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49 studio apartments proposed for South Kensington lot

Rents would be $750 a month

A four-story apartment building is being proposed for a lot in Kensington.
Renderings courtesy of Allan Nadav

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A local developer wants to build a 49-unit residential project on a large lot in Kensington.

But instead of $450,000 townhomes, the plan calls for 49 studio apartments, renting for $750 a month.

That’s the plan, at least, for developer Allan Nadav, who in 2016 bought a vacant warehouse at 1613-27 Germantown Avenue for $600,000 and promptly tore it down. He now wants to build a four-story apartment complex on the 10,000-square-foot lot, complete with the small-sized apartments, commercial space, coworking offices, and three parking spaces.

His pitch is to build a purpose-built community for the next generation of urban renters.

“I want to cater to people who are post-college, done living with roommates, and want to grow up and have their own place,” said Nadav in an interview with Curbed Philly. “But they may not be able to afford the $1,200 to $1,300 needed to live in the new luxury apartment buildings going up everywhere else in the city.”

This would be the first project of its kind for Nadav, who has rehabbed a few smaller properties nearby and turned them into rentals and commercial space.

How exactly does the private developer plan to keep monthly rents below market rate? “By using an extremely simplified structure,” Nadav says. “Each unit is built like a cookie cutter project to bring down construction costs, but are designed to be fully customizable.”

The studios will all have the same floor plan and clock in at 440 square feet—that’s a bit larger than the average micro unit, which is typically about 350 square feet. The apartments will also have in-unit laundry and five-by-five-foot private balconies that look out to the interior courtyard.

In addition, seven of the 49 units will be live-work spaces on the first floor, which will add the commercial and retail component to the mixed-use development. These units, which will include a studio and a commercial space for the respective tenant, will rent for about $1,200 a month.

The micro-unit movement is one that hasn’t quite caught on in Philly yet, save for the Avenir apartments in Center City. But it is an idea that’s been floating around again in recent months. In Strawberry Mansion, for example, there’s a proposal to build 12 micro-apartments and sell them to millennials for about $100,000.

“The people that are moving into the rental units in urban neighborhoods have spent their whole life living in their room, whether it’s at home or in dorm rooms,” Nadav argues. “It’s not a lifestyle change to move into a smaller place with a large bedroom-living space and nice-sized kitchen off to the side. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see if the younger generation would be willing to move into such a space.”

Nadav’s project can be built by-right, but it will require a zoning variance for the proposed three parking spaces, which will be used for car-share services. Current zoning requires 15 parking spaces and another two ADA spaces.

The project will be presented at an information-only session to South Kensington Neighborhood Association on July 26, according to Nadav. If all goes to plan, the developer hopes to break ground on the project by the end of the year or early January 2018.