Spak Group has been developing in West and Southwest Philly for several years, and we’ve covered a few of their projects over time. As we’ve shown, this developer has made a bit of a name for themselves, being especially sensitive to the community as they consider their projects. Years ago, we told you about an effort from Spak to redevelop a property near 49th & Baltimore which had been vacant for over a decade, working within guidelines provided by the Redevelopment Authority. Ryan Spak, the owner of the company, worked at the time with University City District through their Project Rehab initiative, helping guide property owners through the process of fixing up and improving their homes.
Most recently, we covered a project from Spak Group at 5050 Baltimore Ave., a site that was nearly a Greensgrow location before they moved to a location a block further west. That project called for a three-story mixed-use building with two commercial spaces under twelve apartments. It was notable because the financial projections for the project proposed three affordable units, offered at rents that are affordable for people making making 47.5, 50 and 55 percent of the Area Median Income. That project is under construction, having started at the end of 2019.
This developer is now taking their inclusionary housing approach to the next level, targeting a larger site nearby with a project that’s more than four times the size of their Baltimore Avenue development. WADE Flats, as they’re calling it, will be located at 5300 Whitby Ave., which is located a couple blocks below Baltimore and across the Regional Rail tracks. Historically, this site was home to garages and more recently a digital substation was located here. Eventually this became obsolete, and the developers bought the property in 2018. Needless to say, a new project will represent a huge upgrade for the immediate area.
WADE Flats will entail a total of 53 apartments and 4 retail spaces. In the first phase, look for 37 units and 3 retail spaces, and the second phase calls for the remaining 16 units and 1 commercial space. 29 of the units will be offered at rental rates at or below 80% AMI, while the remaining units will be offered at various price points below that. In all, the rental range will be between $795/mo and $1600/mo, with both numbers representing below market rental rates in this part of town. Per the developers, these lower priced units will come with market rate finishes, and will also include amenities seen in buildings without less expensive units.
We’d like to offer our kudos to Spak Group for this plan, which will redevelop a big vacant lot on a currently bleak stretch. Perhaps even more significantly, we applaud the way that they’re making inclusionary housing a priority for their business. For years, we’ve posited that market rate developers can’t really build affordable units without receiving some kind of government subsidy, but as far as we can tell there are no subsidies here. We’d reached out to the Spak Group, and hopefully we’ll be back sometime soon with another story about just how they do it, and perhaps their approach can be a model for other developers in town.