High-Rise Near Completion
Leasing has begun at the new 34-story apartment tower at 2116 Chestnut Street, developed by John Buck Company of Chicago and the INDURE Fund. The building is to be finished by summer and will have 321 apartments, from studios to two-bedrooms, priced from $1,700 and up. The fifth floor of the building has a green roof, lawn, grilling area with outdoor kitchen, and hot tub.
The building will have almost 10,000 square feet of retail space and 100 parking spots. The location previously had been home to the Sidney Hillman Medical Center.
Residential Market News
City Homes Retaining More Value Than Suburban Homes
The Philadelphia region's home prices dipped slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012, dropping 1.7% on a seasonally-adjusted basis, following an uptick of 1.1% in the third quarter, according to a quarterly report by Kevin C. Gillen, Senior Research Consultant at the Fels Institute of Government. By contrast, Center City prices rose 3.1% during the same period.
Since their peak in 2007, suburban home prices have fallen 25%, while houses in the City of Philadelphia have lost only 19%. The City's house price index moved past the suburban index in the third quarter of 2012, and maintained that edge in the fourth quarter, for the first time since 1987, the report noted. Overall, Philadelphia ranks 4th among 21 cities, behind Dallas, Denver and Boston, in terms of recovery of value lost during the great recession.
While regional house prices were down slightly, sales were 13,315 in the fourth quarter, up by 1,672 over the same period the previous year. Also, inventory is low. There are about 32,000 homes listed for sale, compared to 56,000 in mid-2008, a 42% decline.
To read the fourth quarter summary, please go to bit.ly/13Kjufs [PDF].
To view the charts, please go to bit.ly/X4r2Iy [PDF].
National Office Employment Up
Nationally, office employment in February grew to the highest level since October 2008, as 100,000 new office jobs were added, according to Studley's Economic Pulse: Employment, released on March 11. It was the biggest gain in 17 months, the report noted.
Employment in the Professional and Business Services segment also showed substantial gains, rising by 73,000 in February after monthly gains in 2012 of just 47,000 per month.
To read the report, please go to lnkd.in/4pFgCe [PDF].
Planning Commission to Hold Hearings on Casino Proposals
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) will hold three public hearings to gauge public opinion on the six casino proposals for the city's second Category 2 stand-alone license, which enables the casino operator to have up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 tables games. PCPC will incorporate the information into its remarks to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) at a public hearing to be held later. Two of the proposals would locate the casino in Center City. The PCPC open houses do not require registration. They are:
Tuesday, March 26, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, 1020 Pattison Avenue; Wednesday, March 27, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street; Thursday, March 28, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street.
The commission will also conduct an online survey about the six casino proposals from March 25 to April 5. Please go to phila.gov/cityplanning/Pages/default.aspx for more information.
The PGCB will hold its public hearings at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, on Thursday, April 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday,
April 12, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and May 8, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at Lincoln Financial Field - West Club Level.
Registration is required to speak at these hearings. To register, please go to the PGCB's website, gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov. To view the six proposals and videos of the presentations at the February 12th public hearing, please go to gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov/?p=219#.
Arts and Culture News
New Leader at the Prince
James E. "Jamey" Hines, most recently artistic administrator at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, was named executive director of the Prince Music Theater, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 15.
The Prince emerged from bankruptcy reorganization in November. Renovations, including improved sound systems and new lighting consoles among other upgrades, have been completed at the building at 1412 Chestnut Street, the article noted.
Hotel Eyed for Two Liberty Place
Plans for Two Liberty Place to be partially converted into a hotel were reported in the Philadelphia Business Journal on March 8. The 150-room hotel would be on floors 48 through 57 and would be called Liberty Tower, to be marketed by iStar Financial Inc., the article noted.
Built in 1990, Two Liberty Place was partially converted into condominiums in 2006. The Residences at Two Liberty conversion was intended to be 130 units, but the recession hit and 56 sold, with 16 still on the market.
SEPTA Announces Changes
SEPTA announced sweeping new changes in its payment systems beginning July 1 and continuing into 2014, if approved by the SEPTA board. Changes include fare increases, the elimination of the gender designation on passes, and the implementation of a smart-card system.
Fare increases will begin on July 1, going from $2 to $2.25 for cash purchases, from $22 to $24.50 for weekly passes, and from $83 to $92 for monthly passes. A token will cost $1.80, up from $1.55, but tokens will be eliminated when the smart-card system is fully installed on the bus, subway, and trolley lines in 2014. Regional rail pass rates will also increase.
SEPTA's $200 million smart-card system will begin to be in use late this year, and more than 200 high-tech vending machines will be installed in subway stations and bus terminals to sell the cards.
