Birchwood at Grays Ferry is a senior housing building at 2309 Carpenter St. with 55 affordable rental apartments. The building was previously known as Saint Anthony’s Senior Center, as it is was originally constructed in 1897 as the Saint Anthony de Padua Parish School, and was designed in the Romanesque style by Frank Watson. In the late 1990s, just as the Graduate Hospital neighborhood was really starting to change, Ingerman Regis Corporation bought the property and renovated it to its current condition. Part of that plan entailed the demolition of surrounding homes on Carpenter Street and Montrose Street, to accommodate open space and parking for the building’s tenants. And so the property has remained for a little more than two decades.
As we hinted above, the neighborhood has changed in a dramatic fashion since this project was completed. To wit, there were over 1,000 vacant lots and properties in the area right before Y2K, and these days you can probably count the vacant properties on your fingers and toes. Back then, you could buy a home in need of some work for tens of thousands of dollars, and these days it’s more like $400K. New construction homes with parking start at seven figures. And thus, there’s intense market pressure to develop any vacant land or any properties that could be considered underused.
Surely it’s with that in mind that the owners of Birchwood are looking to build some new homes along the perimeter of their property. The plans call for ten homes on Bonsall Street and another half dozen homes on Montrose Street. Some of these homes are already permitted, and others are still in process. As part of the project, the owners are going to the Redevelopment Authority recently to receive relief relating to a 1999 loan associated with the property, and will be making an early payment on that loan in exchange for that relief. With that issue looking resolved in the near future, it looks likely that this project will move forward sometime next year.
Currently, there are homes around the corner on the 2100 block of Kimball and the 2200 block of League which are selling for over $1M. This tells us that these homes will likely land at a similar price point, and maybe even a little higher due to their slightly greater distance from Washington Avenue. Fortunately, even as these market rate homes rise around Birchwood, we believe the building will remain affordable for at least the next twenty years or so. Not only is affordable senior housing a core component of this developer’s business model, but the property also includes certain deed restrictions that will make it additional redevelopment a nigh impossible in the short or intermediate term.