Employees Moving to Center City from Suburbs
Wolters Kluwer Health, a multimedia company that provides information to the healthcare industry, will move 119 employees from its Ambler office to its Center City headquarters at Two Commerce Square, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 16.
The company, which will have about 400 workers in Center City, will add 8,000 SF of office space to the 76,000 SF they are already leasing, the article noted. The move is expected to be completed by the end of November.
Earlier this month, Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that Brand.com, a tech company that manages online content, would transfer 120 employees from West Chester to the Curtis Center, and hire an additional 100 employees for the office in Center City.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1golsnH.
Eds and Meds News
Penn Medicine Washington Square Officially Opens
Penn Medicine on September 19 officially opened Penn Medicine Washington Square, a new 153,000-square-foot, "green" building at 800 Walnut Street, built atop an existing parking garage and occupying floors 8 through 20.
More than 100 health providers, previously in seven different locations, were co-located in the building to provide services in cardiology, concierge medicine, otorhinolaryngology, primary care, surgery and women's health.
Philadelphia's GDP Grows Almost 10%
The Philadelphia region ranked 8th in the country for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a rate of growth of 9.4% between 2009 and 2012, according to a report in The Atlantic, based on data released on September 17 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Houston, ranked 6th in GDP, experienced the highest rate of growth during this period at 26.1%. New York, ranked #1 in total GDP with growth, at 11.1%.
The 10 largest metropolitan areas, accounting for 34% of national GDP, averaged 3.1% growth in 2012 after growing 1.9% in 2011, according to the government report.
To read the article in The Atlantic, please go to bit.ly/16iviSp.
To read the government report, please go to http://1.usa.gov/14ftYTM [PDF].
Manufacturing Activity Improves
Regional manufacturing firms responding to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Business Outlook Survey for September indicated that business activity significantly improved. The number of firms reporting an increase in new orders (38.5%) was substantially higher than those reporting a decrease (17.3%). The number of companies reporting more employees (20.7%) was well above those reporting fewer employees (10.4%).
Looking ahead six months, more than half of the firms (58.2%) expected an increase in business, while none expected business to decrease. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/14AFcCr [PDF].
Nonmanufacturing Robust in September
Responses to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's survey of nonmanufacturing firms also point to improvement in September. Sales were up for 61.1% of the companies in September and down for only 13.9%. The number of firms reporting an increased number of full-time employees was 30.6%; while 8.3% reported decreases.
Respondents remained optimistic about activity over the next six months: 80.6% of the firms expected economic activity to increase, while none expected it to decrease, and 13.9% responded that it would remain the same.
CBRE Group Buys Fameco
CBRE Group, Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles, on September 26 announced it had acquired Fameco, a local retail real estate services firm with headquarters in Conshohocken and offices in Center City Philadelphia and Iselin, N.J.
Fameco formed in 1992 and provides retailer representation, agency leasing, investment sales, land brokerage and property management in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. With the acquisition of Fameco, CBRE Group will add 250 shopping centers and retail properties, totaling 20 million square feet, and 75 retailers to its tenant representation roster.
Fameco's 100 employees will join CBRE Group and, for now, CBRE | Fameco, as the company will be known, will continue to be based out of Conshohocken.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/19JPZsp.
SugarHouse Revenue Rebounds in August
Revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware Riverfront increased substantially in August, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In August, the casino took in $22,257,611, compared to July's $19,440,486. The Commonwealth's share of taxes was $6,065,128 in August, compared to $5,669,148 in the previous month. The City of Philadelphia collected $750,122 in August, compared to $692,109 in July.
To see all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/Smpoyp.
City Favors Center City Casinos
At a hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) on September 24, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger conveyed the Nutter Administration's preference for the two Center City casino proposals — Market8 on east Market Street and The Provence on North Broad Street — over four other proposals for a second license in the city for as many as 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games.
The City team suggested that the market for casinos is approaching saturation and that projects with the broadest mix of entertainment such as restaurants, shops, theaters, nightclubs and bars — such as Ken Goldenberg's Market8 and Bart Blatstein's The Provence — would be most advantageous to the state and for city economic development, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
To view Market8's latest design, please go to bit.ly/19uCA8P. To view Blatstein's proposal, go to theprovencecasino.com.
