by Leigh Stuart; Photography by Allure West Studios

After years of planning, land acquisition, and discussions on financing, the Residences at Marshall, a new workforce housing development financed by Meridian Bank, have broken ground. These residences will provide housing to a population that has largely been priced out of living in Philadelphia—individuals who, for the most part, earn a low to average income and often cannot afford brand new high-end housing in such a prime location.

Clarence Martindell, Senior Vice President at Meridian Bank, heads the bank’s commercial real estate division, which provides financing for the development of commercial real estate throughout Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. This real estate can include for-sale housing, apartments, retail space, and mixeduse units, but he doesn’t always get the opportunity to support a project that gives so much back to the community. As such, the Residences at Marshall, located on Marshall Street, was a project that was close to his heart.

“This is an opportunity for Meridian to help the citizens and families of Philadelphia, to provide quality affordable housing for the community,” he said. “It’s something that we, as citizens, should all be looking to help with.”

The builders in this project are Larry McKnight, President and Founder of Urban Renewal Builders and BMK Homes, and Mo Rushdy, Managing Partner of The Riverwards Group. McKnight purchased this plot of land from the city in 2015 at a discounted rate, but with the agreement to construct Philadelphia’s first workforce housing development.

“This workforce housing project is the city’s response to gentrification,” McKnight says. “Existing neighbors are being forced out of their communities. It’s the city’s way of combating that, and we wanted to be a part of it.”

According to Rushdy, the Marshall Street project is comprised of homes that are affordable for median-income wage earners.

“Our whole intent, really, is to serve the city’s workers—teachers, police, firemen— people who dedicate their lives to our community but can’t always afford to live there,” Rushdy says. “Before the Residences at Marshall, there were no $200,000 homes in Philadelphia— single family units with a backyard. We provided that.”

The units—13 in total—average 1,200 square feet and feature the builder’s signature high-end craftsmanship and attention to detail.

“There’s this misguided idea that workforce housing is often low-end construction,” Rushdy said. “With this project I think we showed the contrary.”

Indeed, looking at the amenities available in the Residences at Marshall homes, one does not see “low-end” anywhere. Each unit has granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Homes also feature brick exteriors, hardwood floors throughout the first floor, and many have backyards of 400 to 600 square feet. There is also a parking lot near the properties.

This is not the first time Rushdy and McKnight have partnered with Meridian. In fact, McKnight has worked with Meridian on nearly 50 constructions projects throughout Philadelphia. “The loan officer we work with, Clarence Martindell, has been working with us for years,” Rushdy notes. “Our first loans were through Meridian. Meridian has kept growing with us. ... They have been part of our growth, and partners in our growth. They trusted us, took risks with us, and they have seen it pay back. We have a very special relationship with Meridian.”

“Meridian understands the urban market,” McKnight adds. “They understand the buyer. They look at places that today might not be the best place to build, buy or live in but could be two, three, four years down the line. They recognize the potential for urban renewal.”

Rushdy and McKnight also acknowledge the tireless efforts of Darrell L. Clarke, City Council President, and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, lead by Gregory Heller, in bringing this project to fruition.

As of February 21, the 13th home was sold, meaning the Residences at Marshall sold out in just three months. Whereas the contractors had 18 months to complete the project, Rushdy notes the project will be successfully completed in just nine months. Units will begin delivery in early April, with the last delivery at the end of July.

“Meridian wants to be supportive of neighborhood projects like these, outreach projects that have an important story to tell,” Martindell says. “Obviously we like to be involved in the larger for sale projects as well, but Meridian is unique in that we embrace these smaller projects, ones that are beneficial and meaningful to the entire community.”

Meridian will continue to work with BMK Homes and The Riverwards Group as they develop additional workforce housing units across the city, bringing quality homes to hard-working Philadelphians.

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Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, March, 2017.
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