When Dan McElwee decided to buy a condo in Fishtown, his Realtor thought his wish list seemed unrealistic: parking; privacy; city views; outdoor space; and a pet-friendly building.
The sought-after neighborhood, known for brick rowhouses and understated, stylish eateries, has been gentrifying. Yet even McElwee now concedes that all those must-haves wrapped up in one package were a difficult find.
Nevertheless, within a couple weeks, he found his match in a two-bedroom condominium under construction at the Icehouse complex. The gated parking lot and the generous terrace fit his bill, and the building is so pet-friendly that a small dog park is located on the roof - an added asset for Cooper, McElwee's West Highland white terrier.
But the deal was sealed when McElwee viewed the panorama from what would become his secluded fourth-floor walk-up.
"That's what really did it for me," he says of sweeping views that embrace everything from Camden's riverfront to Philadelphia's towering skyscrapers. In July 2014, he purchased the condo and moved in.
McElwee, 30, who hails from New Jersey, loves the verve of urban life. He had been living at 10th and Pine Streets and wanted to stay local. But his commute to Princeton, where he is an executive vice president at Ventura Wealth Management, was taxing.
"Getting out of the city took forever," he says. "Living in Fishtown, I'm closer to I-95's ramps. My trip has been cut by about 20 minutes."
Developed by James Maransky of EnVision Group, the Icehouse complex, which sits on what was once upward of 13 separate properties, is an eco-friendly compound that achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification for its new construction, the highest standard. Rehabbed units earned a gold certification.
Named for Dooley's Icehouse, a popular local hangout that stood on the site, the 36-unit project is due to be completed later this year.
Just inside the "green" building is the garage, which has spaces for hybrid and electric cars. Stair treads and walkways leading to the condos, dog park, and an outdoor communal and barbecue space are made from carbonized (dark brown) bamboo.
Other ecological features include a koi pond supplied by 750-gallon water tanks, "green" roofs, a rainwater-recycling system, and a solar-power network that supplies the common areas.
"Living here has been great. And the environmentally friendly features ended up being an added bonus," says McElwee.
Soaring ceilings, expansive windows, and locally harvested white oak flooring greet you as you enter McElwee's 1,075-square-foot home. The open-floor plan is clean, crisp and neutral, with hints of color.
His furnishing choices are sleek, yet comfortable; rustic, yet purposeful. A gray Ikea sofa/lounge shares space with a cream-hued chair and thick wooden coffee table. A minimalist West Elm dining set complements a husky bar from Pottery Barn.
A red coffee-grinder lamp, handed down by his grandfather and sitting on a wooden credenza by the entry, is McElwee's favorite piece. Walls are accented with Matisse and Picasso lithographs, a limited-edition print by artist Jack Vettriano, as well as local works found at Crane Arts. Contemporary floor coverings add warmth.
The kitchen's flat-panel espresso cabinets, quartz countertops, and stainless-steel General Electric appliances continue the clean lines.
McElwee transformed the second bedroom into his office, his "favorite spot," where he spends nearly 16 hours a week pursuing an online MBA from the University of North Carolina. An avid reader and self-described news junkie, he had custom shelves installed to hold his extensive collection of books.
He also customized the walk-in closet of his master bedroom with floor-to-ceiling built-ins. The sybaritic bath is accessorized with European tiles and two trough-style, concrete sinks.
All units include tankless water heaters, dual-flush toilets, and laundry areas with GE washers and dryers.
Although McElwee needs his car for his daily Princeton commute, when he's home he walks all over the neighborhood, visiting cafes, art centers, and parks.
"I have the best of both worlds. I don't mind being out of the city all day," he says. "When I get back home, I appreciate what's around me."