Office Sector News
United Way To Sell Parkway Building
The United Way of Greater Philadelphia has announced plans to sell its headquarters at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The 8-story, 60,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1968 and zoned to allow for mixed-use development. It is valued at $8.6 million.
In a statement, the nonprofit said that after an 18-month evaluation of its operations, it concluded that “if sale of the building could generate significant revenue, the opportunity cost of investing in a building versus investing in the community and in our initiatives is too great.”
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2hiX6p2.
United Way’s decision follows close on the heels of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia releasing a request for proposals for mixed-used development of the entire city block that surrounds the Cathedral.
Reis Ranks Philadelphia 12th In Amazon HQ Contest
The Amazon handicapping continues, with the latest study by real estate research firm Reis Inc. ranking Philadelphia 12th on its list of probable spots to land the e-commerce giant's second headquarters.
Reis speculates that New York City is HQ2’s most likely home, followed by San Francisco and Washington, D.C. – cities all earning high marks for public transportation and amenities. The report states that Philadelphia’s access to higher education is a big plus but its business taxes are a drawback.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zuzUiW.
$3.5 Billion Schuylkill Yards Breaks Ground
Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust have broken ground on their $3.5 billion, 14-acre Schuylkill Yards mixed-use project.
The groundbreaking took place November 8 at 3001 Market St., which will be the site of the future 1.3-acre Drexel Square, an elliptical park designed by Shop Architects and West 8 to replace what currently is a parking lot across from 30th Street Station.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zms2iR.
SugarHouse Drops Lawsuit for 2nd Philadelphia Casino
SugarHouse Casino has dropped its long-running lawsuit that has blocked construction of the Live! Hotel & Casino in South Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill November 2 repealing a 2004 ownership restriction on casinos, rendering SugarHouse’s objections moot to Stadium Casino LLC’s license.
Stadium Casino won a four-way competition for a license in 2014. Live! will be owned and operated by the Cordish Cos. of Baltimore and Parx Casino owner Greenwood Racing Inc.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2gYCd2l.
Art Commission OKs Plan for Digital Kiosks
The Art Commission has approved plans for 100 outdoor kiosks that provide free WiFi. The kiosks, called Links, stand 9.5 feet tall and feature LED advertising panels, USB ports and 911 call buttons. Most will be installed in Center City and University City.
The city will earn about $450,000 annually in ad revenue. Advertising firm Intersection will pay for the installation. Civic and design groups had expressed concerns about the brightness and size of the structures.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2iWdq3e.
Residential Market News
Philadelphia Housing Market Continues To Flourish
Home values have appreciated, sales have been strong, and formerly disinvested neighborhoods have seen increasing activity, according to a new report by Drexel University economist Kevin Gillen.
The housing report notes that Philadelphia home values in the third quarter of 2017 jumped 10.6% compared to the year before — more than double the city’s average historic appreciation rate of 4.5%. During that same July to September period, the median price of a Philadelphia home was $159,900.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2yHVptc.
Is Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning Philadelphia’s Affordable Housing Solution?
A bill introduced by Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez has proposed mandatory inclusionary zoning as a means of providing more affordable housing in Philadelphia in light of diminishing federal funds. The bill is being opposed by some industry groups, who argue that the measure would likely produce few meaningful benefits and could potentially discourage developers from building sufficient market-rate housing.
Quiñones-Sánchez bill would, among other requirements, call for developers building more than 10 units of market-rate housing to make at least 10% of the units affordable.
The Building Industry Association, which opposes the bill, released a study that concluded the legislation would halt development in the city. The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations issued a rebuttal disputing the BIA’s methodology and its findings.
Joe Cortright, an economist at City Observatory, said research has found that inclusionary zoning is counterproductive and creates disincentives for the private sector to invest in additional housing stock. The Councilwoman has been holding working sessions with different groups to discuss potential amendments. A public hearing is expected just after Thanksgiving.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zrFqlt.
For the BIA report, please go to bit.ly/2zsVHXy.
For the PACDC report, please go to bit.ly/2AljG8j [PDF].
For the City Observatory report, please go to bit.ly/2zGtBZJ.
1600 Callowhill Converting From Offices To Apartments
A 107-year-old industrial building that currently houses offices at 1600 Callowhill St. is being converted into 93 rental units and 2,600 square feet of ground floor retail. Greenwich, Conn.-based Ivy Realty, which acquired the 123,750-square-foot building for $11 million in December 2016, is borrowing $23.3 million for the project.
Ivy plans to maintain the former warehouse’s historic character in its renovation plans, to qualify for support through the federal historic tax credit program.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2AdDdIy.
Extended-Stay Apartment Service Launches In Philadelphia
A global network of furnished and high-end apartments designed for medium-length stays has launched in Philadelphia with a new building in Old City. Stayawhile, a startup now operating in nine cities in the U.S. and Europe, is targeted to travelers seeking a middle ground between Airbnb and long-term rentals.
The apartments at 300 Market St. cost $2,340 per month, with a minimum stay of 30 days. Those using the service are required to apply for a Stayawhile membership and pass credit and background checks. Members can then use the service in any of the network’s other locations.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zaKb0B.
New Report Tracks Income, Demographic Changes In U.S. Cities
A new analysis of census data from the Demographics Research Group at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia quantifies the rapid rise of incomes, education levels and young adults in downtown urban centers nationwide.
