Office Sector News
New Office Tower Planned for West Market
Liberty Property Trust has plans to build a 24-story, 400,000-square-foot office tower at the northwest corner of 19th and Arch Streets immediately to the west of the Comcast Center, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 14. The site has long been a surface parking lot. The building is expected to cost around $160 million, the article noted. Second-quarter reports put average West Market rental rates at slightly more than $28 per square foot.
If built, the tower would be the first built since the Comcast Center was completed in 2007.
Ballard Spahr Renews Lease
The law firm Ballard Spahr LLP has signed a 179,307-square-foot lease renewal at BNY Mellon Center, 1735 Market Street, for a term of more than 15 years, according to GlobeSt.com.
Wayne Fisher, executive managing director, and Craig Scheuerle, senior managing director, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, represented the landlord, CommonWealth REIT. CBRE represented the tenant. The property is managed by Reit Management & Research LLC, Real Estate Services.
Philadelphia Area Ranks 11th in Exports
The U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration issued a report on September 13 that ranked the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area 11th in the United States in the value of goods it exported last year.
Merchandise exports from the region totaled $26.2 billion in 2011, up 15.2%, or $3.4 billion, from 2010.
Philadelphia exports goods to Canada valued at $6 billion, to the United Kingdom at $4.8 billion; China at $1.8 billion; Turkey at $513 million; and Ireland at $413 million.
Among the goods, chemicals were the most lucrative at $10.6 billion; followed by petroleum and coal products at $2.1 billion; and transportation equipment at $1.6 billion.
To read the entire report, please go to http://tinyurl.com/94p7trk [PDF].
Historical Commission OKs Lit Brothers Sign
The Philadelphia Historical Commission on Friday approved in concept a sign proposed for the former Lit Brothers Department Store, now Mellon Independence Center, at Eighth and Market Streets, owned and managed by Brickstone Realty.
From the 1890s until its renovation in the 1980s, the building was crowned with large commercial signs, one of which announced "A Great Store For A Great City."
City Council in 2011 passed legislation that was intended to help create a digital sign district along Market East, in order to spur development and revitalization.
Report Documents Where City Residents Work
On September 6, the Center City District released a new 14-page report, Employment: Creating Opportunity for Philadelphia Residents, which examines for the first time where residents of the city's 10 Council Districts travel to work and notes the significant role played by Center City and the university campuses in providing opportunities for neighborhood residents. It also documents that 35% to 50% of citywide residents outside the downtown, even from the lowest income neighborhoods, commute to work in the suburbs.
In addition, the report shows that less than 15% of the working residents in any Council District work within the boundaries of the District in which they live. While employment in Center City is highly concentrated at 129 jobs per acre and easily accessible by transit, across the rest of the city, there are only four jobs per acre. The absence of jobs is one of the major reasons why 190,773 Philadelphians have to find work in the suburbs, while another 71,394 are unable to find work at all.
The report suggests the tax changes that are needed to prompt job growth in the city's neighborhoods and ensure that all Philadelphians are able to fully participate in the economy of the 21st century.
To download the report, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCREmployment2012.pdf [PDF].
To obtain printed copies of the report, please call 215.440.5546.
To read the September 10 favorable response to the report from the Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Inquirer, please go to tinyurl.com/dyfpyv3.
Eds and Meds News
School Commission Approves Borrowing $300 Million
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) on September 10 approved a plan to borrow $300 million to bridge the deficit incurred by the Philadelphia School District and approved a five-year financial plan to rein in labor costs, change practices, close underused schools, and seek additional revenue sources, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The loan would cover a deficit of more than $200 million for Fiscal Year 2013's $2.5 billion budget, plus an anticipated shortfall for Fiscal Year 2014. The bond deal will add approximately $22 million each year to the district's annual debt service of $264 million. The bond sale must be approved by the State Public School Building Authority. The SRC would like to implement the sale in October following approval.
New Additions at Reading Terminal Market
Two new stalls, The Head Nut and The Tubby Olive, opened September 1 at the Reading Terminal Market. Both are located along Avenue D, the newly-created aisle along the east side of the Market.
The Head Nut sells a vast selection of bulk products by weight, including spices, coffees, teas, nuts and grains. The Tubby Olive sells more than 30 flavored olive oils and vinegars on tap.
Later this fall, two more businesses will join the more than 75 merchants in the Market: Wursthaus Schmitz, a German food stand, and Valley Shepherd Creamery, a new cheese maker.
Arts and Culture News
Parkway Light Exhibit Altered to Accommodate Birds
The opening night celebration for the world premiere of Open Air by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer will be on Thursday, September 20, from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and the inner drive of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be closed during the festivities.
