CPDC Developments Newsletter - 10.02.18


Comcast Provides First Look At New Technology Center

Comcast Corp. opened the doors to its new tower in Center City. Though still under construction, Comcast has been relocating employees to the $1.5 billion Comcast Technology Center building. All 4,000 workers should be there by late December.

The new high-rise, Philadelphia’s tallest building, and its neighboring Comcast Center will be connected by a not-yet-open underground concourse. A total of 8,000 people will work in the two buildings, with amenities including several restaurants, two company cafeterias, a full-floor gym, on-site medical services, and a hotel that will open next year.

St. Louis-Based Firm Opens First East Coast Office At 1500 Market

The former chairman of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and six other lawyers have left the firm to start a Philadelphia office for St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale. Philadelphia will become Armstrong Teasdale’s 10th office and its first on the East Coast.

Armstrong Teasdale has taken temporary space at 1500 Market St. but is searching for permanent office space that can accommodate its planned growth. The firm’s offices are largely located in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

MakeOffices Plans Third Philadelphia Location In Bourse Building

MakeOffices, the Arlington, Va.-based co-working space operator, is opening its third Philadelphia location at the Bourse building, where it will occupy the fifth floor of the 10-story Beaux Arts structure. The new, 33,360-square-foot space, surrounding the atrium above the 111 S. Independence Mall East building's ground-floor food hall, is scheduled to open early next year.

MakeOffices also has Philadelphia locations at 1635 Market St. and in Two Commerce Square at 2001 Market St. The Bourse building, which encompasses 229,300 square feet of offices and 38,300 square feet of space for shops and restaurants, is undergoing an extensive overhaul by MRP Realty of Washington, D.C.


InstaMed Expands Its Headquarters At 1880 JFK

Digital health company InstaMed has expanded its headquarters at 1880 JFK Blvd. It now occupies another 12,640 square feet in the building, adding the entire 9th floor to its existing space on the 12th and 15th floors.

The expansion includes a 3,200 square-foot “collaboration center” to host company events, engage with the entrepreneur community in the city and connect with the health care providers, insurance companies and patients that make up its health care payments network.

ChenMed Makes $200M Investment In Philadelphia

ChenMed, a Miami-based operator of primary care health centers for Medicare-eligible seniors, is more than doubling its investment in the Philadelphia market to $200 million to fund the opening of at least 10 Dedicated Senior Medical Centers over the next five years. The company has already opened its first four centers — in Olney, Mayfair, North Philadelphia, and West Philadelphia.

ChenMed's model is to provide seniors with affordable care that includes longer appointments, free transportation to and from appointments, a focus on wellness and preventive care, and enhanced services for chronic health conditions. Other features include walk-in appointments, on-site specialists and on-site medication dispensing.

Monell Gets NIH Grant To Make Bitter Meds Easier To Take

The Philadelphia-based Monell Center has received a $271,000 National Institutes of Health grant. Monell and Discovery BioMed of Birmingham, Ala., are in an academic-commercial partnership using taste technology to improve human health.

Awarded through the Small Business Technology Transfer program at the NIH, the funding will be used to help develop screening technologies to identify bitter taste blockers. One of the project’s goals is to make it less unpleasant for patients to take life-saving oral medicines, thereby increasing patient compliance.


Sprouts Opens First Pa. Market On South Broad Street

Sprouts Farmers Market has opened a 32,000-square-foot store at 1000 S. Broad St., its first store in Pennsylvania. The Phoenix, Ariz.-based natural and organic grocer has expanded its U.S. footprint to 19 states with the opening of the store on South Broad Street.

More than 2,400 Sprouts-brand products are among the 19,000 products carried at the store. Sprouts CEO Amin Maredia said that 60% of the chain’s sales are fresh items, where the supermarket sector is seeing its fastest category growth.


Apartment Tower At 1910 Chestnut Tops Out

The Harper, a Rittenhouse Square luxury apartment tower, has topped out at 24 stories. The 280,000-square-foot, mixed-use project at 1910 Chestnut St. includes 183 apartments, a restaurant, and a rooftop park. DAS Architects and Pearl Properties partnered on the project.

The building entrance and lobby was designed with a 110-foot-long, restored 19th century steel truss. The second floor includes a basketball court, movie theater and game room, and a common room with a kitchen. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2019.

Redevelopment For 2400 Market St. Nears Completion

Two years after Lubert-Adler and PMC Property Group announced the redevelopment and expansion of then-vacant 2400 Market St., the 650,000-square-foot Aramark-anchored building is about to open and is 97% leased. Lubert-Adler is moving from the Cira Centre into 2400 Market, which opens in two months, and will occupy about 35,000 square feet.