The PGCB is evaluating each of the six casino applications, as well as the investors behind them. On September 24, the PGCB announced that the deadline to receive written comment on the six projects had been extended from September 30 to November 29.
More public hearings will be held on January 28, 29, and 30, 2014. The six hearings will begin each day at 9:00 a.m. and will be held in Room 114 of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
For more information, please visit gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Coalition Urges Passage of Transportation Bill
A group of 45 business and labor leaders gathered in the Capitol Media Center on September 24 to call on Governor Tom Corbett and members of the General Assembly to pass SB1, the $2.5 billion transportation bill passed by the Senate by a 45-5 vote in the previous session.
Rob Wonderling, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Rick Bloomingdale, president of Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Dave Patti, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council; Pat Gillespie, Business Manager, Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council; and Ryan Boyer, Business Manager, Laborers District Council of Philadelphia and Vicinity, were among those who spoke on behalf of the bill.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said he was going to bring the bill to a vote quickly and call for an up-and-down count, the Associated Press reported.
A study by Econsult Solutions, Inc., "The Economic Consequences of a Failure to Fund SEPTA," determined that truncating SEPTA rail service would create a loss in real estate value of $14 billion in Philadelphia and $22 billion in the region. Richard Voith, president of Econsult Solutions Inc., shared information from the report at a September 25 conference sponsored by Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions (PenTRANS), according to the Philadelphia Real Estate blog (http://bit.ly/18sUit9).
At the same gathering, former Governor Ed Rendell told the group that they needed to push harder to get the transportation package through the legislature in Harrisburg.
According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranked seventh of 144 countries in competitiveness in 2012, falling from second in 2009, according to an article, U.S. Public Finance: Short-Term Savings On Infrastructure Spending Could Prove To Be Short Sighted, published in Standard & Poor's Global Credit Portal.
The U.S. ranked 25th in quality of infrastructure, 34th in health and primary education, and 140th in macroeconomic environment, according to the article.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assigned a grade of "D+" (poor) to the quality of infrastructure in the U.S. in its 2013 infrastructure report card.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/15Wzsnm.
New Lights Over the Schuylkill
Four main spans over the Schuylkill River — Market Street, Walnut Street, JFK Boulevard and a SEPTA railroad bridge — were lit during ceremonies set along the Schuylkill Banks Thursday evening.
The new LED lights are more reliable and less costly to maintain than the traditional lights that were installed in December 1999.
PennDOT is planning reconstruction work on the Chestnut Street bridge within the next two years, so new lights will not be added to that bridge until after the work is completed.
Boston Uses Competition to Create New Subway Map
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) used a public map redesign competition, launched in April, to see how Boston's current subway map could be re-imagined and improved, The Atlantic Cities reported. To see the six finalist maps in the redesign competition, please go to bit.ly/17WTr1v.
PICA Approves Five-Year Plan
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) unanimously approved Mayor Nutter's revised five-year plan on September 17, despite the PICA's staff recommendation that the board vote to disapprove it. The five-year plan was revised to include the arbitrator's award to the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22.
The primary quantifiable risks in the plan are the impact of wage increases beyond those assumed in the Plan, employee benefit cost increases that exceed Plan projections, and the potential inability to achieve savings due to changes in pension benefits that have been proposed, the report noted.
The city's Pension obligations now consume 17% of the City's annual General Fund budget.
PICA board chair Sam Katz said that while he had concerns with the plan, they did not justify having the state withhold $350 million in state aid, which would have occurred had the plan not been approved, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.
To read the PICA report, please go to bit.ly/18nmDB0 [PDF].
Property Assessment Data to be Made Public
Mayor Michael A. Nutter on September 6 signed into law Bill #130443-A, introduced In May by Councilman Bobby Henon, on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke. The new law requires the City to publish its methodology for creating property tax assessments, conduct an annual reassessment of all properties, including tax-exempt properties, and establish standards for recommending tax exemption for properties.
In addition, at least once every three years, beginning with the year 2014, the ordinance requires an audit by an independent firm to complete a statistical analysis of the performance of the appraisers and the accuracy of the property assessment.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/143yAt5.