In Philadelphia, for example, the share of college graduates in Center City has increased since 1990 by 26 percentage points (from 40% to 66%)while growing just 12 points (from 21% to 33%) 30 miles out. The per capita income advantage for Center City versus 30 miles out has widened from about $7,000 in 1990 to $15,300 today.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/1Nv95cT.
Venture Capital Activity Drops In Greater Philadelphia For 2017
After three years of continuous growth, investment activity in Greater Philadelphia fell in the first three quarters of 2017, according to a new Philadelphia Alliance of Capital and Technologies report.
The region saw $529 million in investments in 2017, down from $842 million in 2014, $882 million in 2015, and $1.01 billion in 2016. The number of deals also fell, from 196 in 2014 to 121 in 2017. The report notes that the decline is part of a national trend, and concludes that raising venture capital is the key impediment to the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2gYMmfD.
Construction Jobs Decline In Suburbs, Rise In Philadelphia
The Philadelphia suburbs saw a marked decline in construction jobs over the past decade, while the numbers rose substantially in the city of Philadelphia during the same period, based on data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of construction jobs in the overall Philadelphia metropolitan area fell 10% between September 2007 and September 2017, placing the metropolitan area 44th among 64 major metropolitan areas in job growth. During the same 10-year period, construction jobs in the city itself increased 8%.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zsOoj5.
Philadelphia 10th In North America For Sustainable Transportation
A new report ranks Philadelphia 10th in North America for the sustainability of its public transportation systems. The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Mobility Index examined 100 large cities using 23 benchmarks to determine the ranking of their transportation systems’ mobility and sustainability.
Arcadis, a design consultancy firm, analyzed factors including each city’s financial commitment to public transportation infrastructure, commuting time, and affordability of public transit. Philadelphia performed best in categories related to energy, pollution, and emissions.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2hn9Awn.
Arts and Culture News
Penn Museum Begins First Renovation In Nearly 100 Years
Construction has begun at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on its first major renovation in nearly a century. The renovation work by Gluckman Tang Architects and HSC Builders and Construction Managers includes reconfigured museum galleries, enhanced accessibility, and air conditioning. The first phase will be completed in September 2019.
The museum was founded in 1887. Its holdings include 12,000 skeletons as well as mummies, a sphinx and thousands of historical objects.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2Aa3Myd.
Parks and Open Space News
Swing Bridge To Extend Schuylkill Waterfront Trail
A long unused railroad swing bridge will be converted into a biking and pedestrian crossing and link portions of the river trail now separated by the river itself. The 115-year-old bridge, donated to the city by Conrail, has been locked in the open position since rail operations there ended in 1984.
The project is scheduled to begin in March 2018, with plans including a pedestrian overlook and lighting. It is scheduled to be completed by December 2019.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2lMQ9BK.
76 Trees Being Added To Independence Park
Philadelphia has begun planting 76 new trees, anticipating a mature canopy in time for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The trees will include a variety of species, all historically accurate to 18th century Philadelphia. They will be scattered throughout the 55 acres of the park at a cost of $380,000, a gift from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2zwT471.
Knight Foundation Awards $3.28M To Fairmount Park Conservancy
The Knight Foundation has awarded a $3.28 million grant to the Fairmount Park Conservancy to develop a citywide strategy around civic participation with the city’s public spaces.
The funding will help the Conservancy create a network of public and nonprofit partners to build community participation around public spaces. The goal is to level the playing field between neighborhoods that are able to invest heavily in their parks and recreation centers, and those that are not.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2yDBdvQ.
Improving Service Alleys Benefits Businesses and Residents Alike
CCD has long advocated for improving the appearance of many of Center City’s service alleys through better management of dumpsters because it would not only create a more pleasant walking environment, it could also encourage some startup businesses in the commercial district to open on these intimate scale streets.
For a few suggestions about residential alleys, see the recent blog post by William West at bit.ly/2hLlIro.
City Spent $47M In OT During First Quarter of FY2018
PICA’s Quarterly Overtime Update for the first quarter of FY2018 showed City of Philadelphia overtime costs totaled $47 million, or 34.7% of the annual overtime allocation—with three quarters still remaining in the fiscal year.
Despite reducing first quarter overtime costs over the prior fiscal year, city officials should continue to closely monitor and manage overtime over the remainder of this fiscal year to ensure departments stay within their annual overtime allocations, PICA said in its report.
To read more, please go to bit.ly/2j5SmHC.
Rothman Rink and Cabin Are Open for the Season
The Rothman Institute Ice Rink, Rothman Institute Cabin and America’s Garden Capital Maze are now open for the season and beginning on November 18, the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market will offer gifts and holiday foods by local artisans in festively lit tents.
Starting on November 20, the Deck the Hall Light Show presented by Independence Blue Cross and in collaboration with 6abc, will light up the Dilworth Park side of City Hall with an animated light show, synchronized with holiday music and created by Klip Collective. The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market and the Deck the Hall Light Show presented by Independence Blue Cross are open until January 1. The Rothman Institute Ice Rink and the Rothman Institute Cabin are open until February 25, 2018.
To read more, please go to dilworthpark.org/wintergarden.
CCDF Thanks You for Your Support
Less Than $15,000 To Go In Our Rail Park Challenge
The Center City District Foundation is grateful to the CPDC members who have contributed toward the $50,000 Rail Park challenge. With less than $15,000 to go, CCDF hopes this season of giving will inspire you and your firm to help us reach our goal and complete the Rail Park. You can make an impact by visiting supportccdf.org or mailing a check, payable to CPDC, to 660 Chestnut St., Philadelphia PA 19106 (attn: Katie Andrews, Development Manager).