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Max Grudzinski

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Inside the AF Bornot Dye Works Factory Transformation

MMPartners's biggest project to date turns four factories into a residential and retail development

David Waxman is no stranger to renovations. The managing partner of MMPartners has 15 years under his belt of restoring a slew of properties in burgeoning Brewerytown. So when four old warehouses became available in Fairmount in 2014, Waxman was excited by the potential to restore a blighted block. Little did he realize it would be MMPartners' most ambitious and difficult adaptive reuse project to date.

The AF Bornot Dye Factory on the corner of Fairmount Avenue and 17th Street consists of a series of four warehouses that once served as the headquarters for the A. F. Bornot French Steam Dyeing & Scouring Establishment in the early 1900s. But the factories sat vacant for 15 years, becoming an entire blighted block of vacant properties.

The Spring Garden Community Development Corporation bought the property with the hope that they could turn the block around. In 2014, the group gave Waxman the heads up about the warehouses. Through a mix of loans, historic tax credits, and even a bit of online crowdfunding, MMPartners bought the property for $10.7 million.

Today, the AF Bornot Dye Factory lofts consists of 17 high-end apartment units split between two warehouses, as well as two single-family homes on Melon Street. MMPartners has also leased all of its commercial space to a local home goods boutique store, Valley Green Bank, Anytime Fitness, and Yoga Habit studio. And a local coffee shop has also signed on, though Waxman wouldn't reveal the tenant just yet.


Bringing in retail is actually a forte of MMPartners, which went about the same route in Brewerytown. After 2008, the company decided to invest $60 million-plus into the neighborhood, including the storefronts along Girard Avenue. Today, there are about 15 new businesses along the corridor, as well as a dozens of single-family home properties.

Part of the future residents' rents—$2,000 to $3,600—include memberships to the yoga studio and gym. And though the rental prices are a bit high for the neighborhood (pre-leasing for a 1-bedroom at the Divine Lorraine down the street starts at $1,325), Waxman says the lofts are designed to cater to a niche market of empty nesters, young professionals, and even potentially families.

But it wasn't an entirely easy conversion process. Given the history of the AF Bornot Dye Factory, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Waxman says the worked with local firms Cope Linder Architects and Shophouse Design to keep as many original details as possible in the design.

The large apartments are a mix of old and new, with exposed ductwork and large loft-style windows combined with new hardwood floors and high-end finishes. Photo by Matt Robbnett.

One of the most difficult hurdles they encountered was trying to find bricks to match the originals that needed to be replaced. What truly impresses, though, are the large windows, which are replicas to the originals. The tall, arched windows let in plenty of light, and reveal views of the city skyline. The modern finishes, like quartz countertops and subway tiles in the bathrooms, compliment the exposed ductwork and pipes.

At 17 units, the development is relatively small in general, though the biggest project for MMPartners to date. Though they had the space to create a more dense development, Waxman says they went for the less is more mentality. In other words: A smaller amount of large apartments. Each unit ranges in 900- to 1,500-square-feet and has 11-foot ceilings.

The apartments are currently pre-leasing and each unit comes with garage parking.

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