Open Air, which will combine public art with mobile technology to create a canopy of light along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 21st to 24th Streets during the evening hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., from September 20 through October 14, will alter its lighting schedule slightly to accommodate the migration of birds along the Atlantic Flyway.
Lozano-Hemmer will now put filters on the lights and will incorporate blackout periods. Also, a group of scientists will use binoculars to detect any problems with the birds, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The artwork was commissioned by the Association for Public Art (aPA), and is being presented in conjunction with the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and the 2012 DesignPhiladelphia Festival, and in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.
A Project Information Center, equipped with the app download, free mobile loan stations and seating areas for watching the lights, will be set up at Eakins Oval. In addition, an Information Outpost will be set up at Sister Cities Park.
For more details on how the artwork will use lights to relay messages, please go to openairphilly.net.
To read the article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, please go to tinyurl.com/9bm2fcz.
MOTU Seeks Comment on Streets 'Handbook'
The Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) and the Streets Department have released a draft of the Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook for public comment. The Handbook lays out preferred street designs and management practices and will be used by City and State agency staff, design professionals, private developers, community groups, and others involved in the planning, design and operation of streets in Philadelphia.
MOTU will host a public Complete Streets Handbook discussion on Monday, September 24, at the Municipal Services Building, Room 1450.
Also, communities can request a briefing from MOTU. All comments and questions should be directed to Ariel Ben-Amos (email@example.com –1401 JFK Boulevard, Suite 1430, Philadelphia, PA 19102). RSVPs are encouraged but not required.
To read the current draft of the Handbook, please go to philadelphiastreets.com/handbook.aspx.
More Cyclists, Fewer Accidents
As the number of bicyclists on Center City streets has increased, the number of bike crashes and deaths has declined, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday.
This trend, documented elsewhere, has been attributed to motorists becoming more alert to cyclists when there are more of them, the article noted.
Since 2002, the number of cyclists on Center City streets has more than doubled. In 2002, there were six bicyclists killed in accidents with motor vehicles; last year, there were two such deaths.
To read the article, please go to tinyurl.com/8jqfxyw.
PATCO Has New Website
The Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) on September 13 unveiled its newly-designed website. The design intends to make it easier and faster for riders to find standard information and updates. For example, one chart shows how frequently trains run at different times of the day and the longest wait to anticipate at each station.
To visit the new website, please go to ridepatco.org. To participate in the online PATCO Feedback Survey, please go to ridepatco.org/survey/index.html.
DVRPC Launches Yearlong Transportation Survey
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) earlier this month launched a year-long, $1.5 million region-wide transportation survey that it will use to make recommendations on a range of issues, including bus routes, bicycle paths, infrastructure work, pedestrian walkways, and more.
The DVRPC's previous survey was in 2000. Survey results will be analyzed for about six months following its September 2013 conclusion before the DVRPC makes recommendations.
Dranoff Properties Offers Bike-Sharing
Dranoff Properties on September 12 launched a free bike-sharing program for residents of Dranoff's five rental properties. Each property will offer Dranoff-branded bikes that residents can reserve for up to four hours between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Participating properties include 777 South Broad; Locust on the Park, 201 South 25th Street; the Left Bank, 3131 Walnut Street; Venice Lofts, 4601 Flat Rock Road, Manayunk; and the Victor, One Market Street, Camden.
SEPTA Budgets Online
The SEPTA Operating and Capital Budgets for Fiscal Year (FY13) are now available online.
The $1.28 billion Operating Budget represents an increase of about 3% over FY12, largely due to cost increases in areas such as healthcare, prescriptions and claims. The Capital Budget includes $303 million to pay for new vehicles and major construction projects.
To view the Operating Budget, please go to: septa.org/reports/pdf/opbudget13.pdf [PDF].
To view the Capital Budget, please go to: septa.org/reports/pdf/capbudget13.pdf [PDF].
Parks and Open Space News
City Unveils 9/11 Memorial
The City of Philadelphia unveiled its 9/11 memorial on Schuylkill Banks at Chestnut Street in a ceremony presided over by Mayor Nutter on Tuesday, September 11. The memorial, designed by Wells Appel landscape architects, was created using a steel beam from one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
PICA Reports on City's Five-Year Financial Plan
The City of Philadelphia's Five-Year Financial Plan for Fiscal Year 2013 to Fiscal Year 2017 (FY13-FY17) includes a cumulative total of $18.039 billion in projected General Fund revenues and $18.169 billion in obligations, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA). The FY13-17 Plan eliminates projected deficits, but by very narrow margins.
