Office Sector News
Comcast Leases Additional Space
Comcast Corporation has leased approximately 81,000 square feet on four floors at Two Logan Square, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 8. Comcast also has leased space in Centre Square and Three Logan Square, the article noted, while awaiting the completion of the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center in early 2018.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1pq8tOo.
Liberty Property Trust Decreasing Suburban Holdings
Liberty Property Trust is in discussions to sell a large portfolio of suburban office assets, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on May 17. The company, which owns nearly 4 million square feet of suburban office space in the Philadelphia suburbs, intends to sell between $900 million and $1.2 billion of its suburban properties this year.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1o01x8Q.
Lits Name to be Restored at 701 Market
Brickstone Companies is renaming the Mellon Independence Center at 701 Market Street as The Lits Building, referencing the historic department store, Lit Brothers, founded on the block in 1891.
The date the renaming will be official was not announced, but the change is linked to the downsizing of the building’s main tenant, Bank of New York Mellon, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 8. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1p8cypF.
Program Will Encourage Financial Tech Startups
Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) is representing Philadelphia in VilCap Communities, a 16-city program that will encourage tech startups outside the major tech hubs of New York, Boston and the San Francisco Bay area, Technical.ly Philly reported on March 16.
Philadelphia’s startup incubator will focus on financial tech startups and BFTP will award $50,000 to one, to be chosen by the participants. VilCap Communities is organized by D.C.-based investment firm Village Capital.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1WtFDH5.
Bill Calls for New Tax Abatement
City Councilman Allan Domb on March 10 introduced Bill #160201, which would create a 20-year tax abatement for construction and home-repair projects on properties that cost less than $250,000, PlanPhilly reported.
The bill’s intention is to encourage investment in neighborhoods in West, South and North Philadelphia, although the abatement would not be limited to them. The proposal would need separate authorizing action from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, since 10 years is the maximum authorized under Commonwealth law.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1Ph9eO5. To read the PlanPhilly article, please go to bit.ly/1pj79g4.
PCPC Recommends Rezoning on North Broad
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission voted March 15 to recommend rezoning of the former Inquirer Building at 400 North Broad Street, the Philadelphia School District headquarters, 440 North Broad Street, and a small surface parking lot at 15th and Hamilton Streets, owned by Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), from industrial zoning to CMX-4 commercial zoning, PlanPhilly reported.
CCP issued a Request for Proposals for a 500-bed student housing project with commercial and retail uses on the ground floor, the article noted, and developer Bart Blatstein is planning to renovate the former Inquirer property as apartments with a 125-room hotel.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1WwxgdU.
Eds and Meds News
Magee Renovation Under Construction
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital on March 9 began construction on a $4 million renovation that will add a creative therapy center and healing gardens to the rooftop of its medical center, allowing physical and occupational therapy sessions to move out of the gym and into the outdoors, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.
The sixth-floor rooftop addition is being designed by Charles Matsinger Associates.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/22yTRdn.
Philadelphia’s Economic Growth Lags Behind Most Peers
Since the last recession began, Philadelphia’s gross metropolitan product (GMP) has grown 4.0%, from $344.8 billion to $358.5 billion on a real basis. GMP in U.S. metropolitan areas averaged 7.3%, and in most peer regions in the 10 largest markets averaged significantly higher, according to JLL’s Chart of the Week for March 14. The comparison of GMPs helps explain why this region’s real estate market has expanded but not at the same dynamic pace as New York’s, Dallas’s, Houston’s, and Boston’s.
To view the chart, please go to bit.ly/1MnTEDp.
Region’s Manufacturing Improves in March
Manufacturing business activity in the region grew substantially in March for the first time in seven months though employment remained weak, according to firms responding to the month's Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, with new orders up for 36.7% of respondents, down for 21.0%, and unchanged for 37.8%.
The number of full-time employees was up for 15.5% of the firms, down for 16.6%, and remained the same for more than half (56.5%).
Looking ahead six months, 41.4% of the firms anticipated improved business activity, while 12.6% expected a downturn and 29.8% foresaw no change.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1TS78MD.
Historic Philadelphia Center Closes
As part of the repositioning of the Public Ledger Building by its new owner, the Historic Philadelphia Center, along with its 3-D Liberty 360 show, at Sixth and Chestnut Streets, closed on March 14, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The center also served as a hub for ticket purchases and tour departures, which will now leave from the nearby Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Streets, where tickets also can be purchased.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1QDOJ2f.
State Unveils New Tourism Slogan
The Pennsylvania Tourism Office, along with the Pennsylvania Tourism Partnership, on March 8 unveiled the state’s new tourism slogan and logo: “Pennsylvania. Pursue Your Happiness.”
The new slogan will be incorporated into all promotional materials and on social media with the hashtag #PATravelHappy. The next edition of the state's travel guide will be called Happy Traveler and the e-newsletter renamed Happy Thoughts.
For more information and to see the new promotional video, please go to visitPA.com/happiness.
