Long Casino Selection Process Begins
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) will conduct a series of hearings in a yearlong process of vetting the six applicants for the Category 2 Slot Machine Operator license that was put out to bid in Philadelphia.
The first round will be information hearings in Philadelphia, likely by February, where each applicant will make an initial presentation, the Associated Press reported. Public comment will not be permitted. A few months later, the PGCB will hold hearings in Philadelphia again and applicants will make brief presentations and hear from the public, the article noted. The board will then accept written public comment followed by hearings before the board. The winning applicant will pay one-time fees of $50 million for a slots license and $16.5 million for a table games license. These licenses allow the casino operator to have up to 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games.
The six applicants are: Tower Entertainment, LLC (The Provence) at 400 North Broad Street; Market East Associates (Casino Philadelphia)at Eighth and Market Streets; Wynn PA, Inc. (Wynn Philadelphia) at 2001 Beach Street, and 2001 through 2005 Richmond Street; PHL Local Gaming, LLC (Casino Revolution) at 3333 South Front Street; PA Gaming Ventures, LLC (Hollywood Casino Philadelphia) at 700 Packer Avenue; and Stadium Casino, LLC (Live! Hotel and Casino) at 900 Packer Avenue.
To read the Associated Press article, please go to tinyurl.com/d2q4dy2.
SugarHouse Revenue Up Slightly in October
SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware Riverfront saw a slight increase in revenue in October, taking in $20,994,882, compared to $20,685,564 in September, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). The Commonwealth's share of taxes in October was $5,641,430 compared to $5,691,974 in September. The state's share of taxes were reduced from 14% to 12% at the end of September, due to a provision in the gaming statute that lowers the tax on table games after they have been in use for two years. The City of Philadelphia collected $703,719 in October, compared to $697,287 in September. To see revenue from all casinos, please go to tinyurl.com/bmeunzj.
U.S. Customs House Renovation Completed
A $30 million renovation of the U.S. Customs House at Second and Chestnut Streets was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting on November 20. The project began in spring 2010.
Much of the work was focused on making the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, more energy efficient. The façade was restored, 1,200 windows were restored or replaced, new high-efficiency boilers were installed, front entrance doors were replaced with revolving doors and a large green roof replaced the fourth-floor roof.
The renovation was managed by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Eds and Meds News
City Ranks High in Number of Charter Students
The School District of Philadelphia has 46,801, or 23%, of its students in charter schools, and ranks fourth in the country in the total number of charter students, behind Los Angeles, with 98,576 (15%); New York City, with 48,057 (5%); and Detroit, with 47,086 (41%), according to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).
New Orleans had the highest percentage of students in charter schools –76%, or 32,507 students. A total of 25 school districts nationwide now have at least 20% of their public school students enrolled in charter schools, the report noted.
To read the report, A Growing Movement: America's Largest Charter School Communities, please go to tinyurl.com/cpvetq4 [PDF].
Drexel's University's Economic Impact
Drexel University contributed $2.4 billion to Pennsylvania's economy and directly employs 9,500 people, according to Growth and Solutions: Drexel's Economic Impact, a 2012 Report, prepared by the Econsult Corporation and released by the University on November 12.
The average Drexel student spends about $7,100 each year in the Philadelphia area, the report noted, and more than 500,000 visitors of students, prospective students and Drexel College of Medicine patients spend $9.5 million altogether.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/blcr2oc [PDF].
Philadelphia Weak in Job Creation
Philadelphia ranked 90th among the nation's 100 largest metros in job-creating "competitiveness," according to a report by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. The report compared the number of jobs by sector in metropolitan areas to national job growth in the same sectors from 2010 to 2012. The difference between metro and national trends constituted local competitiveness.
The San Jose, California, area came in first, driven by high-paying jobs in the tech sector; Washington, D.C.'s ranking was 32; New York's 47; Baltimore's 56; and Boston's 60.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/cfz6crj.
Philadelphia Vital Statistics
For a snapshot of Philadelphia's static employment situation as well as other trend data, please see this month's Vital Statistics, compiled by CCD/CPDC staff:
Free Parking on Saturdays
In a move to encourage shopping in Center City, the Philadelphia Parking Authority announced that parking will be free at meters and kiosks in the city every Saturday through year's end, beginning at 11:00 a.m.
In addition, parking at six city garages will be discounted to $8 on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The garages are located at Second and Sansom Streets; Independence Mall at Fifth and Market; Eighth and Filbert; 10th and Filbert, 10th and Ludlow, and at City Hall.
