Some call it a jewel on Germantown Avenue. Others see the new apartment and retail complex on a struggling multi-block strip of Nicetown as another sign of the nascent revitalization of the neighborhood.

"I believe this building is going to bring more life, more energy, and more people taking pride in the neighboring blocks," longtime resident Curtis McAllister said of the Nicetown Court complex in the 4300 block of Germantown Avenue.

The 60,000-square-foot building, which features 37 apartment units, a community medical office, and a beauty salon and spa, opened in December after a year of construction.

The $15 million project was a joint effort between the Nicetown Community Development Corp. and Universal Companies with funding from the city, state, and federal governments, said Majeedah Rashid, chief operating officer for Nicetown CDC.

"We think we built a pyramid on Germantown Avenue," said Zakariyya Abdur-Rahman, president of Nicetown CDC. "The structure, architecture, and interior design are really bold and innovative."

The redbrick building with sparkling metal trim stretches from Rowan Street to Dennie Street in the shadow of the elevated Roosevelt Extension of the Schuylkill Expressway.

Its 37 one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable-housing apartments have been 100 percent occupied since Dec. 31. Anchoring the building's first floor at Dennie Street is the Temple Physicians at Nicetown, a longtime business in the community, which relocated from a couple of blocks away.

Next to the medical office is Transformations Salon & Spa, a soon-to-open, six-bay beauty salon with rooms for spa treatments such as aromatherapy and therapeutic massage.

Universal Companies president Abdur-Rahim Islam hailed the building as just the start of a comprehensive revitalization of Nicetown.

"This is a great beginning," Islam said. "It's an unbelievable building and an unbelievable addition to the avenue. It's the beginning of what's to come and what can be done."

Islam and others pointed to plans for an additional development, Nicetown Court II, on a vacant lot about a block from the new building. That project, estimated to cost $17 million, will include about up to 50 townhouses, officials said.

The developers said the neighborhood is quietly making strides toward revitalization.

They noted the Victorino Nicetown Boys & Girl Club at North Clarissa Street and Hunting Park Avenue, which was renovated last year with a $1 million gift from the Phillies' all-star centerfielder, Shane Victorino.

They also point to the Salvation Army Kroc Center, the massive $72 million recreation and community center on Wissahickon Avenue between Hunting Park and Roberts Avenues, which opened two years ago.

And they cited renovation under way by SEPTA at the nearby Wayne Junction regional rail station.

"The train station they are redoing now is on par to a suburban station," Islam said. "By itself it doesn't mean much, but by organizing our efforts we have to say, 'Let's connect these dots.' "

Abdur-Rahman said that to look ahead in the neighborhood, one must recall the community's past.

"The vision is to really transform this community back to what it used to be in the 1960s," said Abdur-Rahman. "This was a very positive community. You had housing, you had jobs and employment."

He said that home ownership in the neighborhood is currently about 60 percent and that one aim is to bring more homeowners to the area.

Universal Companies' Islam said the new building is key to uplifting the community.

"In order for you to create viable economic development, we have to get more people living in the neighborhood," said Islam.

Longtime resident McAllister views Nicetown Court as a catalyst for redevelopment in the area.

"We've got something really good going on in our neighborhood," McAllister said. "Let's keep it going."

Contact Vernon Clark

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