Manayunk seems to grow and grow, and more and more the engines of that growth are homegrown.
In the case of Green Lane Realty Associates, four of the six partners involved in the four-phase conversion of the former St. Lucy's Church and School are Manayunkers.
The two not from Manayunk -- Bob Elfant and Jared Pontz -- are partners in Martin Elfant Inc. and Direct Mortgage Loan Co. in Mount Airy, up the hill and on the other side of the park.
"I think being from Manayunk makes it easier to build here," said C.J. Koch, who grew up at Green Lane and Ritchie Street, a two-minute walk to St. Lucy's, which he attended.
"But I also think, as natives, we hold ourselves to a higher level of responsibility," Koch said.
Elfant Wissahickon agent Keith Adams, who has been selling in Manayunk for the last decade, agreed, saying that the builders live in the neighborhood and know they will see their buyers.
"Being from Manayunk gives them a greater sense of pride," Adams said.
Koch's three Manayunk partners - Steve Olszewski, whom he's known since kindergarten at Dobson Elementary; Andy Mulson, whom he's known since Saul High School; and Mulson's father, Andy - began building together in 2007-08.
"The real estate market was abysmal, and Steve and I bought a corner property at Smick and Hermitage Streets [the former Consolo's Bakery], behind Dobson School," Koch said. "Andy and his dad bought the other corner property, and we decided to raze both and build nine townhouses together and sell them."
All the townhouses pre-sold for an entry price of about $369,000 to "young professionals about to have their first child, and one empty-nester," Koch said.
"It is a unique partnership that worked very well" in the ensuing years, as they did a lot of "spot building" around Manayunk: two houses on a lot on Leverington Street, three on Delmar Street, on Ritchie Street near Ridge Avenue, and four houses on a parking lot on Dupont Street - about 40 houses total, including the current construction project.
In 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that it would be closing St. Lucy's Church - the school had been shuttered earlier, Koch said.
The church had been a Manayunk fixture since 1927.
"My son was the last kid to be baptized at St. Lucy's," said Koch, adding that its closing "afforded us a chance to take on a cool project and to make some money, as well."
The venture was not risky from a real estate perspective, Adams said.
"When I started selling real estate, this was a first-time-buyer neighborhood, picking up rowhouses and townhouses," he said.
Townhouse construction changed the demographics to empty-nesters and move-up buyers from Center City "looking for more space, parking and maybe a roof deck," Adams said.
Prices rose, too, and over the last 11/2 to two years have increased from the high $400,000s to the $500,000s and even the $600,000 level, he said.
The first phase of Green Lane's project - the property was acquired with the help of Elfant and Pontz - was razing the rectory and building three townhouses, which sold for $480,000 to $490,000. The buyers were a couple in their 30s with a new baby, a couple in their 50s, and a woman in her 60s.
Phase 2 converted the school to eight one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments.
"We tried to keep the hallways and stairways, and added a common roof deck," Koch said.
The current Phase 3, in what had been the church parking lot and a duplex the developers acquired, consists of 10 townhouses - seven on Green Lane and three on Carson Street. Five are pre-sold in the mid-$500,000s, he said.
The fourth phase is the church, Koch said, which will be razed to the first floor, with three stories added to accommodate 29 rental apartments known as East Main Street. There will be 22 parking spaces in the basement.
"Manayunk is a special place to live," he said. "The best neighborhood in the city."