PREIT Completes Three-Block Parcel
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) last week closed on their $59.6 million purchase from Vornado Realty Trust of 907 Market Street. The 430,000-square-foot, six-story component of the Gallery at Market East is situated between two PREIT-owned parcels, enabling them to consolidate ownership of the three-block long regional shopping center. The acquired building is divided almost equally between office and retail space, with Kmart its primary retail tenant. The acquisition provides PREIT with the ability to carry out the long-planned comprehensive redevelopment of the retail center that opened in two phases in 1977 and 1982.
Chestnut Street Making Strides
An article in the online publication Hidden City Philadelphia, "The Schizophrenia of Chestnut Street," highlights how the blocks east of Broad Street are finally beginning to see signs of reinvestment. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/Zvo9yO.
Office Sector News
PHMC Moving to Market East
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), with more than 1,700 employees, will move in early 2014 from 260 South Broad Street to 125,000 square feet on five floors at 1500 Market Street, according to Delaware Business Daily.
The Wayne, Pa., planning and interior design firm Bradberry & Kheradi will design the new offices. The new work space will include lounge areas, impromptu meeting spaces, a cafe, and a fitness center, the article noted.
Nonmanufacturing Business Activity Remains Strong
Nonmanufacturing business activity, which surged in March, slipped just slightly in April, according to the Business Outlook Survey Nonmanufacturing conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The diffusion index of general activity, which rose from 0 to 31 in March, dipped to 29.3 in April (The index has a maximum value of +100 and a minimum value of -100.).
Sales saw a strong increase, with 48.8% of the respondents reporting an increase, while 22% indicated a decrease. New orders also were robust with 46.3% of the firms reporting increases and 19.5% decreases.
Companies with more full-time employees (31.7%) outpaced those with fewer full-time employees (12.2%).
Looking ahead six months, 68.3% of the responding firms indicated they expected increased activity in the region, while only 4.9% foresaw a decrease.
Home Prices in City Climb
The quality-adjusted price of single-family houses in Philadelphia increased by an average of 2.3% in the first quarter of 2013, and are up 5.6% from a year ago, according to Econsult Solutions Inc.'s Real Estate Values Trends.
Overall, there were 2,928 arms-length sales of single-family homes, down 7% from the previous quarter, but up 11% from the same quarter a year ago. The number of home sales with values of more than $1 million was lower this quarter (21) over the previous quarter (33). The median sale price for the 2013's first quarter was $112,500, a 12.5% increase over the same time last year.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/14WiarJ [PDF].
For a comprehensive overview of the Center City housing market and population trends, see the Downtown Living chapter of the recently released State of Center City, 2013 report (more details below) CenterCityPhila.org/docs/SOCC2013_living.pdf [PDF].
Eds and Meds News
Penn Has New Bike-Share Program
PennCycle, a University of Pennsylvania student-led shared bicycle pilot program housed in Penn Student Agencies, was launched in mid-March. It is the school's first campus-wide bike-share program. Bikes are available to the entire Penn community including students, staff, and faculty, anyone with a PennCard. Bikes are available for rental for as low as $25 a semester.
For more information, please go to app.penncycle.org.
SugarHouse Revenues on the Upswing
Revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware Riverfront rose in March for the second month in a row, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In March, the casino took in $25,828,590, compared to $23,829,862 in February. The Commonwealth's share of taxes was $7,073,557 in March compared to February's $6,537,867. The City of Philadelphia collected $872,659 in taxes in March, compared to $806,308 in February.
To see all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/Smpoyp.
Arts and Culture News
Rosenbach and Free Library to Merge
The boards of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation and the Rosenbach Museum & Library voted on April 16 to merge and create the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.
The Rosenbach of the Free Library will be maintained as an independent entity under the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation and will be funded through private philanthropic support. The memorandum of understanding leaves important details to be negotiated, but aims to make the Rosenbach a subsidiary of the library by June 30.
The Rosenbach is well known for its many rare books, including James Joyce's manuscript for Ulysses, original drawings by children's book author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, and the papers of Modernist poet Marianne Moore.
