Center City News Update | December 13, 2016
Office Sector News
Office Buildings Lead 2016 Transactions
Commercial transactions in Center City totaled $781.6 million through October 2016 and, if the Centre Square and Wanamaker Building sales close by year-end as expected, the total amount would crest the $1 billion mark, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on December 1.
Office buildings have been the most actively traded properties and include Brandywine Realty Trust’s sale of the former post office across from 30th Street Station for $354 million, Coretrust Capital Partners’ purchase of the office portion of Two Liberty Place for $219 million, and Keystone Property Group’s purchase of One Washington Square for $114 million.
Multifamily sales were approximately $153 million, compared to $404.3 million in 2015, $251.7 million in 2014, and $201.7 million in 2013, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2gNjE2m.
Med Tech Startup Expands
The health IT firm Biomeme has relocated from a 2,200-square-foot space in Old City to a 4,500-square-foot office at 10th and Chestnut Streets, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on December 5, continuing a trend of the migration of tenants into the east side of Center City. The med tech startup was part of Dreamit Health’s first cohort.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2g25T0C.
Downtown Moves for Two Firms
Two firms have signed leases for new locations in Center City. The law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads has signed a 16-year lease for 75,000 square feet at 1735 Market Street and will move from 123 South Broad Street, where its offices have been for two decades.
Merrill Lynch, which occupies approximately 45,000 square feet at One Liberty Place, will join its parent company, Bank of America, and move into 26,696 square feet on the seventh floor at Four Penn Center, 1600 John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2hdtiM6.
Toll Brothers Expands Plan for Jewelers’ Row
Toll Brothers’ City Living has filed an amendment to its zoning application to allow construction of a 29-story tower with 109 units, instead of the previously planned 16-story building with 80 condominiums at 702-710 Sansom Street on Jewelers’ Row, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on December 5.
The revised plan's denser development is permitted under current zoning for the site, the article noted.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2g1WC8G.
Residential Market News
House Prices Up 13% in 2016
The normalized price of housing in Philadelphia in September was $106,000, a 13% increase since the beginning of the year, and nearly a full return to the pre-Great Recession peak, according to Econsult Solutions’ Philadelphia Housing Index, released on December 2.
The accompanying charts show sales volume increasing dramatically, especially in neighborhoods such as Kensington.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2hnSkbY.
Visit Philadelphia Offers New Package to Boost Winter’s Slowdown
Visit Philadelphia has launched a new overnight hotel package to attract more visitors during the winter months when hotels traditionally see a downturn in occupied room nights, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported on December 1.
The package, available through March 19, 2017, includes tickets to Jurassic World: The Exhibition and offers free hotel parking. It is Visit Philadelphia’s largest package to date and includes 38 participating hotels, restaurants, and museums.
Philadelphia Named a Top City to Visit in 2017
Philadelphia was named to the top 50 cities to visit in 2017 by Travel + Leisure magazine, Curbed Philadelphia reported on December 7.
The article cited the Democratic National Convention, the city’s induction as the U.S.’s only World Heritage City, new hotels and the forthcoming Museum of the American Revolution, plus the restaurant-rich East Passyunk neighborhood, as reasons to visit.
Eds and Meds News
Health Majors Lead in Number of Degrees Granted
Health majors (20,755) and business and business-related majors (16,860) accounted for 41.3% of the 91,060 degrees conferred in 2015, according to Campus Philly’s 2016 Annual Report, released on December 6.
With 21,273 international students, Philadelphia ranks eighth out of all U.S. metropolitan areas, following New York (84,713), Los Angeles (59,842), Boston (47,895), Chicago (28,829), San Francisco (25,204), Dallas (23,588), and Washington, D.C. (22,672). Seattle (21,133) and Houston (18,623) completed the top 10.
The cover of the report features a photo of CollegeFest at Dilworth Park, held in September to welcome students to Philadelphia.
To read the report, please go to bit.ly/2glTLHX [PDF].
$6 Million Fund for Health IT Startups
Early-stage health IT startups in Philadelphia are getting a new $6 million investment fund focused exclusively on local startups, backed by public-private venture firm Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Independence Health Group (the parent company of Independence Blue Cross) and venture firm Safeguard Scientifics, Technical.ly Philly reported on December 8.
Investments will be between $50,000 and $1 million, plus young companies will receive mentorship as they grow.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2hpgf6O.