Study: Tourism Market Cuts Are Costly
In 2009, Pennsylvania spent $30 million annually on tourism marketing, but by 2015, the amount dropped below $7.5 million of which only $2 million is spent on a statewide level. While this saved the Commonwealth $22.5 million a year, for every dollar cut, Pennsylvania lost $3.60 in state taxes, according to a recently released study, “Competitive Analysis of Pennsylvania's Tourism Budget,” conducted by Tourism Economics and commissioned by a coalition of more than 25 tourism industry stakeholders.
During this period, the state lost $449 million in state taxes while saving only $125 million—representing a net loss of $324 million in taxes, the study noted.
To read the study, please go to prla.org/patourismstudy. To read the March 16th Philadelphia Business Journal article about the study, please go to bit.ly/1S6KTPK.
Arts and Culture News
Museum Exits Bankruptcy
The Please Touch Museum has fully emerged from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after paying $8.25 million of its bond debt of $61 million, and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in October, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 16.
The museum in Fairmount Park filed for bankruptcy protection last fall. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1R94k8j.
30th Street Station Concourse Proposed
Amtrak, SEPTA, Drexel University, Brandywine Realty Trust and PennDOT have proposed building a new underground concourse linking 30th Street Station with SEPTA's subways and trolleys, to be topped by a skylight and lined with shops, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 15.
The concourse would be completed during the first half of the 2020s, according to a draft of the 30th Street Station District Plan, and is part of the District plan’s first phase, expected to continue until the early 2030s, the article noted.
To read the article and see a rendering, please go to bit.ly/1R1i58W.
New CEO at Airport Defers Fifth Runway
A fifth new runway on the Delaware River, once part of the long-range expansion plan at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), has been put on hold by the airport’s new CEO, Rochelle "Chellie" Cameron, who cited the trend toward bigger airplanes and the phasing out of small regional jets as the reason, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 7.
Takeoffs and landings at PHL have declined from 535,666 in 2005 to 411,368 in 2015, while the number of passengers has hovered around 30 million a year, rising slightly in 2015 to 31.4 million, still below the 32.2 million peak of 2007, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1pweGIh.
Bike Conference Coming in June
Philadelphia will host the inaugural Better Bike Share Conference, created by a coalition of People For Bikes of Boulder, Colorado, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Association of City Transportation Officials and the City of Philadelphia from June 22 through 24, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 15.
The conference will cover topics related to bike share and equity, including payment and pricing, marketing with an equity lens, workforce development and community partnerships, and anticipates attendance by city officials, bike share operators, community-based organizations and nonprofits.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Lpgq05.
For more information or to register, please go to bit.ly/1YXxMmF.
Parks and Open Space News
Spring Training Returns to Dilworth Park
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from April 5 through May 26, Dilworth Park is hosting a variety of free sports and fitness programs, conducted by professionals in the field of personal fitness, thanks to the generous support of the Rothman Institute and Jefferson Health. From yoga to Zumba, this program is designed to get everyone informed and in-shape for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.
For more information, please visit DilworthPark.org.
City to Host International Parks Group in 2021
Philadelphia has been selected by City Parks Alliance to host the organization’s biennial Greater & Greener international urban parks conference in 2021, expected to attract approximately 1,500 people from 200 cities and 20 countries, Mayor Jim Kenney announced on March 18.
To read the Mayor’s press release, please go to 1.usa.gov/1Ms2M79.
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Change Uniformity Clause
State Representatives John Taylor (R., Philadelphia) and William Keller (D., Philadelphia) on March 15 introduced House Bill 1871, that would amend the state Constitution to create an ability for Philadelphia to modify the Uniformity Clause for real estate taxes to enable, but not require, Philadelphia to levy a 15% increment on properties used for business purposes so long as those revenues are used exclusively to reduce wage and business taxes.
Supported by a coalition of business, labor, and civic groups, and building on the work of the 2003 and 2009 tax commissions, the amendment would facilitate more dynamic job growth in Philadelphia.
To read Representative Taylor’s press release, please go to bit.ly/22k4hxk.
To read an explanation of how the amendment will work for Philadelphia, please go to bit.ly/1Rf4JWI [PDF].
To read Econsult’s evaluation of the economic impact of the plan, please go to bit.ly/1o1tDRh [PDF].
State Budget Goes to Governor Wolf Again
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a $30.03 billion spending plan, House Bill 1801, with some bipartisan support on March 16, setting the stage for a possible veto override battle with Governor Tom Wolf this week, PennLive reported.
The bill is a slightly revised version of House Bill 1460, the budget partially vetoed by the Governor in December. The revised FY2015-16 budget would restore more than $3.147 billion in basic education funding, $939.4 million in state correctional institution funding, and nearly $1.87 billion in Medicaid funding blue-lined by Governor Wolf.
Governor Wolf’s options include a full veto, line-item vetoes to specific appropriations, signing it into law or letting it take effect without his signature. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1pOlBg0.
