New look coming for Dekalb Pike complex in King of Prussia

Neil Rubler of Candlebrook Properties in Manhattan is working with Lubert-Adler of Phila. to redo the Marquis Apartments. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Neil Rubler of Candlebrook Properties in Manhattan is working with Lubert-Adler of Phila. to redo the Marquis Apartments. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 30, 2014

Neil Rubler, a New York real estate developer and manager with Philadelphia ties, is putting the finishing touches on the first phase of 251 DeKalb, a gut renovation of the onetime-crime-plagued Marquis Apartments in King of Prussia.

A 1998 Wharton School of Business graduate, Rubler and his Candlebrook Properties in Manhattan partnered with Lubert-Adler in Philadelphia to buy the apartment complex for $70 million and spend $50 million in renovations, for a $120 million total project cost, Rubler said. They broke ground in January. Wells Fargo is financing the debt portion of the deal, or about 40 percent.

"This is a land investment as well as a renovation opportunity," Rubler said during a recent tour of the site. "We're really taking advantage of 251 DeKalb's location. There's a huge office market here, the King of Prussia mall, and many corporate employees could live here and not have to travel huge distances anymore."

Said Joe O'Donnell, president of Omega Commercial Real Estate in King of Prussia and a member of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp.: "King of Prussia has come a long way. But the one thing [it] lacks to support those types of residential units is public transportation. For the millennials, that's the first thing they look for is public transport, and then they look for a place to stay."

The 26-acre hilltop site on which 251 DeKalb sits is undergoing a top-to-bottom makeover of five buildings housing 650 apartments designed in the Brutalist style popular in the 1960s.

Currently, the property shares an entrance with the DoubleTree Hotel and sits across from DeKalb Plaza, which has an Acme market and other retailers. Downhill at the back of the site are trails, tennis courts, and a basketball court; downhill at the front is St. Augustine's Cemetery.

The project's first phase - two renovated high-rises - is set for a summer opening. The remaining three buildings should be ready for rental next year, Rubler estimated.

Rather than standing alone, as they did, the phase-two buildings will be connected by a new lobby structure.

"I couldn't change the superstructure, but I wanted to start completely over inside rather than around the edges," Rubler said.

To accomplish that, the buildings were stripped down to bare concrete and redecorated in a modernist style, courtesy of local architect Stephen Varenhorst and the landscaper Land Collective. Rubler said the front lobby would "have the look of an Apple store, all glass and offering a look through to the common garden and courtyard for residents."

Rents range from $1,100 for a studio to $1,500 for a one-bedroom to $2,200 for a two-bedroom. All apartments feature wide-plank floors, washers and dryers, Porcelanosa kitchens and baths imported from Spain, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The developers also are updating the amenities, which include free WiFi and a computer lounge, a fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, and a custom kids' play space.

Candlebrook Properties will work to restore the indoor swimming pool in phase two. Rubler envisions the outdoor swimming area surrounded by a kiddie water park, cabanas, a barbecue area, and a bocce court. He said the "251 Club" would expand to include a community garden.

The complex's second phase can be built out slightly differently, based on what renters say they like and don't like in the phase-one buildings, he said.

"We're looking forward to the feedback."

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund

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