Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Condominiums, Revisited

{William Bingham class=}
Barbara Greenfield

Barbara Greenfield died last year, and like her father was a real estate dealer. She was naturally all over town at one event or another, and at one such event, it was said she lived in a penthouse on Rittenhouse Square. I never saw her apartment, but it was part of the Greenfield lore that she lowered the floor and raised the ceiling, to make the place seem grander. Otherwise, this yellow-brick apartment building looked rather ordinary for a place built in 1928 by Horace Trumbauer himself. It was 28 stories high, and like the Racquet Club on 16th and Locust, it had the Trumbauer signature feature of an interior skeleton of massive steel beams, allegedly from the same source as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, very solid, indeed.

Well, the Right Angle Club meets in the Racquet Club, so it was with considerable interest that we had two visitors, Melanie Rodbart and Jessica Senker, of guess what the J&M Preservation Studios, on the subject of 222 West Rittenhouse Square, one of their latest projects. It seems there were some cracks in the facade at the joins, and worse still, places where the brickwork bulged outward. Taking binoculars up a few floors in neighboring buildings, and getting lifted in the buckets of some cranes, it was possible to see there were indeed some repairs in the brick facade needed. Eventually, when the overlying bricks were removed, it was then possible to see corrosion on the steel beams had caused them to expand, so there was a need for much more expensive replacement of entire beams. Ouch, that's expensive indeed. At the very least, the sidewalks had to be closed while there was a danger of brickwork falling off to hit pedestrians below.

{William Bingham class=}
condominium repairs

There was a contractor sitting near me, so I asked him what he did about condominium repairs. The answer was prompt: he refused the business. It reminded me there was a time not so long ago when condominiums were illegal in Philadelphia, and it was contended this was considered an impediment to progress in the center of the city. As of course, it might well be, but how many condominium buyers anticipate the uproar which might result from arguments about paying for large shared expenses that are no one's particular fault? From what little I can see, all condominiums divide into two political parties: the half who want to spend money to fix the place up, and the half that can barely afford the payments on what they have. Add some lawyers to the mix, and it makes you wonder how wise it is to get into all that?

Originally published: Saturday, October 11, 2014; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 15, 2019