Holiday Railroad Returns to Reading Terminal Market
The Reading Terminal Market launched the holiday season on Friday with the return of its annual Holiday Railroad, featuring a 500-square- foot model railroad with nearly one-third of a mile of track.
Co-sponsored by the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, the display features 17 working train lines that rumble through a variety of scenes, including Center City Philadelphia, a Christmas village, and a snow-covered countryside.
The railroad will be on display in the Piano Court inside the market and will run daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sundays) through Monday, December 31. It will be closed Christmas Day, as will the entire market.
Arts and Culture News
Impact of Budget Cuts on Museums
On November 14, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, a joint committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, issued a 114- page report on how the loss of state funding has affected museums in Pennsylvania.
The report links the state's many museums to the $33 billion tourism brings to the Commonwealth's economy, generating more than $3.4 billion in tax revenues each year for state and local governments.
The report found that due to loss of state funding, museums now spend more time on fundraising (88%), rely more on volunteers (56%), have reduced their paid staff (49%), and are seeking new sources of earned income (49%). More than half of the larger museums reported having to raise admission prices.
The report recommends a stepped-up role for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) if the General Assembly appropriates sufficient funds to re-establish a museum support program in the future.
To read the report, please go to lbfc.legis.state.pa.us/reports/2012/69.PDF [PDF].
New Music Director for Philly Pops
Encore Series, Inc. on November 13 announced that Michael Krajewski has been named Music Director Designate for the Philly Pops, succeeding Peter Nero, the orchestra's founding conductor and Artistic Director. Krajewski will take over the orchestra's leadership in fall 2013 and will guest conduct two concerts in the spring of 2013.
Krajewski is currently the principal pops conductor of the Atlanta, Houston, and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestras.
To read the press release, please go to tinyurl.com/bmyartp.
On November 21, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau announced its new branding promotion for the city – PHL: Modern Renaissance City. The campaign turns on these themes: freedom, democracy + America; innovation + education; creative spirit; outdoor life + sports; vibrant street life; and accessible + friendly.
In addition, the PCVB will change its acronym to PHLCVB. The goal is to better position the city as a global destination.
To see the video and to access available materials, please go to phlpartners.com.
SEPTA 'Energy Action Plan'
SEPTA released on November 12 a 44-page Energy Action Plan, which lays out the transportation agency's strategy for saving more than $2 million a year through reductions in energy usage.
For the third straight year, SEPTA has been forced to defer dozens of critical improvement projects due to funding cuts, SEPTA's press release noted, and the agency's capital budget of approximately $300 million represents a 25% reduction compared to funding levels of three years ago.
The action plan includes 18 initiatives that include switching to alternative fuel sources, upgrading the transit fleet, partnering with energy saving companies, and more.
To read the action plan, please go to septa.org/sustain/pdf/energyaction12.pdf [PDF]. To read the press release, please go to tinyurl.com/cq9dal2.
New Commuter Benefit Program
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) on November 14 unveiled a new and expanded commuter benefit program – RideECO (Easy Commute Options).
Previously named TransitChek, the new program allows employers and commuters to save money by putting pre-tax dollars toward fares on public transportation. Commuters can save up to $500 per year, and employers can save money by reducing FICA taxes. The expanded RideECO program will offer fare materials (passes and 10-trip tickets) in 2013. About 700 companies currently participate in the TransitChek program.
To read the press release, please go to tinyurl.com/cpns8vu.
Parks and Open Space News
Winterfest at Sister Cities Park
On Saturday, December 15, the Center City District will host Winterfest, a free festival for families with children, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
For more information, please call 215.440.5500 or visit SisterCitiesPark.org.
City Seeking Broker for PGW Sale
The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a broker to manage the sale of PGW, Mayor Nutter announced on November 14. The broker selected will present an analysis of the bids to the City's advisors and representatives of the City, PGW and Philadelphia Facilities Management Corporation (PFMC). In addition, Lazard, which the City and PGW retained earlier as financial advisor, will conduct an independent review of the bids.
Philadelphia and San Antonio, Texas, are the only major cities in the U.S. that still own their gas companies. The City expects the selected broker to begin work by mid-January.
To read the press release, please go to tinyurl.com/c4byavo.
Tax Collections Mixed in October
City General Fund tax collections in October totaled $148.4 million, a decline of $4.4 million (2.9%) from October 2011, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA). Collections through the first four months of Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) were $598.9 million, an increase of 0.05% compared to FY12.
Wage and earnings tax revenue was $123.7 million in October, a decline of $8.6 million (6.5%) from October 2011. Wage and earnings taxes through October were $499.6 million, an increase of 0.4%, compared to the same period in FY12.
