Office Sector News
Telecom Hotel on Broad Street Sold
Amerimar Enterprises Inc., Abrams Capital Management of Boston, and Hunter Newby, a communications network and real estate investor from New York, have bought 401 North Broad Street, one of the largest telecom hotels along the East Coast, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 5.
The 11-story, 1.3-million-square-foot building was sold by Stillman Group of New York for an undisclosed price. The Stillman Group has owned the building for the last 35 years, the article noted.
The property is considered the most fiber-dense, network-neutral facility between New York and Virginia, currently has 80 networks, and is 70% leased, according to the article.
The new owners plan to invest $70 million to upgrade the property.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1hPkODG.
FMC Divides Company, Takes More Space at Cira Centre South
FMC Corporation, which previously announced it would move its headquarters at 1735 Market Street to the new Cira Centre South, a $341 million mixed-use development to be built at 30th and Walnut Streets by Brandywine Realty Trust, has divided itself into two independent public companies and is taking an additional 25,000 SF at Cira Centre South, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 20.
The "new FMC" will combine its agricultural solutions and health and nutrition segments and the other FMC will consist of the company's minerals operations.
FMC expects to complete the division of the companies in early 2015, and each company is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1fn5tVG.
New Condo Tower With Liberty Bell Views
Developer Tom Scannapieco announced on March 10 his plans to build a $150 million, 26-story, 40-unit condo tower at Fifth and Walnut Streets, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The building will overlook Independence Hall and is being designed by Cecil Baker.
Scannapieco is buying the property from Five Hundred Walnut Associates for $8.5 million, and expects to close in 60 days.
The building is designed not to interfere with "an onlooker's view from the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall," the article noted.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2015 and to be completed in spring 2017.
To read the Inquirer article, please go to bit.ly/1fRAJRK.
This week, on Wednesday, March 19, the Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation will release Center City Reports: Housing Resurgence, which documents the large volume of housing in the pipeline, but also offers a detailed analysis by the CCD indicating that job and population growth, along with demographic and income trends, all support an expanding inventory of housing options.
U.S. Jobs Report Encouraging
The economy added 175,000 jobs in February, well above the anemic job gains in December and January, while the unemployment rate rose slightly, to 6.7%, the New York Times reported on March 7.
Analysts cautioned that the report was no cause for celebration, but they indicated the improved report eased fears of another prolonged slowdown, which had been raised by weak figures for hiring in December and January and mixed signals from recent releases of other data.
Despite the unemployment rate rising 0.1 percentage point to 6.7%, some economists were encouraged, paradoxically, because they interpreted the uptick as a sign that more Americans were seeing signs of improving job opportunities and returning to the labor force.
To read the article, please go to nyti.ms/1lb305Z.
Eds and Meds News
Education Advocates Push for Sales Tax Enactment
A coalition of eight education advocacy groups on March 13 made an urgent appeal to City Council to follow a sales-tax extension plan already authorized by the state, which would send $120 million in increased sales-tax revenue to the Philadelphia School District, Newsworks reported. An additional 1% sales tax that was implemented for Philadelphia in the midst of the recent recession is set to expire on June 30, 2014.
Pointing to the large and growing unfunded pension liability, which now consumes 17% of the city budget annually, Council President Darrell L. Clarke has been pushing to split the proceeds from an extension of the 1% sales tax 50/50 between schools and pensions. Both the Council President and Mayor Nutter also support a proposal for the state to add a $2 per pack cigarette tax that would be dedicated to school funding. This tax could generate an estimated $83 million for schools, according to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC).
In total, the School District has asked the City for $195 million – $120 million in sales-tax revenue that it's already assumed in its budget projections and an additional $75 million, according to Newsworks.
To read the Newsworks article, please go to bit.ly/1ilTEnX.
For the perspective of Christine Carlson, head of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition, please go to bit.ly/1fYuv3x.
Starr to Aid School District
Restaurateur Stephen Starr will use his 21 restaurants to try to raise money for schools in the Philadelphia School District, KYW reported on March 4. Aiming to raise $100,000, Starr kicked off the campaign with a $25,000 donation of his own.
