With Goldtex Rising Above Viaduct, Some Insights On Real Estate

 

Goldtex rendering | Image: Kling Stubbins

Goldtex Building, March, 2012 | Photo: Peter Woodall

There are almost 1,700 new apartments in nine buildings set to come on the market in Center City and its environs this year and next, according to industry data. Among them are the 163 units being created out of the shell of the Goldtex building, which overlooks the Reading Viaduct as it makes its curve toward Center City. Goldtex, built in 1908 as a ladies shoe factory, is a sustainable project designed by Kling Stubbins and developed by Matt and Mike Pestronk of Post Brothers. It will have a restaurant and a cafe at street level.

Michael & Matthew Pestronk | Photo: Peter Woodall

Seeking some insight into the real estate market, last month we caught up with the Pestronks at Goldtex. They told us they’re looking for a third project–in addition to Goldtex, they’re mid-renovation on Rittenhouse Hill in Germantown–a sign that credit markets are gaining strength post-recession (banks stopped lending in 2008 and didn’t begin again until well into 2009).

Though they say larger loans, of $50 million or more, are easier to obtain than loans of $10-20 million for smaller projects, the Pestronks caution against expectations of a boom in multi-family new construction. A hitch: Philadelphia-based banks rarely lend more than $50 million for development, so equity partners or out-of-town banks are necessary to make big deals. Another: Matt Pestronk says the best Center City area buildings for apartment conversions have already been developed.

Photo: Peter Woodall

Unfortunately, given the dearth of likely conversion candidates, at $200 per foot, the cost of new construction is too high given relatively modest Philadelphia rents, more than twice the per-foot cost of a building conversion. They contend the issue is the high cost of labor, which Post Brothers overcomes by using mixed union-non-union sub-contractors, a tactic that brings them a constant flow of union protesters.

Nevertheless, the Pestronks see demand for their product: condo-quality apartments with an eye to contemporary design and buildings with amenities geared to urban professionals. The Goldtex rooftop, with brilliant views of Center City and North Philly, will have a pool, fitness center, and a green roof.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is also senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine.



34 Comments


  1. Damn.

    Is all that random window placement and colorful silliness really necessary? The building looks fine as is, why crap it up with something that we’re going to shake our heads at in 10 years?

    And do I see surface parking in that rendering? How cutting edge…

  2. Hi thesestreets – the building is getting a new skin. If we left the building looking as-is, similar to the other buildings in the neighborhood, it would be massively energy-inneficient, as all un-insulated concrete buildings are. We wanted to make a heavily insulated, energy-efficient, modern building, and therefore the windows were a blank slate to design from.

    There is no surface parking for the building. That is the service station next door. The building has a newly created garage in the basement.

  3. I like it. It’s original for Philadelphia.

  4. We lived across the street at the Old Shoe factory a few years ago- and watched, and waited… and waited for something good to fill this space.

    Walkability in the area was the challenge at that time, as was the chasm walk southbound across Vine to get to anything to… well… do.

    The current plans look great, and I like the idea of a street level cafe… SMART. Would that have been there when we were then. Add in an improved/upgraded Viaduct, and the area finally becomes a real walking and living space. I also appreciate the green aspects of the plan. Good for your team goin’ with LEED… jibes well with the city’s newer Greener focus.

    Seems odd that the gas station will remain- but in keeping with the Green theme- at least they sell Ethanol there.

    Good luck Post Brothers- looks like a nice plan.

  5. That drawing is a bunch of PR crap to get publicity. They will never have the money to make that exterior work, not with all the 50 million Russian mafia loans in the world.

  6. The building is beyond ugly! I agree with Mr. Stone and all that Russian maffia money. Who else would give these two tasteless morons money

    • Exactly what “Russian mafia money” are you and Mr. Stone talking about? If you’re going to comment on a story, please give your opinion based on fact, real information, or research. The building–like it aesthetically or not–was designed by a leading architecture firm for a development company with a strong track record, who is trying to build a sustainable project. Since they’ve secured the financing through a local bank and construction is underway and since they brought the project before the neighborhood civic association and got its approval, lobbing baseless slurs is probably inappropriate. –ed.

