Office Sector News
Benjamin's Desk at The Curtis
Benjamin's Desk, developers and managers of coworking spaces, completed renovations for its newest addition, a 10,000-square-foot space on the 12th floor of The Curtis, 601 Walnut Street, and was profiled in the Philadelphia Business Journal on October 17.
The company’s other locations are at 1701 Walnut Street and, in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, at the Pennovation Center, 3401 Grays Ferry Avenue.
To read the article and see photos of the new coworking space, please go to bit.ly/2eZZX2W.
Archdiocese Proposal Includes Two Mixed-Use Towers
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has made public its plan to develop the L-shaped property adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, across the street from Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and Logan Square, in an effort to gain neighborhood support for a proposed zoning change, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 27.
The plan calls for the demolition of three buildings on the site to be replaced by two residential towers, a 44-story residential building with ground-floor retail and restaurant space, and a 33-story residential tower with Diocesan administrative offices on the lower floors. The proposed project can continue the process of filling in the gaps and adding needed density in an area of Center City that has seen the development of the Mormon Temple and adjacent housing and which awaits the delayed conversion of the former Family Court building into a hotel.
Parking will be included, with 200 underground spaces for residents and 200 spaces for Cathedral use.
To read the article and see the renderings, please go to bit.ly/2eM9ziy.
New Developer for Royal Theater
Developer Robert Roskamp has purchased the Royal Theater in the 1500 block of South Street and will continue with development plans created by Carl Dranoff and Kenny Gamble, who owns the property, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 25.
Dranoff and Gamble had proposed building approximately 50 apartments with ground-floor retail and to preserve the facade of the once-famous theater. Roskamp is planning to build townhouses to be sold and will apply to demolish the theater, except for the façade.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2f8kZS8.
IVCC Awarded RACP Grant
The Independence Visitor Center Corporation (IVCC) on October 14 was awarded a $2 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for its modernization project to enhance visitors’ experiences at the Visitor Center in Independence National Historical Park.
The Visitor Experience Improvement Project is a $15 million renovation that will include a new upper-level terrace, a bigger gift shop, new bathrooms, and improved welcome desks.
To read a Curbed Philadelphia article and see renderings, please go to bit.ly/2dMWedc.
Eds and Meds News
School District Refinances Bonds at Lower Rate
The School District of Philadelphia on October 19 as part of a $1.4 billion bond deal refinanced $1.15 billion of existing bonds at lower rates to save the district $140 million over the next 17 years, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The bond rating agencies Moody's Investor Services and Fitch Ratings, Inc. changed the School District’s rating from “negative” to “stable” earlier this month enabling the refinance at a lower interest rate.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2e56V6P.
Governor Nominates Richman for SRC
Governor Tom Wolf announced on Friday that he will officially nominate former state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman for a seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to replace Feather Houstoun, who left the SRC on October 14.
Richman needs to be confirmed by the state Senate, which is in recess until November 16.
To read the article, please go bit.ly/2e5WVwI.
Philadelphia Retail Sales Outpace National Average
During the second quarter of 2016, the Philadelphia region achieved a 2.5% growth in total retail sales over the same period last year, an increase that was higher than the national average of 2.3%, according to CBRE’s Marketview, Greater Philadelphia Retail, Q3 2016.
In July and August, Philadelphia-area retail sales grew 2.4% and 1.9%, respectively, over the same period last year. The projection for sales growth in the third quarter is approximately 2.4%, with a total value of $108 billion.
Non-store retailers, health service and personal care stores had the strongest annual sales growth, while sales were down in gas stations, electronics and appliance stores. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2eMrEjh
In related news, average prime retail rent in the city grew 87.5% over the last five years; with only Miami growing faster, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 27, bit.ly/2dTjfWW.
Arts and Culture News
Miller Named Chair of Art Museum
Leslie Anne Miller, a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was unanimously selected chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, succeeding Constance H. Williams, who stepped down, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on October 20.
Miller, who has served on the boards of the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, among others, has been an Art Museum trustee since 2011.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2eCqDue.