In other news from Harrisburg, Governor Wolf signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for state employees and contractors, from $7.25 an hour to $10.15 – an almost 40% increase, effective immediately for employees employed by agencies under the Governor and for all state contractors or lessors, after July 1. Republicans in the legislature have questioned his authority to raise the wages, stating that the Pennsylvania Constitution does not allow the Governor to arbitrarily set wage rates for anyone.
If the legislature acts to expand the raise to the entire state, revenue would be boosted by roughly $60 million annually, the Governor’s press release noted.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/1pjRdK4. To read the executive order, please go to bit.ly/1pHn5bW.
City Council Schedules FY17 Budget Hearings
City Council will begin hearings on the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget on Tuesday, March 29, and they will continue through May 18. First on the agenda is the Five-Year Plan, followed by the Capital Budget on Wednesday, March 30. Hearings on Taxes, Revenue and the School District will be in May.
For the complete schedule, please go to bit.ly/229Qxp5 [PDF].
City Awarded HUD Grant for Homelessness
Philadelphia’s Office of Supportive Housing has been awarded $28 million dollars in grants that will provide funding for 86 homeless housing service programs as part of a $1.6 billion U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) effort to stem homelessness, Mayor Jim Kenney’s Office announced on March 17.
Philadelphia will use the funds to support Philadelphia non-profits currently operating 2,242 units of transitional and permanent housing for homeless individuals and families. HUD also awarded the City $931,805 to develop a new plan for abating homelessness.
To read the press release, please go to 1.usa.gov/1px8T5w. To read HUD’s list of Philadelphia agencies that will receive funds, please go to bit.ly/22ouKgJ [PDF].
Council Extends LOOP
City Council on March 17 passed Bill #16001201, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, which extends the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) that caps taxes beyond the 10 years first set after a citywide reassessment in 2013, Newsworks reported. The bill also reopens enrollment in LOOP until February 2017.
LOOP was passed to help longtime homeowners whose income is low to stay in their houses, even as values and property taxes increase. After the initial 10 years, homeowners will need to reapply each year to stay in the program.
To read Bill #16001201, please go to bit.ly/259GQJH. To read the Newsworks article, please go to bit.ly/1RoVetw.
William Penn Foundation Awards Grant for Pre-K
The William Penn Foundation announced it would provide a $15 million grant to Fund for Quality to improve and expand quality pre-K facilities in Philadelphia, one of Mayor Jim Kenney’s priorities, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 8.
The grant is projected to create space for 1,500 preschoolers in quality centers by 2021; Kenney's goal is 10,000 new quality seats in Philadelphia over the next five years. Quality, as Kenney defines it, is a place children get instruction, not babysitting, with certified teachers in well-kept, resource-rich facilities, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1R3ruvI.
School District to Hire 800 Teachers
The Philadelphia School District has received 1,000 applications since a new early-hiring initiative began in January and seeks 5,000 applications for 800 teaching jobs it hopes to fill by June 30 to avoid vacancies when the new school year begins in September, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 16.
The District is especially interested in candidates for hard-to-staff areas, such as secondary math and science; special education; and bilingual education.
The District also intends to hire approximately 60 nurses and 50 counselors, contingent on approval of the state’s proposed 2016-17 budget.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1RPTYK4.
May Event in Dilworth Park Marks Anniversaries of CCD and CPDC
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of CCD and the 60th anniversary of CPDC, we are planning a special fundraiser at Dilworth Park during the evening of Thursday, May 5, so we can do even more for the downtown! We will highlight the work of both organizations and launch the Center City District Foundation (CCDF), the charitable affiliate of the CCD, to help support the next generation of public space improvements in Center City Philadelphia.
Want to send invitations via email? Here’s a link: centercityphila.org/anniversary/invitation031516.php. To purchase individual tickets or a table for 10, please go to bit.ly/1pzjb5j.
GPCC’s ‘Mapping Economic Competitiveness’
On Tuesday, March 29, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Roadmap for Growth series will present “Mapping Economic Competitiveness” at the University City Science Center Quorum, 3711 Market Street, Eighth Floor.
The forum will feature Michael DiBerardinis, Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia, followed by a panel that will lead an interactive discussion.
On the panel are Karen Buchholz, Senior Vice President, Administration, Comcast Corporation; Fran Griesing, Founder, Griesing Law LLC; Osagie Imasogie, Senior Managing Partner, Phoenix IP Ventures; Stephen Tang, President & CEO, University City Science Center; and Sonya Weigle, Principal, North Highland. The moderator will be Jim Rosenfield, Anchor, NBC 10.
Tickets are $35.00. Please register by Monday, March 28, at bit.ly/22yYGnd.
Bjarke Ingles to Receive Kahn Memorial Award
The Philadelphia Center for Architecture on Monday, May 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., will present the 31st Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award + Talk, honoring Bjarke Ingles, at the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3260 South Street.
Ingles is the architect of Philadelphia's forthcoming 1200 Intrepid at the Navy Yard, as well as 2 World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Google North Bayshore Complex in Mountain View, California.
Early Bird Tickets are available until April 8th. Tickets range in price from $15 to $75.
For more information or to buy tickets, please go to bit.ly/1UtZHdm.