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Center City's Next Hot Address?

By now, you've probably heard about Keystone and Mack-Cali's $125M all-cash buy at Curtis Center. (With the Phils 10 games under .500 there's not much else to talk about right now.) But did you know the building's history and verdant setting are what make for a slam-dunk apartment conversion? We asked Keystone CEO Bill Glazer and CIO Chip Walters for the details.

Keystone and Mack-Cali bought the 12-story, 885k SF landmark at 6th and Walnut from Apollo Global Real Estate. The new owners will start by converting 90k SF of vacant offices into 90 high-end apartments. (New tenants may even find an old stapler or the missing user manual for the fax machine.) And corner restaurants with outdoor dining are in the books; Bill (speaking here at a ribbon cutting) especially likes the vision of a European-like streetscape along Walnut Street.

Built in 1910 as the HQ for the Curtis Publishing Company (Ladies’ Home Journal readers, pay your respects), the property's history and location are the most salient amenities, Bill and Chip tell us. Curtis is right across from both Independence National Park on Sixth and Washington Square on Walnut. Residential units, which will be on the 2nd, 9th, 10th floors, will offer views of both parks, while the 11th-floor units will allow for a complete 360 of the skyline. These, combined with “fantastic ceiling heights” with 12’ windows, says Chip, can’t be copied anywhere else.

Here to stay: the building’s stunning lobby, which Bill says will become the best apartment entrance in the city.

Stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany and a giant, beloved mosaic, Maxfield Parish’s Dream Garden, enliven the space. Who wouldn't want to come home to this every day? (Besides botanophobics, people who have a fear of gardens.)

Reinforcing the sheer size of the building, here’s the view from the atrium. More offices may be converted to residential as leases expire, but on the whole, says Chip, it’s important that this Class-A property continue to be marked by a strong office presence. The GSA is the largest tenant, and other big players like Penn and Jefferson are also here. Which means that these guys are adding beds to complement the existing eds, meds, and feds. (It’s like Dr. Seuss wrote a book on Philly real estate.)

Plans also call for capital improvements from upgrading elevators to renovations to the building’s roof, façade, HVAC system, and parking garage. Roseland, a subsidiary of Mack-Cali, will handle the residential, while Keystone oversees the office and retail components.

Curtis is the Keystone and Mack-Cali’s second Center City acquisition following the Dow Building at 6th and Market (in a partnership that also includes Parkway Corp). Market East’s comeback story is exciting from end to end, Bill says, and it gives Keystone the chance to enter and add value to a dynamic urban market. Dow’s office space is fully occupied following the GSA’s taking a 135k SF lease, and a new café will move in at the corner. If you prefer cold beverages, look for the Dow's 13k SF Independence Beer Garden right across from Liberty Plaza, set to open July 4th. (Proof that Ben Franklin was basically right about everything.)