Onion Flats Open House

Tonight I went to the open house for the Onion Flats by Tim McDonald. I'm really confused by all of the names associated with that company/organization - But they are very good names. Plumbob, Jig, OnionFlats are snappy sounding words, words that are probably up to no good, but are so cute that you forgive them.

The particular Onion Flats I saw tonight was a place rather than a firm - new homes, currently on the market in Fishtown. And they look very sharp. They're designed to appeal to the Dwellhomes crowd, i.e. thoroughly modern but with witty moves and materials here and there to give the whole design a warmth, plus a real effort to incorporate green technologies. In fact, they claim that the house will be the first in Philadelphia to achieve a LEED Homes Gold rating, and high efficiency appliances and a gorgeous grass roof were the most visible manifestations of its sustainability. Bamboo floors and furniture also visibly demonstrated the builder's commitment to green. One of the architects I went with tonight said, it can't be terribly difficult to get some sort of LEED rating in Philadelphia, because from the very start it's going to be a brownfield development within walking distance to public transit. But the fact that it's the first gold means that it's not yet common, so I have to commend them for that.

The house had plenty of wit built in as well - clever interior clerestories and skylights to bring light into the dark urban middle of the house, a very nice steel stair wall that resembled bamboo, and a single step galvanized stair up to that amazing roof deck, with fantastic views of just about everything in greater Philadelphia.

Altogether it was a terrific building. They're asking close to $600K for it, which is pretty steep for fishtown. However, housing product like this (focused on the dwell market) is not easy to find in the city, and seems to be very popular from the success of Dwell and inhabitat.com. Houses like this seem to be satisfying the demands of a young demographic that is on its way to getting more and more passionate about the environment and modern design, while simultaneously moving into a wealthier time of their lives. Assuming the bottom doesn't fall out completely on the Philadelphia real estate market, Tim McDonald and Onion Flats could be in the right place at the right time.

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