Office Sector News
Berks County Company Moving Headquarters to Center City
Carpenter Technology Corporation is planning to relocate its corporate headquarters and bring 100 people to Center City from Wyomissing in Berks County, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on February 11. Colliers International is assisting in the search for space, with the move anticipated for late 2016.
The company cited better access to transportation and local universities from which it can recruit among the reasons for the move. The company will continue to employ 2,300 employees at its manufacturing facilities in Reading.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1PG1S8t.
Brooklyn Investor Expands Philadelphia Holdings
Brooklyn’s Nightingale Properties, whose first investment five years ago in Philadelphia was the $143 million purchase of 1700 Market Street, has since bought three other properties, 1500 Spring Garden Street, 1835 Market Street, and 1635 Market Street for a total investment in the city of approximately $470 million, and they are looking for additional properties, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on February 19.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1otdC7b (subscription required).
Blatstein’s Plan for Broad and Washington
Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments, Inc. has presented plans to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for a Civic Design Review next month for 1001 South Broad Street, the vacant block at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, which is zoned for high-density commercial use, PlanPhilly reported on February 17.
Cope Linder Architects created the design for a 32-story tower with more than 900 apartments, parking facilities, access to residential areas, and some retail space on the ground floor.
Blatstein will meet with the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition, the local Registered Community Organization, to discuss the plans.
To view the rendering and read the article, please go to bit.ly/1oXF65l.
The Gallery Transformation Delayed
The Gallery at Market East will reopen as the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia in late 2018 or early 2019, due to delays in various parts of the redevelopment process, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 8. Macerich of Santa Monica, California, and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), partners in the project, had targeted summer of 2017 as the re-opening date.
PREIT and Macerich are planning a $325 million renovation that will feature discount versions of upscale shops and destination restaurants. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Lf7sg8.
In related news, PREIT and Macerich have purchased three buildings on the 1000 block of Market Street, across from The Gallery, and plan to find new tenants that are complementary to the Fashion Outlets concept, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 11, bit.ly/1PN1XqQ.
Northern Liberties Site Sold, to Be Developed
The Klein Company has acquired, for $7.25 million, a 2.8-acre, block-sized development site at 1300 -1354 North Second Street in Northern Liberties, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on February 8.
Klein bought the property, which has been approved for 320 apartments in three buildings, from the Canus Corporation, which had targeted the area for development before the housing crash of 2007-2008. The development will be known as SOKO Lofts (South of Kensington) and is expected to move forward in late 2016.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1RKQ7SY.
Residential Market News
New Report Tracks Housing Production, Population Trends
In 2015, for the third year in a row, more than 1,500 housing units were brought to market downtown, while rents and housing prices continued to rise and more people continued to move into Greater Center City, where the population has increased by 17% since 2000, according to the new CCD/CPDC report, Center City Reports: Sustaining Demand for Downtown Housing.
The 16-page report, based on original research and surveys by the CCD, offers up-to-date, in-depth information on all aspects of the housing market in Greater Center City, including population trends, the potential for continued growth and a few caution flags about the future.
To download the report, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCR16_housing.pdf [PDF].
Eds and Meds News
New Middle School to Open
SLA-MS, a new District middle school based on the Science Leadership Academy model, will open in West Philadelphia in fall 2016, through the collaboration of the School District of Philadelphia, Drexel University and Inquiry Schools, and will be supported by a $1.8 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership, Drexel announced on February 10.
The school will open with 90 students and ultimately serve 360 students in grades five through eight, and have no admissions requirements. For at least two years, the school will rent a portion of the Dornsife Center, 3509 Spring Garden Street.
To read the announcement, please go to bit.ly/2401gnV.
Penn’s Economic Impact
The University of Pennsylvania on February 17 released an Econsult Solutions report noting that the university and Penn Medicine together employ 37,000 people directly and 53,400 indirectly in construction-related industries, professional services, retail and manufacturing industries, generating a significant economic impact for the city and Commonwealth. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/24aVcZA.
SRC’s Legal Power Curtailed by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on February 16 by a vote of 4-2 ruled that the School Reform Commission (SRC) had no legal power to suspend parts of the state charter law and school code, setting up the possibility that actions taken by the SRC, such as bypassing seniority in teacher assignments, could be reversed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a charter school that contended that the SRC’s enrollment caps were unconstitutional.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Lw27B7.
Dreamit Health Wins $325,000 Grant
Dreamit Health, which provides support and resources to health-tech startups and is headquartered in the University City Science Center, was awarded a $325,000 Blackstone Innovation Grant intended to strengthen entrepreneurship in the community, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on February 12. Blackstone chose 13 organizations from a field of 450 applicants and awarded Dreamit Health the largest of the grants that totaled $2 million.
