Office Sector News
Hill International Moving Headquarters to Center City
Hill International plans to relocate its headquarters from Marlton, New Jersey, to One Commerce Square in Center City, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 22.
After 39 years in South Jersey, the company will occupy 60,000 square feet on the 16th and 17th floors at 2005 Market Street. Hill will expand its current presence in Philadelphia adding approximately 220 new jobs over the next three years, according to the press release issued by Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
Hill International signed a 12-year lease with Brandywine Realty Trust and will leave 10,000 square feet in the Graham Building to consolidate the company’s offices.
The company received a $4.5 million financial package from the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that includes grants, tax incentives and low-interest loans, the article noted. The decision was driven by the need to be close to decision makers, client base, and business and political leaders.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/XO5rVw.
To read the mayor’s press release, please go to bit.ly/ZD7aON.
Observation Deck at One Liberty Place
Plans are underway to create an interior observation deck on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 22.
The observation deck will have a dedicated elevator and a small café and will be operated by Montparnasse 56 Group, a Paris-based company that has a division based in New York, Montparnasse 56 USA. The company runs an observation deck on the 56th floor of Montparnasse Tower in Paris, and, in 2012, bought the 94th-floor observation tower at the John Hancock Center in Chicago for between $35 million and $45 million, the article noted.
Terms of Montparnasse’s arrangement at One Liberty have not yet been made public.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1uyQ3XE.
Startup RJMetrics Raises $16.5 Million, to Add Jobs
RJMetrics, a Center City company that provides analytics for online businesses, has raised $16.5 million in Series B funding, one of the biggest funding rounds raised by a Philadelphia IT startup, Technical.ly Philly reported on September 15.
The company, located in the Widener Building on the 1300 block of Chestnut Street, plans to use the funds for product development— hiring more engineers, plus media buys, trade shows and targeted ads.
The company has nearly quadrupled in size since raising $6.2 million in May 2013, expanding from 26 employees to nearly 80. It will hire about a dozen people.
RJMetrics got its start doing analytics for e-commerce businesses but has since expanded to online businesses of all kinds, including software-as-a-service businesses and mobile app businesses.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/ZYXFJZ.
East Market Development Launches Thursday
On Thursday, October 2, at 10 a.m., Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley and Mayor Michael A. Nutter will officially launch East Market, highlighting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s and the City of Philadelphia’s recent additional capital commitments to the project and formally kicking off the demolition for the project.
In the first phase of the plans for the entire 4.3-acre site, bounded by East Market, Chestnut, 11th and 12th Streets, the two-story building fronting Market Street will be taken down to make way for a 17-story tower that will have the first two levels dedicated to 160,000 square feet of retail space and the remainder an apartment structure with 322 units. Once the new Family Court building opens at 15th and Arch Streets in December, the renovation of the current 200,000-square-foot Family Court building at 11th and Ludlow Streets will follow. This building is currently proposed to have retail space on the street level and office space above with Ludlow Street becoming a pedestrian walkway.
East Market is a project of National Real Estate Advisors, Joss Realty Partners, Young Capital, and SSH Real Estate.
Large-Format Signs on Market East Underway
Construction began last week on the two 14-foot-high LED video signs that will sit atop the Lit Bros. building between Seventh and Eighth Streets on Market Street, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday. The building is owned by Brickstone, which is adding the signs as part of a broader effort to enliven the Market East area. The large-format signs are the first of their kind to be erected since City Council passed legislation that would enable their use, with a portion of the revenue stream dedicated to public area and transit improvements. They should be completed in about three months.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1xsH7YT.
Where It All Began
An excerpt from Dan Rottenberg’s new book on Albert M. Greenfield in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Currents section on Sunday tells the story of the formation of the Old Philadelphia Development Corporation (now CPDC) and Albert M. Greenfield’s role as Chair of Mayor Dilworth’s City Planning Commission. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1pl0KtD.
Manufacturing and Nonmanufacturing in the Region Expand
The region’s manufacturing sector continued to expand in September, according to the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
General business activity improved for 42.2% of the reporting companies, with 19.8% reporting a decrease, and 38.0% indicating no change.
New orders were up more than one-third of the firms (37.6%) and down for 22.1%, and remained the same for 37.0%.
One-quarter (25.7%) of the companies reported an increase in the number of employees, and only 4.5% indicated a decrease. The majority of the firms (69.8%) reported unchanged numbers.
Looking ahead six months, 56.0% of the firms anticipated business improving, and none foresaw a downturn; 38.6% expected business activity to remain the same.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/1mhfw98.
Responses to the Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Survey, also conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and published online for the first time in September, indicate vigorous activity with new orders up for 45.2%, down for 14.3%, and remaining the same for 16.7%.
The number of employees remained the same for the majority of the reporting companies (59.5%), increased for 26.2%, and decreased for 9.5%.
Looking ahead six months, 88.1% of the firms anticipated continued expansion in business and none foresaw a downturn, with 9.5% looking for a stable future.
To read the report, please go to philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/regional-economy/nonmanufacturing-business-outlook-survey/.
Philadelphia Is Poorest Big City in U.S.
The City of Philadelphia’s overall poverty rate declined from 26.9% to 26.3% between 2012 and 2013, but its deep-poverty rate remained nearly the same at 12.2%, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on September 25, based on numbers released earlier in the U.S. Census 2013 American Community Survey.
Philadelphia is the poorest of the United States’ 10 largest cities and also has the highest rate of deep poverty, defined as people with incomes below half of the poverty line. The national deep-poverty rate is 6.3%, compared to Philadelphia’s 12.2%, or nearly 185,000 people, including 60,000 children, the article noted.
A family of three living in deep poverty has income of about $10,000 annually, half the poverty rate of $20,000 for a family that size.
To read the Inquirer article, please go to bit.ly/1phbvNC.
To read the U.S. Census report, Poverty: 2012 and 2013, please go to 1.usa.gov/1uKHqe5 [PDF].
Eds and Meds News
$50 Million Donation to Drexel Law
Thomas R. Kline, a Philadelphia attorney, has donated $50 million to Drexel University, the largest single gift in the university’s 123-year history, and the university’s School of Law will be renamed the Thomas R. Kline School of Law, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 17.
The donation includes a large bequest, plus the former Beneficial Bank building at 12th and Chestnut Streets, which will become the Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy of the Kline School of Law. Kline bought the 24,000-square-foot, Horace Trumbauer–designed building in 2013, and hopes to have the institute open for students by 2016. Beneficial is now based at 1818 Market Street, the article noted.
The remaining portion of Kline’s gift will be divided among the general-operating fund, renovations for 1200 Chestnut, and enhancements to curriculum and other programs.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1ueEPYj.
City Launches STEM Mentoring Program
The City of Philadelphia launched a new online STEM resource center, which will host a volunteer matching platform for mentors and students in order to encourage more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals mentoring youth – especially girls, low-income and minority students, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on September 17.
The US2020 PHL STEM online resource center (STEMcityPHL.org) will eventually house a STEM asset map that will provide a comprehensive overview of current STEM-related resources, according to a press release from Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Libraries, museums, universities, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations that offer STEM education programs will be able to connect to companies, individuals, and other STEM program supporters.
Beginning this fall, parents and teachers can enroll their students in out-of-school STEM mentoring opportunities facilitated through the resource center.
To read the Philadelphia Business Journal article, please go to bit.ly/1ryyxVg.
Rose Blanca Café Fully Opens in Dilworth Park
The Rosa Blanca café fully opened Tuesday, September 16, with the complete menu, including a selection of Chef Jose Garces’ house made pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, and signature empanadas. The café also offers an enticing menu of Garces Trading Company coffees and espresso-based beverages like the authentic café con leche, lattes, macchiatos and Americanos.
The café is open seven days a week; Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and on Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Hours are subject to change when the skating rink opens in mid-November.
For more information and to see the menu, please go to ccdparks.org/dilworth-park/cafe.
