The Samuel Tabas Apartments in Northeast Philadelphia celebrates its new appointments.
On Wednesday, one year and nearly $13 million later, the Samuel Tabas Apartments celebrated the culmination of its renovation project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The apartment building on Strahle Street in Northeast Philadelphia, which opened in 1974 and provides housing for low-income seniors in the area, received a complete interior renovation of both public and private spaces. This includes new bathrooms, kitchens and floors for its 322 apartments, as well as a new chapel and community room.
The project was executed with an almost military precision — each apartment’s kitchen and bathroom were redone in just one day. Residents returned to find new appliances and amenities such as stoves, refrigerators and big bathtubs.
“We literally renovated their apartments on a normal, business day-type cycle,” said Federation Housing executive director Eric Naftulin. “The resident would leave in the morning and they would come back at the end of the business day to a whole new bathroom.”
The next day, the crew would return to the same apartment, knock out the existing kitchen and treat the resident to a brand new kitchen space when they returned at the end of the day.
It took about three or four days to renovate each apartment, he said.
Despite the inconvenience of packing up their belongings and leaving their apartments for the day, residents of the building were “ecstatic” with the results, Naftulin said, adding that many — including himself — couldn’t believe a whole bathroom or kitchen could be renovated in one day.
“I can’t say enough about the residents and how they were patient and tolerant. They understood what it was for. It’s the preservation of their home,” he said.
About 50 guests, including members of the Tabas family and Federation Housing board members, as well as key players in funding the renovation process, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which included drinks and refreshments in the newly renovated community room. Lillian Convery, a longtime Tabas resident, opened the event with a few remarks about her home.
Convery, 79, has lived in Tabas Apartments for 12 years and was “thrilled” with its makeover.
“I was happy. The only thing was, I had to put all my stuff back,” Convery, president of residents at the building, said with a laugh. “I like living here; I feel like this is my family, even though I have my own family.”
The building needed the upgrades, she said, adding that before, it was “clean, but old.”
After 35 years, it was time to make some changes, including safety improvements. Each apartment now has a sprinkler system whereas before, it was just in a few common areas.
Funding for the multimillion-dollar renovation came from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, as well as construction loans through “Firstrust Bank, equity from the building and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, which did taxes and bonds on the property,” Naftulin said.
And the timing was right financially, said Kathy Sarlson, director of development for Federation Housing. They were able to refinance and refurbish the building, which made the large project feasible.
The ceremony was a way to thank the Tabas family again for their support in housing seniors, Sarlson said, and showcase the “incredible renovations we’ve done.”
The planning process for the renovations took about two and a half years, Naftulin said. But, he added, the long-term benefits are worth it, which he says the residents certainly understand, especially given that the building is one that many line up to live in given its prominence in the area.
“We expect to be here for a very long time. We’re an anchor in the community, in a good neighborhood,” Naftulin said. “We want to preserve it for as long as possible.”