Locally Grown Development with People and Neighborhoods in Mind

Aug 17, 2018 10 months ago

Living on the 4100 block of Ludlow Street in the mid-to-late 1980s, Ahsan Nasratullah got a front row seat to the challenges and opportunities in University City. Amid growing anchor institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he saw great potential to cultivate a vibrant retail landscape. At the same time, he sought to support growing local jobs and much-needed services in a section of the city that was struggling to thrive.

Since opening The Hub on Chestnut in 2006, a 9-story student housing tower with ground-level retail located at 3945 Chestnut Street, Nasratullah and his partners at JNA Capital have actively invested in exploring the role that thoughtful and inclusive development plays in supporting diverse and energized Main Streets. 

How do they put their values to work? For one, while The Hub caters to students, many of whom are here to study from abroad, tenants sign year-long leases by the unit, not by the bed. And the mix of ground level retail spaces, locally-grown restaurants and services are meant to add value to the community, and invite all neighbors to use the space. 

CityLife Clinic provides quality health care with an emphasis on access for all, regardless of income. The Jean Madeline Aveda Institute trains 150 professional stylists and estheticians for positions in beauty and spa services around the city. Dim Sum House, located in The Hub II which opened in 2015, is the University City outpost of restauranteur Jane G’s family-owned portfolio of Shanghai, Cantonese and Jiang Nan eateries. The common denominator for all of these businesses is that they are locally-owned and home grown.

They hire locally and put resources back into the neighborhood. In some instances, JNA even invests in companies that are a strong fit for their community, enticing them to move to University City. That was the case when Distrito opened its doors in 2008. JNA Capital partnered with José Garces to bring the whimsical Mexican taqueria to 40th Street, when it was more difficult to attract Philadelphia’s most talented chefs west of the Schuylkill River. 

When asked what’s next, Nasratullah describes several projects underway. Beyond University City, he is looking forward to completing a mixed-use project on the north side of 10th and Vine Streets in collaboration with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. The massive project, with 150 units of market rate housing will feature street level retail, including a community center for the Chinatown neighborhood. Closer to home, JNA is in the final stages of signing a tenant to the long-vacant retail space in 3939 Chestnut Street. It’s a service-based business, but at this stage he is keeping additional details under wraps. He emphasizes, “It’s going to be a big addition – main feature – no big box, no corporate tenant.”

Ultimately, a commitment to local businesses and strong communities will continue to drive JNA Capital’s future projects: “That’s been something…which helped us to really define our projects differently than others,” says Nasratullah, “We will continue down the same path of doing locally sourced businesses.” We look forward to seeing the ongoing impact this strategy has on the Chestnut Street corridor.





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