Bills Enabling Remake of The Gallery Passed By Council
A package of City Council bills needed for the $325 million redevelopment of The Gallery into The Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia passed City Council 15-0 on June 18, the last council session before summer recess, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Mayor Michael A. Nutter immediately signed the legislation. The project is a joint effort by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and the California-based Macerich Company and is expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, and generate more than $435 million in tax revenue over the next 20 years, including $200 million in direct revenue to the City and School District.
Demolition is expected to begin in August, and the project should be completed in two years.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1d4u7R7.
Included in the package were Bill #150377 that would allow large-format signs, ground signs, marquees and planters in the development (bit.ly/1GpId7B); and Bill #150380 that creates The Gallery at Market East Tax Increment Financing District (bit.ly/1EePaKj).
Hotel Tower Construction Underway
Construction has begun on Chestlen Development’s 51-story tower that will house a 295-room W Philadelphia and 460-room Element Philadelphia at 1441 Chestnut Street, according to a June 17 press release from Starwood Hotels & Resorts, franchiser of the hotels.
The project will include an outdoor pool, bar and terrace, meeting and banquet facilities, food and beverage outlets, and retail space along Chestnut Street. The hotels are expected to open in early 2018.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/1eoczB6.
Bill Would Enable Development at Broad and Washington
City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on June 18 introduced Bill #150606 that would create the South Broad Street Gateway zoning overlay in the area bounded by 13th and Broad Streets and Washington and Carpenter Streets, PlanPhilly reported.
Developer Bart Blatstein is creating plans for 1,600 apartments in two 30-story towers and 180,000 square feet of retail space in a complex with parking in the middle of the property, the article noted. Blatstein’s plans are expected to be completed this fall.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1QMdBrx.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1SDgV5H [PDF].
Office Sector News
Benjamin’s Desk Expanding Again
The coworking space Benjamin's Desk at 1701 Walnut Street will expand to a second location on the 12th floor of the Curtis Center, 601 Walnut Street, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on June 18.
Benjamin's Desk took over a second floor at its present location in January 2014 to increase its size to 6,000 square feet and plans to develop its roof access into recreational space, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1LnYsGi.
Coworking Space WeWorks to Open
As demand for coworking space increases, national players are joining local operators in Center City, with New York-based WeWorks the most recent coworking space to announce a Philadelphia location. WeWorks has leased a 30,000-square-foot space at The Piazza in Northern Liberties, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on June 18, and now has 42 spaces in 15 cities.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1RhDWbS.
Why American Companies Are Moving Downtown
Hundreds of companies across the United States are moving to and investing in walkable downtown locations with strong Walk Scores and Bike Scores, in response to employees’ desire for walkable, live/work/play neighborhoods and companies’ desire to foster creative collaboration, centralized operations, and convenience in meeting with downtown clients, according to a new study released on June 18 and produced by Smart Growth America in collaboration with Cushman & Wakefield.
The report suggests that downtowns plan for a mix of housing affordable to the workforce, support diverse retail, and invest and program public spaces.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1Lpwxst [PDF].
Manufacturing and Service Sectors Strong in June
The region’s manufacturing economy expanded in June, but was not as robust as the nonmanufacturing sector, according to responses to the Manufacturing and Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
In manufacturing, the number of full-time employees rose for 21.5% of the responding firms, decreased for 17.7%, and remained the same for more than half, 58.7%. In the service sector, the number of full-time employees increased for 35.1%, was down for 10.8%, and remained the same for 48.6%.
New orders for manufacturers were up for 35% of the firms, down for 19.7%, and 40.8% of the companies saw no change, while in nonmanufacturing, new orders were stronger, with 40.5% of the respondents seeing an increase, 13.5% a decrease, and 24.3% no change.
Looking ahead six months, respondents in manufacturing were dramatically less optimistic than those in services, with 47.5% in manufacturing expecting improved conditions compared to 83.8% in services, 7.8% anticipating a downturn compared to only 2.7%, and 35.6% and 5.4%, respectively, looking for business to remain the same.
To read the manufacturing report, please go to bit.ly/1Rdeqob [PDF]. To read the nonmanufacturing report, please go to bit.ly/1BT3mLB [PDF].
TargetExpress Will Arrive Next Year
A TargetExpress will open at 19th and Chestnut Streets in July 2016, offering fresh groceries, cellphone supplies, beauty items, and other goods in the Raymond Pace Alexander building near the proposed Boyd Theatre redevelopment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 15.
The new store will be 21,000 square feet over two floors, about 16 percent as big as a typical Target store.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Cc0aoY.
SugarHouse Revenue Dips in May
Revenue slipped slightly again in May at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In May, the casino took in $23,358,038 compared to $24,127,133 in April. The Commonwealth’s share of taxes in May was $6,243,866, compared to April’s $6,447,093. The City of Philadelphia collected $777,599, compared to $803,068 in April.