More Than 100,000 Respond to School District Survey
The Philadelphia School District's 2015-16 citywide survey drew more than 100,000 responses from students, teachers, parents and principals, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on December 1. Of students in grades three through 12, 30% said their schools were clean most or all of the time, and 37% said they enjoyed being in school most or all of the time. Only 13% of parents participated.
Almost 70% of principals responded that a lack of adequate funding was “a great challenge” to student learning.
To read the article, please go to bit.ly/2gdemKg.
$1 Billion in Demand for Downtown Retail
The release of a new report on December 5 by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation on Center City’s retail vibrancy prompted a significant amount of favorable press coverage: Philadelphia Magazine, bit.ly/2gscFrG; PlanPhilly, bit.ly/2h7hsU3; Curbed Philadelphia, bit.ly/2hp0KNx; The Philadelphia Inquirer, bit.ly/2hluhKl; and the Philadelphia Business Journal, bit.ly/2gDQFgO.
The report was used by CCD staff who attended the annual International Council of Shopping Centers meeting in New York City, as part of on-going retail recruitment efforts. To read or download the 24-page report, Center City Reports: Philadelphia Retail, please go to centercityphila.org/docs/CCR16_retail.pdf [PDF].
Arts and Culture News
Art Commission Approves Holocaust Memorial Redesign
The City of Philadelphia’s Art Commission on December 7 voted unanimously to give conditional approval of the Holocaust Memorial’s redesign, pending presentation and approval of the text that will be inscribed on the six pillars that are part of the new design, PlanPhilly reported.
The memorial will be expanded into a park with grass and trees, featuring the existing statue, Nathan Rapoport’s Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs. The Remembrance Foundation has retained WRT as their design firm and the Center City District as project manager.
The expanded park will include six pillars to symbolize the 6 million murdered, a tree grown from a cutting in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, an imprint of train tracks, and a wall located west of the pillars that will contain an “eternal flame.”
To read the PlanPhilly article, please go to bit.ly/2hd3H3f.
Sidewalk Temporarily Closed at Catto Memorial Site
The sidewalk at the Octavius V. Catto Memorial on the south side of City Hall was closed on December 6, and the first truck arrived on December 7 to help set granite pillars and bases for the $1.5 million sculptural grouping, A Quest for Parity, designed by sculptor Branly Cadet of Oakland, California. A second truck is arriving today, Monday, December 12, to set the remaining pieces. The sidewalk will reopen after the crane leaves tomorrow evening, Tuesday, December 13, or Wednesday, December 14.
The Catto Memorial is a project of the City of Philadelphia. For additional information about Catto and the memorial and to see a miniature replica, please go to bit.ly/2gRtldf.
Parks and Open Space News
Fundraising for the Viaduct Rail Park Continues
The Center City District Foundation (CCDF) continues to raise $700,000 in private contributions still needed to complete the Reading Viaduct Rail Park project. Through December 31, CCDF is promoting fundtherailpark.org, a crowd-funding campaign to secure additional supporters and to engage them in raising funds from their own networks.
CCDF’s Rail Park Benefactor Program offers opportunities for businesses and individuals to support the park and leave a legacy at the same time. Whether as a holiday gift or to commemorate a special occasion, the Benefactor Program presents options ranging from the naming of large items such as the park’s swings, tiered seating areas or oversized hanging planter boxes to adopting a park tree, shrub or bench. Donations and gifts can be made at supportccdf.org/viaductrailpark.
Please contact Nancy Goldenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.440.5523 to discuss gift options. There is still time to give!
New SEPTA Regional Rail Schedules
New SEPTA Regional Rail schedules went into effect yesterday, Sunday, December 11, with adjustments to most weekday times.
Customers who use the official SEPTA App for iPhone or Android can visit the December Rail Schedule page for instructions on downloading and updating the apps.
To view all the changes, please go to septa.org/schedules/upcoming-rail.html.
Also, SEPTA has posted a Regional Rail Service Improvement Program microsite to update customers on the steps being taken to improve and strengthen SEPTA’s Regional Rail operations at septa.org/service/rail/improvement/.
Complete Streets Director to Focus on Vision Zero
Kelley Yemen, the City of Philadelphia’s new Director of the Office of Complete Streets, has set as her first priority Vision Zero, the road traffic safety project pioneered in Sweden that aims to eliminate fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. Yemen announced the news at the quarterly meeting of the Central Philadelphia Transportation Management Association, held at the Center City District on December 7.
