State Government News
Wolf Extends Stay-Home Order, Relaxes Construction Restrictions
Gov. Tom Wolf has extended Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order until May 8 while approving a series of steps to start reopening the economy. Among those steps is the significant, statewide resumption of public and private residential and nonresidential construction, effective May 1, as long as social distancing and other precautions are taken on work sites.
Additionally, Wolf said that areas with a downward trajectory of cases over a two-week period and an adequate number of available hospital beds – most likely areas in the north-central and northwestern parts of the state – may begin a limited reopening May 8. Businesses would be allowed to call employees back to work, as long as they provide masks and require workers to practice social distancing. Gyms, theaters and schools would remain closed, large gatherings would still be prohibited and restaurants and bars would still be limited to providing takeout food.
Wolf’s office said the slow rollouts “will be closely observed in the coming days and weeks to ensure that they do not result in a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, in which case the governor will use his authority under the emergency disaster declaration to resume restrictions to protect public health and safety.”
Office Sector News
Guidelines For Reopening Workplaces
Several commercial brokerage firms have released reports that assist in planning for office reopening:
Newmark Knight Frank has released an Office Reboarding Roadmap. http://view.ceros.com/x/covid19/p/20
Cushman & Wakefield has released Recovery Readiness: A How-To Guide For Re-Opening Your Workplace. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/cushman-wakefield-releases-guide-reopening-133200046.html
Center City Development Site Approved For 60 Units Sells For $4M
Rittenhouse Realty Advisors said it has sold an 8,970-square-foot development site located at 701 South Broad Street that has been approved for 60 apartment units and a 10-year tax abatement.
Ken Wellar, managing director at RRA, said his firm is “still seeing a lot of activity from developers looking for prime development opportunities.” The parcel has frontage on three streets: Broad Street, Bainbridge Street and Kenilworth Street.
Spark Therapeutics Takes More Space At Schuylkill Yards
Spark Therapeutics has signed a 12-year lease at 3000 Market Street, according to published reports. The 58,587-square-foot building is located across from space Spark is taking in the Bulletin Building at 3025 Market Street, a 282,709-square-foot structure being redeveloped in University City.
Brandywine Realty Trust owns both buildings, which are adjacent to 30th Street Station. Spark, which was spun out of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was acquired last year by Roche for $4.3 billion.
Eds & Meds News
Passage Bio Gets Orphan Designation For Gene Therapy Drug
Passage Bio's lead gene therapy candidate has received orphan drug designation from the Food and Drug Administration, a status that brings financial incentives for the product. The Philadelphia company, which raised $248.4 million from its initial public stock offering earlier this year, earned the FDA designation for its potential treatment of gangliosidosis, a progressive childhood disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
The FDA grants orphan designation status to experimental drugs and biologics targeting diseases or conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people nationwide. Companies receiving the designation qualify for benefits that include financial incentives to support clinical development and, with regulatory approval, up to seven years of U.S. market exclusivity.
Monell, Temple Part Of Global Study On Coronavirus And Smell Loss
With rapid onset loss of smell being identified as a potential marker for COVID-19, a consortium of health organizations including Temple University and the Monell Chemical Senses Center have begun to study the connection between the chemical senses and the coronavirus.
Monell Associate Director Danielle Reed and Valentina Parma, a research assistant professor at Temple, are part of the nine-person international leadership team for The Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers. The consortium's researchers plan to use data collected from a worldwide survey to gain insight into how the virus is transmitted and possibly how to prevent its spread.
NSF Awards $750K To NeuroFlow For AI Research
NeuroFlow has received $750,000 from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research program to continue expanding its digital health platform, which helps engage patients and track their behavioral health. The four-year-old Center City company’s software allows clinicians to see data from wearable devices, assign tasks for patients to complete and send automated motivational emails.
NeuroFlow’s platform is now being used by more than 1,000 providers and health organizations. The NSF funding will allow the company to increase investments in artificial intelligence. NeuroFlow also closed a $7.5 million Series A round of fundraising at the end of 2019 to add to its sales, marketing and data science departments.
Julie Coker Delays New Job, Forgoes Salary To Assist PHLCVB
Julie Coker, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, has postponed the start date for her new role leading the San Diego Tourism Authority to remain in Philadelphia and help the organization navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
Coker, who was forgoing her salary in both destinations during the transition period, said she draws from her years of experience as a travel industry leader to take a bullish view. “My message to my colleagues has been one of hope. We’ve faced challenges before and came through together,” she said.
Marriott Institutes New Cleaning Protocols, Cleanliness Council
Marriott International is rolling out a multipronged platform to elevate its cleanliness standards and hospitality protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marriott has created the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to tackle the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic at the hotel level and further advance the company’s efforts in this area. The council is focused on developing the next level of global standards designed to minimize risk and enhance safety for its customers and employees.
