by Pete Mazzaccaro
Wyndmoor developer Scott Janzen and his partner, Peter Bloomfield, are set to open 1400 Lofts apartments, a remarkable conversion of the former Wyndmoor Montessori school at 1400 E. Willow Grove Ave., into eight luxury apartments.
“We’re just a couple of weeks away,” Janzen said outside the nearly completed building. We’ve got some railing to put up. We have to start cutting the new grass, which is actually coming up. After that, we’re really done outside of a couple lights to put up around the parking lot.”
The building, built by Springfield Township as a public school in 1893, was purchased by Janzen and Bloomfield in March of 2016 for $535,000. After securing zoning to build apartments on the site – it was originally zoned for single-family use – some neighbors protested and eventually appealed the township’s decision, setting the development back for approximately a year.
The developers prevailed and moved forward with the apartment plan. They also subdivided and sold off two lots at the rear of the property, which purchased and developed into two separate single-family homes that front Laurel Street behind the old schoolhouse.
“Springfield Township has been great,” Janzen said. “The township’s commissioners were incredibly supportive. They wanted to see the building fixed, They didn’t want to see it torn down.”
On the outside, the school appears much like it did 120 years ago. The shell is still completely intact, including the central bell tower atop the building’s pitched roof. The interior was transformed and filled with eight one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 840 square feet to 1,500 square feet. Rents for the new spaces range from $1,750 to $2,400.
All the spaces have contemporary bathrooms and open kitchen spaces. Amenities include brand new kitchen appliances, a washing machine and dryer. Each apartment also has a kitchen island, the surface of which is a reconditioned slab of wood taken from the schoolhouse’s attic floor.
The ceilings in the downstairs apartments are an imperious 14 feet high, and the first-floor windows are 10 feet high by 5 feet wide.
Janzen said the transformation from old schoolhouse to modern apartment building cost $2 million.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is this,” Janzen said pausing inside the first apartment. “We can barely even hear the traffic outside.”
It’s the result of the specially made windows and the careful attention to insulating the floors and walls in the space.
Upstairs, the apartments are slightly larger, thanks to the schoolhouse’s attic space, which Janzen and Bloomfield used to create loft spaces that add extra bedrooms, closets, office space and bathrooms.
The result, Janzen said, is apartment living that is different from much of what is available in the Northwest Philadelphia and its suburbs. Most of the apartments in the area are between 30 to 50 years old. There’s not much like the modern, high ceiling and open spaces he and Bloomfield designed at 1400 Lofts.
“In terms of this kind of living … for people who want to live in the area but have a house and are ready to move on, we’ve seen a real pent up demand,” Janzen said. “They’re kind of walking around saying, ‘There’s not much around here to choose from. I don’t want a small cookie-cutter one-bedroom. I want something bigger.’”
For more on 1400 Lofts, see 1400Lofts.com. Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org