Starr will solicit diners to make donations, and the money will be earmarked for playgrounds, technology, and internships.
To read the KYW article, please go to cbsloc.al/1e6EKx3.
Philadelphia in Top 10 of BioPharm
The Philadelphia region ranked seventh in the top 10 biopharmaceutical clusters in the United States, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 14.
The ranking was put together by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), an industry trade publication that cited Philadelphia's 42,000 jobs in biopharma businesses and institutions, the University City Science Center, $123.4 million in NIH grants, and 368 patents.
San Francisco ranked first, Boston was second and New York City was fifth.
To read the Philadelphia Business Journal article, please go to bit.ly/1lDN7VV.
To read the original GEN article, please go to bit.ly/1hjQZZm.
Boyd Theater to Become Multiplex
The Philadelphia Historical Commission granted approval Friday to the Florida company iPic Entertainment to demolish the art-deco interior of the Boyd Theater at 1908 Chestnut Street. The commission's Committee on Financial Hardship approved the company's hardship request on Thursday.
The façade of the theater will be preserved and iPic will build a deluxe eight-screen multiplex and restaurant complex with eight movie screens and 744 total seats.
A consultant's report commissioned by the Historical Commission found that any alternative use was not economically feasible without a public subsidy.
To read PlanPhilly's coverage of the hardship decision, please go to bit.ly/1iKQbSR.
Arts and Culture News
Preliminary Work to Begin on New Museum
On March 5, a ceremony was held at the proposed Museum of the American Revolution at Third and Chestnut Streets, in anticipation of the start of demolition of the former visitor center on the site, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.
The demolition is the first step toward the realization of the $118 million museum, which will house objects, artifacts, artwork, manuscripts, special exhibitions, theaters, and General George Washington's headquarters tent, among other Revolutionary War treasures.
Philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest has pledged $40 million to the project; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is contributing $30 million; and the Oneida Indian Nation is giving $10 million.
The 118,000-square-foot museum is being designed by noted architect Robert A.M. Stern and will be built by Intech Constuction. A completion date has not been set, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1cOYXXL.
CCD's Parks Featured in Events Magazine
The Center City District's (CCD) increased involvement in parks management is featured in the March & April issue of Mid-Atlantic Events magazine. The article serves as an introduction to the regional hospitality industry, the magazine's targeted audience, about the availability of CCD's parks for corporate and convention receptions, weddings, and other parties. The parks, John F. Collins Park; Cret Park; and Sister Cities Park, will be joined by the transformed Dilworth Plaza in September.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1o2gz9t.
If you are interested in arranging an event in one of CCD's parks, please contact Sarah K. Zeller-Anello, CCD's Venue Sales Specialist, at 215-440-5507 or email@example.com.
Public Transit Ridership Highest in 57 Years
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that ridership on buses, trains, and subways in 2013 was the highest in 57 years, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The growth is attributed to higher gasoline prices, a shift by young adults away from automobiles, increased use of mobile technology, and the growing attraction of urban areas, the article noted.
In 2013, riders made 10.7 billion trips on U.S. public transit systems, up 1.1% from 2012. That was the most since 1956.
Local transit agencies have seen steady ridership growth in recent years, although SEPTA and PATCO ridership was down slightly in 2013, which the agencies blamed on local factors, such as construction, fare hikes and bad weather.
NJTransit ridership was up 1.5% in 2013, to 266 million riders, according to the article. Ridership on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains, was 11.4 million passengers, the second highest total in the railroad's 42-year history.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1nxXlvL.
To read APTA's press release, please go to bit.ly/1fPKcKg.
Transportation Bill Would Provide Quick Fix
On March 4th, President Obama revealed his $3.9 trillion fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which included a $302 billion, four-year reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, MAP-21, which would provide a quick fix for the rapidly diminishing Highway Trust Fund, according to The Northeast Alliance for Rail Newsletter.
