Building a diamond in the rough

WEST PHILADELPHIA . Standing at the corner of 48th and Brown streets in Mill Creek, some might see anything but luxury. The lone store — a Sav-a-Lot supermarket — closed its doors last week and an empty warehouse has sat vacant for years.

But developers Hillel Tsarfati and Moshe Barazani hope to change that. As builders of West Village Condos, an 82-unit gated community expected to open this fall, they believe they can attract buyers and other development to the neighborhood.

“We want people to come to this neighborhood. … You cannot find anything [like this] 15 minutes from downtown,” said Tsarfati, who along with Barazani, came to the city from Israel. They are marketing the units to working professionals in University City with a starting price of $225,000.

The pair has done smaller projects in trendy areas like Northern Liberties and South Street, but West Village is their biggest project.

The community has seen a lot of new construction since the Philadelphia Housing Authority tore down the high-rise projects and built the Lucien Blackwell homes, a mix of rentals and for-sale houses.

Some neighbors are skeptical of the idea. Others are eager for change.

“I definitely welcome it as long as it looks nice,” said Latanya Williams, 32. “If it sells for what they’re asking, I think it’s going to boost the value of the [surrounding] homes.”

Steven Waley, president of the Men of Mill Creek community group, isn’t so optimistic.

“Sure, it would beautify the community, but I don’t know if you can call that the community, especially if it’s gated,” he said.

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