CPDC Developments Newsletter - 09.17.19

Development News

16 Condos Planned To Replace Painted Bride Arts Building

A Philadelphia developer has filed permits to build 16 condos topped by a roof deck on the site of the Painted Bride art gallery and performance space. The plans from Atrium Design Group call for two semi-detached structures with 16 dwellings and an accompanying 16 parking spaces. The gross square area of the proposed development is almost 54,000 square feet.

The Painted Bride had been trying to sell its 230 Vine Street headquarters since 2017, stating that proceeds from the sale would help sustain its work supporting local artists. Developer Shimi Zakin bought the property for $4.85 million in May.

New York Investment Firm Buys Closed 13.5-Acre Rotem Plant 

An affiliate of Wharton Equity Partners along with Walton Street Capital Partners has acquired 2400 Weccacoe Avenue, a 283,500-square-foot property in South Philadelphia formerly occupied by Hyundai Rotem, a South Korean company that made train cars for SEPTA

The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that the sale price was $16.75 million. Wharton has started a $10 million redevelopment of the building that includes tearing out the rail beds, installing a new roof, leveling interior floors, and upgrading loading docks among other upgrades to be completed in early 2020. The new owner plans to rebrand the building as SoPhi Logistics Center and pursue tenants looking for last-mile distribution services.

Eds & Meds News

Gene Therapy Startup Passage Bio Raises $110M Series B

Philadelphia-based gene therapy startup Passage Bio has closed a $110 million Series B round of funding, less than seven months after raising a $115.5 million Series A. The latest round was led by Access Biotechnology with participation from existing investors OrbiMed, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Versant Ventures, Lily Asia Ventures, New Leaf Venture Partners and Vivo Capital. The round also included new investors Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group, Highline Capital, Logos Capital and Sphera Funds Management.

Passage Bio was founded by University of Pennsylvania professor James Wilson, in partnership with a rare diseases expert and a pharmaceutical industry veteran. Their research aims to develop drugs that cure several rare brain diseases using gene therapy.

Wills Eye Opens $1.5M Training Lab


Wills Eye Hospital has unveiled its latest training tool with the opening of the $1.5 million William Maul Measey Ophthalmic Surgical Training (MOST) Laboratory. The MOST Lab was created to enable faculty, fellows and residents, as well as industry partners pursuing continuing medical education, to learn and practice basic and advanced surgical techniques.

Features of the lab, located on the eighth floor of the Center City hospital, include nine surgical workstations with operating microscopes integrated into high definition smart screens, as well as two surgical simulators. Wills Eye serves as the department of ophthalmology for Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

Residential Market News

Philadelphia Housing Market Continues Mixed Signals in Q2

The average home price in Philadelphia rose by 1.4% in Q2 on a quality- and seasonally-adjusted basis, according to the latest report from Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. The city’s house prices are currently up an average of 8.5% from one year ago, and the median house price exhibited a major rise in Q2 to $174,900 – a 21.6% increase from $143,800 in the previous quarter.

Home sales activity fell sharply from a year ago. There were 5,462 arms-length sales in Q2, down 15.4% from 6,460 home sales in the same quarter one year ago. This is the largest year-over-year decline in Q2 home sales since the current market’s recovery began in 2012. Overall home sales volume is still running above average: historically, about 3,900 houses change hands every quarter in Philadelphia.

Retail News

N.Y.-Based Pharmacy That Delivers Leases Walnut Street Space 

Medly Pharmacy, a full-service digital pharmacy that delivers prescription medications for free, has signed a 10-year lease on 3,600 square feet of space at 1222 Walnut Street. 

Medly is based in New York and has two locations – one in Brooklyn and another in Somerville, N.J. The majority of its business involves same-day delivery of medicine within a 50-mile radius of one of its stores.

Freeman’s Moving To Aramark Building At 2400 Market

Freeman’s, the venerable Center City auction house, is moving to the 2400 Market Street office building anchored by Aramark. The 214-year-old auction house will occupy 5,000 square feet of retail space on the Schuylkill waterfront building’s ground floor, where it plans a gallery and auction room, and 5,000 square feet of office space on the third floor.

Freeman’s had previously announced its plans to move from the current building at 1808 Chestnut Street and put the 1924 structure up for sale. The developer, Astoban Investments LLC, said in a June application to the Philadelphia Historical Commission that it wanted to convert the property into condos.