To see all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/1KdV9QV.
Residential Market News
Apartment Building Sold
Icon, a 206-unit apartment building with 23,000 square feet of fully leased retail space and 160 parking spaces at 1616 Walnut Street, has sold for $112 million, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on June 23.
The 25-story building was bought in 2012 by a partnership comprising Federal Capital Partners, Cross Properties and Alterra Property Group, and was opened to renters in April 2014. The buyer has not been identified.
Average rents at Icon are $3.50 per square foot (SF) with a few at $4.50/SF. Average rents in the Rittenhouse Square area are $2.47/ SF, according to Center City Reports: Housing, Sustaining Momentum, produced in February by the Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, available here: centercityphila.org/docs/CCR15_housing.pdf [PDF].
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1KploHZ.
‘Workforce-Housing’ Plan to Provide Affordable Homes
City officials on June 15 announced the first phase of the “workforce-housing” plan initiated last year by City Council that would create affordable housing units - 1,000 rental and 1,000 ownership - for moderate- and middle-income people in neighborhoods where housing values are rapidly appreciating, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.
Under the plan, the City will give developers City-owned vacant lots for nominal fees in exchange for building homes to be sold at below-market value to families with incomes between 80% to 120% of area median income (bit.ly/1L3nCMb).
An article in Governing magazine looks at Philadelphia’s proposed plan, noting that demand for low-cost rental units outstrips supply across the country. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1KYXPF7.
Arts and Culture News
Dalai Lama to Receive Liberty Medal
The National Constitution Center on June 17 announced that the Dalai Lama will receive the 2015 Liberty Medal at an award ceremony on Monday, October 27, at the Center on Independence National Historical Park. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama is being recognized for his advocacy for human rights. A limited number of tickets will be made available to the general public in September.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/1BB8xiM.
Headliners Announced for Two Major Parkway Concerts
The 2015 Made in America weekend festival will take place on Saturday, September 5, and Sunday, September 6, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and will be headlined by Beyoncé (married to festival curator Jay Z), and Canadian crooner the Weeknd, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 25.
Made in America creates an economic benefit of $10 million for the city economy, the article noted. Tickets go on sale today at noon on livenation.com. To read the article and view the entire festival lineup, please go to bit.ly/1QRLXJR.
Renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Grammy Award-winning Colombian pop star Juanes, along with the Philadelphia Orchestra, will headline a free concert on Saturday, September 26, the eve of Pope Francis' Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 23. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1LrhYoh.
Pew Center Awards Grants
The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage has awarded the Association for Public Art a $300,000 grant to commission internationally recognized Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang to create “Fireflies,” which consists of 27 luminous pedicabs inspired by traditional lanterns displayed during festivals in China, that will carry visitors from City Hall along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The exhibit will be a world premiere next year, but the date has not yet been announced.
To see all the recipients of the total $9.6 million in grants, please go to bit.ly/1IgKsuC.
Knight Foundation Awards $1.48 Million for the Arts
The Knight Foundation on June 25 announced 22 grants totaling $1.48 million for the arts in Philadelphia.
Among the groups receiving major grants were the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, $100,000; Curtis Institute of Music, $135,000; Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, $75,000; Kimmel Center, $150,000; Opera Philadelphia, $150,000; and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, $100,000.
To learn more about the groups’ projects and other grantees, please go to kng.ht/1FB0mhI.
International Travel to Philadelphia Fell in 2014
Philadelphia hosted 620,000 international visitors in 2014, down 8% from 673,000 in 2013, with the United Kingdom supplying the most visitors, 87,000, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 23. The city ranked #15 among the 20 most popular U.S. destinations.
International visitors, however, stayed 14.2% longer and spent 10% more, generating $578 million for the local economy, the article noted.
The drop in visitors was attributed to a lack of nonstop flights from Asia and problems at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which have been resolved.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1Cr1WCw.
Planning for Papal Visit
SEPTA will operate normal service during the World Meeting of Families September 22 to 25, but will run truncated routes with stops at 31 stations instead of the usual 282 for Regional Rail trains, subways, and trolleys during Pope Francis’ visit September 26, 27 and 28, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 16.
A special $10, three-day SEPTA transit pass, valid from Sept. 26 through 28, will be sold for travel on subways, buses, and trolleys. Standard SEPTA passes and tokens also can be used, but Regional Rail passengers will need to buy a $10, one-day special pass for each day of the pope's visit.
Passes for the papal visit will go on sale July 15, only on SEPTA's website (septa.org).
The website WorldMeeting2015.org will have updates on transportation and tips for navigating Center City during the event.
To read the article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, please go to bit.ly/1H16rLB.
