News

Center City News Update - 03.21.17

Office Sector News

Comcast Launching Programs to Boost Tech
Comcast Corporation, in an effort to boost tech in Philadelphia, plans an “accelerator” program for start-ups and entrepreneurs on the fourth floor of its $1.5 billion Comcast Technology Center, expected to open in early 2018, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 7.

Comcast also has launched a summer-intern program for college students and will open a floor of the new tower for interaction with small tech companies. An outside group, Techstars, will select start-up companies to participate. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2naPDcJ.

Magazine Moving to the Curtis
Philadelphia Magazine has signed a 12-year lease for 15,786 square feet in the Curtis, 601 Walnut Street, and will move from its longtime home at 1818 Market Street in August, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on March 9. Philadelphia Magazine is published by Metrocorp.

To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2lU17oR.

Development News

Permit Issued for Another Large Building on Jewelers Row
PRDC Properties LLC, owner of the Jewelry Trades Building, 734-740 Sansom Street, has acquired a zoning permit to double the number of floors of the existing six-story building to accommodate 54 new residential units, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 9.

Construction plans have not been announced, but the company wanted to secure the zoning permissions in case the city imposed restrictions on building along Jewelers Row following the controversy over the Toll Brothers’ nearby condominium project, the article noted.

To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2mF21Ek.

Hospitality News

Marriott to Expand
The Marriott Residence Inn Hotel Center City Philadelphia on East Penn Square will expand to 324 guest rooms from 290 by converting the hotel’s larger units into studios, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 9.

A timeline for the renovations was not announced. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2mbJYTy.

Eds and Meds News

School District Challenge of Tax Appeals Considered by State Supreme Court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 8 heard arguments on an Upper Merion School District case questioning whether the law that allows school districts to appeal assessments also permits the districts to appeal only higher value commercial properties, while ignoring significantly under-assessed single-family properties, without violating the state’s Uniformity Clause. No date has been announced for the Supreme Court’s decision. The Philadelphia School District is also in the process of appealing assessments that are based on an income approach to value.

Retail News

Yards’ New Brewery Under Construction
Work has begun on the project that will convert a 70,000-square-foot portion of Destination Maternity Corporation’s former warehouse at Fifth and Spring Garden Streets into Yards Brewing Company’s new brewery, event space and tasting room, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 17.

The project is expected to cost $19 million, with $6 million spent on construction and $13 million on new equipment. Yards will move from its current 38,000-square-foot brewery near the Delaware River at Poplar Street between October and December.

To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2niwY2o.

Parks and Open Space News
At Dilworth Park, preparations are underway to turn on the fountain on Saturday, April 1. During the month of March, the 6,400-square-foot Greenfield Lawn will be resodded, 44 trees will be pruned and decorated with new, white LED lighting, and 5,500 bulbs that were planted in the fall should begin to bloom.

On April 1, the Air Stream Grille will reopen in the space to the east of the Dilworth Park Café, umbrellas again will provide shade for the tables, and the fountain will resume its playful water show. On April 4, Spring Training at Dilworth Park presented by Rothman Institute begins, offering a variety of free activities on Tuesdays through Thursdays, April 4 through May 25, featuring tips and tricks from experts at Rothman Institute and top-notch trainers leading free classes: 
Tuesdays, it’s yoga at noon and boot camp at 6:00 p.m.;
Wednesdays, at 1:00 p.m., Silver Sneakers, a fitness program for boomers and beyond, and at 6:30 p.m., City Fit Girls Running Club
Thursdays at 6:00 p.m., Zumba with music powered by Live Nation.

Spring Training at Dilworth Park is presented by Rothman Institute, with program partners Optimal Sport Health Clubs and City Fit Girls. For complete information on all activities at the park, please go to dilworthpark.org.

Transportation News

U.S. DOT Proposed for 13% Cut in FY18
The Trump administration on March 16 introduced the Blueprint for its FY18 budget, which includes $16.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, representing a 13% cut in funds, the Washington Post reported.

