Mar 19


Bryn Mawr Film Institute: Before and After


AthenianRazak helped save The Bryn Mawr Film Institute on Lancaster Ave. from destruction and transformed it into one of the nation’s top film institutions.


As Development Manager, we led a ten year, multi-phase redevelopment of the historic theater.


The $6 million renovation program included finishing public interior areas, opening the historic skylight, adding an additional two new theaters, the addition of a third screen and upgrades to the HVAC and other building systems.

Feb 23


What is the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit?

What is the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit? It provides federal income tax credit for the rehabilitation and re-use of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be “certified historic structures.” This program has been one of the nation’s most successful community revitalization programs, encouraging private sector investment, creating jobs and preserving our architectural heritage for future generations. Since 1976, the program has generated almost $132 billion in private investment involving nearly 43,000 projects, according to a report by Rutgers University and the National Park Service.


We’re pleased to say that this tax credit program survived the tax reform bill, but not without some significant changes: it modifies the 20% Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, repeals the 10% tax credit for the rehabilitation of non-historic buildings, and provides transition rules for both credits. These and other changes to the Internal Revenue Code definitely reduce the value of HTC’s and may affect a taxpayer’s ability to use them at all.


The 20% tax credit functions like free equity: a developer can use it to offset its federal corporate tax liability or, more often, sells the credits to investors to generate capital for equity. The most impactful change of the bill is to require taking the credit spread over a 5-year period, rather than all at once in the year the project is placed in service. What’s the big deal you ask? Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, that 5 year stretch reduces the credit’s value by almost 20%. Could a developer think twice about rehabilitating a historic building with this 20% change? Absolutely, because it can leave a big gap in project financing, rendering a once-feasible project infeasible.


In Philadelphia alone, you can thank the pre-reform HTC for projects including The Victory Building, The Divine Lorraine, Lit Brothers Building, The Sheridan Building, The Cosmopolitan and Historic Landmarks for Living projects such as The Wireworks condos in Old City. We were able to revitalize 833 Chestnut Street with the help of the HTC and plan to do the same for our Ruby Match Factory project in Camden, NJ. Fortunately, there is a 30-month grace period for historic projects already in the works at the time of the bill’s inaction, so the capital stack for that project wasn’t toppled.


Given that many predicted its complete elimination, we are relieved that the HTC still exists. Still, the new bill is not as good as the old one because it made it harder to bridge the equity gap that frequently thwarts rehab and preservation projects. Though historic buildings will still have a chance at a new life, the reduction in the credit’s value will doubtless mean that some preservation projects will not happen. Read a little more about The Historic Tax Credit here.

Dec 21



There is a subtle but profound difference between Development Management and Project Management services. A Project Manager delivers a defined project within a given budget and schedule, while a Development Manager defines the project itself, making sure it truly serves the needs of the Owner. The Development Manager defines and coordinates the efforts of the entire project team from concept through operations, keeping a continuous focus on achieving the Owner’s overall goals and adjusting sub-budgets and schedules to do this effectively. Project Management is essentially a sub-set of Development Management. There are four phases of Development Management:

Predevelopment Planning

While the Owner sets initial project goals and outlines the development strategy; a Development Manager can help ensure success for the project by surveying Owner and project stakeholders to refine goals and to better understand project issues. This process builds a working project description with clear internal alignment. Once goals are in place, the Development Manager assembles the project team, including the design and construction teams, a process in which timing and method are critical to the project’s success.

Preconstruction & Development

A Development Manager, working closely with the Owner, will help make sure that the project goals and needs as defined earlier are met when setting the overall project scope, budget and schedule. The Development Manager then coordinates team members to design the right project at the right price to be built in and at the right time. It’s at the end of this process that a Project Manager would typically come on board.


During the construction process, the Development Manager can perform the Owner’s Representative or Construction Project Manager’s role, overseeing the day-to-day work of the project team on the Owner’s behalf. They also provide oversight of the budget, schedule, quality and conformity of work, providing periodic reports to the Owner. Keeping the team engaged in the project and maintaining an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect is a key part; the job also includes making the hard choices.

Post-Construction Phase

Upon completion of construction, the project segues from contractor control to the Owner’s control. The Development Manager can make sure the project team is focused on the project through final completion, achieving effective turnovers and training, punch list completion, and a warranty library for the building management use. The key to success in this difficult phase is to focus attention on building operations early. A good Development Manager begins the data-gathering while the team is still intact, and implements a rigorously structured documentation submission checklist and monitoring system during the early phases of development. Having the Development Manager involved from the outset maximizes the value of the project for the Owner.

Dec 04


Five Myths about The Grow NJ Assistance Program




  • You cannot use the capital allocation method in a lease scenario.
  • The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA)’s Grow NJ tax credits provide incentives for businesses to bring jobs to Camden, or keep them there. If you’re leasing space, you can apply for credits either based on the number of jobs you will have in Camden for 15 years, or the total capital outlay made to provide and fit out your space.