Restaurant Coalition Asks For PPP Flexibility, Sales Tax Holiday
A coalition of more than 60 Philadelphia restaurateurs sent letters to local and federal officials asking for flexibility with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, a sales tax holiday and the ability to expand takeout liquor sales. Save Philly Restaurants, which represents more than 170 eateries and thousands of jobs, said federal- and local-level changes must be made for restaurants to survive the coronavirus crisis.
The group also requested a 90-day moratorium on evictions for businesses that lease property and for legislators to prevent landlords from claiming a company is in default when the crisis ends. The restaurants asked to be given a “fair and reasonable” time period to catch up on rent.
Food Purveyors Create Delivery Service To Boost Revenues
A group of local small business owners selling a variety of craft foods have created a delivery service aimed to boost revenues amid the statewide shutdown. Triple Bottom Brewing and Lil’ Pop Shop, in partnership with Weckerly’s Ice Cream, Câphé Roasters, Third Wheel Cheese and Mycopolitan Mushroom Company, collaborated on the rollout of the Joy Box service.
On Triple Bottom’s website, customers are able to assemble Joy Box care packages with products from the niche concepts. The businesses adopted the tagline “essential non-essentials” in light of being deemed nonessential businesses during the pandemic. The boxes are available for delivery to any address in Philadelphia and parts of the suburbs — an expanded coverage zone following several weeks of initial success with the endeavor.
Support Center City Businesses
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Philadelphia, CCD has been communicating on our website and social media channels about retailers and restaurants offering online shopping, gift cards, takeout, delivery and virtual classes. Your purchases and participation will greatly help Center City businesses manage in this challenging time. Check back often, as the list is updated regularly.
GoPuff Aims To Hire Thousands Amid Pandemic
As many businesses are forced to cut staff or close during the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia-based on-demand delivery startup goPuff is hiring thousands of driver partners and field employees in the next 90 days. The new positions span the startup’s more than 150 locations nationwide.
The hiring surge comes as goPuff, created in 2013 by two then-undergraduates at Drexel University, experiences increased demand from new and existing users of the platform. In response, goPuff expedited the launch of 10 new locations. Those include a new facility in Port Richmond that opened last week, bringing the total count of goPuff facilities in Philadelphia to eight.
Philadelphia Startup Raises $12.9M, Led By Prominent VC Firm
Philadelphia tech startup Fishtown Analytics raised a $12.9 million funding round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, one of the country's most well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firms. The four-year-old company is now looking to roughly double its 24-person team of remote workers over the next year.
Fishtown Analytics makes “dbt,” which stands for data built tool and is designed to take a company’s raw data in disparate sources and distill it down to usable, clean data. Andressen Horowitz's prior investments have included Facebook, Lyft, Airbnb and Pinterest.
Residential Market News
Philadelphia Class A Apartment Market Was Steady In Q1
Market conditions in the Philadelphia metro area were steady during the first quarter of 2020, according to a new report from Delta Associates. Annual rent growth was near the five-year average while vacancy held steady.
Delta Associates said that absorption in the city continued to rise and the 36-month development pipeline was steadily decreasing. The COVID-19 pandemic will disrupt the apartment market moving forward, but its severity and duration depends on how long stay-at-home orders and other health and safety measures remain in place.
To read about the housing market in Philadelphia as 2020 began, see CCD/CPDC’s 16-page report Greater Center City Housing 2020: Strong Fundamentals (Interrupted).
How Public Transit Can Survive Coronavirus
Noting the financial peril faced by public transportation systems as ridership collapses due to lockdowns, CityLab has published guidance from two researchers with NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management for immediate and long-term transit fixes. Now and for the duration of the pandemic, agencies need money to continue running service, and to keep operators and passengers safe. Spending priorities need to shift and mimic best practices used in cities to keep public spaces clean and infection rates low.
As the economy begins to recover, rebuilding ridership will require increasing efficiency of transit vehicles on congested streets by dedicating lanes to buses, giving buses priority at signalized intersections, enacting congestion pricing, implementing parking restrictions, funding capital projects to fix chronic chokepoints and investing in new technologies that improve operations.
SEPTA, Lightsource BP Sign Solar Deal
SEPTA has signed a long-term power contract with Lightsource BP for two 43.8 megawatt solar farms in south-central Pennsylvania. Lightsource BP will finance, build, own and operate the two solar farms, which will generate nearly 20% of SEPTA's 380,000 megawatt electricity demand annually – the equivalent of providing energy to more than 6,100 U.S. homes annually.