For FY13, total General Fund revenues are $3.568 billion and FY13 total expenditures are $3.604 billion with taxes providing the largest source of revenue (81%). Average annual General Fund revenue growth over the Plan is 0.76% and average annual tax revenue growth is 1.4%.
PICA suggests that labor contracts pose the single largest short-term financial risk to the Plan, as it does not include any increased costs for new contracts even though three of the four municipal union contracts are in the negotiation/arbitration process and have been operating without a contract since 2009.
To read the 130-page PICA report, please go to tinyurl.com/bn8umut [PDF].
In other news, PICA reported that City General Fund tax collections in August were $149.4 million, bringing the total for the first two months of Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) to $302.5 million, a decline of 1.2% from the same period last year.
Wage and earnings tax revenue was $123.1 million in August, a decline of 11.7% over the previous year. Total FY13 collections through August were $256.3 million, an increase of 0.6% compared to the same period in FY12.
To read the entire report, please go to tinyurl.com/9ar2ypf.
City Launches New Smart-Phone App
Mayor Nutter and Managing Director Richard Negrin on September 13 introduced the City's new Philly 311 Mobile App, which can be used by iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry devices. The app allows you to report issues such as graffiti, potholes, litter, vacant houses, open fire hydrants, and more; generate a work order; and receive a response when the issue is resolved.
In addition, the app provides bios, photos and contact information for top city officials. For more information, to download the app or to see the City's promotional video, please go to phila.gov/311/mobileapp.html.
Two Bills From City Council
Philadelphia City Council returned to session on Thursday, September 13, following the summer recess. Councilman Bobby Henon introduced Bill #120647 that would overhaul the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code to make it easier to understand and more streamlined so that the Department of Licenses & Inspection (L&I) can more effectively monitor unkempt properties. To read the bill, please go to tinyurl.com/9j2qlvd.
Also, Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr. introduced an ordinance that would reduce property tax abatements from 10 years to five. Beginning in 2014, the abatement would be 10 years, and then reduced 20% in each of the following years. To read Bill #120651, please go to tinyurl.com/8w5s7er.
Experts Offer Insights on Sale/Lease of Public Assets
The sale, or long-term lease, of public assets can be emblematic of good government if the proceeds are invested in worthy uses such as capital projects or pension liability relief, according to Dana Levenson, Chief Financial Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, who addressed the September meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation on September 11.
In addition, Thomas Lanctot, partner in William Blair & Company, a Chicago-based investment banking and asset management firm, advised that understanding how much risk is transferred with the sale or lease of an asset—for example, what impact technology might have on a long-term contract—is key to the negotiation. Lanctot noted that many European counties have a well-defined process for these transactions while the United States is approaching these deals without a playbook. Parking systems, toll roads, bridges and water and sewer systems are optimal candidates for sale or lease, he noted.
To view the Power Point presentations of the speakers, please go to centercityphila.org/about/Publications.php#presentations.
Still Time to Make Reservations for Fall Restaurant Week
The autumn edition of Center City District Restaurant Week Presented by TD Bank will take place September 30 to October 5 and October 7 to 12. Enjoy three-course meals for $35 in a record-setting 132 restaurants and three-course lunches for just $20 in 48 of these destinations. (Prices do not include tax, alcohol and gratuity.)
The Philadelphia Parking Association and Philadelphia Parking Authority will offer a place for your car at the deep discount of $9 or less at dozens of lots and garages all over Center City.
Find a restaurant, see the menus and make reservations at centercityphila.org/restaurantweek/, or easily access the information on the go on the mobile website, m.centercityphila.org. Also, follow our Twitter feed – @PhilaRestWeek.
An Invitation for CPDC's Young Professionals
On Tuesday, October 16, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Molly Malloy's in the Reading Terminal Market, 1136 Arch Street, young professionals at CPDC member firms are invited to network with other young professionals and hear from Paul Steinke, Reading Terminal Market's General Manager, about how in an age of supermarkets, the Reading Terminal Market thrives; and about how the success of the Market is partially due to the rise in popularity of locally grown, fresh food, and local entrepreneurs. Enjoy welcoming remarks from Paul R. Levy, CPDC's executive director and Center City District's President and CEO. Enter the Market on Filbert Street, through the first door east of 12th Street.
Complimentary appetizers will be served and two drink tickets provided. Space is limited, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12:00 p.m., Monday, October 8.
The event is open only to employees of CPDC member firms. The CPDC is grateful for the generous sponsorship of this event by the Reading Terminal Market.