Entercomm Communications Corp. leased the fourth floor of 2400 Market, totaling 67,000 square feet, for its new headquarters. The members-only Fitler Club took 75,000 square feet in the building and will use an additional 30,000 square feet as co-working space. Negotiations also are underway for two restaurants.

14-Story Project On North Broad Street Gets Underway

A 14-story mixed-use project has broken ground behind the recently restored Divine Lorraine hotel on North Broad Street. The project, currently called 1300 Fairmount Avenue, will bring 478 rental apartments that range from studios to three-bedrooms, along with nearly 60,000 square feet of retail, to what is currently a vacant lot. The $190 million project is expected be completed in 2020.

New York-based developers RAL Cos. & Affiliates said that 38,000 square feet of the planned commercial space has been leased out to Nobel Learning Communities for a Chesterbrook Academy Preschool and discount grocer Aldi signed a lease for over 25,000 square feet.

Developer Buying Waterfront Site With Plans For Townhouses

Developer Carlos Herrera is under contract to buy a Delaware River pier where a 45-story Trump Tower condo-and-hotel project was scuttled during the last economic downturn. Herrera's company, Herrco Builders, is set to construct 41 townhouses on Pier 35½ at Delaware and Fairmount avenues.

In 2015, a group involving real estate firm Shovel Ready Projects LLC and music-venue entrepreneur Adam Spivak bought the property and commissioned plans from Cecil Baker & Partners for a townhouse project. Herrera said he plans to follow through with those plans for the 2.13-acre site, which had been listed for sale with plans and permits at $12.3 million.


City Vows Crackdown On Center City Traffic Scofflaws

Philadelphia officials have announced a concentrated crackdown on traffic scofflaws to address Center City’s growing traffic congestion problems. Officials from the Philadelphia Parking Authority and Philadelphia Police Department said their agencies will adopt a no-tolerance approach to double-parking, blocking bike lanes, illegal U-turns, blocking-the-box, and other traffic violations on Chestnut Street between 10th and 22nd streets and on Market Street between 7th and 13th streets.

A primary focus of the crackdown is to unclog some of the blockages that have significantly slowed travel times for SEPTA buses. Bus ridership has fallen 17% in five years, with SEPTA officials citing slower trips as one of the main reasons.

The city’s proposals reflect concerns cited by residents, businesses and developers about the worsening congestion and parking difficulties in Greater Center City. A recent CCD/CPDC report, Keep Philadelphia Moving, looks at the city’s challenges and outlines possible solutions, and was widely cited in media reports about the new congestion crackdown effort.

Major Traffic Changes In Place as Part of Massive I-95 Project

Drivers coming to and from Center City are starting to see a sizable traffic shift on Interstate 95, part of a multi-phase infrastructure project to improve and rebuild the highway.

On September 28, southbound traffic on I-95 between Allegheny Avenue and Interstate 676/Vine Street Expressway switched to a traffic pattern that has vehicles traveling in both directions located on the same side of the highway, which has four through-lanes in each direction and on- and off-ramps. Work to demolish that southbound stretch of I-95 gets underway immediately.


New Report Asks, “Is Philadelphia’s Housing Market Hitting Its Peak?”

The mixed signals seen for months in Philadelphia’s housing market continued into the second quarter and are being joined by additional signs that the housing market may be hitting a peak, according to a new report from the Lindy Institute at Drexel University.

In the report, researcher Kevin Gillen notes the average home price rose 0.9% on a quality- and seasonally-adjusted basis in Q2 — an improvement over the -1.6% decline in Q1, but the most sluggish Q2 since the bull market began in 2012. The median house prices were generally positive but also relatively modest, rising 2.2% from the previous quarter, while housing inventories have fallen to an all-time low.

A View On Housing Policy: “Build It So They Will Come”

An opinion piece posted by The Philadelphia Citizen is calling on Mayor Kenney to adopt “a housing policy and economic approach that tries to make room for everybody” instead of just focusing on the affordable housing portion of the market. The author, Philadelphia 3.0 engagement director Jon Geeting, states the Kenney administration’s Housing Action Plan lacks a regional perspective and fails to recognize that “it’s greener and more lucrative to grow cities than suburbs.”

Geeting writes, “For a whole host of reasons — namely climate, jobs, and transportation — we all would be a lot better off if the city of Philadelphia, and specifically neighborhoods with good transit connections to jobs, were to take in the lion’s share of all population growth in the southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey region going forward, and the surrounding suburbs were to take in very little.”

For in-depth analysis of housing trends, areas of growth and potential impediments to development, see CCD/CPDC’s report Housing Development in Perspective: 2018.

