The Times Herald, February 1, 2013
By Gary Puleo
Photo Caption – Developer Ken Goldenberg’s “People Helping People” program takes him to Kenya, where the organization assists people with education, food and medical needs. Submitted Photo
WHITPAIN – For developer Ken Goldenberg, the reward comes in exploring wasted frontiers like an abandoned brick factory in Plymouth Meeting, and turning them into robust commercial hubs (see Metroplex), as well as reinventing historic icons as places where homeowners create communities.
Still, the CEO and president of The Goldenberg Group, who is a renowned civil advocate, is grateful for the honor that recently came his way from the Bridge of Hope Community Development Corporation and Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
The Vision of Hope award was presented to Goldenberg for “distinguished community service and a commitment to minority business enterprise and economic empowerment,” noted Bright Hope pastor Rev. Kevin Johnson, who called Goldenberg a developer with a heart.
That heart has been flowing with positive reinforcement for social change since Goldenberg launched The Goldenberg Group more than 25 years ago, because he figured real estate development was the ideal venue for his civil and environmental vision.
“I actually created the company to act as a financial platform for my public interests and agenda,” said the one-time civil rights and environmental attorney. “It’s my first love. Originally, the company was a means to that end, but eventually it became an end unto itself, because the projects we tackled were large and complex and transformative.”
The numerous developmental triumphs, in addition to the Metroplex shopping center in Plymouth Meeting, have included ParkWest Town Center in West Philadelphia, which is anchored by Lowe’s and ShopRite; Water Tower Square in Montgomeryville; Red Rose Commons center in Lancaster and The Ayer in Washington Square, a reinvention of an historic building as a condominium tower.
“These properties were either transformative from the standpoint that we were revitalizing brownsfield properties and developing large commercial complexes, or transformative in the respect that we were going into challenging inner city neighborhoods, partnering with the communities in a significant way and creating commercial complexes there,” said Goldenberg, who actively engages underprivileged individuals in the city and in Kenya with the company-wide “People Helping People” program. “Or, in the case of The Ayer, taking historic buildings and renovating. But the commitment was always to do highly transformative projects that would create win-win-win situations … from the public standpoint and win from the private standpoint.”
Goldenberg feels immensely gratified when he sees the lives that have been intermingled because of the homes his company has built.
“That’s one of the distinctive things about our residential properties that makes me feel great – that we’re not just selling beautiful homes, but the people who are buying them are becoming a remarkably happy community,” he said. “We developed what is probably the most successful condominium conversion in the city of Philadelphia on Washington Square. The Ayer is really amazing. If you went down and talked to those residents they’ll tell you what a wonderful community they’ve created living there.”
History is looking to repeat itself with Haverford Reserve, a Goldenberg landscape of carriage homes that is revitalizing the site of an abandoned mental hospital in Haverford.
Commercially, the Metroplex, the big box mecca that features Best Buy, Target and Barnes & Noble, may be the company’s crowning achievement.
“From the standpoint of a retail project the Metroplex is probably considered by many to be the standard there,” he said. “It’s a great location, great collection of tenants and right at the confluence of major arteries. That was a great project that took a long time to bring to fruition. It’s gratifying to take these large old industrial sites like that which are often contaminated, clean up the property environmentally and put it back to productive use.”
Goldenberg likens working with the circle of 12 to 14 executives at his company to life on a crew boat.
“I work with great group of people, and many of them have been together for 15 or 20 years,” he said.
“We’re very strong organizationally and multifaceted, with lots of different experiences, some in real estate, some outside of real estate … and I’m very honored to be working with this talented group. There are a lot of people here who do things much better than I do,” he added, laughing.
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