Sales tax collections through October were $85.0 million, an increase of 5.0% over the same period last fiscal year.
Real estate transfer tax (RETT) collections through October were $44.3 million, a 2.1% decline from FY12.
Some receipts near the end of the month were delayed due to Hurricane Sandy, which could impact comparisons, the report noted.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/auaw6ky [PDF].
The Office of the City Controller also issued its October Financial Forecast & Snapshot. City of Philadelphia tax revenues for October totaled $177.2 million, a 3% decline from October of last year.
Wage, earnings and net profit tax collections for the month totaled $124.8 million, a 6% decrease compared to last October.
However, total tax collection for the first four months of Fiscal Year 2013 totaled $502.1 million, a less than 1% in¬crease over the same period in the last fiscal year.
Monthly sales tax collections totaled $19.8 million, a 2% increase over the same month last year. Sales tax collections have been at or above the previous year's collections for 12 consecu¬tive months.
To read the report, please go to tinyurl.com/c63p6lk [PDF].
CPDC Members Urged to Support Bill To Reauthorize Center City DistrictThe City Council Rules Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, December 4, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 400, City Hall, to hear testimony on Bill #120800, which would reauthorize the Center City District's (CCD) operating plan for five years, 2013-2017, to extend the life of the District to 2045 to enable refinancing and additional debt capacity, to reduce charges to residential owner-occupants by 50%, and to expand the CCD's boundaries to include the properties that front on South Broad Street between Pine and Lombard Streets.
The bill was introduced on October 11 by Councilman Mark Squilla on behalf of City Council President Darrell L. Clarke.
Following a public hearing in the summer, only two properties out of more than 1,550 registered any objection to the plan. The plan and budget can be downloaded at centercityphila.org/docs/CCDPlanBudget2013_17.pdf [PDF].
Because there have been some procedural delays in Council, we strongly urge property owners and businesses available to send emails or write this week. If you simply click on the email address, an already formatted email will open that you can edit or personalize. Otherwise, here are the full addresses for letters:
Council President Darrell L. Clarke
Philadelphia City Council
City Hall, Room 490
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
Councilman William K. Greenlee
Rules Committee Chair
Philadelphia City Council
City Hall, Room 506
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
Councilman Mark Squilla
Philadelphia City Council
City Hall, Room 332
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
Also, if you would like to testify in favor of the reauthorization, please contact Linda Harris at 215-440-5546 to express your interest. To read the bill, please go to tinyurl.com/9n76rzr.
Several other public hearings of import also are on the Council's calendar before its final meeting of the year on December 13.
Today, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Education Committee will hold a public hearing called for in Resolution #120665, regarding the Boston Consulting Group's Report to the School Reform Commission, Transforming Philadelphia's Public Schools: Key Findings and Recommendations, and the School District of Philadelphia's Five Year Financial Plan: Fiscal Years 2013-2017. To read the resolution, please go to tinyurl.com/ao9x9sd.
On Monday, December 3, at 10:00 a.m., the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee will examine the impact of arts and culture on Philadelphia's regional economy, a hearing authorized by Resolution #120768. To read the resolution, please go to tinyurl.com/ac86mgj.
On Tuesday, December 4, at 9:00 a.m., several bills will have a public hearing. They are Bill #120889, which would redefine the requirements for Registered Community Organizations, created under the new zoning code, and change the composition of the Civic Design Review Committee, tinyurl.com/c5rbcxq; Bill #120897, which would provide accelerated zoning review, tinyurl.com/a9v32kz; Bill #120916, which adds a new commercial, mixed-used district to the newly-adopted zoning code, tinyurl.com/b79vmjq; and Bill #120917, which revises the allowed uses and dimensional standards in commercial districts, further altering the new zoning code, tinyurl.com/cmdsy6b.
CPDC General Membership Meeting
The next Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC) Membership Meeting will be Tuesday, December 11, from 8:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. at the Union League, 140 South Broad Street.
As Philadelphia continues to diversify its office district, retain start-up firms and as we seek to develop a major destination retail and entertainment district on East Market Street, what can we learn from New York City? Come hear two dynamic leaders who head organizations similar to the Center City District speak about how they are addressing these challenges and opportunities in their city: Elizabeth Berger, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York; and Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance.
Ms. Berger will focus on efforts to continue to attract and retain office tenants to the Wall Street and World Trade Center area while continuing to diversify land-use through residential and retail development.
Mr. Tompkins will focus on efforts to attract and retain both office and entertainment uses to Times Square, while creating new pedestrian spaces and plazas in the midst of Broadway.