Study: Most Poor Philadelphia Renters Receive No Public Assistance

The vast majority of low-income Philadelphians receive no assistance with their housing costs and many have to rely on unconventional and sometimes illegal arrangements to secure shelter, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The report collects data from polls and the trust’s own analysis to provide insight into workforce participation, neighborhood violence, and insecure housing. It concludes that government assistance for low-income housing does not reach the overwhelming majority of those in need. As a result, low-income Philadelphians often “double up” in their living quarters and turn to landlords who operate unregulated housing units.

Analysis Examines Biggest ZIP Codes For Millennials

Four Philadelphia neighborhoods appear in a recent national analysis by RENTCafe that measures, by ZIP code, the increase in the millennial population in terms of percent and overall numbers. Of the 20 ZIP codes in the country with the greatest share increases, two were in Kensington: 19125 and 19123. The 19125 neighborhood showed the eighth-highest rate of increase nationally, with 37.4% growth (11,200 people) in the millennial age group. The 19123 region ranked 20th nationally with 33.1% percent growth (7,300 people) in the millennial demographic.

In terms of largest share outright, two Philadelphia neighborhoods claimed top 20 spots. Manayunk, (19127) was the second densest ZIP code for millennials, at 71%. Center City West (19102) took the 19th densest spot for millennials, with 60%.


Knight Foundation Awards $19M To News, Arts, Community Projects

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded $19 million to organizations focused on public spaces, journalism and the arts. Knight has designated $4 million to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation for cultivating citizen engagement in the design and maintenance of an 11-acre public space at Penn’s Landing on top of I-95 that will reconnect residents to the waterfront.

Knight also is matching a $10 million contribution from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to create a Philadelphia-based news accelerator that will help strengthen local journalism. Knight also has established a $5 million fund to help institutions develop and implement strong digital strategies to engage visitors. Support will be split equally between the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Inclusionary Zoning Bill Revised To Reduce Developers’ Cost Burden

City Council has amended the terms of a density bonus intended to raise funds for affordable housing. The measure would allow for additional height, density, and floor area in exchange for payments to the Housing Trust Fund. Developers could also access the bonuses in exchange for the construction of new income-restricted homes.

Instead of offering bonuses in exchange for payments into the Housing Trust Fund worth $25-$30 per square foot of a site, the revised bill ties the fee to only the additional housing units or square footage granted by the zoning bonus. The change is intended to make the bonus less expensive for developers to use. The bill could be passed by City Council as soon as this week.

Kenney Seeks $15/Hour Minimum Wage For City Contractors

Four years after the City of Philadelphia first mandated a $12-an-hour minimum wage for its contractors and subcontractors, Mayor Kenney is seeking to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour incrementally over four years for its workers and its contractors and subcontractors. City officials were uncertain how many workers would be affected by the change, but said most of the city's spending on professional services contracts goes to social service agencies.

A series of worker-oriented laws have been passed by City Council in the last decade, including laws mandating paid sick leave, increasing penalties for wage theft, and barring employers from asking about wage history in an effort to close the gender wage gap.

City Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis Stepping Down

City of Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis has announced his departure, effective January 6. He will be joining the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government as a professor. Brian Abernathy, who currently serves as Deputy Managing Director, will succeed DiBerardinis in the post. 

Prior to the Kenney administration, DiBerardinis served as Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources and Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. He also served as recreation commissioner to the City of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2000, and as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources under Governor Ed Rendell.


Rail Park Honored At 2018 Groundbreaker Awards Ceremony

The Rail Park has been recognized with a Community Award by Green Building United at its 2018 Groundbreaker Awards. The awards celebrate green building leadership, commitment, innovation, and impact in the greater Philadelphia region.

The park became an instant hit after the grand opening of the project’s Phase 1 in June. Center City District oversaw the planning, design, fundraising and construction of this transformative park for the Callowhill and Chinatown North neighborhoods. The park is being maintained by the CCD, in partnership with the city Department of Parks & Recreation with the Friends of the Rail Park handling programming. The District is actively working to make Phase 2 of the Rail Park a reality.


AIA Philadelphia Honors Susan Weiler With 2018 Cret Award

The Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is honoring OLIN Partner Susan Weiler, FASLA with the 2018 Paul Phillipe Cret Award. The Cret Award recognizes individuals or organizations who are not architects but who have made an outstanding and lasting contribution to design of buildings, structure, landscapes and the public realm of Philadelphia.

Weiler was nominated by colleagues for her visionary leadership in the planning and design of landmark civic, cultural, and educational places throughout Philadelphia. Her work spans numerous plans and built works, and includes the award-winning transformation of Dilworth Park.

Weiler will be honored at the 2018 AIA Philadelphia Design Awards Gala on November 7 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.