SEPTA said generation from solar farms of this size and type would be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 47,390 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to offsetting the emissions of 500 of SEPTA’s buses each year. The effort also supports Pennsylvania’s goals to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and increase security with locally generated power.
PHL Using $116M From CARES Act For Tenant Relief
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) will receive more than $116 million in government aid to buoy operations at the travel hub that has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds come from the Federal Aviation Administration via the $2 trillion CARES Act. A spokesperson said PHL has offered a relief package including a three-month rent deferral to its airport tenants, including airlines, concession operators and rental car companies.
Decreased demand resulted in the suspension of 46 routes out of PHL this month. PHL’s 2019 Regional Impact Report notes that the airport was a growing hub for regional economic activity in the city pre-coronavirus, generating $16.8 billion in annual economic impact.
City Government News
Kenney Administration Asks Departments To Cut Budgets Up To 20%
In a new spending plan to be presented to City Council this week, Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to ask city departments to trim their budgets by 15% to 20% — including cuts in staffing and services. The Kenney administration scrapped its previous budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 in the wake of the local outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown of most functions citywide.
Reducing the current $5 billion budget or the formerly proposed $5.2 billion budget by 20% would result in a $1 billion reduction in city spending.
Controller: Pandemic Could Cost The City As Much As $647M
The coronavirus pandemic could cost the city government $344 million to $647 million in lost tax revenue through June 2021, according to a report by the Philadelphia controller’s office. Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said the city could avoid laying off workers or cutting core services by tapping reserves, reducing overtime, pausing newer initiatives championed by Mayor Jim Kenney, and taking advantage of federal loans.
Rhynhart did not specify what initiatives could be cut. The mayor has previously championed investing in pre-kindergarten programs and revitalizing rec centers. He most recently proposed a new scholarship program for Community College of Philadelphia and a plan to bring street sweeping to city neighborhoods.
Resigning City Manager Offers Thoughts On Retooling Government
Santa Monica, Calif., City Manager Rick Cole, who announced that he was resigning from his post amid pandemic-related budget cuts to address a $300 million budget shortfall over the next 26 months, offered some departing thoughts on the need for redesigning local governments for the 21st century by focusing beyond simply providing services as a response to challenges after they arise, and instead focusing on long-term preventative strategies. Cities also “need to be smarter about using data to measure and improve our performance just as businesses use metrics to sharpen their competitive edge,” he said.
Asked whether the current crisis will hasten or delay a shift to retooling local governments to better address 21st-century needs, Cole said, “We are hunkered down in our homes now. But when we emerge from them, we can’t hunker down in obsolete formulas of outmoded government bureaucracy. No one knows when or how this will end, but it will end. Our job in the public sector is to lay the foundation for a more equitable, more sustainable and more resilient life in the cities of the future.”
Out Now: State of Center City 2020
Philadelphia was beginning its 11th year of growth when we started researching and writing our annual State of Center City report. Then everything changed. We decided to release the report because it serves as a benchmark as Philadelphia plans its recovery and as a reminder of both our strengths and the lingering challenges we will need to address.
State of Center City 2020 provides detailed profiles of the diverse sectors that drove 10 straight years of employment growth as we entered 2020. It includes information on housing and transportation trends, serves as a report on CCD operations and their impact.
The report can be viewed using the Issuu reader or downloaded as a pdf from our website.
Select recent coverage of State of Center City 2020:
Philadelphia Business Journal: Center City's momentum carried into 2020. Will it continue after the pandemic? https://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2020/04/20/center-citys-momentum-carried-into-2020-will-it.html
The Philadelphia Tribune: Report touts Center City strengths in recovering from pandemic https://www.phillytrib.com/news/report-touts-center-city-strengths-in-recovering-from-pandemic/article_64cd76c9-e8a1-514d-915d-5d068c194c55.html
“Philadelphia Reminds Us Every Day … We Will Prevail”
In a commentary accompanying State of Center City 2020 titled “Ready to Rebound,” CCD President and CPDC Executive Director Paul R. Levy looks back at prior crises we have faced – from Philadelphia’s early 1990s financial crisis to the aftermath of 9/11 to the 2008 recession – and concludes that our strong fundamentals will enable Center City to endure, rebound and thrive as this crisis recedes.
The commentary states, “Cities, despite their flaws, bring us together. Public spaces and vibrant walkways fulfill the human desire for connection. In cities, we gather talent, technology, resources, experience and perspectives to adapt and respond. In Philadelphia, we enjoy a thriving, diverse, dense downtown, yet walk amidst centuries of history, echoes of challenges we’ve overcome. Philadelphia reminds us every day, despite setbacks, we will prevail.”