The spending plan cuts $499 million from the TIGER grant program, effectively closing it, ends federal funding of long-distance Amtrak service, and limits the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program, known as “New Starts,” to projects that already have formal federal commitments.

In addition, air traffic control and the Federal Aviation Administration’s 14,000 controllers would become a privatized entity.

To read the Washington Post’s coverage, please go to wapo.st/2ne92N8. To read the Budget Blueprint, please go to bit.ly/2nvjrBO [PDF].

The Association for Commuter Transportation will examine the issues raised by the proposed budget at a three-day Public Policy Summit, April 19 to 21, in Washington, D.C. Early bird registration ends March 25. To review the program and register, please go to conta.cc/2nw1FS5.

SEPTA Proposes Fare Hike and Other Updates
SEPTA announced its plan for the Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), which includes fare increases (approximately 25 cents per ride) that would go into effect at the beginning of FY18 on July 1, pending approval by the SEPTA Board.

The agency will hold public hearings Wednesday, April 19, through Tuesday, April 25, to gather input from customers, residents and other members of the public, who also can submit comments via e-mail to operatingbudget@septa.org, or by writing to: Director of Operating Budget, SEPTA, 1234 Market Street, Ninth Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107, by May 1.

To view times and locations for the hearings, along with details on the proposed fare changes, please go to bit.ly/2mYd9MD.

Due to increasing demand, SEPTA on March 7 announced it has expanded its underground bicycle parking at the Tasker-Morris Station on the Broad Street Line from six U-racks to 16. The station has SEPTA's first underground bicycle infrastructure.

Tasker-Morris also has bicycle stair runners to assist customers going up and down the steps with a bicycle, security cameras and educational signage about SEPTA's bicycle parking policy and information regarding how to securely lock a bike to the U-rack.

SEPTA has plans to create similar underground bicycle parking at the 2nd Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line and at Snyder and Ellsworth-Federal Stations on the Broad Street Line.

To read the announcement, please go to bit.ly/2mCGRak. To learn more about SEPTA's Cycle Transit plan, please go to bit.ly/2mmVfD0 [PDF].

Also, on March 9 SEPTA began the sale of its fully functional Key card and expected to have them at 55 locations within two weeks, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The card enables the owner to carry a balance and pay for one $1.80 ride at a time. The card sells for $10, which can be applied to fares, and can accommodate up to $250. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2m1CTZU.

At its meeting this week, SEPTA’s board is expected to award CRRC MA Corporation a $137.5 million contract to build 45 bilevel railcars for Regional Rail, PlanPhilly reported on March 17.

The Chinese-owned company with a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, won over bids from South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, with a manufacturing plant in South Philadelphia, and Bombardier, a Canadian company with plants near Pittsburgh and Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Delivery of the cars would begin in October 2019. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2nwHu6L.

Alaska Airlines to Add Philadelphia-to-San Francisco Nonstop
Beginning August 31, Alaska Airlines will begin nonstop daily flights between Philadelphia and San Francisco, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 9.

The San Francisco-to-Philadelphia flight will depart San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at 10:35 p.m. on August 31 and arrive at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) at 7:00 a.m. the following day. The first flight to SFO from PHL will leave at 8:15 a.m. on September 1, and arrive in San Francisco at 11:25 a.m.

Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America, Inc. in December, creating the fifth-largest U.S. airline.

To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2nnuwnF.

Gaming News

Revenue Down Slightly at SugarHouse Casino
Revenue at SugarHouse Casino on the Delaware River fell slightly in February, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, with the casino taking in $22,769,852 in February, compared to January’s $24,892,082.

The Commonwealth’s share of taxes was $6,245,184, compared to January’s $6,292,224.

The City of Philadelphia collected $757,969, compared to $775,708, in January.

To view all casino revenues, please go to bit.ly/2bkEjIO.

