Business Activity Edging Up
Two surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia indicated some improvement in business activity, though in both, overall indexes were still slightly negative.
Firms responding to September's Business Outlook Survey reported slight improvement in business activity during the month. But more firms reported a slight decrease in the number of employees (21.9%) than saw an increase (14.6%), while the majority (60.1%) saw no change. Looking ahead six months, however, 32.3% of the firms expected to add to their employees, compared to only 10.8% that expected to reduce the number of employees.
To read the entire report, please go to tinyurl.com/9v49fxy.
Meanwhile, nonmanufacturing businesses described a somewhat sluggish economy in the region during September, though they also reported improvement in their own firms. While more reported an increase in new orders than decreases, a larger percent (34.8%) indicated a reduction in full-time employees, while only 26.1% reported employee growth.
Looking ahead, the vast majority of firms were optimistic about the next six months for the region (73.9%) and for their own businesses (78.3%).
New Online Citywide Map Shows Employment Nodes
As a follow-up to the Center City District's (CCD) September 6 report, Employment: Creating Opportunity for Philadelphia Residents, the CCD has posted on its website a citywide map that shows all the major nodes and smaller clusters of private-sector employment across the city, with the ability to overlay the 10 Philadelphia councilmanic districts.
The new map is a helpful visual tool that further contributes to the examination of where residents of Philadelphia travel to work.
To read or download the 14-page report, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCREmployment2012.pdf [PDF].
To view the new map, please go to centercityphila.org/about/employment_report.php.
Eds and Meds News
Two Grants Announced
The Franklin Institute and the University of Pennsylvania will receive grants totaling $1,314,996 for scientific and educational projects, Congressman Chaka Fattah (D., Pennsylvania) announced on September 27.
The Franklin Institute will receive $815,123 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a project titled, "Full-Scale Development - LEAP into Science: Engaging Diverse Communities in Science and Literacy."
The University of Pennsylvania will receive an NSF grant of $499,873 for a project that will support the development of technological fluency and understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) concepts, working with middle and high school students, parents and the community.
To read the press release, please go to tinyurl.com/coylszt.
SugarHouse Casino Has Strong August
SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware Riverfront saw a substantial increase in its revenue in August, taking in $22,651,433, compared to July's $22,140,594, according to the Philadelphia Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
The Commonwealth's share of taxes in August was $6,336,868, compared to $6,186,792 in July. The City of Philadelphia's share in August was $769,595, compared to $751,522 in July.
To see revenue from all casinos, please go to tinyurl.com/bmeunzj.
In other gaming news, the PGCB issued its Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). Pennsylvania's 11 operating casinos employed 16,406 people and collected tax revenue from slot machines and table games totaling $1,505,328,835, the report noted.
SugarHouse completed its first complete year in FY12, and employed 1,098 individuals. The casino took in $271,025,001, with $75,906,818 in taxes going to the state and $9,216,831 going to the City. Of the City's share of taxes, $5,676,483 was paid to the Philadelphia School District, according to the report.
To read the entire report, please go to tinyurl.com/8z7srqj [PDF].
Arts and Culture News
Cultural Sector Major Economic Driver
Southeastern Pennsylvania's cultural sector ranks first in the nation in job creation, accounting for 11 jobs per thousand residents, nearly double the national average, and generating 44,000 jobs, according to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's new report, Arts Culture + Economic Prosperity in Greater Philadelphia.
The City of Philadelphia is third in per-capita cultural expenditures, just behind Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, but outpacing Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta, the report noted.
The report compares Philadelphia to 181 other cities, regions and communities and shows that Philadelphia's arts and cultural sector creates a $3.3 billion impact on the region's economy, generates $169 million in tax revenues for state and local governments, and is outperforming the nation as a whole.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/cpcznay [PDF].
Museum Reopens After Renovation
The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, 15 South Seventh Street, reopened to the public on September 22 after a three-year, $5.7 million renovation.
The revamped museum now has 6,500 square feet of space for exhibits, a 30% increase. One of the exhibits is devoted to city neighborhoods and will change on a regular basis.
The museum has an eclectic array of Americana artifacts including George Washington's pocket watch, Benjamin Franklin's ale tankard and Joe Frazier's boxing gloves.
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors; $6 for students and teenagers 13 to 18; free for children 12 and under.
For more information, please go to philadelphiahistory.org.
Barnes Foundation Earns Highest LEED Rating
The United States Green Building Council has awarded the new Barnes Foundation, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, its highest rating under the LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – system. The Barnes is the first major art institution in the country to achieve the designation, the council's "platinum" award, the New York Times reported on September 26.
To read the article, please go to tinyurl.com/cpkedd4.
