at this time. 73,126 square feet May Cabinets Inc. leased 73,126 square feet at Route 55 Industrial Center at 70 Sewell St. in Glassboro, N.J. as a new manufacturing plant, distribution center and headquarters. Michael T. Bown Sr. of Industrial Investments Inc., the landlord, arranged the lease. The industrial center totals 371,326 square feet and with the lease with May Cabinets, it has just 2,911 square feet vacant.

Since the show was taped last year, the building has sat vacant. Yaron plans to restore and renovate the building as a new gallery called FUEL, which stands for Fostering Undergraduate Exposure on Location. It’s geared toward showcasing works done by undergraduate design and visual arts students and is scheduled to open next spring.

Also on Yaron’s lineup is to change Merchants’ Row at 3rd and Arch streets from rental to for-sale units. The building has 19 apartments and two retail outlets. The success of that property and the seemingly insatiable appetite for condo living in Philadelphia has prompted Yaron to go condo with the apartments.

“We know it will go quickly,” Yaron predicted. The units, which range from 700 to 1,400 square feet, will be priced to sell for $600 per square foot.

Drawing on the expected sellout of Merchants’ Row, Yaron will break ground in the next 60 days on Merchants’ Court, which will sit adjacent to Merchants’ Row. Yaron anticipates constructing a seven-story building adjacent to Merchants’ Row that will have four condos which will be 2,000 square feet each, or a full floor, and a 3,300-square-foot penthouse. While the smaller units will be priced up to $650 per square foot, the penthouse will sell for as high as $800 per square foot. He also plans a high-end retail outlet for the building. Merchants’ Court will be completed within nine months.

Yaron is also developing plans for the area from 305 Arch St. to 102-110 N. 3rd St., which is at present a parking lot. It is expected that Yaron will construct a garage on the site but has yet to finalize the plans.

Natalie Kostelni, Reporter
Philadelphia Business Journal

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