Saturday, August 30, 2014
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On the House: Lindy carries on a tradition in residential development

Alan Lindy of Lindy Communities, which traces its beginnings to Lindy´s grandfather Jacob. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Alan Lindy of Lindy Communities, which traces its beginnings to Lindy's grandfather Jacob. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

In the darkest days of the Great Depression, lawyer-turned-property manager Jacob Lindy found that his heart condition meant no one would give him life insurance.

To ensure his family's security, in 1939 Lindy built Sedgwick Gardens in Mount Airy, the first and oldest of Lindy Communities' 29 properties - 26 of them in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties.

Jacob Lindy's design of Sedgwick Gardens was inspired by a mansion he saw on a trip he and his wife, Freeda, made to the Middle East, said his grandson Alan Lindy.

The newest of Jenkintown-based Lindy's properties - and the largest - is the Towers at Wyncote on Limekiln Pike in Cheltenham, built in the 1960s, with 1,095 units, 30,000 square feet of retail space, an outdoor swimming pool, an 8,000-square-foot athletic club with basketball and racquetball courts, and a 90-seat movie theater.

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  • Some of the two-bedroom/two-bath units are 1,500 square feet and have balconies, Alan Lindy said of the building, so new to his privately held company that he paused during a conversation to make sure he listed all the amenities.

    The purchase of the Towers at Wyncote from Fairfield Residential of San Diego for an undisclosed sum closed in the last week of April.

    "The rental market is stronger than I have seen since I got into the business in 1985," said Lindy, echoing what others in the housing industry say.

    Except for two properties in Florida and one in Ohio, every property Lindy Communities owns is within quick driving distance of the company's office.

    Alan Lindy said the opportunity to acquire the complex coincided with a sad time in the family-owned firm's life: the death 10 months ago of his father, Philip, at age 83.

    Philip Lindy and his late brother, also named Alan, began building houses (about 2,000 of them) in this area in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as 1,000 apartments (the first of which was Westgate Arms in Jeffersonville in 1961).

    Philip and wife Annabel F. Lindy, who died in 2010, expanded the company through the 1980s, Alan Lindy said.

    Acquisition of the Towers at Wyncote was a "tribute to my parents and their work," he said.

    Their philanthropic efforts were considerable. A Drexel graduate, Philip Lindy worked with his alma mater to establish the Lindy Scholars tutoring and mentoring program in 2008.

    In 2011, he donated $15 million to Drexel's Center for Civic Engagement, which was renamed in his honor. The center is now housed in the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, established in 2012.

    A lot of work and money has gone into Lindy properties and other enterprises over the years.

    One was the Piazza on the Square on Old York Road in Jenkintown, a down-at-the-heels, virtually empty retail space across from Lindy's offices, Alan Lindy said.

    Lindy acquired the space and two years ago opened it to retail on the first floor and commercial ventures and apartments on the second floor.

    Another source of pride is York House and YoNo, the two high-rises next to Einstein Hospital on North Broad Street. Purchased about eight years ago, they had been empty shells for several years, the properties littered with broken glass and needles, he said.

    Without subsidies or government financing, "we took the risks to acquire and rehabilitate the two towers, and working with Councilwoman Marian Tasco together we literally changed the neighborhood," he said.

    "Our belief," Alan Lindy said, "is that strong apartment communities build strong neighborhoods."

     


    aheavens@phillynews.com

    215-854-2472 @alheavens

    Alan J. Heavens Inquirer Real Estate Columnist