Second Time’s The Charm

 

Lawson residences at Von Louhr, 15-25 S. 61st St. | Photo: Peter Woodall

West Philadelphia nonprofit ACHIEVEability will cut the ribbon Wednesday on a $7 million renovation of its historic Lawson Residences at Von Louhr, on 61st St. just south of Market. The neighborhood has seen little investment for decades, but ACHIEVability combined tax credits in a new way to help finance the project.

“It’s probably the largest development in that immediate area in the last 50 years,” said ACHIEVEability CEO Marcus Allen. “I think it’ll have an immediate economic impact because many people who worked on this project were from this area, from West Philadelphia. It’s also going to have a great impact on the value of the houses around it.”

Photo: Robert Morris Skaler Collection, University of Pennsylvania

ACHIEVEability provides affordable housing and self-sufficiency programs to low-income, single parent families in West Philadelphia. In the late 1980s, as the organization set out to rehabilitate the building a first time, its leaders recognized the possibility of employing a tool it was already familiar with, the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and another it had not used before, the Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which the Von Louhr building qualified for as part of the Haddington Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places district created in 1988.

At that time, the LIHTC and the Rehabilitation Tax Credit had never been employed in combination. The LIHTC had been used exclusively to subsidize the construction of affordable housing while the Rehabilitation Tax Credit had been used solely to subsidize the rehabilitation of National Register-listed properties. According to Allen, it took over two years and the assistance of nearly a hundred volunteer lawyers to figure out how to use the credits in combination. Thanks to this monumental effort, the credits are now used in combination regularly, making otherwise prohibitively expensive rehabs possible.

Living room in two bedroom unit | Photo: Peter Woodall

The decision to renovate the building a second time was fueled by rising maintenance and energy costs. BWA Architecture + Planning guided the extensive restoration, which included replacement of the HVAC system, insulation, interior walls, and windows with more energy efficient counterparts, and restoration of the original doors and millwork.

This project, which creates affordable housing for families while preserving the most important features of the building, particularly its California Mission style facade, does much to honor the building’s curious history. Originally the Von Louhr apartment house, the property was built in 1912 by florist-turned-developer William C. Smith. With his profits from his nursery and Market Street shop, Smith established the Haddington Title and Trust Company bank.

With funding from his bank, Smith built Haddington, a transit-oriented community complete with apartment houses (including the Von Louhr), row houses, twin houses, and commercial buildings, on a two block tract adjacent to the newly-constructed Market-Frankford Elevated Line’s 60th Street Station. In terms of the variety of uses and styles, Haddington was intended to mirror the distinct, mostly self-sufficient communities that had grown around each of the Market-Frankford El stops to the east.

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a recent graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a program associate at Partners for Sacred Places.



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
King of The Rats: How One Female Scientist Colonized The Modern Lab

King of The Rats: How One Female Scientist Colonized The Modern Lab

July 16, 2018  |  Vantage

Mickey Herr takes a look at the Wistar Rat, a true Philly original, and the groundbreaking female biologist that helped standardize science > more

Two New Historic Districts And Grand Court Protected

Two New Historic Districts And Grand Court Protected

July 13, 2018  |  News

Historical Commission says "yes" to 17 new additions to the local register. Starr Herr-Cardillo has the news > more

Victorian-era Philly Bicycle Routes Now Available Online

Victorian-era Philly Bicycle Routes Now Available Online

July 11, 2018  |  News

Rutgers University Libraries releases maps and tour guides of old Philadelphia bicycle routes from the 1890s. Julie Still gives us the details > more

RePoint Targets Preservation Crisis With Political Action

RePoint Targets Preservation Crisis With Political Action

July 10, 2018  |  Vantage

Dana Rice takes a look at RePoint Philadelphia, a new historic preservation PAC that aims to battle weak policies and procedures with political sway > more

Summer Break

Summer Break

July 2, 2018  |  News

Hidden City Daily is taking a short summer vacation. We'll be back next Monday, July 9th. Have a great Fourth of July! > more

Historical Commission Inches Its Way Back To District Designations

Historical Commission Inches Its Way Back To District Designations

June 29, 2018  |  News

After a long, mysterious hiatus, historic district nominations are back on the City's agenda. Next stop: Wayne Junction. Starr Herr-Cardillo reports > more