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Good news for housing and the waterfront reported at the 2017 Builders Conference

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October 23, 2017

Good news for housing and the waterfront reported at the 2017 Builders Conference 

Philadelphia’s housing market remains (mostly) strong, and momentum is building for development along the Delaware River.
Those were two of the primary takeaways from BIA’s 16th annual Builders Conference, attended by about 230 builders, architects, developers, real estate attorneys, mortgage lenders and other industry professionals. 
To view the conference photo album, click Flickr.
Kevin Gillen presented his annual “State of the Local Housing Economy,” reporting that the city’s rental market is starting to soften due to oversupply. The sales market, he said, continues strong with a record-low inventory. As for condominiums, Center City units are in net-positive territory; condos elsewhere in the city have not yet fully recovered the value lost in the real estate downturn.
Gillen, senior research fellow at the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University and a longtime BIA board member, also presented data demonstrating that Philadelphia is a highly affordable housing market with 76% of the housing stock affordable to the median-income Philadelphia family.
A panel tackled the conference theme “Delaware Riverfront Development: Getting it Right” after introductory remarks by Councilman Mark Squilla and a history of waterfront development to date by Janice Woodcock of Woodcock Design. Click here to view Janice's presentation.
As stakeholders consider revisions to the waterfront zoning overlay, Joseph A. Forkin, president of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, emphasized the need to balance private and public interest (notably green and recreational space, trails and access to the river).
Matt Ruben, president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association and chair of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, contended that the overlay and its underlying plan are not the problem for stagnation along the waterfront. Instead, he blamed speculation, landbanking, upzoning and, simply, insufficient market demand for dense residential waterfront projects.
Jonathan Stavin, executive vice president of PMC Property Group, developer of the new One Water Street project, said his company prefers to build on the west side of Delaware Avenue, although connectivity to the river is still a challenge. One Water Street was developed without ground-floor retail, but Stavin reported that PMC now sees sufficient density to support retail in future waterfront projects.
Regarding transit to calm traffic along the river, the panelists agreed that the short-term strategy of boosting and better promoting existing bus service was important while longer-term solutions are considered.

Thanks to everyone for making the 2017 conference a success, particularly our event sponsors: