Digital Signs Approved for East Market Development
At its meeting on October 21, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission approved a Public Improvement Plan for the East Market project at Girard Square that includes eight large-scale digital signs and a $14 million investment in public improvements, PlanPhilly reported. The $230 million mixed-use development will span the block of Market Street between 11th and 12th Streets.
East Market will have eight separate digital billboards facing Market Street and wrapping around onto the corners of 11th and 12th Streets, as well as onto an internal walkway to be known as Chestnut Walk, PlanPhilly noted. The signs will be between 455 square feet and 1,600 square feet, and will be placed at 30 feet to 37 feet above the sidewalk.
In exchange, the developers will invest more than $14 million in materials and soft costs for the building: precast concrete, masonry, metals, aluminum and glass, plus design and management, the article noted.
Groundbreaking for the East Market development was held on October 2. The owners are National Real Estate Advisors, JOSS Realty Partners LLC, Young Capital LLC and SSH Real Estate.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1nAODxr.
Eds and Meds News
$1 Million Grant for Science Center
The University City Science Center has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for its new Phase 1 Ventures, an accelerator program that will help launch and grow new technology companies.
Phase 1 Ventures will identify promising technologies that have moved beyond the initial technical proof-of-concept stage, provide management and other project development resources, and facilitate funding to get the enterprise up and running.
In 2011, the Center received a similar $1 million grant from the EDA for its proof-of-concept funding program, which provides business development support and funding to academic researchers working on early-stage life-sciences technologies with high commercial potential.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/1vAQe9e.
Two Major Department Stores Open
Century 21, the fashionable New York discount retailer, opened on Market East on October 23. It’s the first store Century 21 has opened outside of the New York metropolitan region and occupies 100,000 square feet on two floors of the former Strawbridge’s department store.
Nordstrom Rack, the discount version of the Seattle-based Nordstrom, opened on October 24, in 39,000 square feet at the corner of Chestnut and 17th Streets.
These two high-profile openings are expected to attract even more retail to Center City, according to a report from CBS 3.
For the story, please go to cbsloc.al/1D8ldIR.
Office Sector News
The Bourse Offering Start-Up Office Space
The Bourse on Independence Mall has initiated a new flexible leasing program that is targeting Philadelphia's start-up and small business communities.
To move in, a renter need only pay the first month’s rent plus a security deposit. The minimum lease is for one year.
The Bourse created a website specifically for this type of leasing. To learn about the building, browse individual listings, and download a sample lease, please go to buildatthebourse.com.
October Manufacturing and Nonmanufacturing Strong
Both the manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sectors in the region continued to grow in October, according to the Business Outlook Surveys from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
General manufacturing increased for 34.2% of the firms that responded to the survey, with 13.5% reporting a decrease. New orders increased for 36.2%, decreased for 18.9%, and remained the same for 43.1%. The number of employees remained the same for the majority of the firms (70.6%), with 20.4% indicating an increase, and 8.3% a decrease.
Looking ahead six months, more than half (57.8 %) anticipated business to continue to improve, while 3.3% expected a downturn, and 31.1% foresaw conditions remaining the same.
To read the manufacturing report, please go to bit.ly/1rBeikJ [PDF].
The region’s nonmanufacturing sector also continued to expand in October, with 52.9% of the businesses in the region reporting an increase in activity, only 2.9% indicating a decrease, and 44.1% reporting no change. New orders increased for 52.9% of the firms, decreased for 17.6%, and remained the same for 14.7%.
For more than half (52.9%) of the businesses, the number of employees remained the same, but increased for 26.5%, and remained the same for 14.7%.
Looking ahead six months, 94.1% of the firms anticipated an increase in business activity, none expected a downturn, and only 2.9% expected business activity to remain the same.
To read the nonmanufacturing report, please go to bit.ly/1w51eMq [PDF].
Cities Attracting the Young and Educated
In back-to-back stories on October 20 and 21, the New York Times examined where young people ages 25 to 34 are moving. Even as Americans overall have become less likely to move, young, college-educated people continue to move at a high rate — about a million cross state lines each year, and where they end up provides a map of the cities that have a chance to be the economic powerhouses of the future, the articles suggested.
Of the metropolitan areas with the most populous city centers, Washington and Philadelphia showed the largest increases of young adults living there, at 75% and 78%. Other cities that have made big gains in that category are Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Miami and St. Louis.
Washington also had the largest share of young college graduates overall, at 8.1%. Chicago’s population of college-educated young people has climbed 17% since 2000, more than Boston’s but less than New York’s, and a higher than average 6% of its population is in this group. Seattle’s population of young graduates climbed 27%; its share is 6.1%. Philadelphia’s climbed 22%, and 5.4% of its population is young and college-educated.
To read the October 20 article, please go to nyti.ms/1DFwm5X.
To read the October 21 article, please go to nyti.ms/1wscX4e.
Residential Market News
Philadelphia Home Sales Strong in Third Quarter
Philadelphia home sales increased significantly over the summer, and house prices rose substantially in many of the traditionally lower-priced areas of the city, while remaining flat or even declining slightly in some of the higher-priced neighborhoods, according to the third quarter housing report of Kevin C. Gillen, Senior Research Consultant at the Fels Institute of Government.
The average house value in Philadelphia increased by 1.4% in the third quarter, following a 6.3% appreciation in the second quarter. Nearly 4,000 arms-length sales were completed in the quarter, a 14% increase over the previous quarter. It was the first time since 2010 that home sales climbed above the historic quarterly average of approximately 3,800 transactions, the report noted.
Homes remained on the market an average of 68 days, down from 88 days a year ago and down from its all-time high of 95 days in 2011.
To read the report and view the charts, please go to bit.ly/ZDeppx [PDF].
Revenue at SugarHouse Dips in September
After a robust August, revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River decreased as summer came to an end, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).
In September, the casino took in $20,398,471, compared to $22,135,543 in August. The Commonwealth’s share was $5,445,818, compared to $5,929,866 in August. The City of Philadelphia received $676,069, compared to $736,331 in August.
To see all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/16izgf9.
Arts and Culture News
Artist Janet Echelman Honored by Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution has named internationally recognized artist Janet Echelman as one of its 10 most creative people in America today and will feature her in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine. The tribute to Echelman is titled “When Dazzling Art Transforms the Cityscape.”
The Center City District has commissioned Echelman to create a unique public sculpture at Dilworth Park, Pulse, which will use five-foot-tall, moving columns of atomized water to reflect in real time the movements of the transportation systems below, featuring the designated colors (orange, blue, and green) of SEPTA’s transit lines that converge beneath City Hall. Pulse will create both a playful and animated embellishment on the 11,600-square-foot fountain at Dilworth Park in William Penn’s original Center Square, which was the site of Philadelphia’s first steam-powered waterworks and the setting for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s major downtown station for steam-powered locomotives. Echelman’s artwork was inspired by these historical references but uses contemporary digital technology to create a truly unique, kinetic, and engaging work of modern public art. Pulse marks a new phase in Echelman’s career, using atomized water rather than fabric as a medium to capture environmental forces on a grand scale.
To view the Smithsonian’s tribute to Echelman, please go to bit.ly/1DBydIU. To learn more about Pulse, please visit echelman.com/project/pulse/.
If you would like to help support Pulse, please contact Jean Tickell at email@example.com.
Improvements on Parkway Begin
Construction has begun on the latest phase of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway public improvements, and the initial work includes replacement of the curb and pavement on the Logan Square triangle between the Four Seasons Hotel and Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and the Parkway, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation announced on October 17. The project also will include complete replacement of curbs and sidewalks between Logan Square and 16th Street, as well as new trees, enhanced plantings, site furnishings, and a new irrigation system.
The $4.2 million construction project is completely funded and managed by PennDOT, in coordination with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Department of Public Property. The prime contractor is Tony DePaul and Sons. Work is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2015, with some planting occurring in 2016.
For questions, please contact Rob Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 215.683.0229.
PHLASH Will Operate During Holidays
The Philadelphia PHLASH will operate a special schedule for the holiday season with daily service beginning Friday, November 28, and continuing through Wednesday, December 31, the Independence Visitor Center Corporation announced on October 16. In addition, PHLASH will have a new Holiday Evening Loop that operates between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. and makes 15 stops at key holiday attractions, shopping destinations, and performance venues throughout Center City, including Dilworth Park. Special snowflake signage will mark the stops along the Holiday Evening Loop.
The cost to ride PHLASH is $2 per person per ride, $5 for an all-day pass, and is free for children four years old and under and seniors.
For more information, please go to phillyphlash.com.
PennDOT Survey Focuses on Online and Mobile Use
As part of PennDOT’s continued efforts to modernize and improve customer service, the department has launched an online survey to collect public feedback on safety, education, and mobility needs to help the agency identify areas where it can improve or develop new ways to interact with the public online.
The brief survey asks participants to prioritize safety and mobility needs related to PennDOT topics such as public transit and driver and vehicle services. Based on the feedback received, PennDOT will develop a strategy to implement enhanced services through online or mobile solutions.
Currently, PennDOT offers one smartphone application for public use – the 511PA application, usable on iPhone and Android devices.
To take the survey, available until November 12, please go to bit.ly/1w9iYDS.
Economic Benefits of Infrastructure Investment
Transportation provides the foundation for all economic activity, and investments that improve transportation performance in the U.S. will pay for themselves in 17 years through increased economic activity and the resulting gains in federal tax revenue, suggests an article by Susanne Trimbath, republished in New Geography. The rate of return for national investments in transportation is 7%, significantly more than the cost of borrowing, the author notes.
Despite that return, transportation spending in the U.S. was more than $100 billion under budget in the first decade of the 21st century. Meanwhile, strategic economic goals and performance measures in the Department of Transportation’s 2014 performance plan are nearly identical to the 2002 plan, even as the U.S. was ranked 14th in the world for its basic infrastructure (2009-2010).
Among the suggestions for improving transportation performance and investment is to decrease demand, increase user fees, foster public-private partnerships for investing, and promote branding as a revenue source.
To read the article, "Real Economic Payoff From Infrastructure," please go to bit.ly/1sedh2e. (The article originally appeared in IO Sustainability.)
Smartcard System Named SEPTA Key
SEPTA's $130-million smart-card payment system will be called SEPTA Key, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 23.
Even though the first new subway turnstiles are in place, widespread use of the card on subways and buses won't begin until next year, the article noted. On Regional Rail, it will not be used until 2016 at the earliest.
The new system will allow riders to use any "contactless" credit card, a SEPTA-issued card, or a smartphone to pay fares at card-reading turnstiles or bus fare boxes.
SEPTA will test its new system in December and if all goes well, the new system will be phased in next year for riders of SEPTA buses and Market-Frankford and Broad Street subways.
Riders will be able to continue to use tokens during the initial rollout of the new system.
For more information on the smart-card program, please go to septa.org/key/. To read The Philadelphia Inquirer article, please go to bit.ly/1t98Awg.
DVRPC Releases Fare Analysis
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has recently completed a fare sensitivity analysis using DVRPC’s regional travel forecasting model.
The study assesses the ability of the DVRPC regional travel forecasting model to predict the effect that fare increases have on ridership. The study analyzes five scenarios, comparing the model’s results to empirical data from other similar studies and to actual observed data from recent fare changes implemented by SEPTA. It also forecasts the projected impact that the introduction of New Payment Technology will have on ridership.
To read the report, SEPTA Fare Sensitivity Analysis Using DVRPC’s Regional Travel Forecasting Model, please go to dvrpc.org/reports/12083.pdf [PDF].
Parks and Open Space News
Albert M. Greenfield Lawn Opens at Dilworth Park
On Friday, October 24, the Center City District celebrated the grand opening of the new 6,900-square-foot Albert M. Greenfield Lawn at Dilworth Park. The CCD also opened the southern glass headhouse entrance to transit and additional walkways, which complete nearly all the main features of the new Dilworth Park.
The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation generously helped underwrite the cost of the lawn with a $225,000 capital donation and additionally has agreed to provide $500,000 over the next 10 years to support the maintenance of the lawn in recognition of Greenfield’s significant role in Center City's renewal in the 1950s and 1960s.
Among those who joined Albert M. Greenfield III and the Board of the Greenfield Foundation were Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Director of Commerce and current chair of the City Planning Commission; former Governor Edward G. Rendell, who helped champion and launch the Dilworth Park improvements during his term as governor; and Edward M. D’Alba, President of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.
Under Mayor Richardson Dilworth, Greenfield was instrumental in overseeing the start of numerous renewal projects, most notably in Society Hill. His connection to this project also grows out of the fact that in 1956, Greenfield organized Old Philadelphia Development Corporation (OPDC), which in 1982 became Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC), and in 1990 CPDC launched the Center City District, which oversaw the fundraising, construction, and is the on-going manager for Dilworth Park.
For more information, please visit dilworthpark.org.
Commonwealth Awards Grant for Reading Viaduct Park
The Center City District was notified on October 17 that it had received a $500,300 grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program (administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) for the Phase 1 development of the Reading Viaduct Park.
Phase 1 will transform into an elevated park the abandoned quarter-mile SEPTA “spur” that curves through the city's Loft District and ends at North Broad Street. The design calls for entrances to the park on North Broad Street at Noble Street, at 13th and Noble, and on Callowhill between 11th and 12th.
Urban Engineers and Studio|Bryan Hanes have completed construction documents and a cost estimate for the first phase of the project. Fundraising is currently underway for both construction and long-term maintenance and the project could start as early as 2015.
To learn more about the new park and view the plans, please go to centercityphila.org/about/viaduct.php. To become a Friend of the Rail Park, please go to therailpark.org.
Design Team Named for LOVE Park Makeover
InterPark, owner of the garage beneath LOVE Park, and the City of Philadelphia have selected through a competitive-bidding process a project team led by Hargreaves Associates to design the new JFK Plaza/LOVE Park, the City has announced.
Hargreaves Associates is a landscape architecture and planning firm with offices in New York City, San Francisco, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Other members of the project team are KieranTimberlake, architecture; Pentagram, graphics/wayfinding systems; JMT Engineers, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering consultant; Hunt Engineering, civil and structural engineering; Commercial Aquatic Engineers, water feature mechanical, electrical and plumbing design and engineering; The Lighting Practice, lighting; Northern Designs, irrigation design; and VJ Associates, cost estimating.
PICA Approves Revised Five-Year Plan
On October 14, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) unanimously approved the City of Philadelphia’s Revised Five-Year Plan for FY15-19, which slows the reduction in wage, earnings, and net profits tax rates in FY18 and FY19.
The revised plan was made to accommodate new labor contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police, First Judicial District employees represented by DC47, Local 810; and a new contract with District Council 33. The costs of these contracts had not been included in the Plan submitted to PICA on June 26 and approved on July 21.
The previous plan had projected the resident wage-tax rate at 3.8224% in FY18 and 3.7460% in FY19. The Revised Plan projects the rate at 3.8751% and 3.7976%, respectively, in FY18 and FY19.
For nonresidents, the previous plan projected the rate at 3.4046% and 3.3365%, respectively, in FY18 and FY19. The Revised Plan projects the non-resident tax rate at 3.4515% in FY18 and 3.3825% in FY19.
To read the PICA-approved plan, please go to bit.ly/126fhF1 [PDF].
Judge Halts SRC Changes
Common Pleas Court Judge Nina Wright Padilla on October 20 granted the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' (PFT) request for a preliminary injunction to stop the School Reform Commission (SRC) from implementing the broad changes it approved on October 6, when it voted to cancel the PFT contract and require union members to contribute to the cost of their health-care premiums beginning in December, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The changes in the PFT contract would save an estimated $200 million over the next four years, the article noted.
The PFT had asked for the injunction to halt the SRC changes while the courts take up the larger issue of whether the SRC has the legal authority to make such changes.
The SRC plans to appeal, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1whCXQA.
In other SRC news, City Council Bill #140514-A, which creates a ballot referendum calling on the General Assembly and Governor to abolish the School Reform Commission and restore local control of the school district, became law without the signature of Mayor Michael A. Nutter. The referendum will be added to the ballot for the primary election of May 19, 2015.
General Assembly Approves Expansion of EITC
HB 91, which expands access to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, which provide tuition assistance to economically disadvantaged students in low-achieving schools, was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and sent to Governor Tom Corbett.
HB 91 also allows public career and technical schools to participate in both the EITC and OSTC programs. Tax credits are still available for eligible businesses to contribute to a Scholarship Organization, an Educational Improvement Organization, and/or a Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Organization.
To learn more about EITC, please go to bit.ly/1qchDGK.
To read HB 91, please go to bit.ly/1wuW5tH.
New Family Court Building Opens
The ribbon was officially cut October 16 for the new $122.3 million, 15-floor Family Court building at 15th and Arch Streets, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
For the first time, all Family Court cases will be considered at the same location, instead of at both 34 South 11th Street and 1801 Vine Street.
The 544,000-square-foot site includes a second-floor holding and processing area, nine floors of administrative offices and judges' chambers, a staff training facility, and 29 courtrooms, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/1waLBmy.
Bill Would Authorize New Street Furniture
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on October 23 introduced Bill #140827, which authorizes the City to enter into a contract with Titan Outdoor LLC for an updated street furniture program.
The plan calls for a coordinated program that will replace transit shelters, benches at transit stops, kiosks to provide information regarding arts and cultural institutions, and newspaper distribution structures with a design that is distinctive and sturdy.
The current contract ends on December 31. The street furniture program does not cost taxpayers and generates revenue.
To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/1xl5sfM.
Rothman Institute Ice Rink to Open at Dilworth Park
The new Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park will open to the public on Friday, November 14, and remain open seven days a week through February 22.
Admission will be $3 for children, ages 10 and under, and $4 for adults. Skate rental will be $8. The Rothman Institute Ice Rink will be open to the public Monday through Thursday, 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday, 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Rothman Institute Ice Rink will be open on all holidays. A four-week Learn-to-Skate program will be offered on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.
In preparation for installation of the rink, the fountain at Dilworth will shut down today, October 27th to begin draining the water tanks and filtration system.
The Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park will be operated and managed professionally by Rink Management Services Corporation (RMSC) of Mechanicsville, Virginia. RMSC was competitively selected by the CCD and operates 33 ice rinks in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Center City District staff and RMSC will program a range of events at the rink that will offer entertainment and fun for people of all ages. RMSC also will offer birthday party packages and group sales discounts.
VISIT PHILADELPHIA™, which promotes Philadelphia to 39 million annual visitors to the region, is pleased to include the Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park as one of the city’s outstanding New Winter Attractions.
Both PNC and 6ABC (WPVI) have provided additional generous support for the Rothman Institute Ice Rink.
For more information, please visit dilworthpark.org/rothmanicerink/.