Wow. Linode just spent $5M on the old MTV 'Real World' house on N3rd Street - Technical.ly Philly

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Dec. 11, 2015 4:26 pm

Wow. Linode just spent $5M on the old MTV ‘Real World’ house on N3rd Street

Most of the staff of this South Jersey-founded hosting company is still working down the shore. But its founder Chris Aker is making a big bet on Philadelphia.

Linode CEO Chris Aker outside Linode's new Old City office.

(Photo by Jeremy Messler)

Christopher Aker is a bit of a romantic.

Aker, the 41-year-old CEO of Galloway Township, N.J.-based (suburban Atlantic City) hosting company Linode, spent 20 months fighting to buy his dream office building right on N3rd Street in Old City. It’s a four-story, 15,000-square-foot neoclassical beauty with Roman columns and more than a century of history in its walls. It started as a bank, then lived other lives as a nightclub, an art gallery and perhaps most notably as the house for MTV’s “The Real World” in 2004.

It was that history that won him over. The building, like the antique BMW motorcycles he restores in his spare time, was full of stories, stories of the people that spent their days in the space. He envisioned his company as the next chapter of the building’s life.

That’s why, even when he hit roadblock after roadblock in the nearly two-year buying process, he kept at it. And just a week and a half ago, the building finally became his.

Inside Linode's new office at 249 Arch St.

Inside Linode’s new office at 249 Arch St. (Photo by Jeremy Messler)

Aker bought the building at 249 Arch St. and the parking lot across 3rd Street for $5 million. It’ll become the company’s Philadelphia office and has the capacity to fit all 85 of Linode’s current employees, plus growth of at least 75 more. (If they filled the space, that would be pretty huge for a tech company within city limits. RJMetrics is close to that number, with 130 employees in their newly-expanded Center City office, and nearby Weblinc has a multi-building campus with more than 100.)

Employees won’t move in for as much as a year — Aker has big plans to restore the space. He says he’ll retain his two current offices in Galloway, a shore town near Atlantic City, and Haddonfield, N.J., at South Jersey coworking space King’s Hall, and he’s not sure yet how the employee breakdown will go between the three offices once this Old City option opens.

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A move to Philadelphia has always been in the cards, said Aker, who grew up near Galloway and recently bought a house in Haddonfield. He knew it’s where he would need to be in order to hire the talent the company needed to grow. We’ve reported that he’s tried to attract dev talent in South Jersey before he shared his relocation plans last summer.

The space itself is a sight to behold: Floor-to-ceiling windows (that you can actually open!) line the second floor and look out over Arch and 3rd Street, the top floor has a a stunning skylight and a small room with unclaimed, leftover art from when the space was a gallery (they’re figuring out what to do with all of it). Plus, there’s an historic former bank vault is the basement. The bathroom and dressing room from “The Real World” is even still there, tacky sink fixtures and all. (Aker is itching to get rid of ’em.)

Though it’s still a work-in-progress, Linode is having its holiday party in the space next week, as a way to introduce employees to their future office.

Aker in that bank vault.

Aker in that bank vault. (Photo by Jeremy Messler)

It’s a pretty enormous purchase for a tech company, not to mention a big bet on Philadelphia itself. Most tech companies, at least the ones we’ve reported on in Philly, work to find the most flexible lease terms to accommodate their growth. Instead, Linode is putting its flag in the ground and committing to this corner property. It’s a level of long-term commitment that we have yet to see in the Philly tech scene — and it’s coming from a South Jersey success story.

Aker, speaking to us in the basement of the office as we toured it this afternoon, said the purchase was in part a financial decision. He wanted a space that he could really invest in, really make Linode’s own. There’s no sense in putting a lot of work into an office that you’re just going to move out of, he said.

But there’s also a more romantic notion behind it.

“So much of what we do as a company is intangible,” he said. “It’s bits flying through wires. It’s electrons. It’s magnetic fields on spinning rust, or in our case, on SSDs.”

“This is something tangible,” he said. “Undeniably.”

See below for more pictures.

(Photo by Jeremy Messler)

(Photo by Jeremy Messler)

(Photo by Jeremy Messler)

(Photo by Jeremy Messler)

Spot the Linode sticker.

Spot the Linode sticker. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's associate editor after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • Shannon Sofield

    Not sure why it is just referred to as The Real World house, since that was more than 10 years ago. It has since been a successful event space in the meantime and bears little to no resemblance to the House it once was with the exception of the aforementioned bathrooms. It is the certainly the most desirable property directly on 3rd St just north of Market (directly across from Starbucks).

  • Isabelle

    Glad to see that it’s becoming a part of Philly tech history. It’s a beautiful building!

  • Justin Nahin

    Absolutely love this company, great web hosting service for my e-business platform.

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