Transportation and Infrastructure News
Poll: Americans Want More Transportation Options
Three out of four Americans are frustrated with the lack of transportation options, forcing them to drive more than they would prefer, according to a nationwide bipartisan survey released on September 12 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Two out of three support government investment to expand and improve public transportation and twice as many people favor new transit – buses, trains and light rail – rather than new highways as the best way to solve America's traffic woes, the survey revealed.
The survey of 800 Americans was conducted this summer by a bipartisan team — Public Opinion Strategies, which conducts polling for Republican candidates, and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, which specializes in polling for Democratic candidates.
To view a presentation on the poll results, please go to tinyurl.com/9vs5mtt [PDF].
Walt Whitman Bridge in Phase Five of Repairs
Phase Five of the Walt Whitman Bridge re-decking project began September 25 with a new traffic pattern: four lanes open into Philadelphia and two into New Jersey during morning rush hour, three lanes in each direction during evening rush hour, the Delaware River Port Authority announced.
The seven-phase redecking project includes the removal of the suspended span, installation of a new lightweight grid deck, structural improvements, new parapets and a new steel-shell movable barrier. The project began in August 2011 and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.
Schuylkill Banks Bridge to Open
The Schuylkill River Parks Connector Bridge, just south of Locust Street, will connect Schuylkill River Park to Schuylkill Banks, and will be opened to the public on Saturday, October 20, PlanPhilly reported.
The bridge, which will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to cross over the CSX tracks when they are occupied by trains, was designed by HNTB Corporation with landscaping created by Menke and Menke Landscape Architects.
The bridge is a 95-foot-long truncated arch truss structure with a 12-foot-wide pathway. There will be 10-foot-wide ADA accessible ramps on the approaches and three overlooks.
Street Repairs in Center City
The resurfacing of several streets in Center City will continue at least throughout the first week of October, depending on the weather, and cause some street closures and parking restrictions. The work will include milling, adjusting of manhole covers, resetting of utility boxes, and paving, according to the Streets Department.
The streets that will be repaired are: Front Street, from Dock Street to Market Street; Second Street, from Walnut Street to Market Street; Third Street, from South Street to Chestnut Street; and Fourth Street, from South Street to Chestnut Street.
Milling, adjusting and resetting of utility boxes is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Paving work is performed from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Parks and Open Space News
Sister Cities Park Honored
At its recent Annual Conference, the International Downtown Association (IDA) recognized the Center City District (CCD) with a Downtown Merit Award for its work on the renovation of Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The $5.2 million renovation of Sister Cities Park transformed the 1.3-acre site into a richly planted, well-illuminated and welcoming public space that offers a variety of amenities for people of all ages to enjoy 365 days a year, and was among 22 entries in the category of Public Space.
To learn more about Sister Cities Park, please visit the CCD website at centercityphila.org/life/sister_cities.php.
Residential Market News
Old City Project Advances
A mixed-use building proposed for 205 Race Street won approval from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission on September 18, PlanPhilly reported.
The developer, Brown Hill, wants to build a 16-story, 128-unit apartment building with commercial space on the ground floor, but needs several variances related to its height, size and number of proposed parking spaces. Peter Gluck and Partners of New York City is the architect.
The developer will next seek approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Old City Civic Association is opposed to the project.
City Residential Taxes More Competitive With Suburbs
Philadelphia's residential tax burden — defined as the percentage of income paid in state and local income, sales and property taxes — declined in the city and rose substantially in the suburbs, according to a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative.
The analysis looked at Philadelphia and 236 suburban municipalities and determined that the tax burden in 2012 for middle-income Philadelphia residents, when compared to those for suburban non-commuters, was 48th highest, compared to being third-highest in 2000.
The improvement resulted from reductions in the city wage tax, the levying of income taxes in most suburban towns, and the City's failure to assess real estate appropriately as the market substantially improved in the last decade.
To read the entire report, Residential Taxes: A Narrowing Gap Between Philadelphia and Its Suburbs, please go to tinyurl.com/8ndneqq [PDF].
New Census Report Documents Growth of Downtowns
The U.S. Census Bureau on September 27 released a report showing that Philadelphia had the third-largest increase in downtown population after Chicago and New York, between the 2000 Census and the 2010 Census. The report documented the trend that many of the country's largest metropolitan areas, those with 5 million or more people, experienced double-digit population growth rates within their downtown areas.
In Philadelphia, the Census defined downtown by drawing a two-mile radius around City Hall, and found Philadelphia's downtown population increased from 214,760 to 235,529, or 9.7%, between 2000 and 2010.
In its 2011 demographic report, the Center City District (CCD), using a different geography, showed the downtown population increasing from 163,205 to 179,903, or 10.2%.
To read the new report from the U.S. Census, Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010, please go to tinyurl.com/c2nf9pf [PDF].
