PhillyDeals: Landlord is buying up Phila. apartments

Hahnemann University Hospital is owned by Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., which is fighting off a takeover bid by Community Health Systems.
Hahnemann University Hospital is owned by Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., which is fighting off a takeover bid by Community Health Systems.
Posted: January 19, 2011

The Jan. 11 fire that wrecked West Philadelphia's Windermere Court apartments brought the anxious new owners of a neighboring complex running to the scene.

"They were fighting the fire from our roof," Jason Friedland, of Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, told me.

He said he housed several families burned out by the fire in vacant units of his newly acquired building next door at 216 S. 48th St., and some have applied to be permanent tenants.

It's one of 12 Philadelphia apartment houses that Iron Stone, of Philadelphia, has taken over from Citibank and Intervest Bank in a series of transactions during the last several weeks and following more than a year of negotiations.

The properties' previous landlord, American Gardens Management L.L.C., of New York, fell behind on loan payments.

American Gardens amassed as many as 2,000 units in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester, North Jersey, and other locales. The company didn't return calls to its former main office number. Workers at the firm's Philadelphia rental offices referred calls to Iron Stone.

The newly acquired buildings are about 40 percent vacant, according to Iron Stone. Friedland says his firm plans to repair the buildings and begin leasing them to boost occupancy, as it did at the former Ogontz Manor (now the Julien) near La Salle University. The Julien is one of several complexes Iron Stone bought since it was set up in 2007 as a $50 million fund to buy properties cheaply amid the real estate crisis.

Iron Stone's other new buildings include, in West Philadelphia, 4931 Spruce St., 5016 Pine St., 502 S. 57th St., 508 S. 41st St., 4207 Chester Ave., and 4927 Wynnefield Ave. Other purchases included 715 Church St., Germantown; 1418 Conlyn St., West Oak Lane; 330 W. Johnson St., West Mount Airy; 4628 Leiper St., Frankford; and 1605 W. Allegheny Ave., near Temple University's medical school.

Rents under the former landlord ranged from $450 to $750 a month, except in the Wynnefield building, where larger apartments listed up to $1,200 a month.

The former landlord owed Citibank $90 million for the 2,000 apartments.

Iron Stone bought 511 of those apartments for $16 million. It purchased an additional 276 units from Intervest for $9 million, Friedland said.

The deal was financed with help from Intervest and five local banks: Downingtown National Bank, East River Bank, and Valley Green Bank, of Philadelphia; First Federal of Bucks County; and Vist Bank of Wyomissing.

Hospital wars

Community Health Systems on Jan. 14 said it had recruited 10 nominees to take control of rival hospital chain Tenet Healthcare Corp. at Tenet's board meeting this fall. Tenet already has spurned Community's $3.3 billion, $6-per-share merger offer as too cheap.

Locally, Texas-based Tenet owns Hahnemann University Hospital and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Nashville-based Community owns Chestnut Hill Hospital and others in Coatesville, Phoenixville, Jennersville, Pottstown, and Salem.

Tenet says it plans to cut costs and boost profits each year to stay independent. Citing those assertions, stock analyst John Ransom at Raymond James & Associates said in a report that Tenet was worth up to $10 a share, even without a deal.

But Community will "most likely" end up buying Tenet for little more than what it has already offered, countered analyst Justin Lake at UBS Securities.

Community could cut as much as $400 million out of Tenet's $9 billion annual budget by firing headquarters workers and other post-merger cost-cutting, A.J. Rice, hospital analyst at Bala Cynwyd-based Susquehanna International Group, has estimated.

Locally, Community's would-be Tenet directors include investment banker Curtis S. Lane, a Penn grad who serves on Penn Medicine's hospital and medical school executive board. Penn supplies doctors to Community's Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Drexel president John Fry is a Community director and also holds clout at Tenet through Drexel's deal to staff Tenet's Hahnemann Hospital.

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or