"Modern" is not a word associated with the Betsy Ross House on Arch Street in Old City.
But across the street from the historic landmark, three luxury townhomes are about to give the Old City block some new character.
Named after the colonial-era attraction, The Ross Luxury Townhomes – at 240 through 244 Arch Street – will bring a 21st century feel to the neighborhood once completed this spring.
"Architecturally, the townhomes are going to make a statement that Philadelphia is with the current times, that Philadelphia is an up and coming city," said Jason Morris, project coordinator for The Ross.
The six-story townhomes, which Morris said he plans to put on the market for about $2.5 million each, include top-of-the-line features such as an elevator, second kitchens on the roof decks, with hot tubs, grass yards and stone patios, and smart home technology. Two-car garages are another feature, which Morris went through some hurdles with the now-defunct Old City Civic Association to get approved.
Morris' project is an example of what's to come in the historic neighborhood, as this is one of several residential and commercial projects now in the works.
"The area is diversifying," said Job Itzkowitz, Old City District's executive director. "We're working on letting people know that this is not the nightclub destination it once was; it's a vibrant, commercial corridor, wonderful residential neighborhood, and an office facility."
Itzkowitz named about a half-dozen new construction projects within a few blocks of The Ross, including 200 units coming to 205 Race St., 60 units (plus a CVS and a food store) coming to the corner of Third and Market Streets to replace the former Shirt Corner, and a recent conversion at the Pottery Building on Second and Arch Streets, which currently houses 44 units.
He anticipates about 500 new units within the next two to three years.
As for The Ross townhouses – which, with their large windows and limestone façades, are unique in the area for their design and size –Itzkowitz thinks they are a positive thing for the neighborhood, as he said it's "important to have a diverse housing stock in any neighborhood."
"The fact that the townhomes are going up is a great thing," he said. "To speak about their modern look, we like to describe the area as a contemporary neighborhood in a historic footprint."
Morris said The Ross is expected to be done by June 1. He's also working on a several townhomes – called The Baldwin – on the corner of Second and Vine Streets. These will be similar to The Ross, but on a smaller scale.
Morris, 34, a commercial Realtor, has been in real estate for about a decade. This is his first major ground-up construction project, he said.
Morris is working with two developers from New York – Bob Miller and Lee Kaplan – on the two projects. He said he anticipates the Ross to cost more than $1 million in construction for each of the homes. Morris' business partners are funding the entire project and acquisitions in all cash, he said.
Morris hired Landmark Architects to design The Ross homes, which will be more than 5,000 square feet each with three-to-four bedrooms and six baths.
Some of the priciest components include the two kitchens, which Morris estimates to cost $100,000, and the elevator, which is about another $100,000.
Some other key features include a two-story dining room overlooking the Betsy Ross House, a master suite that takes up the entire fourth floor, and two additional bedrooms on the third floor, each with their own en-suite baths.