'Like Las Vegas' as Temple prefab housing rises

EXPANDED: Llenrock Group LLC, Philadelphia, says it's financed the construction of "a 20-bed complex" by Langhorne builder Nick Pizzola and construction manager Insight Development, in the 1700 block of Fontain St. near Temple's North Philadelphia campus. "They look like rowhomes," Llenrock managing partner Andy Benioff told me. (Street name corrected)

Work has started on the foundations; walls and roofs will be shipped for assembly. "They go up in like two days," Benioff added. Each unit houses "six to ten" students. "There's no government money involved." The partners are also in talks with other area colleges.

Llenrock closed the debt- and equity-financed deal  on Monday, and says it's "scheduled to open on August 15th." The group "sees this deal as the first in a series" of North Philly "pre-fab developments over the next several years that will increase their market presence to 300-400 beds." Turning Point and Llenrock officials weren't immediately available to give more details.

Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said he wasn't familiar with the project, but "there are a lot of private developers" seeking to house Temple students.

"There's a huge amount of student housing going up between Diamond and Master" north of Temple, and even, for the first time, some Temple staff building homes in the area, says builder Pizzola. "Looks like Las Vegas up there. Everybody and his brother is building." 

Pizzola says he's done prefabs before - "it used to be a piece of cake getting money from the banks" - but financing got tight after the banking crisis of 2008, until specialty financiers like Llenrock stepped in. "The stuff I use comes from Excel Homes in Liverpool, PA, and Custom Building Solutions, north of Harrisburg," Pizzola said. "The walls are stick-built, with 2x4s and 2x6s, you can't tell them from (site-built) homes. You can assemble them in 24 hours, put on the rubber roofs, they're impervious to weather. Finish them with brick or stucco or siding." Why upstate PA? "It's a low-cost area. You can save money. They bring the modular units down the Schuylkill Expressway, they slow traffic.