  7. Bravo to the Post Bros., who are taking a big chance on this. We need more people with the guts to do this.

    • Bravo to the Unions who are standing up to the Post Brothers. We need more people like this.
      To all of you union workers – I am proud of you! Stay united and keep fighting!

  8. While I like it is being redeveloped why does all new architecture have to consist of random colors and shapes? Why does a green building need to look terrible?

  9. In that neighborhood, it’s easy to buy off the civic association by donating towards the Reading Viaduct Park. The neighborhood association doesn’t care whether the Post Brothers pay decent union wages as long as they are “green.”

  10. Doesn’t matter what any of you naysayers think. The building is happening and there are a great deal of people in the area that are happy about it.

  11. Respectfully,

    I recognize that the building would have been very energy inefficient if there weren’t some care taken towards insulation, but big, beautiful windows are a lot of people’s favorite thing about old factory-loft conversions. Why not create the energy efficient insulation necessary by building into the interior space, creating deeper window wells, and use higher r-value windows? Windows are the first thing I look for in an apartment; I would much rather open a window than turn on the AC and I would rather enjoy natural light than turn on a lamp.

    I am excited about this project and even more excited about the trend, but I never was much for reducing window coverage or creating asymmetry out of symmetry.

    Was it a cost issue or a desire to go with that look or something else?

    • The exterior steel and concrete structure is extremely conductive with respect to energy loss, and since it is directly connected to each floor inside the building it forms a thermal bridge with the interior of the building, bypassing any interior insulation and reducing its effectiveness by an order of magnitude. By installing a layer of continuous exterior insulation, that thermal bridging effect is eliminated and the energy performance of the entire building enclosure is improved dramatically.

      The very best windows out there only offer an R-value of 5, compared to a wall with R-21 insulation on the exterior, large glass exposures account for another major source of energy loss. They effectively de-rate the R-value of the entire wall assembly closer to that of the windows, which would leave a pretty pathetic thermal envelope.

      Combine the thermal bridging with large window exposure and you get a double whammy of inefficiency. Any money spent on interior insulation in the little room available for it in the existing design is essentially wasted. The only sensible retrofit from an energy standpoint here is to reduce the amount of glazing and install a fully continuous exterior insulation system, which it appears that they are doing.

      It still looks like these units will have plenty of glass exposure for natural sunlight, and with the thermal envelope they’re designing, you very well may be comfortable enough to open those windows instead of running your AC.

  12. Post Brothers, typical slumlords, coming into Philadelphia, paying substandard wages, with no health coverage. You should not praise Post Brothers, as they had no problem doubling the rent in their Germantown Apartments. This destroys neighborhoods.
    Go back to your offices in New York and stay out of Philly!

    • Howard – Your comments are totally out of line, immature and not based on “facts”. What slumlords do you know that purchase distressed properties, renovate them, create jobs in our communities and increase property values? This is what Mike and Matt have done in the Germantown area. As for all you union protesters – would you hire anyone to work for you after all the problems you guys have caused? And yes I witness the harassment everyday! Keep up the good work Post Brothers!

      • Richard – your comments are totally out of line, immature, and not based on “facts”. No need to explain what the union workers do for our city – their work speaks for itself. Take a look at our beautiful Philadelphia skyline.
        I would hire a union worker any day to get the job done on time, on budget, and done safely.
        The only people causing the problems are the Post Brothers!
        Union workers – keep up the good fight.

  13. Richard –
    “FACT” – Post Brothers are slumlords.

    “FACT” – Post Brothers evicted their tenants from the Germantown Apartments.

    “FACT” – Post Brothers tell the owners of the ground floor Deli for the past 18 years to close in August.

    ‘FACT” – Post Brothers doubled the rent at Germantown.

    Come on now, do you really believe they care about the people (tenants) or the workers they hire to do the work – I DO NOT think so. They care about themselves and making money – increasing their bank accounts.

    By the way, who gave them the money for this project? They “raised” $52 MILLION from European bankers — but won’t disclose names. Since you seem to think you know all the facts, why don’t you give me the answers to my questions.

  14. “ Post Brothers are slumlords” Another immature statement.

    “Post Brothers evicted their tenants from the Germantown Apartments.”