SEPTA will hold public hearings on the changes on Wednesday, April 17, at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the SEPTA Board Room, 1234 Market Street.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/16vqyMO.
US Airways to Begin Direct Flights to Brazil
US Airways on March 4 filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for the rights to operate daily, year-round service between Philadelphia and Sao Paulo, Brazil. US Airways will begin service between Charlotte, N.C., and Sao Paulo on June 8 using frequencies leased from another carrier. A successful application would mean that service could continue and the Philadelphia route could be added.
The service is tentatively set to begin in October 2014, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported. It will be the first direct flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Central or South America, the article noted. Philadelphia International has several direct flights to European destinations but none to South America or Asia.
DVRPC Seeks Input on Long-Range Plan
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) is working on creating a regional long-range plan for economic competitiveness, the environment, land use, and rebuilding transportation systems. Connections 2040 - Plan for Greater Philadelphia will be released in mid-2013.
The DVRPC is seeking public input on the plan and will hold open meetings on Monday, April 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the North Arcade Waiting Area, 30th Street Station; and Tuesday, April 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., at 190 North Independence Mall West.
For more information, please go to dvrpc.org/Connections2040/.
Mayor Presents FY14 Budget
Mayor Nutter presented his $3.75 billion Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) Budget and Fiscal Year 2014-2018 Five-Year Plan on Thursday, proposing a restart in wage tax reductions, taking the resident wage tax from the current 3.9% to 3.7% by 2018 and reducing the net income portion of the Business Income and Receipts Tax from 6.45% to 6.3% in 2018. The Mayor also introduced a 1.32% property tax rate to be implemented under his Actual Value Initiative, which is proposed to go into effect in 2014. City Council must approve the rate by June 30, as FY14 begins July 1. The proposed tax rate was set so that the City could collect the same amount of property tax revenue in 2014 as was collected in 2013 – about $1.2 billion – with 54 percent going to the Philadelphia School District and the rest to the City. With the move to Actual Value assessments, the Administration has also proposed to reduce the Use & Occupancy rate from 5.51% to 0.92%.
Among other proposals in the budget were: a $15,000 Homestead Exemption for homeowners; $99 million in added expenditures from the general fund budget, including $69 million in spending related to employee pensions and salary increases for police officers; and $5 million over two years to modernize Free Library of Philadelphia branches.
To read the prepared text of Mayor Nutter's speech, please go to 1.usa.gov/XdobYd [PDF].
To read the full Five-Year Plan and Budget, please go to phila.gov/pdfs/FiveYearPlanFY14-FY18.pdf [PDF].
Philadelphia Second Highest in Taxes
Philadelphia has the second highest tax rate for both lower income and affluent families, with the highest wage/income tax rate of the 50 largest cities, according to an annual study conducted by the city of Washington, D.C., Newsworks reported on March 5. Bridgeport, Connecticut, had the dubious distinction of being number one.
The study looks at the combined state and local tax burden on families living in the largest city of each of the 50 states, and calculates that burden on varying incomes from $25,000 a year up to $150,000 a year, the article noted.
New York City, which has a graduated income tax, had the third highest tax burden for the most affluent families, but the 16th highest for the poor.
To read the Newsworks article, please go to bit.ly/13GtzKN.
To read the report, please go to 1.usa.gov/10BSbzG [PDF].
The Effects of Unchecked Property Tax Delinquency
The Philadelphia Inquirer and PlanPhilly conducted a year-long investigation into the city's real estate tax enforcement system and found that mass delinquency cripples the tax base, erodes the home equity of hundreds of thousands of owners, and starves the City's coffers.
Among the findings: delinquency depresses the overall property-tax base by at least $9.5 billion, almost 10% of the city's $98.5 billion in taxable real estate.
To read the three-part series, please go to bit.ly/16mGkJI,
bit.ly/14NBGRD, and bit.ly/ZFfqtA.
Council Passes Sick Leave Bill
City Council on March 14 passed Bill #130004, introduced on January 24 by Councilman William K. Greenlee. The bill, known as "Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces," legislation, would require employees in all types of firms to be given sick paid leave. A similar bill passed Council in 2011, but Mayor Nutter vetoed it. Council passed the bill by a vote of 11-6, and 12 votes would be needed to override a veto.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/UHekfb.
City Tax Revenue on the Rise
The City of Philadelphia's General Fund tax collections were $452.5 million in February, an increase of $4.2 million (0.9%) from February
2012, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA).
Through the first eight months of fiscal year 2013 (FY13), the General Fund received $1,607.0 million in tax revenue, an increase of 5.2% compared to the same period in FY12. General Fund tax revenue is currently estimated at $2,658.7 million for FY13, an increase of 3.4% from FY12.