The proposed four-year reauthorization of MAP-21 includes $302 billion dollars for the U.S. Department of Transportation, with nearly $20 billion earmarked for the Federal Railroad Administration. Within that $20 billion, $550 million would go to the Northeast Corridor, and $1.3 billion would be used to develop high-performance passenger rail networks.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1cZVPOH.
Washington Avenue to Be Refurbished
The Philadelphia Streets Department this summer will repaint traffic lanes and realign traffic on Washington Avenue, a major east-west artery, PlanPhilly reported on March 11.
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC), along with consultants Kittelson & Associates, Inc. and Boles, Smyth Associates, Inc., have created a draft concept that would improve travel for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
The plan calls for two-way traffic using single lanes for each direction with a center turn lane at intersections and back-in parking from 25th to 16th streets and 12th to 5th streets, the article noted.
In heavily traveled areas, between 16th and 13th Streets, and between Fourth Street and Columbus Avenue, the street would remain two lanes in each direction with a center turning lane and parallel parking, according to the article.
Through April, PCPC and consultants will work with stakeholders to finalize plans for painting Washington Avenue, with the work to be completed this summer.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1gkUZuG.
Red Light Enforcement to Fund Street Upgrades
The City of Philadelphia will receive $4.95 million in grants from the Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) Funding Program, which distributes funds generated by automated red light cameras that issue tickets for traffic violations, PlanPhilly reported on March 11.
Thirty-two projects in 24 municipalities throughout the Commonwealth were selected and awarded a total of $8.8 million. In Philadelphia, five projects were chosen, including $1.2 million to upgrade and improve pedestrian safety at Broad Street intersections between Chestnut and Walnut Streets.
Another project will devote $850,000 to upgrading lighting to LED and promoting walkability in commercial and residential corridors, with the first of the work to begin in Center City, the article noted.
To read the PlanPhilly article, please go to bit.ly/1fAyjqB.
American Adds Three Nonstops
The new American Airlines Group Inc., the merged US Airways and American, has added three nonstop destinations from Philadelphia to Charleston, West Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lexington, Kentucky, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 8.
The service to Charleston, Memphis, and Lexington will begin June 5 and will continue year-round. The Charleston flight will be once a day, except Saturday; and the Memphis and Lexington flights will operate three times daily on 50-seat regional jets. All will depart and arrive out of the airport's Terminal F.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1geESyC.
Parks and Open Space News
Council Passes Bills to Enable LOVE Park Remake
City Council on March 13 unanimously passed two bills, #130901 and #130902, that will allow the sale of the City-owned garage beneath John F. Kennedy Plaza and begin the refurbishment of LOVE Park.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke indicated that the next step would be to schedule a series of public hearings so residents can give their thoughts on the future design of the park, KYW reported. Also there is disagreement about whether skateboarders will be allowed to return to the park, the article noted.
To read the KYW article, please go to cbsloc.al/1cG6MUX.
To read Bill #130901, please go to bit.ly/NecrWb.
For Bill #130902, please go to bit.ly/1gqNEKd.
Budget Secretary Outlines State Budget for GPCC
Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby in early March visited the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC) to brief members on Governor Tom Corbett's proposed $29.4 billion budget, presented to the legislature in February.
Corbett proposes a balanced budget for 2014-15 that does not raise taxes, according to the GPCC.
Other highlights of the presentation were: the proposed General Fund budget will spend $29.4 billion – a 3.3% increase over 2013-14; the budget includes investments in jobs, education, and healthcare; and continues the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax – a key policy priority of GPCC.
To read the GPCC's report, please go to bit.ly/1fbqjYg.
Mayor Nutter's New Budget
On March 6, Mayor Michael A. Nutter introduced his fiscal year 2015 budget, with increased funding for the Department of Licenses and Inspections in the wake of the June building collapse, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The budget did not include new taxes.
The mayor's proposed $4.5 billion spending plan calls for expanding library schedules to six days a week.
The biggest new item in the mayor's budget is the proposed sale of PGW - accounting for $700 million in new income and corresponding spending items. The Nutter administration wants to send all profits from the deal to the city's pension fund for its employees and retirees, thus putting a dent in an unfunded liability that now exceeds $5 billion, the article noted.
