Zoning Board Approves 58-Unit Development at Castor & Kensington Avenues

The property at 3804-14 Castor Avenue will be developed into a 58-unit apartment building.

    New residential development has been moving its way up Kensington Avenue and is now reaching the corner of Castor & Kensington Avenues.

    On Tuesday, February 9th, Judah Angster, Esq., CEO of Dwight City Group, presented a plan to create 58 dwellings within the current building at 3804 Castor Avenue. The building is current partially occupied by Kassie’s World, an appliance, bedding and furniture outlet.

    Dwight Capital, Angster said, focuses on “affordable luxury”. Dwight City Group, which is Angster’s division, started two and a half years ago. “We came to Philadelphia with a mission of creating product that makes sense for the folks in the communities that we service,” he said. They start with a multi-family component, buying whole buildings, some at 50% occupied with problems such as inadequate electricity and running water, to fix up. “A secondary component of our business is we start taking old blighted warehouses and convert them into multi-family.”

    The 2-story building at 3804 Castor Avenue, built in 1936, has gone through a number of conversions. Angster said that it housed an appliance store; was used as a warehouse; and is current selling furniture. Kate Clarke, President of the Juniata Park Civic Association, added that a Bernie Robbins store once occupied the building.

    The building is blighted. “Our idea here is to create something beautiful,” said Angster. The property is zoned industrial and needs permission from the Zoning Board to allow residential. According to the application, the zoning appeal is for the redevelopment of an existing structure to include use for 29 multi-family units and a small lobby on the first floor facing Castor Avenue and 29 multi-family units on the second floor. The basement is to be used for storage and utilities. The proposal also includes 65 surface parking spaces (44 in the back of the building and 21 on the side), including 3 ADA accessible spaces. The Zoning Board gave the approval at an appeals hearing on February 17th.

    The goal, according to Angster, is to create apartments have adequate living spaces, provide  updated appliances, and includes gated parking so that residents feel safe when they come in at night. A key FOB would be needed to get into or out of the gate, and a second key FOB to get into the building. Multi security cameras will be installed outside and inside of the building. “We really care about the safety and security of our tenancy,” he said.

    Dwight City Group has other developments, including Colonial Gardens 5427 Wayne Avenue in Germantown, and 901 Quarry Street in Darby, PA.

    The plan for Castor & Kensington is to have 51 one-bedroom units and 7 two-bedroom units. Angster said that there will be no studio apartments because they tend to have a much larger turnover rate. “You get people who don’t really care about the community as much, so we really like to have a blend between ones and twos.”

    Angster touted a lower turnover rate of 22% in his company’s Philadelphia market than the average turnover rate for an apartment building in Philadelphia, which is 29-30%. “We like to attribute it to the way we treat our tenants.” The property management company that they use is based out of Philadelphia and does background checks, verified income checks, and criminal history checks.

    “The longer a person is inside a building, the more they’re gonna care for it, the more they’re gonna take care of their own apartment, they’re gonna monitor the hallways, they’re gonna know if somebody’s there who doesn’t belong there, and from our perspective, creating these long-term communities is really the goal here,” he added.

    The average rent is expected to be around $1,000 to $1,050 per unit.

    The average size of a one-bedroom apartment is 635 square-feet, and the two-bedrooms range from 800  to 1,000 square-feet. Section 8 would be accepted, which Angster believes would be less than 10% of the tenants.

    The budget for construction of the building should be somewhere around $115,000 to $120,000 per apartment.

    The building’s neighbor is the Fire Department’s Engine 7, Ladder 10, Medic 2, Battalion 10. Angster said that the apartment building will have an energy-efficient electrical system, with no natural gas used. “The reason that the fire department loves us, when they know that they’re dealing with a fully electronically-automated security system and automated fire safety system and then no gas in the building.”

    The membership of the Juniata Park Civic Association voted to support the project with a letter at the Zoning Appeal. One member opposed and two people abstained from the vote. As previously mentioned, the Zoning Board of Appeals saw fit to approve a change of zoning for the property from industrial to residential.

    Angster said that the current tenant will have 90-days notice to move out, and it will take approximately 45 to 60 days to demo and prep the area, with internal construction taking no more than 12-16 months to complete. “Within 24 months, start to finish, we should be in full-lease mode,” he said.

                Kate Clarke, JPCA President, is delighted with the investment into the neighborhood. “I am thrilled to welcome this project into our Juniata Community and thrilled that they are willing to take a chance with us.  This project will take an otherwise eyesore of building which presently brings blight to the community, and will breathe life into the property.  With this addition of 58 family units we foresee this as a beginning of a renaissance in our neighborhood.”

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