Indicating improving sales in properties, real estate transfer tax collections were $8.9 million in February, an increase of $0.5 million (6%) from February 2012. This is the fifth consecutive month of increased collections compared to the previous year. Real estate tax collections through February were $414.3 million, an increase of 7.9% compared to the first eight months of FY12.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/XcWZZI [PDF].
City Wins Competition for Innovative Ideas
Philadelphia was one of five winners in the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas for improving city life, Mayor Nutter announced on March 13. More than 300 cities applied.
Philadelphia is to collect a $1 million innovation prize to create the Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership, a new effort to engage social entrepreneurs in working with city government and other partners to tackle urban challenges.
Providence, R.I., won the largest prize, $5 million; other winners were Chicago, Houston, and Santa Monica, California.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/14YlBIR.
Retaining Families with Children in Center City
On Tuesday, April 16, at 4:00 p.m., the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation will hold its Membership Meeting at the
Union League, Grant Room, 140 South Broad Street.
Guest speakers will be William R. Hite, Jr., Superintendent, School District of Philadelphia; and Christine Carlson, founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood School Coalition.
As the number of school-age children increases in Center City and adjacent neighborhoods, how does the School District of Philadelphia, whose resources are challenged, work together with parents' groups and the business community to support neighborhood schools to keep families from leaving the city? Since more than 40% of downtown residents work in Center City, this is as much about workforce retention as it is about neighborhood stability. Come hear Superintendent Hite speak about the challenges facing the School District and his plans for the District's future. Christine Carlson will follow with the Center City parents' perspective.
Business casual attire required. No denim.
CPDC members are encouraged to invite both young professionals and other members of their firm to attend this meeting. Please RSVP no later than Tuesday, April 9, to Carol Raffa, firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.440.5500.
The Future of the Reading Viaduct: A Conversation
The second in a three-part series of conversations about the Reading Viaduct elevated train trestle, produced jointly by Hidden City Philadelphia and AIA Philadelphia, will be held at the Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street, Wednesday, March 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Participants will be landscape architect Bryan Hanes, who created the renderings for a park on the SEPTA spur section of the Viaduct; Center City District President & CEO Paul R. Levy; and representatives from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and Viaduct Greene.
Cost is $5 for Hidden City members, $10 for non-members. For tickets, please go to bit.ly/Wsry2q.
Design on the Delaware 2013 Proposals Due April 8
AIA Philadelphia is accepting program proposals for the 2013 Design on the Delaware conference, which will be held October 29 - November 1, at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel and at the Center for Architecture. This multi-disciplinary conference features four keynote speakers, 36 education programs, three days of tours, and a full-day design charrette for architects, landscape architects, planners, engineers, and other design and building professionals.
Program proposals are due April 8 and must meet the guidelines as outlined in the Call for Programs. To download the Call for Programs, please visit designonthedelaware.com.
Drexel's URBN Center Celebrates Opening
The opening of the URBN Center, new home of Drexel University's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, 3501 Market Street, will be Friday, April 12, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The URBN Center began as Robert Venturi's Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Building and has been re-imagined by the architectural and interior design firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, LTD.
Join the faculty and staff of the Westphal College in its brand new home. For more information, please go to drexel.edu/westphal.
Louis I. Kahn Memorial Lecture
On Thursday, May 9, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3260 South Street, AIA Philadelphia will present the Louis I. Kahn Memorial Lecture. Reception begins at 5:30 p.m., the lecture is at 6:30 p.m.
Ted Flato, FAIA, of Lake|Flato Architects in San Antonio, Texas, will present the lecture. Flato has received wide acclaim both nationally and internationally for his straight-forward regional designs, which incorporate indigenous building forms and materials and respond to the context of their landscape.
Tickets range from $15 to $75. Please RSVP by Monday, April 8. For more information or to register, please go to bit.ly/YgldT5.
Date Change for Public/Private Partnerships in Real Estate
On Friday, June 7, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the Pennsylvania Alliance Program of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)will present a panel discussion titled "Using Public/Private Partnerships in Philadelphia Real Estate," at the Hotel Monaco, 433 Chestnut Street. (This was rescheduled from Friday, March 18.)
Public-private partnerships are an important component of a thriving shopping district in both downtown Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Panelists will be Craig Grossman, Senior Managing Director, Goldman Properties; and Anne Bovaird Nevins, Senior Vice President, Market Development, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). Moderator will be Michelle Shannon, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Center City District, ICSC PA Alliance Public Sector Co-Chair.
Cost ranges between $20 and $40, if registered before June 3. To sign up, please go to bit.ly/YytjFg.