Created four years ago, Dreamit Health has contributed to more than 40 startups, the article noted. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Q6tS90.
City Issues RFP for Mobile Pop-Up Garden
Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and Procurement Department Acting Commissioner Trevor J. Day have issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a mobile pop-up beer garden that would operate for 12 consecutive weeks from June through October this year in various parks across the city.
Among the more than a dozen locations targeted are Aviator Park/Logan Square, Franklin’s Paine Skatepark, Schuylkill Banks, the Water Works/Lloyd Hall lawn area, Lemon Hill Mansion and Hawthorne Park.
A pre-proposal meeting was held February 18. To read the RFP, please go to bit.ly/1o7Hiat [PDF]. To read the mixed reaction of business owners who attended the meeting, see the article in the on-line news service, Billy Penn: bit.ly/24mnz7l.
Winter Street Renovation Will Provide Plaza, Parking for Buses
Winter Street between 20th and 23rd Streets, running parallel and above the Vine Street Expressway, will be realigned to remove a lane and provide the Franklin Institute with a pedestrian plaza and parking lane for school buses, PlanPhilly reported on February 9. Construction is expected to be completed in spring 2017.
The new Winter Street will curve northward to meet the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before it hits 20th Street. More than 11,000 square feet of new lawn will be added, aimed at reducing crosswalk lengths for pedestrians travelling between Fairmount and Logan Square and providing extra green space to soak up rainwater. The idea for this change was first proposed in CPDC’s 2003 Plan for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, but was delayed because of the planned bridge reconstruction.
Pennoni and Associates executed the construction documents for the realignment, which is part of the I-676 overpass bridge- replacement project. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1PN9Ahd.
Amtrak Budget Cuts
The President and CEO of Amtrak, Joseph Boardman, has asked for 3.8% in budget cuts, with more to come in the future, due to the low cost of gas and also bad weather, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 11.
Amtrak ended its 2015 fiscal year on September 30th with an adjusted operating loss of $305 million, $70 million more than had been budgeted. Cost-cutting measures will include eliminating nonessential business travel, asking employees to conduct business by phone or video conference, when possible, and delaying expensive new projects or making new hires.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1PMZcpE.
Nominees Sought for Commuter Awards
Cleaner Commute Philadelphia will present its second annual Clean Air Commute Awards to highlight Philadelphia-area commuters and employers who go the extra mile for sustainable commuting. The awards are presented at the Council's Run for Clean Air on April 16.
To nominate an employer, please go to bit.ly/1Ux6u3I. To nominate a person, please go to bit.ly/1S4JI5F.
Manufacturing Continues to Slow in Region
Manufacturing conditions in the region weakened again during February, according to firms responding to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey for February.
New orders were up for 28.3% of the respondents, down for 33.6%, and remained the same for 36.1%. The number of full-time employees remained the same for more than half (53.1%), was higher for 14.6% of the firms and lower for 19.7%.
Looking ahead six months, 42.0% of the respondents anticipated better conditions, 24.7% expected worse, and 25.4% foresaw no change. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1TsYgwu.
In other news, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on February 12 announced the appointment of James D. Narron to first vice president and chief operating officer, effective April 1. Narron is currently a senior vice president and product manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Narron will succeed D. Blake Prichard, who will retire on February 29. To read the announcement, please go to bit.ly/1osKUU1.
Economic Growth Forecast for 2016
Cushman & Wakefield Research’s U.S. Macro Forecast, published earlier this month, anticipates moderate growth for the U.S. economy with 2.4% GDP growth in 2016. Most of the economic growth will come from personal consumption spending, and continued strength in the labor markets will be the single most important factor driving the office sector, the report notes.
The forecast is for 713,000 new office-using jobs in 2016 and 666,000 in 2017. Office vacancy rates will continue to decline over the next two years, falling from 14.2% in 2015 to 13% in 2017, the lowest annual reading since 2007. With conditions tightening, U.S. office rent growth will accelerate from 3.6% in 2015 to 4% in 2016 and 4.5% in 2017, the forecast suggests.
To read the report, please go to cushwk.co/1RHhZHu.
Parks and Open Space News
Engineering Award for Dilworth Park
Dilworth Park and Urban Engineers have earned a National Recognition Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC) 2016 Engineering Excellence Awards competition, the ACEC announced on February 9.
The award will be presented on Tuesday, April 19, in Washington, D.C.
LOVE Park Renovation Underway, Sculpture Moves to Dilworth Park
A groundbreaking ceremony for renovations to LOVE Park was held on February 10, with construction to begin this spring and completion expected by next spring, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Granite from LOVE Park will be donated to Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, where granite from the renovation of Dilworth Plaza was also contributed. Hargreaves and KieranTimberlake are designing the $19.7 million transformation, which will flatten much of the stairs and walls, and feature more green space, trees, flower beds, food trucks, and a new fountain. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1SknNaN.
