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On the Market: A front-row seat to Northern Liberties' evolution

Realtor Deborah Solo and her husband, Angel Franqui, bought a house in Northern Liberties 30 years ago. With their children grown, they're ready to downsize.

Luke Rihl

Center City Realtor Deborah Solo was introduced to the Northern Liberties neighborhood in the 1970s when she was working on her master's degree in architecture.

"I worked with a team to evaluate Northern Liberties as a candidate for the historic register," she said. "It was an area that had experienced decline, but there was good housing stock and lots of vacant land."

By 1982, she was buying and rehabbing properties there. A year later, she and her husband, Angel Franqui, bought their own home there. Solo said it was the beginning of a massive rehab for the two of them.

"It was actually in worse-than-shell condition, as the previous purchasers had begun work which caused some serious structural issues," she said. "The property needed new everything."

Solo and Franqui weren't able to move in with their 3-year-old and 3-month-old until October 1987.

"I restored what was restorable and continued to improve and upgrade over the 30 years we lived and raised a family there," Solo said.

Today those upgrades include new mechanicals, a recently renovated kitchen with custom concrete counters and reclaimed wood peninsula, a new third-floor bathroom, and restored hardwoods throughout.

As much as their three-bedroom property has changed in 30 years, Solo said they've been first-hand witnesses to the neighborhood evolution as well.

"I saw it develop into a lovely community which has begun to burst at the seams," she said. "It was lonely in those early years."

Solo said the stairs in the center of the property is her favorite part of the home.

"They are the architectural moment," she said. "They appear to float above the second floor, combined with a large skylight letting light throughout the center of what could have been a very dark, long rowhome."

Now that their children have left home, Solo said they've decided to list the property so they can downsize.

"We don't need a 3,700-square-foot house and a huge garden to maintain," Solo said. "I decided it was time to be proactive and rehab a unit above our office, all one level with a deck out to our green roof."

The property is listed at Solo Realty for $749,000.

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