Philadelphia Encourages New Hotel Development

As the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center is expected to open soon, the city of Philadelphia is continuing to work with various partners to promote the city as a smart choice for hotel development and investment.   The new convention center is expected to be the largest contiguous exhibit space in the Northeast (541,000 sq. ft.), the largest convention center ballroom on the East Coast (60,000 sg. ft.), and the ability to host large trade-shows or two major conventions simultaneously.  The expansion will result in 280,000 additional room nights, more than $140 million in economic impact annually, and 2,000 hospitality-related jobs equaling more than $150 million in economic impact.  The City and its partners are working to market Philadelphia as a destination, especially to hotel developers.  "Our message is invest now and reap the coming rewards as the region's economy takes off", said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

It is expected that an additional 1,500-2,000 hotel rooms will be essential by 2013 to meet the needs of the expanded Convention Center, growing by 62 percent and ability to host two conventions simultaneously or one large trade show. Philadelphia has already added 500 hotel rooms in anticipation of the Convention Center expansion.  In October 2009, two new hotels joined the Philadelphia Hospitality landscape.  Kimpton's 230- room Hotel Palomar at 17th and Sansom streets, and the 92-room Four Points by Sheraton right across from the Convention Center.  Le Meridien Philadelphia, a 201-room hotel opened last May at 1421 Arch Street.

Some future projects that have been in the works but have stalled for various reasons are the 268 room Intercontinental Hotel proposed for 1601 Vine Street.  This mix use project will be a 530' tower containing luxury condominiums, a hotel on the first 16 floors, Best Buy, and a Whole Foods market.

American Commerce Center- 320 unit, 26 story 5- start hotel connected to the proposed American Commerce Center. The hotel will have a 3 story lobby, a 2 story glass enclosed skybridge and roof garden.  This project will be LEED Certified.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco- In 2010 Kimpton acquired Philadelphia's historic Lafayette Building with plans to convert the 11 story office building into a 271 room, four star Hotel Monaco.  Construction is slated to begin in Spring 2011 with a 2012 completion date.

Proposed restoration and Hotel addition project to save the historic Boyd Theater.  Developed by Hal Wheeler, the project called for a full restoration of the theater, but demolition of the stage house for connection to the hotel.  The 28 story 320' tower was said to be the home of the new Kimpton Monaco hotel, but things obviously have changed.  There is still no word on who the future tenant will be or if the project will still happen.  Hopefully we will see this in the future!

Drexel University wants to add a new hotel and conference center at 30th and Market between 30th and 31st streets.  The University has been reviewing two proposals by competing national brands, a Renaissance by Marriott and a Westin by Starwood.  Drexel will not be constructing the hotels; rather a ground lease agreement will be signed between Drexel and the winning hotel chain.  The agreement will provide the chain with a 50-90 year lease for constructing on Drexel property.  The project had a 2011 completion date but nothing has happened here yet.  This many be due to economic issues.


Temple University Plan For New Science Education and Research Building

Temple University received approval from the City Planning Commission to build a new science education and research building at 12th and Berks Streets.  Temple's new science building will replace the obsolete Barton Hall.  The demolition of that building will leave Temple room to create its first significant green space.  The new building will contain 278,000 square feet of classroom space, lecture halls and laboratories and feature an atrium that will connect it to the college of engineering and the college of science and technology buildings.  The hope is that the 241-foot structure will achieve LEED certification.

Penn Medicine Office Tower at 8th and Walnut Streets

Liberty Property Trust plans to build a 12 story 153,000 square foot office building on top of an existing parking garage at 8th and Walnut Streets.  The building designed by Ballinger Architects, would be 260-feet tall and would be leased in its entirety to Pennsylvania Hospital, which is part of Penn Medicine.  The building would be called Liberty Property Tower and would be located west of the St. James Tower apartment building.  The tower would be significantly shorter than the 500-foot tall St. James.  St. James residents would see a vegetated roof, except in areas where mechanicals are contained.  One portion of the garage's ground floor retail space would be reconfigured to serve as a lobby for the office tower.  The architect has taken a modernist approach creating a sleek glass facade.  The north side glass will continue all the way to the ground floor so that from Walnut Street, it looks like one continuous tower, instead of a tower atop of a parking garage.

Philadelphia To Bid For 2026 World Expo; The Conversation Begins!

Back in December, the Ed Bacon Student Design Competition  challenged students on a subject that event organizers say Philadelphia must soon tackle if the place of our nation's birth is to be the epicenter of the country's 250th Birthday Party.  University-level students from all disciplines were asked to imagine an international World's Fair style celebration in Philadelphia, with activity centered in South Philadelphia, near the airport, stadiums, Fort Mifflin and FDR Park.  A team from Cornell University won first place with their design, called Confluence Philadelphia 2026, a venue that will reflect not only a positive effect for the city in 2026, but also a lasting legacy.  Considering, the first official World's Fair to be held in the United States was held in Philadelphia back in 1876 to celebrate the nation's 100th birthday (1876 Centennial Exposition), it only seems right to bring the expo back to the place where it all began, Philadelphia.