    Post Brothers did not evict residents. All the properties that Post brought were all in distressed and poorly maintained including Rittenhouse Hill.

    “Post Brothers tell the owners of the ground floor Deli for the past 18 years to close in August”.

    Again – The building (Rittenhouse Hill) was in distressed, in order to do the much needed renovations they had to leave. By the way, did you ever buy fresh vegetables from that store? Probably not because they didn’t sell any vegetables. And not to mention the rodent problem.

    ‘FACT” – “Post Brothers doubled the rent at Germantown”.

    You get what you pay for. All the properties Post own with the exception of Goldtex and Rittenhouse Hill Apartments maintain a 98 to 99 percent total occupancy. No more $500 a month apartments sorry….

    They raised $52 million from European Bankers probably because they couldn’t get it from our bankrupted government. They don’t have to disclose names.

    They should care about their bank accounts! This is borrowed funds. One more fact: Post Brothers is a diverse company that offer pretty good wages and “excellent” health insurance to all employees.

    • Tell me Rich, what do the Post Brothers think is a “pretty good wage”? Could the Post Brothers live on of this salary? Who are considered employees of Post Brothers? Are the Post Brothers paying for all of the construction workers and the contractors health insurance? How about their families?

      And that’s right, and I hope the Post Brothers remember, you get what you pay for!

      • Whitney – It’s obvious the dislike you have for Post Brothers is personal, I gave you the “FACTS” So I will end it there.

        • Typical response. What’s the matter, you don’t want to share your “facts” to my last questions?
          And by the way, Rich, it’s nothing personal – it’s just business.

  15. The Post Brothers are visionaries. It is disappointing that even Philly natives themselves would scowl at the opportunity to live in a city where international investors are putting their faith into a progressive development company that is paving the way to a new frontier of energy-efficient construction. Goldtex will become Philly’s finest oasis and raise the standard of living in our city.

    Positive change is not born out of skepticism, insult and ridicule, but rather optimism, creativity and humanitarianism. How else could Barack Hussein Obama have become our president? The Post Brothers think outside the box, and they should be commended for their goodwill to transform the plight of urban mass cohabitation into eco-friendly structural innovation. Goldtex = Greentex.

  16. Although you may think ill of Union Labor, The contractors that hire that labor, pay workers compensation insurance and unemployment insurance. All level of Government taxes including city wage. They have licenses to do business in the city, are not using 1099’s for their employee’s when someone comes to take food off of your table you tend to want to fight back. We do apologize to the neighbors for any boisterous activities that have occurred. We too would like to send our children to nice schools and colleges, have a nice home for our families and enjoy the weekend…you know, the weekend brought to you by the union, along with overtime, safety, decent working conditions, the eight hour day just to mention a few. In closing if we are a bit loud it’s because when we make our lunch we want to eat it.

  17. Ralph, Sue, Harry, Pablo, Howard, Whitney, and Ed – Why don’t you let everyone know what Union you are in instead of hiding? Your lies are ridiculous. Post Brothers workforce is well trained, well insured, well paid, and LOCAL – IE from Philadelphia, unlike you. Our buildings are fully occupied and have the highest rents in their neighborhoods, to say we are slumlords is completely absurd.

    Why do we have 200 angry bigots from the suburbs outside the building? The real facts are at phillybully.com

    • Slumlord,
      Are you implying that you hire all LOCAL people from Philadelphia, or do you think LOCAL is i.e., people from New York? Your lies are ridiculous.

      I’ll ask my questions again.

      Who are considered “Post Brothers work force”? Are the Post Brothers paying for all of the construction workers and the contractors health insurance? How about their families?

      Well trained workforce. Some dogs are well trained. Well paid, prove it.
      Highest rents in the neighborhood – that sure is something to proud of.
      I am not hiding anything but thanks for caring enough to ask.

      Why don’t you let everyone know the names of your European bankers instead of hiding?

      • We don’t have any people working from New York. I don’t know why you would think that – you union guys follow our crew members home all of the time. More than 3x the percentage of guys from our crews than from Union crews are from Philadelphia county. Over 1/3 of the work is going to local Chinatown residents. See the rest of the real facts about our workforce at phillybully.com. Also the name of our European banker was published all over the internet by major media outlets.

