In 1999, Philadelphia-based Dranoff Properties opened its first development on the bank of the city’s iconic Schuylkill River. The firm, headed by civil engineer and real estate expert Carl Dranoff, rehabbed the historic but decrepit building and called it Locust on the Park. Just one problem: there was no such park.

The river was barren, and the city only had a vague, unofficial plan to revitalize the area. Seven years later, Locust on the Park sits in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, and Dranoff is using that same foresight and design savvy to construct another cutting-edge, community-conscious building: 777 South Broad.

777 South Broad

Sitting on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts, 777 South Broad follows in the footsteps of the 32-story Symphony House, Dranoff’s first-ever ground-up building, and it boasts a LEED score of 33, enough to earn LEED Silver certification. The South Broad building—luxury apartments up top, retail on the bottom—is green down to the mortar, from low-flow plumbing and a concierge desk made of recycled aluminum cans to a UV-reflective roof that keeps energy use down and utility costs low. Ninety-five percent of the construction waste was recycled, and the firm opted to use eco-friendly materials like bamboo flooring and no-VOC paints.

“We’re now gearing all our buildings toward being green,” Dranoff says. “Altruistically, it’s the right thing to do, but from a pragmatic standpoint, it also allows us to have better, more efficient buildings that attract residents.”

Efficiency was a cornerstone of the planning process, Dranoff says. As the design took shape, the firm focused on minimizing residents’ dependency on cars. South Broad is just a short walk from Philadelphia’s subway line and right next to a bus stop, and it has Philly Car Share access on-site. In addition, Dranoff included an electric-car-charging station, a first for an apartment complex in the Philly region.

The portions of roof not dedicated to the property’s luxurious sky deck use a UV-reflective roof to reduce urban heat island effect and energy costs.

Dranoff says that unlike other developers, Dranoff Properties is not a merchant-builder; that is, the company owns all of the buildings it develops. “This means that when we’re designing, we’re looking for long-term value,” Dranoff says. “We’re looking for higher quality.”

With that in mind, Dranoff gave 777 South Broad ground-level retail and dining; the development has a T-Mobile store, a beauty salon, and a critically acclaimed Indian restaurant called Tashan, with another restaurant planning to open soon.

The property also is a model for Dranoff’s newest project, which will be built just two blocks north: Southstar Lofts, an 85-unit, ground-up project also geared to be LEED-certified. The new development, like 777 South Broad, will include ground-level retail, a coffee shop, wine bar, and even a designated public art project.

“We feel like we are leaders, not followers,” Dranoff says. “We’re trying to determine where the next new neighborhoods can be. Then people follow us. We know we’ll make a big statement that will become the anchor for that neighborhood.”