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  • Writer's pictureAndre Watson

Equus debuts 12-story apartment building in Conshohocken after scrapping office plans for the site

When Equus Capital Partners lost out on a deal to develop a new corporate headquarters for pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen in 2018, it was a eureka moment for Steve Spaeder.

Rather than a build-to-suit office building, Equus’ senior vice president of acquisitions and development was struck by another vision for the property at 400 W. Elm St. in Conshohocken.

“We felt the market wanted something different, something special,” Spaeder said Tuesday, while giving a tour of the finished product.

Five years after waving goodbye to the AmerisourceBergen project, Equus this week welcomes its first residents to the 348-unit apartment building developed in its place. The 12-story, steel-framed structure, named Madison West Elm, occupies the site along the Schuylkill River next to SEPTA’s Conshohocken station and the Schuylkill River Trail.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Equus recognized the office market weakening and multifamily market strengthening. While new development accelerated in Conshohocken in the past decade, Spaeder believed there was unmet demand in the submarket. Other nearby developments stand around six or seven stories tall with wood frames.

Spaeder described Madison West Elm as “urban-lite.” It’s a half-mile from Fayette Street and has amenities, like a 24/7 concierge desk, that might be more common in Center City Philadelphia.

Equus bought the property for about $8 million in 2014, according to Spaeder, and originally had plans for a 340,000-square-foot office building.

“For all the reasons it’s a great site for multifamily, it was a great site for office,” he said.

Then AmerisourceBergen, which changed its name to Cencora earlier this year, passed on the site and instead selected Keystone Development & Investment’s Sora West development just down the street at the intersection of West Elm and Fayette streets. The company moved into its new headquarters there in 2021.

Spaeder has confidence in Madison West Elm because of its combination of location and amenities. The 12th floor features a community room and a speakeasy, and the rooftop deck is planned to have an outdoor television. Outdoor space includes a pool with a lap lane, fire pits and grills. The building also has a fitness center and a golf simulator.

The development has about 275 garage parking spaces and 500 spaces total.

Monthly rents start at $1,919 for studios, $2,495 for one-bedroom apartments and $3,499 for two-bedrooms. The building is mostly made up of studios and one-bedrooms and 40% of the units have a balcony.

Prior to the pandemic, Spaeder said a general rule of thumb was that every 250 square feet of office space equates to one worker. Considering Conshohocken’s 4.5 million square feet of office space, Spaeder estimated a daytime worker population around 18,000. Though the surge in remote work may have reduced that number, it still gives Equus a large base of people who may want to live near where they work as target tenants for Madison West Elm.

The building could also appeal to residents downsizing from larger homes or people desiring a more urban lifestyle than most other suburban apartment complexes offer.

Spaeder said Madison West Elm has “more of an urban vibe” than The Harrison, Equus’ 200-unit residential building that opened in February as part of the final phase of its 218-acre Ellis Preserve mixed-use development in Newtown Square.

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