Arbor House Makes a Statement on York Street

Exteriors of new construction homes and condos are fairly predictable in Philadelphia in 2019. Standard new construction usually calls for brick facades, bay windows clad in metal, and vinyl siding in the rear. Higher end models usually get some stone on the first floor before moving onto bricks, a slightly more expensive material on the bays, and a swap of vinyl for the aforementioned metal cladding in the back. These architectural trends are commonly decried by people who like to kvetch about things on the internet, often with the complaint that they look cheap, especially compared to homes built over a hundred years ago. Case in point:

These apartment buildings at 47th & Chestnut are modest by West Philly standards

They simply don’t build ’em like that anymore. The reason they don’t is that it’s much more expensive to build buildings like this than to build the buildings we described in the previous paragraph. In the late 1800s, when much of Philadelphia’s older housing stock was erected, there were infinitely more contractors, builders, and artisans working around the city, a condition that surely depressed construction prices. Ditto, deplorable labor conditions and the total disregard for the value of human life and limb. These days, it’s often not economically feasible for developers to spring for architectural bells and whistles- but we occasionally see exceptions to this rule, like the Arbor House building on E. York Street.

View of the building
Check out those bays
Closer look at the facade

We last visited this property maybe two and a half years ago when it was still under construction at the corner of Memphis & York. At the time, we told you that Postgreen was the developer of the project, and that they were to working on a novemplex, which one might alternately describe as a nine-unit building. We also explained that architectural designer Jenny Sabin was conceptualizing a unique facade with “a spatial and architectural mural” called called Light Web. The developers used etched viroc on the facade and laser cut steel panels on the bays to execute this architectural mural, and from where we sit, it looks awesome.

When we previously wrote about the project, we told you to expect condos, with prices starting at $275K per unit. In the end, the units in the building were instead offered as rentals at prices between $1600 and $2000 per month. The developers sold the property to an investor at the end of 2017 for just under $3M so it seems likely it’ll remain a rental property for the foreseeable future. Rental or condos, Arbor House will also remain one of the most unique and interesting buildings in Fishtown, if not in the whole city.