City Is Behind on AVI Appeals
The Office of Property Assessment (OPA) on September 23 sent letters to those homeowners who have appealed their new AVI tax assessments advising them that OPA had not completed the first-level reviews. Of about 50,000 appeals, the City has completed about half, according to a report by KYW.
The deadline to file a formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT) is October 7, so the City is advising those who haven't resolved their first-level appeal to also apply for the formal review.
Of the 24,693 first-level reviews that were completed, roughly 21,000 saw no change in their assessment, slightly more than 3,000 saw their assessment lowered, while 61 owners saw their assessment raised, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to cbsloc.al/16tsWjD.
City Council U&O Tax Bills Progressing
Bill #130161, another post-AVI attempt to shift the tax burden from residents to businesses, sponsored by Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, is on Council's agenda for a second reading on Thursday, October 3. It was held on September 26.
After a 19% increase in 2012, the U&O rate was set in 2013 at 1.13% slightly higher than the 0.92% "revenue neutral" rate that was proposed by the Nutter Administration. This new bill proposes to raise the rate to 1.42% (an increase of 25.6%) and to allocate 1.16% to the School District of Philadelphia and to add an additional .26% to be paid the City.
For information about the current U&0 rates please go to phila.gov/Revenue/businesses/taxes/Pages/UseOccupancy.aspx.
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has suggested that the bill creates a major impediment to city competitiveness. To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/15OMe5h.
Also, Councilman Bobby Henon's Bill#130451, which would exclude many manufacturing businesses from paying U&O taxes, is on the agenda for a second reading on the same day. Among the exemptions are manufacturers of beverages, tobacco products, textiles, petroleum, printing, metals, chemicals, rubber, computers and electronics, and many more. That bill can be found at bit.ly/150c0Tw and also was held on September 26.
In other U&O news, City Council's Committee on Finance will hold a public hearing on Friday, October 4, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 400 of City Hall, to hear testimony on Bill #130592.
The bill, titled "Authorization of Realty Use and Occupancy Tax," provides for tolling interest, penalties and costs when the assessed value of taxable property is under appeal; limiting what the Department can bill for tax years under appeal; and requiring for the tax year under appeal payment of an amount at least equal to the prior year's tax.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/15qwow8.
Proposed Reduction in Tax-Abatement
Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. on September 19 withdrew his Bill #120651, which would have changed the terms of the highly successful 10-year tax abatement, by annually reducing the percent of taxes that would be abated. Goode decided to put his energy behind another tax-abatement curtailment bill he introduced on September 12, Bill #130586. This legislation would eliminate entirely the portion of the abatement of taxes going to the Philadelphia School District, cutting the value of the incentive by more than half, and limiting the exemption to the cost of construction or improvements. To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1aI0SkV. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Resolution Would Allow Vote on 'Living Wage' for Sub-Contractors
In a roll-call vote, City Council on September 26 voted unanimously to adopt Resolution #130544, introduced by Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr., that would allow a proposed change to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to be put on the ballot. The change would require employees of subcontractors on City contracts to be paid a "living wage," defined as 150% of the Federal Minimum Wage. This would be in addition to the 2012 ordinance that requires all contractors working on City projects to pay their employees a "living wage." The enabling legislation for the resolution is Bill #130532 and also passed unanimously.
To read the resolution, please go to bit.ly/15zjzzO. For Bill #130532, please go to bit.ly/189MSvP.
Residents' Opinion of City Dips
In a new poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts, residents gave the city lower ratings than at any time during the five years that Pew has been polling locally.
In the poll, conducted in the midst of the school funding crisis, 45% of respondents said the city was "off on the wrong track," compared with 37% who said it was "headed in the right direction"; 37% of residents said the city had become a worse place to live during the past five years, while 25% said it was better.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter's ratings were the lowest recorded in the five years of Pew surveys. Only 39% of residents said they approved of the mayor's job performance, while 52% disapproved. Opinions of City Council were even less favorable with only 30% of respondents approving of the job the Council is doing.
Despite these negative perceptions, three-fifths of Philadelphians said they considered the city a good or excellent place to live, roughly the same as in previous years.