The program ended this year with the change in administration.                                   
Grow NJ is a program of the State of New Jersey and so is not affected by federal elections. Although New Jersey will have a new governor in 2018, this is not currently expected to impact the GROW NJ credits. By current law applications for these credits may be submitted/approved up to June 2019, after which a company would have up to three years to occupy their property. It is always possible, however, that the NJ Legislature will amend this law to allow for less, or more, time for these credits.


  • The tax credits are in cash.
  • The awards aren’t cash; they’re credits against New Jersey state income taxes. 10% of the credits are awarded each year for the first 10 years of occupancy.


  • Grow NJ only works for large companies, not those who don’t have enough NJ State tax to use the credits.
  • Most companies with more than 35 employees are eligible for the tax credits. Targeted industries with as few as 10 employees are also eligible, as are nonprofits, and many companies currently located in Camden. If you don’t have sufficient New Jersey tax obligations, you can readily sell them for cash.


  • The tax credits aren’t subject to federal tax.
  • In general, the incentives are subject to federal tax. Some companies treat them as capital gains (20% tax) by delaying their sale, and some treat them as ordinary income at their company’s tax rate. Non-profits are not taxed.


For more information on Grow NJ, click here or call Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Camden’s private non-profit economic development group, at (856) 757-9154



Nov 10


Regional Leadership and Catalytic Ideas from The Economy League

AthenianRazak strongly supports the regional leadership and catalytic ideas provided by Josh Sevin and the Economy League. Please read this op-ed in the Philadelphia Business Journal about Philadelphia’s civic infrastructure highlighting the Economy League’s role in driving regional collaboration. It’s co-bylined with ULI Philadelphia Executive Director Laura Slutsky and World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia President Linda Conlin.


Jackie Buhn is a member of the Economy League’s Board of Directors.


Oct 06


“Baa-ram-ewe!” How the movie Babe explains the value of Lean project management

In the classic 1995 film Babe, a young pig uses unusual methods of communication to herd sheep in—spoiler!—winning a sheep herding competition. This turns out to be an excellent metaphor for understanding the difference between regular project management and lean project management.


On Arthur Hoggett’s farm, Babe is a newly adopted pig seeking his purpose among the animals. The stakes are high—as the cat points out, animals on a farm without a purpose get eaten. Babe has been adopted by Fly and Rex, the farmer’s trusty border collies, and thinks he might try his luck at herding sheep. He has watched closely as Fly and Rex run through the flock of confused and panicked sheep, barking and snapping at their hooves to chase them home to the farmer’s field.


Babe tries this traditional “wolf” method of herding and fails miserably. He can’t run fast enough or bite hard enough to move the sheep. In despair, he confesses his challenge to prove useful on the farm to the sheep and ends up listening to the wisdom of the older ewes. And that’s the essence of lean project management. When the sheep connect their actions to a larger purpose—helping Babe avoid the slaughterhouse—they know exactly how to help and easily assemble themselves to return to the farm.


So many project managers think that if they run faster and bark louder their sheep will magically become organized. Instead, the opposite is true.


When Farmer Hoggett brings Babe to the county sheep trials, Babe encounters a new flock and discovers that he must connect with these sheep in order to communicate with them. In the movie, there’s a secret phrase that signals you’re an ally to all sheep:


Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true! Baa-ram-ewe.


In reality, it’s never that easy. Lean project management requires actively earning your team members’ trust to pull wisdom from the flock. Sometimes that means building a bridge to recalcitrant subcontractors, sometimes that means giving up your own assumptions about how a project should get done. Either way, a lean approach to project management ensures the best results for the owner. It saves Babe’s bacon and ensures Farmer Hoggett always has the wool he needs to keep him warm.


Christopher Strom, Director of Project Development


Jul 31


Pioneering the Market East Revival – A Look Back at 833 Chestnut Street

In 1998, 833 Chestnut Street, then known as 841 Chestnut, was taken over by a financial institution when a major tenant moved out, leaving the building only 27% occupied and valued internally at $5 million. AthenianRazak stepped in, shepherded the property steadily through five different owners and asset managers and two major market changes and the building sold to a national healthcare REIT in 2015 for an undisclosed price well over $100 million.


The turnaround of this huge (3/4 million sf) property was a quiet but steady success story that helped ignite and support the revitalization we’re seeing in the area now known as Market East.


The Philadelphia Inquirer saw potential in the area and in 2012, moved its offices to the third floor of the former Strawbridge and Clothier department store at 801 Market. Century 21 department store opened on the first level of that building in 2014. East Market, a 4-acre mixed-use development that spans an entire block between Market and Chestnut streets will house an apartment tower and retail such as WaWa, Iron Hill Brewery and Mom’s Organic Market. Target has opened on Chestnut St. and the Gallery Shopping Center is being transformed into The Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia. This is just the beginning.