The merger likely will require the approval of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, which oversees non-profits, and may, depending on the way it is structured, also require approval from Orphans' Court.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/13iYwBn.
Transportation Funding Plan Offered
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty (R., Berks, Chester, and Montgomery Counties) and Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch on April 16 presented a comprehensive proposal to fund Pennsylvania's transportation needs.
Known as the "The Bridge to Pennsylvania's Future," the plan would increase Pennsylvania's annual transportation investment by $2.5 billion. Governor Corbett had proposed spending an additional $1.8 billion.
Rafferty noted that Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges – nearly 4,400 – than any other state in the nation, and 23% of its 44,000 miles of state-owned roads are in poor condition.
The plan would raise the needed revenue through a number of sources, including an increase in vehicle registration and driver's license fees, surcharging fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, and uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax over three years. The Pennsylvania gas tax would go from the current 32 cents per gallon to 58 cents by the end of five years, if the full wholesale increase were passed on to motorists at the pump.
Under the Corbett plan, transit agencies would receive $40 million in the first year while highway and bridge funding would be boosted by $470 million, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and by the fifth year, transit funding would be increased by $250 million. The Rafferty plan would direct $115 million in additional funding for airports, ports, rail lines, and cycling lanes and walkways, the article noted. By the fifth year, the Rafferty plan would direct $510 million to transit.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/ZNvGGa.
Northeast Corridor Transportation Summit
Save the date! On Monday, June 3, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., PenTrans and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) will present Northeast Corridor Now, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street.
A panel discussion will address the challenges and opportunities to improving the Northeast Corridor, from Boston to Washington, D.C. RPA has developed a proposal, Northeast Corridor Now, aimed at establishing in the next rail bill an institutional and financing framework capable of advancing a long-term, comprehensive improvement program. Panelists have not yet been announced. Registration has not yet opened.
Walt Whitman Bridge Project Ahead of Schedule
The $140 million re-decking of the Walt Whitman Bridge has entered its final phase of construction six months ahead of schedule, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) announced on April 17.
The $139,774,286 deck removal and replacement project is the second largest capital improvement project ever undertaken by the DRPA. Work was expected to be completed in early 2014, but may be finished as early as this fall, according to the DRPA.
The final phase involves re-decking the northernmost (westbound) lane of the seven-lane bridge; restrictions on overweight and wide-load permit vehicles have been lifted.
Motorists also should suffer fewer - and shorter - traffic jams during this year's Jersey Shore beach season, the DRPA noted.
GPTMC Launches Neighborhoods Campaign
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) on April 5 launched its new Philadelphia Neighborhoods campaign, spotlighting 14 neighborhoods that surround Center City and University City.
The campaign encourages residents and visitors to explore the neighborhoods' restaurants, emerging art galleries, independent shops, music venues, parks and annual festivals. The campaign is supported in great part by the William Penn Foundation.
The 14 featured neighborhoods, highlighted on the website visitphilly.com/neighborhoods, include Bella Vista, Callowhill, Cedar Park, East Passyunk, Fairmount, Fishtown, Graduate Hospital, Northern Liberties, Pennsport, Powelton Village, Queen Village, Spring Garden, Spruce Hill, and University City. The campaign's primary mission is to drive overnight visitation by promoting additional destinations near downtown hotels.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/10iTDHY.
Ride the Ducks Expands Route
Ride the Ducks Philadelphia (RTD) is extending its route during the 2013 season to include the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Previously the path stayed east of Broad Street. The new route will stretch through Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to show tourists the many cultural institutions along the Parkway, where the Center City District's Sister Cities Park also is located.
RTD will operate seven days a week until the beginning of November, then weekends only through Thanksgiving. During peak season, RTD will operate a maximum of nine vehicles, each with a capacity of 37 passengers. Hours of operation will be 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with fewer vehicles and shorter hours in the shoulder seasons.
Limited music will be played on the Parkway, principally at the Rocky statue and Swann Fountain. For complete information, please go to philadelphia.ridetheducks.com.