Large Graphics of Historical Images Installed at City Hall
In other Dilworth-related improvements, public bathrooms are now available for visitors on the ground floor of City Hall, accessed through the Market Street West portal entrance to the courtyard. Signs direct visitors coming from the park to men’s bathrooms on the north side (left) and women’s bathrooms on the south side (right). In partnership with the City of Philadelphia, the Center City District has installed on the corridor walls large graphics of historical images of City Hall and the surrounding changes that have occurred to Center Square since the 18th century.
To see photos of the new graphics, please go to on.fb.me/1sVbCQa.
PHLCVB Responds to Controller’s Report
On September 19, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) responded to the Office of the City Controller’s analysis of how Hotel Tax revenues are utilized by the three recipient organizations, the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, which receives 58%; Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, 25%; and Visit Philadelphia, 17%.
The response from PHLCVB cited seven suggested corrections along with an assortment of facts either left out of the report or misrepresented.
The Controller issued his report on September 9 and Visit Philly responded in an article reported by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
To read PHLCVB’s response to the Controller’s report, please go to bit.ly/1ymI3PR [PDF].
To read the article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, please go to bit.ly/1pTTMLi.
Revenue at SugarHouse Is Up
Revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River increased again in August, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
In August, the casino took in $22,135,543, compared to $21,521,160 in July. The Commonwealth’s share was $5,929,866 in August, compared to $5,852,254 the previous month. The City of Philadelphia received $736.331, up from $724,044 in July.
To see all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/16izgf9.
FTA Awards $86.7 Million to SEPTA
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has provided $86.7 million to SEPTA to shore up areas vulnerable to flooding and extreme weather, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on September 24.
The grant will be used to stabilize and harden slopes along the railroad, build drainage systems to pump floodwaters, improve subway pump-room emergency power, and improve signal power, among other reinforcements.
In addition, $9 million will be used to build a backup control center at a strategic location in Philadelphia to allow for remote dispatching of transit service in the event of an emergency.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1ojwJdG.
Opportunity to Vote for Bike Share Station Locations
The City of Philadelphia Bike Share program is expected to launch in the spring of 2015, and the City is seeking suggestions for where the bike share stations should go by clicking on an interactive map.
The map has 100 pins representing potential bike share locations throughout the city, chosen with population density, recreation, employment, bike lanes and space in mind, Philadelphia magazine reported. That number needs to be narrowed down to 60. To vote, click on a pin and answer a few multiple choice questions. The comment period will close on October 20th.
To view the interactive map, please go to phillybikeshare.com/page/about.
To read the Philadelphia magazine article, please go to bit.ly/Yl4415.
Spring Garden Street On-Ramp Closed
The Spring Garden Street on-ramp was closed on Monday, September 22, and will continue to be closed until early December, as PennDOT improves and widens the ramp by six feet.
The ramp improvement is part of PennDOT’s $6.6 million project to rehabilitate the adjoining bridges carrying Spring Garden Street over I-76, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail. The project is financed by Pennsylvania’s new transportation plan, Act 89.
The detour will take passenger cars and small trucks over Spring Garden Street, 33rd Street, Mantua Avenue, 34th Street and Girard Avenue to access the Girard Avenue ramp to I-76 West.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/Rx1HEU, and scroll down to September 17th releases.
PlanPhilly: Restore Logan Square
As PennDOT is preparing to renovate the Vine Street bridges that support the northern edge of Logan Square, PlanPhilly suggests that more ought to be done to improve surface conditions during this $120 million project to repair infrastructure above I-676. Currently, plans call for capping only the westernmost of four openings, the space in front of the Free Library at 20th and the Parkway.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/YPJLJU.
Parks and Open Space News
Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for Schuylkill Boardwalk
On Thursday, October 2, at 11:30 a.m. at Locust Street and Schuylkill Banks, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC) and Mayor Michael A. Nutter will cut the ribbon and lead dignitaries and the public on an inaugural walk on the new boardwalk.