Parks and Open Space News
Groundbreaking Today for Viaduct Rail Park
Today, Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, State Representative Michael H. O’Brien, and Sarah McEneaney, President of Friends of the Rail Park, are joining Center City District President Paul R. Levy to celebrate the groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Viaduct Rail Park, a $10.3 million project that will turn a dilapidated quarter-mile portion of the former Reading Viaduct into a vibrant green park with walking paths, landscaping, lighting, seating and swinging benches.
The first phase of the new 25,000-square-foot linear park, from Broad Street southeast across 13th and 12th Streets to Callowhill Street, was designed by Studio| Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers. The Viaduct Rail Park will provide a much-needed green amenity on the northern edge of Center City. It is funded through a combination of state, city, foundation and private resources and will be completed in early 2018.
The Center City District Foundation will continue the fundraising efforts during construction to fill a remaining $800,000 gap and today has launched the “Fund the Rail Park” fundraising site that encourages people to enlist friends and colleagues, creating a crowd-sourced fundraising team at fundtherailpark.org. In addition, donations and gifts can be made at supportccdf.org/viaductrailpark.
For more details and a complete list of current funders, please go to bit.ly/2eMgdIm.
Keys to NYC's High Line Success
Writing in Temple's business law magazine, The Temple 10-Q, Jonathan M. Broder, Chief Legal Officer of Conrail, who assisted in the transaction that transferred New York City's High Line park from CSX to the City of New York, explains how the creation of a Special Chelsea Zoning District facilitated the process of neighborhood revitalization in the surrounding area.
To read the article, "The Inside Scoop on New York City’s High Line Park," published on October 27, please go to bit.ly/2elGJFp.
Bicycle Commuting Up 79% in Greater Center City Since 2010
Philadelphia’s dense, compact live-work downtown and relatively flat topography are excellent preconditions for bicycle commuting, especially for the 42% of working residents who live and work in Greater Center City. A mid-September survey conducted by the Center City District (CCD) showed the number of bike commuters was up 22% over the CCD’s last count in 2014, and up 79% since CCD began surveying bicycle commuting patterns in 2010, according to a new CCD/CPDC report, Center City District Reports: Bicycle Commuting.
Despite growing popularity, bicycling faces some challenges. Philadelphia’s 17th century street grid, narrow streets, curbside parking and relatively short blocks with frequent stops act as de facto traffic calming, keeping vehicle speeds closer to bike-friendly velocities. But the narrow streets also leave little room to insert dedicated bike lanes without removing parking or existing vehicle travel lanes. Philadelphia’s limited enforcement of many forms of illegal parking by trucks, as well as illegal behavior by cyclists, also compound the challenges.
To read the report, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCR16_bicycles.pdf.
PATCO Alters Schedule for Fall ‘Leaf Season’
PATCO on October 22 initiated its “leaf season” schedule, which it will continue through mid-December, with trains between Lindenwold and Philadelphia running at slightly reduced speeds to alleviate the effects of crushed leaves on the track.
The leaves create a residue on the track that can cause the wheels to slide, damaging wheel surfaces.
For more information and schedule information, please visit ridepatco.org.
PennDOT Accepting Applications for Multimodal Grants
PennDOT on October 17 announced, effective this date, it would begin accepting applications for funding transportation improvement projects under the Multimodal Transportation Fund.
PennDOT will evaluate the applications and make selections based on criteria such as safety benefits, regional economic conditions, the technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency, and operational sustainability.
PennDOT has $40 million in grants available for fiscal year 2017-18. Applications are due by Friday, December 16. For more information, please visit penndot.gov and click on Multimodal Program under the “Projects & Programs” button.
To read the press release, please go to bit.ly/2dZbroW.
SugarHouse Revenue Up in September
Revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River increased in September by 3.1% over the previous month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In September, the casino took in $23,237,511, compared to $22,540,179 in August. The Commonwealth’s share of taxes was $6,174,058, compared to $5,985,533 in August. The City of Philadelphia collected $754,254, compared to August’s $731,413.
To see other casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/2bkEjIO.