Bill Would Create Tax Credit for Tourism Promotion
State Representative Jerry Stern (R., Bedford and Blair Counties) on April 17 introduced HB 1216, which would create a tax credit for donations to the Pennsylvania Tourism Commission or a nonprofit established by the commission for the purpose of tourism promotion and marketing. The tax credit would be 100 percent for the taxable year, but a single taxpayer would be limited to taking a maximum of 20% of the total credit authorized for a fiscal year, which is proposed at $15 million.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/14VLUVz.
Parks and Open Space News
Noontime Concerts in Collins Park
Beginning Tuesday, May 7, John F. Collins Park, which is owned and maintained by the Center City District Foundation, will host twice-weekly free acoustic concerts from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays through September 26. Bring your lunch and enjoy this peaceful pocket park and some great music!
For the line-up of concerts in the park, please go to centercityphila.org/life/collins_park.php.
Sister Cities Park International Festival
A new Sister Cities Park International Festival celebrating Philadelphia's 10 Sister Cities that span the globe from Europe and the Middle East to Asia, will enliven the park at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 5:00 p.m.
The free afternoon festivities will include dance, music, cooking demos, foreign language lessons and hands-on fun for adults and kids alike. In addition, there will be a wine garden. For only $10, gain access to the wine garden and sample wines from local wineries. Purchase wine by the glass or bottle to enjoy at cafe tables with a great view of the entire festival. The entrance fee to the wine garden entitles you to receive a 10% discount for bottles of wine purchased at the festival.
The Milk & Honey Café will be open for lunch, coffee, cold drinks, or a snack.
For complete details, please go to centercityphila.org/life/sister_citiesintlfest.php.
Bills Related to AVI Tax Reform
There are several bills in both Philadelphia City Council and the Pennsylvania General Assembly that are related to Mayor Nutter's Actual Value Initiative (AVI) to reform property taxes in the City.
Philadelphia City Council is considering these bills:
Bill #130298, introduced on April 18 by Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, would provide an extension to apply for the homestead exemption for buyers who purchase a home after the annual deadline for application has passed. To read the bill, please go to Bill No. 13029800.pdf.
Bill #13030, introduced on April 18 by Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke, would change the date to apply for the homestead exemption from July 31 to September 30 to encourage more property owners to apply. The bill notes that those who have failed to apply are from areas of high concentrations of low-income, elderly, and non-English speaking residents. To read the bill, please go to Bill No. 13030600.pdf.
Councilman Mark Squilla on April 18 introduced Bill #130308 that would allow property owners to pay the amount of the previous year's property taxes if the current year's assessment is under appeal and the appeal has not been completed. To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/10GqHxw.
These bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly are part of the Property Tax Relief Package:
HB 390, introduced by Representative Michael H. O'Brien (D., Philadelphia) would allow the City of Philadelphia to defer or partially exempt property taxes based on financial need, or age, or both, of longtime, owner-occupied properties. The City's current authorization for a Homestead Exemption does not provide for such a "needs testing." To read HB 390, please go to bit.ly/ZPwlaa. This bill would enable gentrification relief for eligible low-income homeowners adversely affected by AVI.
HB 391, introduced by Representative Michael P. McGeehan (D., Philadelphia), would allow eligible homeowners in Philadelphia to pay property taxes in installment payments. The City would be allowed to set the frequency and eligibility of these payments. To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/15Rm4kL.
HB 388, a bill introduced by Representative Cherelle Parker (D., Philadelphia), proposes to amend the Municipal Claim and Tax Lien Law, so that a lien can be placed against all of a property owners' real estate located within the Commonwealth, rather than just the specific property on which taxes are delinquent. When the property owner attempts to sell any of his/her property located within the state, the lien must then be satisfied. To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/15MYYMs.
City Touts Strengths to Investors
The City of Philadelphia, which is planning to sell $400 million of general-obligation securities in June, of which $218 million would fund capital projects, with the remainder going to retire higher-cost debt, held a 2013 Inaugural Investor Conference on April 18 and19. A number of business leaders joined Rob Dubow, Director of Finance, and Nancy Winkler, City Treasurer, to present investors and Wall Street analysts a positive image of the city, touting its growth in population, rise in home sales and prices, $2.9 billion in new construction, and significant economic development efforts throughout the City
The City is currently rated BBB+ by Standard & Poor's.