Yemen is creating an Action Plan that will be presented in March and will focus on what policies need to change, how the City manages its own fleet, plus enforcement, education and engineering. Philadelphia has higher crash rates than other peer cities, Yemen noted.
To get to know Yemen better, please read the profile published in PlanPhilly on November 30, bit.ly/2gcsqE5.
Differences Between Urban and Rural Populations
People who live in rural areas are more likely to own their own homes, live in their state of birth and have served in the military than their urban counterparts, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Rural areas cover 97% of the nation’s land area and contain 19.3% of the population (about 60 million people).
Adults in rural areas had a median age of 51, making them older compared with adults in urban areas with a median age of 45. They had lower rates of poverty (11.7% compared with 14.0%) but were less likely to have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher (19.5% compared with 29.0%). Rural communities had fewer adults born in other countries compared with those in urban areas (4.0% compared with 19.0%).
To read the Census report, please go to bit.ly/2hojX4M.
Discussion on Cities in New Political Era
The Brookings Institution has placed online “Cities in the Age of Trump and Brexit,” featuring a conversation with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and British MP Tristram Hunt, available to watch at brook.gs/2gT1Van.
City Council Adjourns
City Council met Thursday, voted on the last bills to be passed in 2016, and adjourned until January 26, 2017.
Bill #160971, introduced on November 3 by Councilman Bobby Henon, provides for awarding contracts based on best value to the City, instead of lowest bid, and passed by a vote of 16-0. It must be presented to the electorate, as the change would require an amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, bit.ly/2gm34rp.
Bill #160840, introduced on September 29 by Councilman William K. Greenlee, which bars employers from asking job applicants for their salary history in an effort to close the wage gap with women and minorities, also passed 16-0, bit.ly/2hcVkEN.
Bill #160810, introduced by Councilman Al Taubenberger on September 22, closes loopholes in the Realty Transfer Tax by amending the definition of “value” as it relates to acquired real estate companies, and the definitions of “real estate company” and “acquired real estate company,” bit.ly/2hvgkGj.
Tomorrow! CPDC Meeting: Innovation, In-Movers & Start-Ups
Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13, at 8:30 a.m., at The Logan Hotel, 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation will hold its final General Membership Meeting of 2016.
The program will include a panel discussion on the topic, Innovation, In-Movers & Start-Ups: New Sources for Center City Office Demand.
Speakers will be Bret Perkins, Vice President, External and Government Affairs, Comcast Corporation; Bob Moul, CEO, Cloudamize, Past President of Philly Start-Up Leaders; and Ed O’Brien, Chief Real Estate Officer, Benjamin’s Desk.
Bob Moul will speak to the current state of the innovation ecosystem in Philadelphia, drawing on his 35 years of experience building companies, as well as his role advising various start-ups throughout the city. Ed O’Brien will talk about Benjamin’s Desk’s plans for expansion in Philadelphia, as well as the launch of their new venture, FirstBase, targeting marketplace demand for a brokerage company focusing on the growing real estate needs of coworking users graduating into commercial space downtown. Bret Perkins will present Comcast’s plans for the new Comcast Technology Center, opening in 2018, and employees who will work there, as well as the role Comcast will play in connecting with emerging technology firms in Philadelphia. Paul Levy will moderate the panel discussion.
As locally-grown businesses move into newly-renovated space with Class A rents; regional firms open satellite offices in coworking sites downtown to access highly-educated, city workers; and innovation the buzz-word for existing and newly planned districts in Center City and University City, what is still needed to create a sustainable innovation ecosystem and long-term growth? Please come and enjoy this interesting panel discussion on how changing trends favor Philadelphia’s CBD and how this will affect Center City’s office and housing markets in 2017.
CPDC members are encouraged to invite both young professionals and other members of their firms to attend this meeting.
Opportunity to Support Organizations that Feed, House the Homeless
The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and the Center City District invite you to join two dozen local organizations that provide food, housing and social services to the homeless year-round and will be staffing information tables at an Open House on Thursday, January 15, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Meeting Room 108 A (enter at 12th and Arch Streets, West Entrance).
The Open House is an opportunity to raise awareness this holiday season about these organizations and what they do to help homeless people and to communicate how much more they could do with greater resources and financial support. Attendees will learn how they can volunteer their time, donate needed supplies or make tax-deductible charitable contributions to help end the cycle of homelessness in Philadelphia.
Mayor Jim Kenney will make brief remarks, scheduled for 4:00 p.m.
To view the list of participating organizations, please go to bit.ly/2gpKZqK [PDF].