On Wednesday, February 24, Mayor Jim Kenney and Center City District President and CEO Paul R. Levy will welcome the LOVE sculpture to Dilworth Park, its temporary home during the reconstruction of JFK Plaza/LOVE Park. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy will oversee the relocation of the sculpture and its restoration before it returns to JFK Plaza.
PICA: City Departments Need Performance Measures
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) for the first time examined goals and performance measures of 21 key City departments and found that many departments have not published a comprehensive set of performance measures and in some departments the measures that have been established are not aligned with their mandate for delivery of City services.
While the report's findings cover the previous administration and was released on February 10, the new Kenney Administration has reviewed the report and expressed a commitment to implementing recommendations calling for increased performance measurements, coupled with improved managerial evaluation standards for all departments.
For example, the Commerce Department does not report on jobs created or retained as a result of City programs, the Department of Revenue has not reported estimates of revenue not received due to non-filing, underreporting and non-payment, and the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) hasn’t complied with annual publication of assessment of uniformity and equity. More important, OPA’s failure to keep up with reassessments since completing the Actual Value Initiative is costing both the City and the School District needed revenues.
A recommendation to identify key staff to lead performance management in each department was made part of the Kenney Transition Report (see below). To read the PICA report, please go to bit.ly/1L5XH9m [PDF].
In other PICA news, at the Authority’s February 16 board meeting, members unanimously approved a Resolution calling on the Mayor, City Council, the Board of Pensions and Retirement and the leadership of city unions to enact four major City pension reforms, presented in PICA’s 854-page “2015 City Pension Report.”
The Resolution notes that the unfunded liability of the pension system as of July 1, 2014, was $5.7 billion; thus far in fiscal year 2016, the pension system has lost 4.75% of its value, or $220 million; and if all new City employees were required to enter Plan 10, a hybrid pension plan, the savings to the City would be substantial. To read the Resolution, please go to bit.ly/1TnWDil [PDF]. To read the “2015 City Pension Report,” please go to bit.ly/24b08xA [PDF].
‘Kenney Transition Report’
In preparing to assume the role of Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney created a transition team from both the private and public sectors. Their Kenney Transition Report offered suggestions in 10 areas.
In the critical area of job growth, the committee recommended the creation of an apprenticeship advisory board that fosters 21st century STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills; a career pipeline pilot involving high school students and unemployed young adults; and a reorganization of the Office of Neighborhood and Small Business Services, among other suggestions.
To read the report, please go to 1.usa.gov/1QlEP8F [PDF].
Governor Wolf Proposes $32.7 Billion Budget
Governor Tom Wolf on February 9 proposed his $32.7 billion fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget, even as the previous year’s budget remained unresolved.
Wolf's proposal calls for an increase in the personal income tax, expanded sales tax, and a severance tax on natural gas extraction in an effort to close a structural deficit of $2 billion to pay for the basics. About 73% of the proposed spending increase is driven by current obligations: increases in debt service, corrections, human services and pensions – and to backfill previous one-time budget fixes.
The budget includes a $200 million increase in basic education; $50 million increase in special education and $60 million increase for Pre-K/Headstart.
For details about the new proposed budget, please go to governor.pa.gov/budget/.
New Bill Would Reduce Tax Discount
In order to create additional revenue for the City, new City Council members Allan Domb and Helen Gym on February 11 introduced Bill #160114 that would reduce the discount for paying real estate taxes by the end of February or within 20 days of the date of mailing from 1.0% to 0.5% (one-half percent).
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1mMZDYL.
The Philadelphia Citizen on February 9 published an article by Stephen St. Vincent, “Your City Defined: Gerrymandering, How to Disenfranchise Voters the American way.” Using colorful maps, the article offers examples of numerous irregularly shaped districts and shows how more even-handed districting might look. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Rb9zGl.
Last Call for Ice Skating at Rothman Institute Ice Rink!
Make sure to visit the Rothman Institute Ice Rink and the Rothman Cabin this week, as Sunday, February 28, is the last day they will be open. Hours for skating are Monday through Thursday, Noon to 9:00 p.m.; Friday, Noon to 11:00 p.m.; Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission for children 10 and under is $3; for adults, $5; and skate rental is $9.
For complete information on the Rothman Institute Ice Rink and Rothman Cabin, please go to dilworthpark.org/rothmanicerink.
Save the Date!
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Center City District as well as the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation and the launch of the Center City District Foundation, we are planning a special evening event in Dilworth Park on May 5, 2016. To become a sponsor and reserve your table, please contact Nancy Goldenberg at 215.440.5523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.