Employment News

Calif. Bill: App-Based Companies Must Treat Contract Workers as Employees

California lawmakers have approved a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy. Under the measure, which would go into effect January 1, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.

The bill may influence other states. A coalition of labor groups is pushing similar legislation in New York, and bills in Washington State and Oregon that were similar to California’s but failed to advance could see renewed momentum. New York City passed a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers last year but did not try to classify them as employees.

Philadelphia Jobs, Pay Tick Upward In August

Philadelphia’s job-hunting market improved slightly in August, with employers offering more jobs – and higher salaries – than this time last year, according to new estimates from employment website Glassdoor.

The site estimates there were 111,181 jobs advertised in the Philadelphia area last month, 5.8% higher than the same time a year ago. Those jobs offered a median base pay of $56,972, up 1.2% higher than the same time last year. Across Philadelphia in July, employers advertised 111,072 open jobs, paying a median base salary of $56,737. Both numbers saw slight improvements in August.

Transportation News

New Chestnut Street Loading Zone Project Aims To Ease Congestion

The City is testing a pilot program to change passenger and freight loading on Chestnut Street in Center City. The program runs through February and is designed to reduce travel time for both buses and private vehicles.

The new regulations on Chestnut Street designate 80 feet of the west end of each block between 6th and 20th streets for loading. Loading zones will have 20-minute time limits and be available all day. Twenty feet of curb space on the eastern end of each block will be designated for handicapped parking. The proposal will allow 2-hour meter parking on the rest of the block from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Skepticism Grows In Cities Where E-Scooters Have Landed

Electric rental scooters, touted recently as the next big thing in personal transportation, are experiencing “growing pains” in many cities where they are in use, according to a report in The New York Times.

Since scooter rental companies like Bird, Lime, Razor, Lyft and Uber-owned Jump arrived in cities from San Diego to New York, “the vehicles have led to injuries, deaths, lawsuits and vandals. Regulators and local activists have pushed back against them. One company has even started collecting the vehicles to help keep the sidewalks clear.” City governments are trying to “contain the havoc” but “skepticism about scooter services is rising,” the report said.

City Government News

City Council’s Fall Session: A Preview

As City Council begins the fall legislative session, a roundup published by PlanPhilly provides details of what to expect in the coming months. Among the anticipated proposals:

Council President Darrell Clarke is expected to introduce a proposal to change the 10-year property tax abatement for new construction. Options being considered include a cap that would limit properties above a certain value from taking advantage of the abatement, a phasing-down of the abatement’s value over its 10-year window, and a potential geographic restriction on the abatement

Clarke is also expected to re-introduce a series of sweeping policy proposals that could dramatically change development in the city. One would change how the city treats publicly owned land, including elimination of the Vacant Property Review Committee. Clarke’s other efforts include a bill to require projects of a certain size to establish community benefit agreements with local neighborhood groups.

Councilmember Mark Squilla is expected to re-introduce a package of preservation bills to incentivize the repair and reuse of historic properties. Proposals include eliminating parking requirements for historic projects, allowing accessory dwelling units in protected buildings, and allowing more flexibility in the underlying zoning of historic properties.

Councilmember Allan Domb has begun preliminary discussions about the potential for a tax reimbursement for low-income residents similar to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Under the proposed legislation, the city would grant reimbursements to residents who make $25,000 or less per year. Domb said the city wage tax, one of the highest of its kind in the nation at 3.88%, is disproportionately harmful to the city’s poorest residents.

Upcoming Events

September 24: The Next CPDC Meeting

Join us for the next CPDC meeting at The Union League, Lincoln Hall, 140 South Broad Street on September 24, when our discussion will be Center City Developments: Trends in 2019, Expectations for 2020.

At this meeting, CPDC/CCD will release the new version of our annual real estate report, Developments 2019, highlighting 62 major projects in Center City with an estimated development value of $6.8 billion.

Our panel will focus on their three projects – one office, one retail/entertainment and one residential – and what these projects tell us about current industry trends, the strength of the Center City market and how best to sustain local development momentum.

The panelists are Brian Berson, Senior Vice President of Real Estate & Development at Parkway Corporation; Heather Crowell, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Communications at PREIT; Jim Pearlstein, President of Pearl Properties and Paul R. Levy, Executive Director of CPDC.

Continental breakfast & networking start at 8 a.m., program starts at 8:30 a.m. Membership meetings are open to all members of CPDC firms. RSVP by September 18 to Romina Gutierrez at or 215.440.5543.