Wednesday, December 22, 2021

MM Partners planning $31M mixed-use development in heart of Norristown

 Natalie Kostelni Reporter Philadelphia Business Journal

MM Partners, a Philadelphia real estate company known for its development in Brewerytown, is planning a $31 million apartment complex in the heart of Norristown.

It will stand as an unprecedented amount of private investment in the Montgomery County seat and could prompt other developers to explore opportunities in the borough, which is trying to undergo a revitalization.

The development will consist of a seven-story building with 111 market-rate apartments and 12,000 square feet of commercial space at the intersection of Main Street and DeKalb Street.

“What’s intriguing about Norristown is its location,” said David Waxman, co-founder and managing partner at MM. “It’s well served by transportation, the courthouse is being redone with a massive park and you have a history there. Like Brewerytown, it’s surrounded by good neighborhoods and it’s a hole in the doughnut. We think we can take some of the plays from the same playbook we used in Brewerytown and apply them here.”

MM Partners ventured into Brewerytown roughly 20 years ago when the neighborhood wasn’t attracting much investment. The firm converted old factories into apartments and bought buildings along West Girard Avenue, renovating the upper floors into residential and leasing the retail space to tenants. It used both the residential and retail along with other placemaking efforts to activate the neighborhood.

Rebecca Swanson, executive director at the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority (RDA), was familiar with MM Partner’s work in Brewerytown, having served six years with the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. About a year ago, the RDA issued a request for proposals for developers to respond with ideas for the highly visible site in Norristown.

“It’s a big opportunity,” Swanson said. “We wanted someone who has familiarity with vertical and urban development. We really wanted active ground floor commercial space with retail, restaurants and amenities for everyone who lives and works in Norristown.”

The RDA received four proposals, of which three were strong and from Philadelphia developers who have done large projects, said Swanson. She declined to disclose the names of the other developers.

For MM Partners, though Norristown was outside of Philadelphia, where it had focused much of its development activity, it didn't seem like too much of a stretch. “When I reviewed the RFP, I fell in love with it,” said Joe Zimatore, a partner at MM Partners. Waxman and Zimatore walked the site and the surrounding area in November 2020 with Swanson and other Norristown officials, who wanted hear what they envisioned for such a high-profile location in the community.

“Norristown is a great opportunity,” Zimatore said. “From a location standpoint, you can’t get a better location. Its proximity to King of Prussia, Conshohocken and even Philadelphia. It’s close to SEPTA. It’s next to a distillery and the county buildings.”

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