Manufacturing and Service Economies Slack in October
Regional manufacturing conditions improved in October, though employment remained weak, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey for the month, with new orders up for 40.4%, down for 24.1%, and remaining the same for 33.7%. The number of full-time employees was up for only 12.5% and down for 16.5%, with 69.3% of the firms reporting no change. Looking ahead six months, 44.8% of the respondents expected improved conditions, 12.2% anticipated a downturn and 27.4% predicted no change. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2e9GcJo.
The service industry saw little growth in October, according to the Nonmanufacturing Business Outlook Survey, with new orders up for 24.8%, down for 19.1%, and remaining the same for 32.1%. The number of full-time employees increased for 20.4%, fell for 11.9%, and was static for 60.8%. Looking ahead six months, 53.0% of the responding firms predicted better conditions in the region, with 15.0% anticipating a decline, and 27.9% expecting business to remain the same. To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2e8gLor.
Public Safety #1 Concern of Philadelphia Residents
In a survey conducted in August 2016, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative found that 44% of residents put public safety at the top of the list, followed by education at 20% and jobs at 14%. That is a significant change from the last time Pew polled, in February 2015, when 32% of city residents named K-12 education as their top concern and only 23% listed public safety.
However, asked whether they feel unsafe when out in their neighborhoods at night, 39% of residents responded that they feel safe, essentially the same as in 2015 (38%) and 2013 (39%).
Over the 18 months between the 2015 and 2016 surveys, the city experienced a slight decline in major crimes but an increase in homicides. As of October, the 2016 homicide numbers were on pace to exceed the 2015 total.
To read the report, released on October 18, please go to bit.ly/2eN804S.
City General Fund Tax Collections Up in FY17
City of Philadelphia General Fund tax collections through September totaled $552.4 million, an increase of 3.3% over the same period in FY16, with the current estimate for FY17 General Fund tax revenue at $3.089 billion, 4.7% above the FY16 estimate, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA).
Year-over-year real estate tax collections dropped significantly, from $26.0 million to $23.4 million, a 10% decrease through September, while the City’s share of sales tax revenue increased 19.2% through September.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2eKp4aJ [PDF].
In related news, the City’s General Fund revenues for the 4th quarter of FY16 were $3.9 billion, an increase of $81.1 million over the initial FY16-20 Five-Year Financial Plan estimate, according to PICA’s Staff Report on the City’s Quarterly City Managers Report, released on October 14. The increase includes higher than projected tax revenue of $39.1 million.
General Fund Obligations, however, were projected at $4 billion, an increase of $52.9 million from the Plan, largely due to higher than projected overtime in the Police, Fire, and Streets Departments, as well as pension costs.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2e3c6Y7 [PDF].
Italian Market BID Voted Down
The 9th Street Business Improvement District (BID), which would have covered the Italian Market and its surrounding blocks, was defeated by a vote of the affected property owners, PlanPhilly reported on October 26.
Over one-third of the property owners needed to vote against the plan to defeat it, and 33.86% were opposed.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2eYwaJr.
Winter Season to Begin at Dilworth Park
The Rothman Institute Ice Rink will reopen on the north side of Dilworth Park for a third season on Friday, November 11, Veterans Day, with a salute to veterans, accompanied by the return of the popular Rothman Institute Cabin, with a new menu by Brûlée Catering at the Dilworth Park Air Grille. Rink, cabin and grille will remain open for business until Sunday, February 26, 2017. They will be complemented on the south side of the park by the new Dilworth Park Wintergarden, featuring America’s Garden Capital Maze, and the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market. The Winter Season at Dilworth Park is presented by Rothman Institute, William Penn Foundation and through generous support from Subaru, Capital One, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Temple University and 6abc.
Admission to the Rothman Institute Ice Rink will be $3 for children 10 and under, $5 for adults, and skate rental will be $10. Hours will be Noon to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday; Noon to 11:00 p.m. on Friday; 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday; and Noon to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. For holiday hours, please check the Dilworth Park website, dilworthpark.org.
CCD Customer Satisfaction Survey
Please Tell Us What You Think
Each year, the Center City District (CCD) surveys its constituents to measure how well it is performing. The deadline has been extended, so we would appreciate your taking the time to respond to this survey. It should take no more than a few minutes to complete. Here’s the survey: ccdsurvey.com.