Knowing the Philadelphia real estate market well, and adding 50 or so buildings to the region, has made developer Carl Dranoff a pro at shifting gears as financial markets and demographics demand. In developing the luxury, 32-story Symphony House condominium, Dranoff, CEO of locally based Dranoff Properties, helped spur development of the Avenue of the Arts district on the city’s important Broad Street artery. He went on to develop the five-story 777 South Broad rental nearby when the market for condos deteriorated. “Both buildings were game-changing,” and made the area a 24/7 neighborhood, Dranoff says. When another prime site became available, he made a $2.5 million winning bid, and Southstar Lofts debuted April 30.
Located at the corner of highly visible Broad and South streets, Southstar is a high-end rental because 777 was so successful, Dranoff says. To fit it to the site, architect Jerry Roller, principal at JKR Partners in Philadelphia, made the building seven stories and clad it in a precast limestone–looking material on Broad, which includes taller buildings and cultural venues, but used four stories and faced them in brick on South, which houses lower-rise row houses, vintage stores, and an overall bohemian flavor.
Tenants will pay extra for green when all else is comparable, says Dranoff, who considers it a key ingredient. Features that gave Southstar its LEED Silver certification garner a 5 to 10 percent up-charge, he says. Among them: the transit-friendly site’s underground garage with pared-down parking; recyclable materials, such as strand bamboo flooring; energy-efficient appliances; a reflective roof; and a stormwater-management system. Dranoff even initiated a bike-sharing program.
The lines have blurred between what condo buyers and luxury renters expect, and this building is no exception. The studios and one- and two-bedrooms are large and boast big windows, 10-foot ceilings, glass-block kitchen backsplashes, and closet systems, rarely found among rentals. To make Southstar work economically, rents had to cover costs—$1,500 to $1,600 for a studio; $1,700 to $2,100 for a one-bedroom unit; and $2,500 to $3,200 for a two-bedroom. Since opening day, 55 units have leased. And like other Dranoff properties, Southstar incorporates mixed-use retail. A choice of restaurants includes an as-yet unnamed establishment with rotisserie and raw bar from renowned chef Kevin Sbraga.
Sharing amenities between properties is de rigueur now. Because Southstar is a rental and the economics didn’t permit a pool or roof deck, tenants can use those at other Dranoff properties. But the sleek loft project does include a large, windowed fitness center; big clubroom with fireplace, TV, catering kitchen, and computer stations; and package room with refrigerated storage. The lobby even offers two concierges: a high-tech system and an old-fashioned human.