      • There’s a new breed of flash mobs in Philadelphia, and they are the local unions. What I witnessed this past Friday at Rittenhouse Hill Apartments and after visiting phillybully.com – I came to the conclusion that you guys are the new breed of flash mobs in my community. If this is what the Philadelphia Building Trade Union represents – then you guys will find it very difficult to get work. You all have to try a different approach. It’s embarrassing! Keep up the good work Post Brothers and continue to stand firm.

  18. The union worker will never be ashamed for working for a fair wage and health coverage. Post Brothers should be ashamed for lowering the wages and the standards for the people in the area. When you lower the standards everyone loses. Post Brothers should be embarrassed!
    Nice job to all the union men and women – keep it up!

    • I agree no one should should ever be ashamed for working for a fair wage. That is why all of our guys walk in with their heads held high in the morning. Everyone on our site makes a very fair wage – all laborers make in excess of the area Living Wage for 1 adult + 1 child (at least 2.3x minimum wage), and all of our skilled tradesman make at least the Living Wage to support 2 adults + 2 children ($27/hr, over 3.7x minimum wage).

      The average construction industry wage in the Philadelphia area is $18.45/hr. We are on average for everyone at our site over 1.5x the area average.

      The Carpenters Union demands $63/hr for their members. This is in no way a “fair” wage. This is an extortion wage, only supported by violence and bullying. As additional points of reference the average high school graduate’s household (not personal) income is $17.71/hr. The average household (not personal) income for those with Master’s degrees is $37.76/hr. Philadelphia Union Carpenters demand 67% MORE than those with Master’s degrees! In what universe is that “fair”?

      If your concerns were genuine, you would be fighting for the guys who are already working on our site, the way REAL UNIONS do, instead of just attacking them and trying to muscle your way in, the way that your gang that calls itself a union does.

      • Hey Mike, how much are you and your brother making? Talk about extortion wages being supported by greed and bullying! I would like to see you living on a $27/hr wage and supporting 2 adults plus 2 children. What universe are you living on?

        You didn’t mention whether or not you pay your men’s health coverage benefits and/or their families health coverage benefits. I am assuming that you are paying for their health benefits. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) Are you paying your men overtime pay @ time and a half? I have noticed that Post Brothers avoid discussing these issues.

        Are you implying that just because someone has a Master’s degree entitles them to make a higher salary than a skilled union tradesman. Is this what they teach you in school? Sounds like you are envious of men being paid a decent wage when they do not even have a degree. I am sure that if you had a chose to make the salary in which you are paying your men, or the salary of a union tradesman, that you would choose the latter.

        My concerns are genuine. I will ALWAYS fight for men and women who work for people like you because that is what REAL UNIONS are all about. In fact, maybe we can sit down with your workers to discuss whether they want to work for you or whether they would want to join a Union. I can only hope they are reading these comments.

  19. Supporter of Human Rights

    All workers in America deserve to go to work without fear. The situation at Goldtex is out of hand. The unions, of whom have had every chance to “score” a great opportunity to to shine in the public eye have failed. Now it’s 1950 tactics, the attempt to instill fear in the workers who refuse to be intimitaded by strong arm and bullying.

    This is not boding for the trade unions image, a black eye, if you will. They do not know when to stop. Chinatown is a fine and proud neighborhood. The Post Brothers have employed the neighborhood, not as a PR stunt, but in search of proud craftsmen, family men and women who make a more than fair wage to support their families, just like you and I would do.

    Food on the table, money in the bank, and at the completion of the project, they can stand back with pride and say,” We Built This”. After this project they know there is another building for them, as they endured what very american should not, WE HAD TO FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT.

    We came to America for freedom, not for slashed tires, broken windows, stalkers, beatings, or intimidation.

    My hat is off to every worker at The Goldtex Apartment Project.

    Thank You My Friends.

  20. Supporter of Human Rights

    Dear Ed S.

    In your post you state:

    “”We do apologize to the neighbors for any boisterous activities that have occurred”’

    “”if we are a bit loud””

    Is laying on your car horn for 10 minutes considered a bit loud? Are the air horns necessary?

    If you have to apologize, then it appears YOU are destroying community standards.

    Are you serious!

  21. Comments are now closed on this article. –ed.

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