The City of Philadelphia and SRDC built the 2,000-foot-long concrete structure running parallel to the eastern shore of the river from Locust Street to the new stair tower on the south side of the South Street Bridge to extend the trail.
On Sunday, October 5, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., there will be a community celebration on the boardwalk with free snacks, fun activities, and music.
For more information, please go to schuylkillbanks.org.
Cigarette Tax Bill Signed by Governor
Governor Tom Corbett on September 24 signed HB 1177, the bill that authorizes the City of Philadelphia to impose a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to help raise money for the city's schools, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Prior to the tax's passage, the district had an $81million deficit, and officials estimate that the school system will reap about $45 million this year from the cigarette tax, with the revenue beginning to arrive in November, a previous article noted.
On July 2, the state House of Representatives passed HB 1177, and the Senate followed suit on September 23, after deciding not to call a special session in August to vote on the bill.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1pZMhEK (page 25).
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1psWyHo.
Bill Would Put Consolidation of City Agencies on Spring Ballot
Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. on Thursday introduced on behalf of Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Bill #140721 that would coordinate all of the City’s planning, zoning, licenses, inspections, enforcement and housing under one central city agency.
The move to create a new Cabinet-level Department of Planning and Development would require a change in the city’s Home Rule Charter, and so the bill, if passed, would put the proposal onto the May 2015 ballot.
Council staff surveyed how development is governed in three cities – Cambridge, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; and Sacramento, California - and borrowed governance ideas from each locale. Philadelphia now has two independent commissions, four divisions in the Managing Director’s Office, two units in the Mayor’s Office, two state-chartered agencies, and one quasi-governmental agency – all involved in planning, zoning, licenses and inspections, housing, and related issues.
Under Clarke’s reform plan, all of these functions and agencies would become closely coordinated under one, unified city agency, a new Office of Planning and Development.
To read the bill, please go bit.ly/1u67e53.
Pet-Friendly Family Fun Days at Sister Cities Park
The lively autumn celebration, Fall Family Fun Days with Furry Friends, at Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will enliven the park on three Saturdays – October 11, 18, and 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Kids and families are invited to bring their leashed pets to the park for family- and pet-friendly activities, live music, fall-themed food and drinks, demonstrations, and free hayrides around the park.
Throughout the month, a scarecrow festival will bring a host of these original creations to the Children’s Discovery Garden, presented by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s after-school program.
Partners from the Barnes Foundation, The Galleries at Moore, the Clay Studio, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute, Fairmount and Queen Village Art Center, and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation will offer interactive crafts, games, and story-telling, all celebrating the animal theme. The Barnes Foundation will bring art adventures with a new kids' app plus a collage-bag project inspired by Dr. Barnes' beloved dog, Fidèle.
For more information, please visit SisterCitiesPark.org.
How New York Is Addressing Affordable Housing Needs
TONIGHT, Monday, September 29, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in Meyerson Hall B1, 210 South 34th Street, at the University of Pennsylvania, PennDesign will present New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who will make a free presentation on what New York City is doing to address its affordable housing needs. Throughout the country, urban planners and equity advocates are looking to New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and his team for a model of how to better balance economic growth and economic opportunity for all; and it is Glen’s job to meet this challenge.
Alicia Glen is Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development in the administration of Mayor Bill De Blasio, where she leads the administration’s efforts to invest in emerging industries across the five boroughs, re-target unsuccessful corporate subsidies, build a new generation of affordable housing, and help New Yorkers secure good-paying jobs that can support a family.
GPCC Listening Tour for Growth Initiative Begins
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), which launched in July the Roadmap for Growth campaign designed to spark a broad, civic conversation about job creation, economic growth, and the next set of elections for Mayor of Philadelphia and City Council, will hold its first Listening Tour with First District Councilman Mark Squilla as co-host.
The meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 1, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at Old Swedes Church, Delaware Avenue and Christian Street.
To learn more about the Roadmap for Growth, please go to news.gpcc.com/roadmap-for-growth/.