To read the report, Philadelphians' Attitudes Toward Their City Take a Downward Turn, please go to bit.ly/174y1U2.
Low Ratings for City Schools in Pew Poll
In a second poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 18% of Philadelphians surveyed said the schools were doing a good or excellent job, and 78% described the schools as "only fair" or poor.
Parents with children in district-run schools gave the public system slightly higher marks, with 23% of them describing the schools as good or excellent.
As a result of the district's budget difficulties, 48% of Philadelphians said they expect families to seek other education options within the city, and 23% expect families to begin leaving the city.
To read the report, released on September 17, please go to bit.ly/16x1GAI.
Urban Engineers Achieves LEED Silver
Urban Engineers announced that the United States Green Building Council has recognized the firm's Philadelphia Headquarters, on the seventh and eighth floors of the Penn Mutual Towers at 510-530 Walnut Street, as LEED® Silver under the 2009 Commercial Interiors (CI) rating system.
Urban utilized Energy Star-rated appliances, low-emitting materials, high-efficiency lighting, and water-saving fixtures in their 66,500-SF office. They also secured upgrades during lease negotiations that included 55 additional bike parking spaces with innovative bike lockers.
New Mural Celebrates the Seasons
The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, both of whom are celebrating 30th anniversaries, have teamed up to create a special temporary mural by artist David Guinn. The mural is expected to be up for at least six months.
The two-paneled mural depicts the changing of the four seasons and is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway side of the hotel facing Logan Circle and Sister Cities Park.
CPDC Young Professionals Series
The Central Philadelphia Development Corporation's (CPDC) Young Professionals Series will present "Imagine. Network. Be Inspired." on Thursday, October 3, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at the Morris Café in the United Plaza building, 30 South 17th Street. (Entrance is on 17th Street, between Market and Chestnut Streets.)
Enjoy complimentary appetizers along with a wine-and-beer open bar. Network with other young professionals and hear from Josh Kopelman, Partner at First Round Capital, about why his venture capital firm relocated to Philadelphia and what he sees as the strengths and challenges in the city today.
You must be an employee of a CPDC member firm to attend.
This event is generously sponsored by CPDC member Duane Morris LLP.
Fall Family Fun Days at Sister Cities Park
Every Saturday in October, beginning October 5, Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will present Fall Family Fun Days, celebrating the joys of autumn from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 pm with music, family-friendly activities, pumpkins and other seasonal decorations for sale from Urban Jungle, along with fall-themed food and drinks. Throughout the month, you can enjoy the Scarecrow Festival on exhibit presented by the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation after-school program. And on October 26, there will be a Kids Halloween Costume Parade. All activities are free and open to the public. You'll want to bring friends, kids and the whole family to Sister Cities Park every single Saturday!
For more information, please visit SisterCitiesPark.org.
On Wednesday, October 9, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance will present a book discussion, "Is It the End of the Suburbs?," with author Leigh Gallagher, author of The End of the Suburbs, and Inga Saffron, architecture critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, at Paradiso restaurant, 1627 Passyunk Avenue.
The American Dream of homeownership was equated with an ideal of suburban living: single-family detached home, two cars in the driveway, and multiple children attending strong public schools. But as the nation emerges from the housing bust and Millennials defer marriage, homeownership, and children, the singular suburban American Dream may be giving way to a more heterogeneous vision.
Tickets are $30, if pre-registered; $40 at the door. To register, please go to conta.cc/16ck08Z.
DRWC Moving Ahead on Penn's Landing
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) will hold a public meeting, "The New Penn's Landing," on October 15, at 7:00 p.m., at Festival Pier, 601 North Columbus Boulevard. Free parking is available.
The Master Plan for the Central Delaware River waterfront proposed a new vision for Penn's Landing: a spacious green park, sloping gently towards the river, connecting Chestnut and Walnut Streets from Front Street, over I-95, and across Columbus Boulevard.
DRWC is now moving the conceptual plan to the next phase. The design team, led by Hargreaves Associates, is creating a plan for the site that incorporates landscape architecture, urban design, engineering, programming, development, and cost estimates.
To register for this event, please go to pennslanding.eventbrite.com.