When Nick Gerszi transferred to Philadelphia from California in July, he used Google Earth to help narrow his housing search. He decided the Irvine in West Philadelphia was perfect — a new building with great amenities in a safe, transitioning neighborhood. The app even let him explore the bars, restaurants, and farmers market within walking distance. He also liked being one of the first tenants to move in.

“When I moved in here, it was a legit start from scratch — a new city, a brand-new apartment, and I came with basically one dresser,” recalled Gerszi, 33, a Coast Guard chief. “It’s a fresh start.”

The Irvine building was originally home to Apple Storage, a fireproof industrial storage warehouse, about 100 years ago.

“It was built like a fortress, a solid concrete structure building with masonry walls and no windows,” said Joshua Guelbart, development partner for Post Brothers. The building also had massive elevator enclosures and many loading docks — not set up for any kind of residential activity.

Nonetheless, Post Brothers, a developer known for repurposing vacant buildings, saw possibilities in the original facade’s unique ornamentation and the graffiti-covered interior walls.

“It sat vacant for 10 or so years, and people were breaking in and doing some really interesting graffiti art,” Guelbart said.

A photograph of graffiti lines an elevator at The Irvine in West Philadelphia.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
A photograph of graffiti lines an elevator at The Irvine in West Philadelphia.

Unable to keep many of the actual walls, Post Brothers took high-resolution pictures of the graffiti and placed them in the lobby, elevator, and gym.

“In the emergency stairwells there’s still the original graffiti, and they still have the Apple Storage sign on the building,” Gerszi said. “They updated the building but still tried to keep some of the original charm.”

Gerszi’s apartment features a floor-to-ceiling window that takes up almost the entire back wall. He has a view of the downtown skyline from Citizens Bank Park to University City.

“It’s a beautiful view when the sun comes up directly over the city, and there are built-in shades I can pull down,” Gerszi said.

Nick Gerszi, who relocated to Philadelphia from California, used Google Earth to help him find an apartment.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Nick Gerszi, who relocated to Philadelphia from California, used Google Earth to help him find an apartment.

The 675-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment feels just the right size, especially considering he spent 7½ years on a ship at sea during his 12-year Coast Guard career. Gerszi’s decorating style is minimalist, and the few belongings he does own are meaningful.

“I don’t like over-clutter,” he admits. “Maybe that’s been instilled in me over time in the military.”

Those belongings include his two bass guitars and Coast Guard memorabilia. An oar he received as a gift after serving in the Virgin Islands, a framed poster he got after crossing the international dateline, and a life-ring signed by his crew on a ship in San Francisco have special meaning. He also treasures the crew pass he received while stationed in Los Angeles, recalling its unforgettable backstory.

“We called the boat I was on the Hollywood Cutter because we were always doing things for TV and movies,” he said. “I actually got to go on stage and present an award to Ben Affleck at the Spike TV Guys Choice Awards. We got to go hang out backstage. It was amazing!”

Many of those mementos sit on a shelf above the kitchen. “I love cooking, because being on a ship so many years, you don’t really have that option; they cook for you,” he said. “I’m entering the nostalgia phase of trying to learn my mom’s recipes. We’re Austrian, but a lot of Austrian food isn’t healthy, so I’m trying to make healthy things as well.”

After serving more than seven years at sea, Nick Gerszi enjoys having his own kitchen. His decor includes mementos from his Coast Guard career.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
After serving more than seven years at sea, Nick Gerszi enjoys having his own kitchen. His decor includes mementos from his Coast Guard career.

Across the hall from the kitchen are his bedroom and a large bathroom with a black-and-white geometric floor design and modern shower arm with wall and ceiling heads. For now, his decor is mostly black and white, but he’s still looking for some meaningful wall art and live plants.

Gerszi appreciates the extensive amenities the Irvine offers its residents, including a large gym with Peloton bikes, treadmills, and an array of equipment. A concierge greets guests, and the building is equipped with package storage and a dry-cleaning service. Outdoor space includes several gas grills, an herb garden, lots of seating, and dog runs. Residents are encouraged to socialize in a comfy lounge with a large flat-screen TV, a poker table, and kitchen area.

“The building does an excellent job promoting interaction among the residents,” he said. “About monthly, they host some event. Recently we had a breakfast and a pizza party with a couple of free drinks and appetizers at a brewery down the street. It’s something that brings people out of their apartments to get to meet their neighbors.”

Is your house a Haven? Nominate your home by email (and send some digital photographs) at properties@inquirer.com

Common spaces in the Irvine include an exercise room, with graffiti preserved from when the warehouse was vacant.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Common spaces in the Irvine include an exercise room, with graffiti preserved from when the warehouse was vacant.