To read Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s press release, please go to bit.ly/1elpeF1.
Chestnut Street Bridge Rehab to Begin in 2016
The Chestnut Street/Schuylkill Avenue West rehabilitation project is expected to begin in April 2016 and finish three years later.
The project includes Chestnut Street from 31st Street to 23rd Street, including the Chestnut Street Bridge; Schuylkill Avenue West from Market Street to Walnut Street; JFK Boulevard and 32nd Street; I-76 on and off ramps at Walnut and Chestnut Streets; and the West River Wall structure along I-76 between Market and Walnut Streets.
The work will include steel repairs, deck replacement, and concrete/masonry repairs. In addition, the streetscape will be enhanced. During construction, Chestnut Street from Schuylkill Avenue West to 23rd Street will be detoured to Market Street for approximately one year.
For more information, please go to bit.ly/1GCnVaH [PDF].
SEPTA Makes Changes to Bus Routes
The SEPTA Board adopted a new service plan that makes 13 changes to bus routes, including the Route 23 bus, which travels from South Philadelphia to Chestnut Hill, PlanPhilly reported on Friday.
The Route 23 bus, SEPTA’s busiest with 22,800 daily passengers, will be split into two routes: the northern route will retain the Route 23 name and will run between Chestnut Hill and Chestnut Street and the southern route will run between South Philadelphia and Noble Street (between Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets).
Route 12 has been extended over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard and Route 40 is extended to Front Street.
In other SEPTA news, the article noted, the board authorized a lease to the Center City District for construction purposes and ultimately a sale to the City of Philadelphia of its City Branch property being used to create the Reading Viaduct Rail Park.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1FFRS8Y.
PPA Approves Medallions for Wheelchair-Accessible Cabs
The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) board approved the sale of 23 medallions for wheelchair-accessible taxis on June 25, and 20 other sales are pending, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The new taxis will go into service within the next few months. If all 43 sales are closed, the PPA will collect $3.95 million, which will be spent on taxi regulation.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1TPSbJ4.
Bicycle Coalition Report Advocates for Traffic Safety
The intersections at 11th and Market Streets, 12th and Market Streets, and Broad and Race Streets are among the top 12 sites for pedestrian-involved crashes in the city, according to a new report from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Vision Zero Philadelphia, released this month.
The report advocates for the Vision Zero program pioneered in 1997 by Sweden, which has drastically reduced traffic deaths. In Philadelphia, one-third of the approximately 100 traffic deaths each year are pedestrians.
Improved safety can be achieved through increased enforcement and low-cost infrastructure improvements such as low urban speed limits, pedestrian zones, and physical barriers separating cars from bicycle traffic, the report noted.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1Ig8jiE [PDF].
Parks and Open Space News
Farmers’ Market in Dilworth Park + Capogiro Gelato Artisans
Every Wednesday throughout the summer and fall, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Center City District, in collaboration with Farm to City, is offering convenient shopping at the Farmers’ Market at Dilworth Park.
McCann’s Farm of Elk Township, New Jersey, has an array of fresh vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini.
PetAl Plants & Flowers of New Jersey stocks a wide variety of houseplants, flowers and vegetable starters, and Philly Muffin offers freshly baked breads.
Also in Dilworth Park this summer! Capogiro Gelato Artisans, a family-owned gelateria, has its custom-made cart open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on the north side of Dilworth Park. Capogiro offers sorbetto and gelato in a variety of flavors.
In addition, Pictures in the Park will continue at Dilworth Park with three more movies at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Bring your own chair, grab dinner and a drink at Rosa Blanca Café and a gelato from Capogiro, then settle in for a one-of-a-kind cinema experience.
Tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 30, as part of Wawa Welcome America, the 2014 version of Annie will be shown (See Upcoming Events for all Wawa Welcome America activities.).
On Tuesday, July 7, the movie will be Night at the Museum - Secret of the Tomb [PG-13]; and on Tuesday, July 14, Vacation (1983) [PG-13].
For complete information about all the amenities and activities at Dilworth Park, please go to dilworthpark.org.
Pairings on the Parkway
Every Thursday, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway hosts Pairings on the Parkway. BYO favorite bottle and take a seat at one of the tables inside or outside the cafe or bring a blanket and find a spot under a tree or on the grass. Logan Square Café is offering a special summer grilling menu. Bring the whole family and enjoy the Children's Discovery Garden; plus, there's live music every week! On July 2, the music (from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) will be provided by The Plants, and on July 9, Matt Cusson/Joy Ike.
For more information, please visit sistercitiespark.org.
City Council Votes to Raise Three Taxes
City Council on June 18 gave final approval to three bills that would raise taxes to collect an estimated $70 million for the School District of Philadelphia.
