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.

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.

Philly Achieves World Heritage City Designation

Credit: Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Last week, the World Heritage Centre announced that Philly was named the first World Heritage City in the US. Congrats, complimenti, félicitations, felicidades!

We’re proud of our hometown for receiving this prestigious designation. It demonstrates our  amazing level of cultural treasure, our strengthened international reputation, and the power of a determined, collaborative group of Philadelphian’s who worked together on this effort. You can read the full press release here. Continue reading “Philly Achieves World Heritage City Designation” »

What Did We Learn from the Pope Ride?

Photo from Pope Ride Facebook page

During this weekend’s Papal visit, Philadelphians got a taste of what life could be like without cars. Kids played freely on the streets, bikers rode without worrying about cars, and the city had a block party-type feel to it. Was this utopia for Philadelphians? I’m not so sure. Continue reading “What Did We Learn from the Pope Ride?” »

BMFI Recognized at ULI Philadelphia

We’re thrilled to have our work at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI) as a finalist at this year’s ULI Philadelphia Willard G. “Bill” Rouse III Awards for Excellence.

While this project is truly an exceptional example of historic revitalization, the kudos really goes out to the project team for their vision and commitment to this multi-year phased project development. This includes our team here at AthenianRazak along with the leadership team at BMFI, Voith & Mactavish Architects, WS Cumby, E. Allen Reeves, and Q.E.D., Inc. Continue reading “BMFI Recognized at ULI Philadelphia” »

Support the Vision of the Rail Park

Last week, I attended a fundraiser for the Friends of the Rail Park at the newly-opened Brick and Mortar. It was wonderful to see so many people come out to support one of the most visionary projects happening in Philly. Continue reading “Support the Vision of the Rail Park” »

Jackie Buhn Lends Her Expertise in CRE Consulting Corps Engagement at New Mexico State University

In July 2013, AthenianRazak’s Principal & CEO, Jackie Buhn, a longtime member of the Counselors of Real Estate and their Consulting Corps group, served as the group leader of a team of experts for an engagement in New Mexico. Together the team offered their expertise on effective management of New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) extensive land holdings. NMSU owns numerous parcels of land within the University boundaries, in or near the city of Las Cruces, and throughout the state. NMSU has sufficient land within the core of its Las Cruces campus to accommodate expansion requirements for many years.

Continue reading “Jackie Buhn Lends Her Expertise in CRE Consulting Corps Engagement at New Mexico State University” »

Green is the New Black at AthenianRazak – Why We Are Excited for Greenbuild 2013

Greenbuild is coming to Philadelphia from November 20th to 22nd and we couldn’t be more excited.  Not only is Greenbuild the world’s largest conference on green building, but it is here in our hometown. This will give Philadelphia the opportunity to show the world all we have done so far in sustainable building, and even better, what our vision is for the future.

Here at AthenianRazak, we are proud to say that our blood runs green (and not just for the Philadelphia Eagles), as stewardship of the environment is our true passion – both in terms of our business ethos – promoting viable and exciting urban density, reusing existing buildings, and providing attractive cityscapes – and our personal practices, like biking, walking, or taking public transportation to work.

A few members of our team will be attending Greenbuild, Michael Brookshier has been serving on the Community Engagement Committee, and some others will be volunteering.  And, Lenfest Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, where we served as Development Manager, will be featured in the conference’s half-day tours in a session called Liberty and Justice for All: Innovative Multifamily Housing on Monday, November 18th from 1 pm – 6 pm.

Welcome to Philadelphia Greenbuild Nation.  We hope to see you around town.

Unfinished Center City

A few months ago, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission released its Central District Plan, which, among other things, identifies a number of ‘areas with development potential in the City.  With Philadelphia’s recent  trend reversing decades of population decline, it is not surprising that many of the indicated areas are located at the edges of Center City, as development activity begins to creep outward in search of new opportunities.

However, while it is certainly true that many of these peripheral areas, like North Broad Street or the Delaware Waterfront, have development potential, and that the City would benefit greatly from their revitalization, it is important to remember that the development of Center City itself is not yet complete.

This is not to say that the plan ignores more central locations, quite the contrary, East Market St. / Chestnut St. and Franklin Square are both specifically listed.  Rather, the point is that these locations might deserve special consideration.  At some level, North Broad simply has to wait for development to catch up with it, at least that’s the impression one could get from grand proposals like the renovation of Divine Lorraine or The Provence casino and entertainment complex.  By contrast, something seems to be actively holding places like East Market and Old City back.

The challenges of these areas have been noted by local commentators repeatedly.  Vacant storefronts abound in spite of heavy foot traffic and many structures are either in a state of disrepair or present an uninviting façade, contributing to an aura of blight.  East Chestnut Street in particular practically screams with unmet potential and Old City never completed its supposed renaissance that began more than a decade ago.  In a City that still struggles to attract jobs, but has nonetheless managed to establish itself as a great place to live, knitting together the remaining stragglers in its otherwise excellent downtown amounts to a solid economic development strategy.

There is hope, as 229 Arch recently opened in Old City, big things could be afoot on the 1100 block of Chestnut, and the Market8 casino could be a game changer.  Hopefully the momentum will continue, and Philadelphia can go from having a good downtown to a world-class one.

Smart Planning at Lenfest Hall Cited in Recent Inquirer Article

A recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer questioned how to sustain Philadelphia’s vast array of arts and cultural institutions, many of which have undergone expansions or moved to brand new homes over the past two decades.  The article recognizes that while the expanded arts and culture sector has significantly contributed to the revival of Center City, it questions if Philadelphia is able to support this expanded sector with rising operating costs and shrinking contributions and ticket sales.

Many of our renowned institutions, critical to weaving together the fabric of Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector, are now struggling to pay for their expansions, or are seeking significant increases in charitable giving to cover their costs.  This illustrates the need for cultural groups to connect their physical assets with strategic plans and business goals.

Continue reading “Smart Planning at Lenfest Hall Cited in Recent Inquirer Article” »