The student competition assignment was suggested by Andrew Hohns, a finance guy who ten years ago founded Young Involved Philadelphia and has more recently founded USA250, a non-profit organization aimed at not only bringing a year's worth of exhibitions in technology, sports, culture, history and the lively arts to the city, but using the celebration as a mechanism for attracting investment in the city's infrastructure from corporations, foundations, and other nations.

"I don't really see on the horizon many events that have the transformative capacity in terms of renewing infrastructure apart from USA 250," Hohns said.  "We have an opportunity to seize it."  This recorded by PlanPhilly at the award ceremony.

Hohns and his group are in the beginning stages, talking to movers and shakers in government, industry and philanthropy.  As things move forward, he will share the students' work with those who may be planning for the 250th exhibitions and their long-range impact.  The USA250 non-profit will soon be a 501(c)3 corporation, Hohn said.  It will then need a board of directors and some full-time, paid staff to define a vision and reach out to the corporations, foundations, government leaders and citizens who can make it happen.  One of the first goals will be raising seed money of between $500,000 and $1 million.

Hohns also talked about a few other big ideas, like General Electric being the electricity sponsor and in honor of the 250th anniversary presenting a Philadelphia neighborhood as the neighborhood of the future.   The homes could be outfitted with solar rooftops, fiber optic cables, and top-of-the-line energy-saving insulation possibly taking the neighborhood completely off the grid.  Other nations could build pavilions and other infrastructure showcasing the contribution they had in the development of America and Philadelphia.  Poland, for example, could build an exhibition in Port Richmond that could become a Polish-American Community Center.  China could make a gift of a Chinese Garden, a public green space built in decks over I-676 that would unite the north and south portions of Philadelphia's Chinatown with a beautiful public green space. The city could also use 2026 as a deadline to meet goals like lessening poverty and increasing literacy.

The 2026 event, Hohns believes, would do much more for the city than the Olympics.  The Olympics is only a couple of weeks in the summer, he said.  This could be a whole year of events- and, if done right, a huge boost in infrastructure and commerce.  Honestly, if Philadelphia can win the 2024 Olympics and the 2026 World Expo, the city would surely be in the perfect position to secure funding that will support both events.  The city's location is also key, smack dab in the middle of the North East Corridor, the expo and games would surely bring revenues to neighboring hubs like New York, Washington, and Boston.

The Cornell team contemplated "worlds fair" buildings and exhibition spaces becoming permanent structures, including residential housing.  They have developed an ecologically friendly plan, of not just temporary spaces that will be torn down at the exhibitions end.  they imagined the fair to be a catalyst for development, fostering national pride and establishing the USA as a leader in sustainable industry and development.  By fostering a Public-Private vision for successful development and clearly defined programming and goals, the fair would have a much greater chance at producing a successful and sustainable economic turn around for the city.  The team addressed energy and waste distribution, expansion of park land and wet land reclamation, and improved connections through trails and transit.

Images courtesy of Winning Cornell Team

Chestnut Street Bank Converts To A Handsome Pool Hall

Developer Paul Giegerich, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and the Preservation Alliance all agree that a former Chestnut Street bank will make a pretty hip and sophisticated spot for a game of pool.  The developer has had a few setbacks obtaining variances and zoning changes, but it looks like the project is a go.  The building was designed by noted Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer who also did work on the Philadelphia Art Museum, The Free Library and Irvine Auditorium on the University of Pennsylvania campus.  The Project attorney Ron Patterson of Klehr Harrison Harvey Bransburg and architect Dave Schultz of DAS Architects told the commission that both the interior and exterior of the former Beneficial Bank would hardly be touched.  one noted change would be the addition of a roof-top bar with a retractable glass ceiling.  Schultz said it has bee set back so that it is not visible from the ground.

The project called 1200 Bank is connected with Amsterdam Billiards in New York City.  The first floor of about 5,000 square feet would be home to 17 pool tables, a bar and restaurant.  The upper floors provide space for overflow diners, and would also be banquet space fro private parties.

The Vineyards at 16th an Ridge Ave.

The Large Vacant property at 16th and Ridge Avenue in the Francisville section of North Philadelphia will soon be the home of a new LEED Certified housing development.  A group of private stakeholders announced they hope to begin construction in March.  The proposed modern and sustainable housing will feature 20 three-family town-homes with hydronic radiant heating and solar thermal hot water systems.  The Vineyards at 16th is not only the first LEED-certified housing development in the area, but its construction also has the potential to draw new residents into a neighborhood suffering from population loss.