To read the presentation document, please go to 1.usa.gov/13zwt0J [PDF].
To read an article from Bloomberg about the event, please go to bloom.bg/11BIcf3.
Brokers Selected for PGW Possible Sale
Mayor Nutter on April 24 announced that J.P. Morgan and Loop Capital Markets will be the brokers for a possible sale of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW).
The firms will manage the potential sale on a contingency-fee basis, meaning they will be paid only if the sale of PGW is completed and approved by City Council and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Over the next several months, the brokers will identify and solicit qualified bidders, review responses from those bidders and provide analysis and guidance on the bids to the City and PGW. A consultant previously estimated the sale could bring in as much as $1.85 billion.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/ZnS2Sc.
City Tax Collections on the Rise
Tax collections for the City of Philadelphia were $270.2 million in March, an increase of 11.7%, or $28.4 million, over March 2012, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority's (PICA) Tax Revenue Update for March.
Wage and earnings tax collections for the month were up 3.9%, or $4.8 million, over the previous year, to $127.9 million.
Real estate transfer tax increased year over year for the sixth straight month, indicating the growing strength of the housing market. That tax yielded $15.5 million in March, an increase of $6.5 million, or 72.7% more than in March 2012.
Through the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2013, the city's General Fund collected $1,876.6 million in tax revenue, an increase of 6.1% over the same period in Fiscal Year 2012.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/12GnsnD [PDF].
CCD Releases 'State of Center City, 2013'
Center City accounts for more than 44% of all wage and salary employment in Philadelphia, with the downtown's signature skyscrapers housing the largest share (32%) of downtown employment and providing one out of seven jobs in the entire city, according to the new, 72-page, State of Center City, 2013 report.
The report provides a comprehensive look at the diverse sectors that have converged to create a thriving downtown marketplace, positioning Center City for a new cycle of growth. But it also highlights the challenges we must overcome if we are to become a dynamic center for expanding employment and opportunity.
The report, as well as individual sections, can be downloaded at centercityphila.org/socc.
Symposium on Philadelphia Taxes
Philadelphia's local taxes will be the subject of a half-day symposium co-sponsored by Temple University's Center on Regional Politics and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The symposium will be Friday, May 3, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 115-A (enter at northwest corner of 13th and Arch Streets).
A first panel discussion, moderated by Steve Highsmith, host of NBC 10's weekly program, NBC10 @Issue, will focus on Philadelphia's tax structure, tax policy, and various ideas for changing them.
The second panel discussion, moderated by Sandra Shea, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, will provide perspectives on political aspects of tax policy choices. The panelists will include: Councilman Bill Green; Councilman David Oh; State Senator Vincent J. Hughes; State Representative Cherelle L. Parker; State Representative John Taylor; State Senator Anthony H. Williams; City Finance Director Rob Dubow; Professor Robert P. Inman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Paul R. Levy, President and CEO, Center City District; Joel L. Naroff, President, Naroff Economic Advisors; and Stephen S. Tang, President and CEO, University City Science Center.
To register, please go to bit.ly/10Gg6T2.
DRPA Public Meeting on Camden Access Ramp
The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) is inviting bicyclists, walkers, advocates for people with disabilities and other stakeholders to a public meeting to discuss design options for the access ramp proposed for the south side of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge's New Jersey landing.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 14, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., in the 11th Floor Board Room at One Port Center in Camden across from the New Jersey State Aquarium.
Public inquiries or comments about the project can be emailed to the DRPA at email@example.com.
Promoting Creativity in Business
The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia will present Creative Open House: ShootersINC on Wednesday, May 15, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at ShootersINC, 601 Walnut Street, Suite 1050S.
The discussion, moderated by Alex Hillman, Co-Founder, Indy Hall, will focus on the business strategies of media companies and will feature Jason Brewer, Owner and CEO, Brolik Productions, Inc.; and Ray Carballada, President, ShootersINC.
Individual tickets are $25. For more information, or to register by May 14, please go to artsandbusinessphila.org. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215.790.3654. No email or telephone reservations, please.