To read the CCD report, Leading the Way: Population Growth Downtown, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCR_Demographics2011.pdf [PDF].
To read the CCD's Census Update to that report, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/2011CensusUpdate.pdf [PDF].
Tax Revenues Mixed in August
City of Philadelphia tax revenues for August totaled $177.8 million, a 9% decrease from the same month last year, according to the Office of the City Controller's August Financial Forecast & Snapshot.
City tax collections for the first two months of the fiscal year totaled $361.3 million, approximately the same amount collected during the same period last year.
Wage, earnings and net profit tax collections totaled $123.1 million, a 12% decrease over collections in August 2011.
Monthly sales tax revenue was $23.7 million, a 7% increase from August of last year, and the second-highest monthly collection since Philadelphia adopted the 8% sales tax rate in October 2009.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/cduocse [PDF].
Bill Would Allow Digital Signs on Newsstands
Councilman William K. Greenlee on September 27 introduced Bill #120754 that would allow newsstand owners to erect electronic or digital signs on each side of their stands. Advertising on the street side of the newsstand could be a maximum of 7 feet high and 8 feet wide. On the narrow sides, the signs could be no more than 3 feet wide by 5 feet tall. Newsstand owners would pay an additional 7% excise tax on the advertising purchase price. The bill was referred to the Committee on Streets and Services. To read the bill, please go to tinyurl.com/8fkcdt4.
Bill Would Provide Tax Break for Employers Transferring to State
State Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre County) on September 24 introduced HB 2626, which would create a tax-incentive program to encourage out-of-state employers to relocate to Pennsylvania.
The bill, known as PEP! (Promoting Employment Across Pennsylvania), would offer a temporary tax incentive to employers who bring a minimum number of new jobs, pay good wages, and provide health insurance to full-time employees, paying at least 50% of the health insurance premium. The tax incentive would only apply to Personal Income Tax (PIT) withholdings. Employers would still pay local taxes, 5% of the state PIT tax, and State Sales and Use Taxes, according to a statement issued by Benninghoff. The bill was approved by the House Finance Committee on September 25 and is headed to the full House.
To read HB 2626, please go to tinyurl.com/d26qqp3 [PDF].
New Pedestrian-Scale Lighting Installed
The CCD has completed the installation of 124 pedestrian-scale light fixtures in three areas of Center City: Chinatown, Old City and Washington Square West.
In Chinatown, 46 new red pagoda-style pedestrian lights were installed in the 900 and 1000 blocks of Arch Street plus 10th Street between Arch and Race Streets, extending lighting that the City of Philadelphia had installed last year on 10th Street between Race and Vine Streets. The CCD also installed new floodlights that will highlight the Chinatown Friendship Gate. The Chinatown lighting was funded in part by the CCD and in part by a grant from the City of Philadelphia.
Just north of Market Street East, new green CCD-style pedestrian lights were added along Eighth Street between Market and Filbert Streets. Here, the lighting was funded by a combination of CCD resources and contributions from adjacent property owners, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and Brickstone Realty.
In Old City, the CCD added pedestrian lighting to two blocks on Third Street between Market and Race Streets. In Washington Square West, new lighting was added to three blocks, including the 1000 block of Spruce, and on 11th and 12th Streets, between Spruce and Pine Streets. The lighting in Old City and Washington Square West was funded by the City of Philadelphia.
Since 1996, the CCD has installed 2,179 ornamental, pedestrian-scale lights throughout Center City.
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 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. Welcoming remarks will be made by Paul R. Levy, CPDC's executive director. 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.
Council Hearing Will Focus on Economic Development
City Council's Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, October 9, at 1:00 p.m., and again on Wednesday, October 10, at 1:00 p.m., to investigate how to take advantage of global opportunities and the creative/innovative economy to spur economic development and bring jobs to Philadelphia.
The hearings were authorized by Resolution #120128, introduced by Councilman David Oh and adopted by Council last winter.
To read the full resolution, please go to tinyurl.com/cpbzfwk [PDF].
PenTrans Annual Meeting
Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions, PenTrans, will hold its Annual Meeting and Luncheon, "Moving Ahead for Progress in Pennsylvania," on Thursday, October 18, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at The Pyramid Club, 1735 Market Street.
Key leaders will discuss how we can make the most of new federal surface transportation law. The panel will include Renee Sigel, FHWA Division Administrator; Brigid Hynes-Cherin, FTA Regional Administrator; Joe Casey, SEPTA General Manager; and Larry S. Shifflet, Director, PennDOT Center for Program Development. The discussion will be moderated by Susan E. Schruth of Hill International.
Cost is $50 for PenTrans members and their guests; $65 for non-members. To register, please go to tinyurl.com/cgqo8zt.