Publication: Philadelphia Business Journal
Date: 11/11/2005
Article: "Murano will heighten West Market's residential thrust"
Author: Natalie Kostelni


Far West Market Street in Philadelphia's Center City is transitioning from an all-office corridor to one that is gaining a considerable mix of high and low-rise residential projects, which have, up to now, been missing in that part of the Central Business District.

The latest residential project to enter the market is the Murano, a $165 million, 42-story condominium tower that will sit between the Commerce Square office complex and 2121 Market St., the site of the old After Six tuxedo factory that is now an apartment building.

In fact, 2121 Market St. was the pioneer in terms of setting the stage for residential for that part of Market Street. Thomas Properties Group Inc., which owned the building, formed a partnership with Philadelphia Management Inc. to convert the old factory into 168 apartments in 2002. The units quickly leased up, helping to create a market for housing at West Market.

Other residential projects followed 2121 Market, creating a cluster of residences in a part of Market Street that has long been dominated by office buildings.

John Turchi is converting a former AAA Mid-Atlantic garage at 23rd and Market streets into 110 condominiums. Opus East has preliminary plans to construct a 30-story residential tower at 1919 Market. Orens Brothers Inc. is converting the old Daily News Building at 2200 Arch St., a 12-story, 350,000-square-foot building that is in the process of being turned into 176 condos.

The Murano will be the next project trying to seize on the residential boom under way in Philadelphia, and the one cropping up on West Market Street. The area has its advantages by being in the Central Business District, therefore potentially allowing people to live within a few minutes walk to work. It also has quick access to Amtrak's 30th Street Station, the city's major highways, University City and other nearby neighborhoods. It does lack a cohesive neighborhood feel, partly because of its newness as a residential area.

"We think there's plenty of depth in the market," said Randy Scott, senior vice president at Thomas Properties, citing demographic trends toward city living and its location. "You never know when a market is overbuilt until it is."

Before Thomas built Commerce Square, completing the second tower in 1992, it had a vision for West Market beginning at 21st Street. "This is a nod in that direction," Scott said about the Murano.

Scott considers the project as a "Chicago-type concept," or one that blends residential among office as Chicago has along Michigan Avenue. The key is the residential developments along Michigan Avenue have carved out a portion of its street-level space for retail uses.

In the case of the Murano, 9,000 square feet will be used for retail, presumably a home furnishing-life style store. The store, Scott pointed out, will draw not only from Murano and other nearby residents but those across the Schuylkill River in University City. Aside from a popular Trader Joe's that is housed in the 2121 Market St. apartment building, services used by residents in that area are limited.

Named for a Venetian town famous for its glass, the Murano is being developed jointly with Thomas Properties, of Los Angeles, and P%26A Associates, a Philadelphia company that developed the St. James. P%26A's St. James is Philadelphia's tallest apartment building at 45 stories.

The Murano was designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Associates of Chicago. Each unit, will have floor-to-ceiling glass, suggesting its Murano name. It will sit on a 1.4-acre site.

The Murano will have 302 condos ranging from 742 square feet to 1,250 square feet. Prices will range from the high $300,000s a unit to more than $500,000. A multilevel parking garage will have 302 parking spaces.


The building is expected to be completed in 26 months.

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