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PHILADELPHIA-Within five hours of the grand opening of MetroClub Condominium, “sold” markers were placed on the displayed floorplans of 113 of the building’s 130 units. By the end of the day, Saturday, Nov. 13, another five plans carried the same marker, taking the property to 91% sold. MetroClub, a renovation and conversion of the former Metropolitan Hospital at 8th and Race Street, is one of several conversions under way in Center City.

Downtown is enjoying a residential building boom that began two years ago and continues unabated, according to Paul Levy, CEO of Center City District. Levy expects the residential population of virtually every prime Center City neighborhood to grow over the next two years as new and converted multifamily properties, both condo and rental, come to market. Philadelphia is already the third largest residential downtown behind New York and Chicago, according to Levy.

Jeffrey Algatt, regional manager of the local office of Marcus & Millichap, also expects this trend to continue. He cites a nationwide trend to urban living and says, “Center City and the areas along the Delaware will benefit as a return to urban living gets stronger.”

MetroClub is being developed by locally based Ron Caplan and Ira Lubert and Dean Adler of Lubert Adler Partners, also based here. On opening day, they pocketed $50 million, far exceeding the $30 million they invested to acquire and renovate the property. Unit prices range from approximately $250,000 to more than $800,000. Marc Palermo, VP of Greenville, SC-based IMI Residential, is marketing the building.

All but one unit in the 26-unit Lippincott at Locust Walk, a 26-unit condominium conversion of the formerly vacant Lippincott Publishing building on Washington Square, remains unsold, according to Allan Domb of Allan Domb Real Estate. Domb, known locally as the “condo king,” markets a majority of Center City’s upper-end condos.

Levy gives partial credit for the current residential boom to the City’s 10-year tax abatement on conversions and new construction. The legislation was enacted in 2000. Buyers at the converted MetroClub and Lippincott at Locust Walk, as well as at 167-unit Symphony House, currently under construction by Dranoff Properties, are among many other Center City residents whose taxes will be forgiven well into the next decade.

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