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PHILADELPHIA-A Society Hill townhouse development that went bust in the 1990s gains new life under a joint venture between New York-based AFC Realty Capital and locally based Altman Group. Formerly called Philips Square at Headhouse Court, it is renamed Liberty Court at Society Hill under an all-new architectural plan.

It will consist of a cluster of 35 four-story townhouses on Lombard Street, between 2nd and 3rd streets. Arthur Fefferman, president and managing partner of AFC, tells GlobeSt.com the partnership acquired the land last year for $7.1 million. “We competed with eight or nine different developers in a highly competitive situation,” he says. The ill-fated previous developers left six partially completed townhouses vacant. The new developer will demolish them and then re-build to its own architectural standards, created by Morristown, PA-based Barton & Associates.

Each Liberty Court unit will have an elevator, its own landscaped patio garden, a roof-top deck, and a one- or two-car garage. Five different floor plans range from 2,800 sf to 4,100 sf. Each is named after influential Philadelphia families: Bradford, Markham, Rittenhouse, Pemberton and Benezet. Selling prices will range from $950,000 to $1.5 million, according to Fefferman.

All feature 9- to 10-ft ceilings and top-of-the line finishes, cabinetry, fixtures and fittings. Acknowledging, “there’s a lot going on in high-end residential in the city,” Fefferman says, “These will be the only new, low-rise residential homes in either Society Hill or Rittenhouse Square.” He believes the target will be empty nesters from the Main Line who want to live in Center City and want low-rise versus high-rise homes along with current high-rise city dwellers who prefer townhouses and others in older townhouses who want to upgrade in both value and convenience. The 10-year tax-abatement, available to all new Center City development, he adds, “is also a motivator” that he estimates will save buyers about $15,000 a year for a decade.

The design was inspired by London’s Belgravia and Kensington neighborhoods, Fefferman says. The units are attached townhouses, not condos, in what he calls a “community enclave,” which will include an entry and curved street that continues narrow Philips and Gaskill Streets. It will have the same Franklin lamps located throughout Society Hill and “elements of the cobblestone,” characteristic of the neighborhood.

Construction of the first 12 units is expected to reach completion by January/February 2005. Construction of the others will be phased in 12 at a time, and all are to be completed within the next 18 to 24 months. Prudential Fox Roach is handling the marketing.

With involvement in the development and financing of more than $3 billion in residential and commercial development here, AFC has a long-standing history in Philadelphia. It was instrumental in the development of the high-rise Independence Place condo towers, and the redevelopment of historic Drake Towers and the office building at 1608 Walnut St. Altman has developed more than 3,000 new, restored and/or historically certified residential units here, including the conversion of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel into residential/retail.

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