AthenianRazak always knew the potential of Market East because the location was prime and we recognized the value of all of the transit there. However, the area was always battling an image of being the lesser side of town. We think the development there makes perfect sense, is long overdue and love that we were in on its inception. As Market East continues its boom as one of Philadelphia’s hottest real estate markets, 833 Chestnut can be viewed as the foundation of this transformation. Its quiet turnaround set the stage and created the stability that catalyzed today’s growth.

Jul 02


The 2017-18 CRE® Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate

CRE recently shared new information about important business disruptors – the issues and trends impacting U.S. commercial and residential real estate. The Counselors of Real Estate® (CRE) is the global professional association which annually announces The CRE® Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate, an update of market trends and conditions which influence real estate opportunities and risks. 

Read the Top 10 issues here.

 Members of CRE are recognized property experts who provide specialized and objective advisory services to clients.  CRE membership is by invitation. Jackie Buhn is a longtime member.

 Political polarization and global uncertainty lead the 2017-18 list because divisiveness–which is occurring at all levels (and is fueled by news headlines, political beliefs and budget constraints)–makes decision making difficult.)  Global uncertainty is also creating challenges for investment and employment in non-U.S. markets, and could negatively impact foreign investment in U.S. properties.

 Other issues include the technology boom – causing extraordinary changes in how real estate is bought, sold, valued, and managed.  Robotics, predicted to replace up to 47% of today’s jobs, clearly will have a serious impact on everything from housing and retail to business offices, tenants and leasing.  Two distinct generations–the Baby Boomers and Millennials–living and working side-by-side – now also present challenges in that they have quite different preferences in the kinds of offices in which they wish to work, as well as housing choices.

The other disruptors on the CRE Top Ten Issues list are:

  • Retail disruption–with malls and downtowns adapting to nationwide store closures with new kinds of experience-driven offerings and the reinvention of the grocery stores which have anchored many upscale shopping malls;
  • Infrastructure investment – such as bridges, ports, and roads, which are now attracting new private investors;
  • Housing: the big mismatch — affordability at all levels is challenging home ownership and even who can rent and where;
  • Lost decades of the middle class – including wage stagnation that significantly restricts purchasing power and home ownership;
  •  Real estate’s emerging role in health care – illustrated by increasing demand for buildings to be designed and operated in ways that promote positive healthy outcomes;
  • Immigration – restrictions could negatively impact this large source of residential tenants and home buyers;
  • Climate change—focusing this year on sea level rises as a serious threat to property values in many parts of the U.S. should  the trend in rising water levels continue.


The Counselors of Real Estate organization is known for thought leadership, objective insights and extraordinary professional reach, with more than 50 real estate specialties represented among its member experts who are admitted to the organization by invitation. Members contribute to development of the Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate by participating in the CRE External Affairs (Issues and Trends) initiative.




Jun 19


REO Strategy for Sportsplex Stabilization in Feasterville, PA

We scored big on our latest REO stabilization project at the Sportsplex in Feasterville, PA.














The sports complex with regional prominence used for both adult and youth sports had seen better days.  AthenianRazak got the assist by transitioning the complicated facility ownership to a stable management team, streamlining their business operations and preparing the property for sale.


The Sportsplex is approximately 87,000 square feet. The property includes 3 basketball courts, 2 floor hockey courts with spectator seating and food stand, 16 outdoor tennis courts, an outdoor pool, a rhythmic gymnastics team, a daycare/playground, and other smaller spaces for potential new sports. All courts are multi-purpose and serve many types of sports including an annual women’s roller derby! Notable local sports legends frequent the facility and the Field Hockey team is coached by mom of Olympic athletes, Tina Reinprecht.


AthenianRazak handles REO Management for both commercial and residential properties all over the region including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. In the case of the Sportsplex, we worked with them on Property management and stabilization, secured cash flow, prepared an annual budget for the property and oversaw repairs and maintenance. The Sportsplex is now ready for sale and will be able to serve the Feasterville community for years to come.

Jun 13


City of Philadelphia’s Text to Give Campaign

This morning, Mayor Jim Kenney and representatives from the Managing Director’s Office and the Office of Homeless Services introduced a pilot program they’re calling “The Text to Give Campaign.” They are urging people to not give money directly to pan handlers at the vast amount of shared public spaces throughout the city including transit stations, plazas and streets, but donate money by sending a text message to the number 80077 and typing “Share.” The Office of Homeless Services will match each donation. Proceeds go to nonprofits that support housing, jobs and services for homeless.


This effort is particularly relevant now as AthenianRazak master leases the retail space owned by SEPTA in Suburban Station. Suburban Station is a significant public space and sees roughly 100,000 passengers pass through daily.


AthenianRazak supports this effort wholeheartedly. We are  part of a public-private workgroup comprised of more than a dozen leaders from the business, hospitality and civic communities who work the Mayor’s administration to strategize and take action to ensure that public spaces in Philadelphia can be utilized safely, comfortably and with dignity and respect.