Bill #150533 creates a 4.5% cumulative increase in the Real Estate tax, to generate an anticipated $50 million in additional funding for the School District: bit.ly/1IOAPJt. The vote was 10-5.
Bill #150534 increases the City’s Parking tax by 12.5%, to raise $10 million: bit.ly/1B8qZiY. The vote was 11-4.
Bill #150535 raises the business Use & Occupancy tax by 7%, generating $10 million: bit.ly/1Gjnt48. The vote was 11-4.
To read an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the tax increases and Council’s last session before summer adjournment, please go to bit.ly/1Lk7WFm.
Neilson Resigns From City Council
At-Large City Councilman Ed Neilson on June 18 resigned and announced he would seek the 174th House District seat representing Northeast Philadelphia in a special election on Tuesday, August 11. The seat was left vacant when Representative John P. Sabatina, Jr. resigned after winning a Special Election for the 5th Senatorial District seat, formerly held by Lieutenant Governor Michael J. Stack III.
Neilson was not re-elected in the May 19 primary election for a full four-year term on Council.
To read KYW’s report, please go to cbsloc.al/1IcrGcg.
State Recommends New Formula for Education Funding
The Basic Education Funding Commission recommended on June 18 that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, members of the Commission announced.
The new formula takes into account the number of students, poverty, English language learners, charter school enrollment, local median household income as compared to the statewide median, and a school district’s ability to generate tax revenue.
On June 23, the Senate Education Committee unanimously reported out SB 910, which would codify the new basic education funding formula. It goes to the House but does not include language regarding when the formula should be implemented.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1BHV6xI.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1Lov9TP.
To read an article in Newsworks, please go to bit.ly/1BBs56S.
City Hall Apron Closed for Renovation
The north side of the apron around Philadelphia City Hall is now closed to the public for the summer for a $1.7 million renovation, which will include upgrades to the north entrance to the City Hall courtyard, Newsworks reported on June 15.
Plans call for resetting the steps that lead to the courtyard and planting flowers. The work is expected to be completed before the pope’s visit in September.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1J322YL.
Auction of Blighted Properties Brings in Almost $2 Million
On June 12, 93 bidders showed up for an auction of 89 City-owned vacant, delinquent, or blighted properties that sold for a total of $1.78 million, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The auction was organized by Councilman Mark Squilla and all were in his First Councilmanic District.
The properties were owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and the City of Philadelphia.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1d4qQ4b.
PICA Adjusts City’s Year-End Projected Balance Downward
The City of Philadelphia’s General Fund FY15 year-end balance is projected at $142.4 million, down $3.7 million from the previous quarter’s projection, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), which on June 11 released its Staff Report analyzing the City of Philadelphia’s Quarterly City Managers Report (QCMR) for the third quarter of fiscal year 2015 (FY15), which ended March 31.
Real Estate Tax collection was down $14.8 million due to delays in the appeal process, and the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT) was up $15 million due to stronger than anticipated collection. Overall taxes are projected at $2,781.9 million, the report noted.
FY15 General Fund obligations are projected at $3,865.6 million, an increase of $41 million from the original FY15-FY19 Five-Year Financial Plan, due to the loss of $700 million in the Philadelphia Gas Works sale that was quashed by City Council. The increase reflects costs of new labor contracts with the FOP, District Council 33, and correctional officers, higher than anticipated indemnities costs and Streets Department costs related to winter storms.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1NfBt1p [PDF].
In other PICA news, 2015 tax collections through May were slightly higher than fiscal year 2014 (FY14) levels, but General Fund tax collections in May totaled $212.1 million, a decrease of $49.9 million (19.1%) from the previous year.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1e8M1mH [PDF].
Center City District Sips
Center City District Sips continues this Wednesday, July 1, through September 2, at more than 80 official participating bars and restaurants in Center City. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. each Wednesday, participating establishments offer $5 cocktails, $4 wine, $3 beers and half-priced appetizers.
This year Rosa Blanca Café in Dilworth Park joins the festivities, offering outdoor seating and views of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the 11,160-square-foot fountain, grassy lawn, trees and flowers! Center City District Sips is sponsored by 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey.
For complete information and a list of participating bars and restaurants, please go to centercityphila.org/life/Sips.php.
Wawa Welcome America
Wawa Welcome America’s festivities on Saturday, July 4th begin at 10:00 a.m., with the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony at Independence Hall (Sixth and Chestnut Streets) with speeches commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the First LGBT Protest, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment. From there, the Independence Day Parade begins throughout Historic Philadelphia from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
The Party on the Parkway on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 20th Street to the Oval gets underway at noon with food vendors, music and games, as The Roots return for the 4th of July Jam along with R&B crooner Miguel and country star Jennifer Nettles. Fireworks will close out the holiday and will end about 11:00 p.m.
For complete information, please visit welcomeamerica.com.