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 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 senior program manager at Partners for Sacred Places.



Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
For The Birds: An Ode To Philly's Old Goose Signs

For The Birds: An Ode To Philly’s Old Goose Signs

August 13, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. reminisces about the Bicentennial-era bridge signs that still point the way to the Delaware River > more

Legal Fund Fights Developers That Game The System

Legal Fund Fights Developers That Game The System

August 9, 2018  |  Vantage

The price of preservation is high when building owners undermine the authority of the Historical Commission through legal loopholes. Dana Rice unpacks the issue with this report > more

North Broad's

North Broad’s “Lion Of Zion” Finds Strength In Design

August 8, 2018  |  News

Zion Baptist Church opens its doors to a sustainable future and a North Philly revival. Rachel Hildebrandt has the story > more

Diorama Restoration At The Academy of Natural Sciences Confronts Loss & Conquest

Diorama Restoration At The Academy of Natural Sciences Confronts Loss & Conquest

August 6, 2018  |  News

Conservators on the Parkway give 80-year-old specimens a good scrubbing, while examining science's shady past with new interpretation. Mabel Rosenheck has the story > more

The Budd Company: An Industrial Icon That Broke The Mold

The Budd Company: An Industrial Icon That Broke The Mold

August 2, 2018  |  Vantage

Robert Masciantonio dives deep into the history of Philadelphia's groundbreaking industrial powerhouse, the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company > more

Black History Museums Struggle To Survive Amid Philly Revival

Black History Museums Struggle To Survive Amid Philly Revival

July 30, 2018  |  News

In need of funding and resources, three museums dedicated to African American history face an uncertain future. Keshler Thibert has the story > more