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Shovels Hit the Dirt for Postgreen's Folsom Powerhouse

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It's been just about 11 weeks since Curbed broke the news that eco-friendly developer Postgreen will build a new mixed use development at the 1700 block of Folsom Street in Francisville. All systems are go, as dozens of officials and area residents came out for the project's not-so-ordinary groundbreaking of Folsom Powerhouse Wednesday afternoon.

Postgreen's second groundbreaking in as many weeks will prove to be one of its bigger challenges to date. Featuring 31 residential units (21 for sale + 10 rental units) along with a corner commercial space, Folsom Powerhouse will bring a much-needed breath of fresh air to a block that desperately needs it. As it sits today, the block is largely blighted with piles of brush littering vacant lots that stretch between a handful of PHA-owned houses. However, the existing homes will not be demolished - they are already incorporated into the development's final design.

Folsom Powerhouse is a team effort between Postgreen, ISA Architects, and Equinox Construction & Management LLC, as the former two are also key players in the reNewbold project that broke ground in South Philadelphia last week. Financing for this project will be provided by First Savings Bank.

"We are very excited to see this area of the neighborhood, which is just across the street from our beloved Francisville Playground, become something that is no longer an eyesore, a blight, a place where people commit crimes," said Penelope Giles, Executive Director at Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation.

"I'm excited to see [Folsom Powerhouse] going up," added Giles. "It will be hell because this is a huge construction site and I'm sure we'll get a lot of complaints from folks, but at the end of the day it will be a beautiful model for other developers looking to do similar projects not just in this neighborhood, but in this city."

Key eco-friendly features include green roofs, stormwater management, tree planters, super insulation, triple-pane windows, and exterior features constructed of recycled brick, reclaimed wood, and recycled metal. The monthly energy cost of a Folsom Powerhouse residential unit is expected to be about half of a typical Philadelphia home.

"These homes will be just like everything else we've built to date," said Chad Ludeman, President of Postgreen. "They're going to be super insulated, very sustainable, really focused on indoor air quality, low water usage, and modern design."

Quality design and lasting visual appeal are crucial to Postgreen's vision, evidenced not only by its architectural style, but also through the inclusion of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's "Percent for Art" program, which mandates that one percent of the total construction budget must be spent on public art. Requests for proposals were sent out to the local creative community, with artist Jenny Sabin selected to move forward with this unique aspect of Folsom Powerhouse's design.

"I'm super excited to be collaborating with the full team on a very integrated proposal that will be drawing upon local themes of the neighborhood, integrating cutting-edge techniques in digital design and fabrication, and even drawing upon some of the local history in terms of looking at the site as formerly being the site of a vineyard," said Sabin.

Even though construction hasn't officially begun, Folsom Powerhouse is already making its presence known in the neighborhood via an interactive branding campaign put together by Postgreen and At Media, a Philadelphia-based design agency headed by community advocates Antoinette Johnson and Tyler Westnedge, both of whom are founding members of the Point Breeze Pioneers. Attendees of the groundbreaking were invited to participate in an interactive art exhibit called "The Greenway," which is inspired by the recognizable "Before I Die..." walls that have popped up on Broad Street and in other cities in recent months.

Additionally, the surrounding area has been branded with hashtag campaigns and art installations that infuse modern character into this once-forgotten block.

The 21 residential units for sale at Folsom Powerhouse will consist of 17 condominiums starting at $285k and four townhomes starting at $415k. The first phase of construction should be completed around April 2014, and expect Curbed to keep you current with any new developments involving this project.