Off-campus housing project overcomes challenges

Commercial retail space remains under construction in the housing complex.

Diamond Green ( HUA ZONG / TTN )
Two workers move parts at the Diamond Green housing  project at 10th and Diamond Streets. ( HUA ZONG / TTN )
Two workers move parts at the Diamond Green housing
project at 10th and Diamond Streets. ( HUA ZONG / TTN )

Heading north on 10th Street in the shadows of the SEPTA Regional Rail tracks, Diamond Green still has the look of a construction site. But after months of work being done on the five-story building, its tenants are finally moved in.

The 92-unit, 350 bedroom complex held its move-in period last weekend after months of dashing to complete the building. The project was put together by Mosaic Development Partners, Orens Bros. and Metamorphosis Community Development Corporation.

Mosaic was awarded the bid to work with Metamorphosis to redevelop the land in 2009, but Greg Reaves of Mosaic said that the project had trouble getting off the ground because of a tough economy.

“There was really nothing going on in 2009, 2010 it was almost impossible to get a loan for any kind of project like this, so Orens [Bros.] was instrumental in helping us make that happen,” Reaves said.

The $20 million project broke ground in November 2011 and Reaves said that early on, they were delayed because of issues with the land and said because of what they found underground, the project was nearly a month behind schedule.

“We found a 5,000-gallon underground oil tank, we found that there was a basement structure that we didn’t know about that had long, huge concrete columns that we were unaware of,” Reaves said. “We found rows of tires that were buried underground.”

Reaves added that the weather helped the project out tremendously, and said, “If we had a normal winter, we probably wouldn’t be opening [on time].”

Diamond Green ( HUA ZONG / TTN )Both Reaves and Jonathan Orens of Orens Bros., credited Metamorphosis and the community for making the project work, and said that members of the community were hired for various posts throughout the project.

“Any community group wants members of the community to help. We understand that you have to open that door,” Orens said. “Without the community, we don’t do this project.”

More than 100 applicants from the neighborhood near Diamond Green applied for jobs and its project manager Derek Connolly said that at one point 15 or 16 people from the community were working at the site in various positions.

Officials at the site have also been working to accommodate students who need a place to put their belongings before they were able to move in.

Orens said that they have been “bending over backwards” to accommodate tenants and have even been storing some people’s belongings in the unfinished gym inside the building until they are able to move in.

The first floor retail space at Diamond Green remains unfinished, but Orens said they have already received interest from businesses and groups for space on the first floor including a deli, Metamorphosis, a barber shop and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Orens expects the space to be complete at the end of 2012.

Sean Carlin can be reached at or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84. 

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