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Feeling Royal on Presidential Boulevard

July 21, 2005 By:
Greg Salisbury, JE Feature
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J. Brian O'Neill has some packing tips for anyone planning to buy one of the one-, two- or three-bedroom units at Corinthian, the Main Line's first condominium project to be built in 20 years (thanks in no small part to recent changes in Lower Merion Township's zoning laws, which eased restrictions on developing multifamily construction): "All you need are clothes and a toothbrush," exclaims the founder and chairman of O'Neill Properties Group, which owns Corinthian.

He's not kidding. Corinthian certainly lives up to its billing as one of the most amenity-rich recent properties on the Philadelphia market. The 108-unit luxury condominium community on Presidential Boulevard in Bala Cynwyd is flush with more than three-dozen niceties ranging from flat-screen televisions to hand-carved drawers that hold the provided gourmet kitchen utensils and cookware to custom marble vanities. And that's not even mentioning the concierge, doorman or private hotel suite for guests of residents.

The Corinthian philosophy of "It's included!" is so all-encompassing that about the only possible add-on you can find is a gas fireplace.

In a real estate market as superheated as Philadelphia's, it's always a good idea to do something to set yourself apart from the crowd. And anyone who has taken a skyward look around Center City can tell you it's getting crowded: around 6,000 new condominium units have come on the market since the beginning of the 21st century. From Old City to University City, Pennsport to Fishtown - from new construction to building conversion - prospective buyers have never had so many choices.

The Simpler Life
Except on the Main Line.

If you wanted the condo life in Lower Merion, your choices were limited to developments constructed in the 1980s or before, a situation untenable to people like Harvey Lamm.

Lamm, 69, is a longtime Haverford resident who recently purchased a two-bedroom unit with a den at Corinthian. The founder of Subaru USA decided that his empty nest was too big and unwieldy to maintain, so he opted to simplify his residence.

His reasons for choosing the Corinthian were simple: "I was looking for a new construction building in the immediate area - a clean, fresh building. And I was very concerned about the HVAC systems of the old buildings. Most of them have central controls; you can't control the climate from room to room. I wanted to be able to individually adjust the temperature."

Of course, the first commandment of real estate also came to play in Lamm's decision. "The location is convenient - my children live in the area, it's close to my country club and my office, and I can be in Center City in minutes," he adds.

In fact, Lamm has only one complaint to date about his experience: "I couldn't change the bathroom sinks because the countertops are all precut."

A lack of countertop options does not seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the condos. Even at prices ranging up to $2.5 million, the larger units have been selling so well that O'Neill had to create more three-bedroom condos, eliminating some of the less popular one-bedroom models.

Three Main Sectors
That so many buyers are opting for high-end units no doubt confirms O'Neill's prediction that Corinthian would appeal to three main groups: the 55-and-over crowd, including those who, like Lamm, are looking to trade in their now-unnecessarily large homes for a luxurious, no-stress lifestyle; relocated executives who want to immediately settle into something worthy of their stature ("immediately" being the operative word: O'Neill says that many recent transactions have been completed in just one day to executive types); and, in O'Neill's words, "young business-people who don't want to bother with houses, and have decided not to live their parents' lifestyle" of worrying about and maintaining a home in the suburbs.

With all of the recent development along the City Line Avenue corridor, few would characterize life at Corinthian as traditionally suburban.

And with new projects like the Target-store retail cluster in the old Adam's Mark Hotel and the conversion of the Bala Presbyterian Nursing Home into residences joining an already bustling scene that includes the shopping meccas Saks and Lord & Taylor, grocers like Acme and SuperFresh, and eateries such as Chops Restaurant and Chef Charin, among other popular locales, it appears that this is just the beginning of what could be a Main Line condo boom.

O'Neill does nothing to dissuade that speculation: "I've got five more condo projects planned within the next 10 years in Lower Merion Township."

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