The mayor also included $3.3 million for technology upgrades in the city's Office of Innovation and Technology, according to the article.
The proposed budget includes $28 million in wage tax and business income and receipts tax reductions, continuing incremental wage and business tax cuts that the mayor restarted last year after having frozen these pro-growth policies due to the economic recession.
It also includes $44.3 million to fund potential costs for labor agreements with Firefighters Local 22, FOP Lodge 5, and District Councils 33 and 47.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1gl5vhP.
To read the mayor's prepared budget speech, please go to 1.usa.gov/1iGfy8a [PDF].
U&O Tax Increase Bill Put on Hold
On March 13, Bill #130161, introduced by Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, was placed on City Council's suspension calendar. The bill proposed to hike the business Use & Occupancy (U&O) Tax by 20% to raise money for the Philadelphia School District. City Council in 2012 raised the U&O tax by almost 20%, from $4.62 to $5.51 per $100 dollars of assessed value. The bill's placement on the suspension calendar bars any public comment on it at subsequent sessions, and also requires a week's notice for it to be brought up again in Council.
To read Bill #130161, please go to bit.ly/1kRdUAQ.
In other news from City Council, an expected vote on the package of bills related to construction of the new Comcast Innovation and Technology Center at 1800 Arch Street was postponed. Council President Darrell L. Clarke said there was no major problem with the bills, but he wanted more community input on the project, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Special Election Called for Vacant Council Seat
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke has called a special election to fill the seat of former At-Large Councilman Bill Green, who resigned from Council to become chairman of the School Reform Commission. The special election will take place on May 20, along with the Pennsylvania primary.
Green's term has almost two years left. Democratic ward leaders selected state Representative Ed Neilson of Northeast Philadelphia. Neilson is finishing his first term in a district that was moved by redistricting in 2012 from Northeast Philadelphia to York County (bit.ly/OdJCdR).
Matthew Wolfe, a Philadelphia attorney, will represent the Republicans on the ballot (bit.ly/1kS131o).
Clarke also is encouraging independents to run.
To read the KYW article, please go to cbsloc.al/1orNnao.
Tax Collections Dip in January, Up in Fiscal Year
City General Fund tax collections for the City of Philadelphia were $224.6 million in January, a decline of $8.2 million (3.5%) over January 2013, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority's (PICA) City of Philadelphia Tax Revenue Update for January 2014.
However, collections through the first seven months of FY14 totaled $1,187.6 million, an increase of $33.1 million (2.9%) over the same period in FY13.
Wage and earnings tax collections totaled $174.1 million in January, an increase of $9.0 million (5.5%) over January 2013. Collections through January increased 2.4% over FY13.
Also January sales tax collections increased. The $20.5 million collected in January represent a 2.4% ($0.5 million), compared to January 2013.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/OoM1St [PDF].
The Future Of Philadelphia's Middle Class
On Monday, April 7, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Center City Residents' Association (CCRA) will present a program on the status of the middle class in Philadelphia, at the Trinity Center, 2200 Spruce Street.
Susan Warner of The Pew Charitable Trusts will present Pew's report, Philadelphia's Changing Middle Class: After Decades of Decline, Prospects for Growth.
Stephen P. Mullin of Econsult Solutions and Steven T. Wray of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia will join the discussion after Warner's presentation and will offer comments and answer questions. If you'd like to submit questions, please email them in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please go to bit.ly/OoBOWy.
Design on the Delaware Proposals Due
Program proposals for AIA Philadelphia's 12th Annual Design on the Delaware are due April 11.
The conference will take place November 12 -14, at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel and the Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street.
This multi-disciplinary conference for architects, landscape architects, planners, engineers, and other design and building professionals features four keynotes speakers, 36 professional education programs, three days of tours, and a full-day design charrette.
Program proposals must meet the guidelines as outlined in the Call for Programs. To download the Call for Programs, please visit designonthedelaware.com.