Economic News

Manufacturing Improved in March
Results from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s March Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggest that regional manufacturing activity continued to expand, with new orders up for 53.4% of the respondents, down for 14.8%, and remaining unchanged for 31.9%.

The number of full-time employees increased for 25.1%, fell for 7.6%, and continued the same for 66.2%. Looking ahead six months, 66.9% of the firms reported positive expectations, 6.6% foresaw a downturn, and 23.4% reported they expected no change.

To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2n3LIBQ.

Employment News
Investment in Port of Philadelphia to Create 9,000 Jobs
The Wolf administration’s investment of $300 million in the Port of Philadelphia is expected to create 2,000 waterfront jobs and nearly 7,000 total jobs for truckers, rail workers, suppliers, and port-related businesses, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 16.

Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the main container terminal, will receive four new cranes with much greater lifting capacity, two in October and two in 2018.

The improvements, detailed in depth in the article, will position Philadelphia to attract new shippers that currently go to New York and Baltimore.

To read the article and view the charts, please go to bit.ly/2nziDM8.

Government News

Council Passes Bill to Require Evaluation of Tax Breaks
City Council on March 16 unanimously passed Bill #161015, introduced on November 17 by Councilman Allan Domb, which requires an evaluation of tax benefits provided by the City such as tax exemptions, abatements, and credits.

The analysis is to include the amount of tax benefits received by taxpayers, documentation of its economic effectiveness, and a comparison to similar benefits in other peer cities. This bill has been supported by Commerce Director Harold Epps, as part of a broader plan to improve the tools that Philadelphia has for business attraction.

The first report is due June 30, 2018, and subsequent versions are to be provided every three years.

To read the bill, please go to bit.ly/2m1EQFH.

Mayor Releases Vision Zero Action Plan
Mayor Jim Kenney on March 7 announced the release of the initial draft of the Vision Zero Three-Year Action Plan to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and reduce injuries, and invited the public to comment.

Last year Mayor Kenney created the Vision Zero Task Force with goals of establishing data-driven strategies for achieving zero traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries; determining best practices, and engaging and educating the public around the issue of traffic safety.

To read the Mayor’s press release, please go to bit.ly/2nxcMGt. To read the action plan, please go to bit.ly/2mfDgg3 [PDF].

PGW Files With PUC to Raise Rates
Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to approve a $70 million rate increase that would be achieved mostly through a 50% increase in the monthly charge for all customers, from $12 to $18, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 6.

The raise is requested because gas consumption has declined 15.4% since 2010, due to more-efficient furnaces and warming weather trends, the article noted. PGW's last base rate increase was in 2009, but five surcharges have been approved by PUC since 2013 to pay for infrastructure improvements, energy-conservation measures, and postretirement employee benefits. To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2n1gtYa.

The PUC voted to review the proposal and make a final decision by the end of November, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 17, bit.ly/2mY69PP.

Upcoming Events

CCRA to Host Two Forums 
The Center City Residents Association (CCRA) will host two town hall forums to give residents an opportunity to meet the new incoming captain of the 9th Police District, Captain Robert Ritchie.

The first, “Crime in Rittenhouse Square,” will be Thursday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m., at Tenth Presbyterian Church, 1700 Spruce Street (enter on 1701 Delancey Street).

The second, “Crime on 15th Street,” will be Thursday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m., at Peirce College, 1420 Pine Street.

City Budget Hearings Scheduled
City Council’s budget hearings for the FY18-22 Five-Year Plan, Capital Budget, Revenue Adjustments, and School District Budget and Tax Reauthorization will begin with the 5-Year Plan on Tuesday, March 28, at 10:00 a.m. The hearings are primarily on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and end on Wednesday, May 17, with two sessions of public testimony on the School District.

The Council bills are #170196 for the Capital Budget, bit.ly/2mkARjp, and #170197 for the Operating Budget, bit.ly/2nh3XEI. To view the Operating Budget in Brief, the FY18 Capital Budget, and the Five-Year Financial and Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022, please go to bit.ly/2lyRQNL.