On June 8, 2016, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the new Eastern Lofts mixed-use development in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.
The American Railway Express Company Garage is just two blocks from Fairmount Park. The building was constructed as a private parking garage in the Commercial Style in 1922 by the Philadelphia Realty Company for the American Railway Express Company. The trapezoidal-shaped, reinforced concrete building is largely clad in red brick with buff brick and polychrome tile accents.
Numerous plans to restore this building have failed given its age, configuration and complexity and the building sat vacant and abandoned for more than 25 years. In August 2006, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The development team will receive Historic Tax Credits for the project. Mosaic Development Partners and Cedar Cove devised a unique approach to turn the building into a mixed residential and commercial hub.
Tonnetta C. Graham, president of the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation (SMCDC) had been waiting 30 years for the vacant historic structure to be put back to use.
For over a decade, Graham says, different agencies and individuals tried to figure out what to do with the site, a triangular lot in North Philly with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks on one side.
As one of many remaining signs of the neighborhood’s industrial past, it received national historical landmark status in 2006. Thanks to that designation, historic preservation tax credits were paired with new markets tax credits to finance a $7.6 million project.
Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) arranged the new markets tax credit financing for the project. PIDC has done 11 new markets tax credit projects so far, totaling $148 million in investments. Eastern Lofts investors included U.S. Bank, State Farm, and Mazzarini Real Estate. LISC Philadelphia also extended a $3.7 million loan to provide upfront capital for Mosaic.
“All these blighted former industrial buildings are on our radar as a CDC,” says Graham. “We do want these structures to be revitalized and repurposed. However we would like to keep the historical nature.”