Thursday, April 26, 2012

Diamond Green Apartments Rise near Temple Campus

Mosaic Development is building the $30 million Diamond Green project - a five-story, LEED-certified, 92-unit modular apartment complex - to house 350 students. The mixed-use project near Temple University will include 26,000-square-foot of retail space.

Gregory Reaves and Leslie Smallwood-Lewis stood at the window of a third-floor unit at Diamond Green Apartments just as a SEPTA commuter train pulled away from Temple University Station, bound for Center City.

“See,” Reaves, said, smiling. “You couldn’t hear the train, could you? That’s solid construction.”

Undergrads are not known for adhering to a vow of silence, leading many property owners to shun them. Reaves and Smallwood-Lewis believe, however, that quiet surroundings and proximity to the Temple campus will quickly fill their five-story, 92-unit building with 350 paying students.

Together, the two are Mosaic Development Partners, a West Philadelphia firm best known for its January 2011 acquisition of the Blue Horizon boxing arena on North Broad Street for an $20 million hotel-and-restaurant complex with a jazz bar and fitness center.

Former employees of the Goldenberg Group, they also are turning the old Thomas Edison High School at Seventh Street and Lehigh Avenue into 38,000 square feet of retail space.
[See Philadelphia | Blogger, 4/24/12]

For the Diamond Green complex, Mosaic is collaborating with Orens Brothers, developers also involved in the Blue Horizon, and Metamorphosis Community Development Corp., a nonprofit founded in 2005 to represent the interests of the African American neighborhoods surrounding Temple.

Metamorphosis was instrumental in assembling the 0.9-acre site at 10th and Diamond Streets. Orens Bros., in business since 1979, redeveloped 2200 Arch, 444 North Fourth, and the Pitcairn Building into condominiums and apartments.

The $30 million, 126,000-square-foot mixed-use Diamond Green project, with 26,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, is being financed with a construction loan from Fox Chase Bank and Third Federal Bank, with $7 million in private equity and $750,000 from the city Office of Housing and Community Development’s affordable-housing support program.

 Construction, which began immediately after ground breaking in late-November, is expected to be completed in mid-August.  Eventually, buildings on a site between the apartment building and Norris Street will be razed and affordable housing built in its place.

Diamond Green is the latest addition to revitalization of the neighborhood east of Broad Street. Final additions are being made to the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Norris Apartments along 11th Street west of Diamond Green.

That 51-unit low-rise complex, designed by architects Blankney Hayes, is on the site of the old Norris Homes high-rise and is the first PHA project to be LEED-certified, with roofs crowned with solar panels.

Designed by Wulff Architects, Diamond Green is unusual for several reasons, and is the largest modular project thus far in Philadelphia.

A total of 106 self-contained modules, each weighing about 50,000 pounds and complete with construction materials, fixtures, and furniture, are being lifted into place by crane.

The modules, built in the Middleburg, Pa., factory of Professional Building Systems, are linked into mostly four-bedroom/two-bathroom units with furnished kitchens, offices, and common living-room areas. Every floor has a card-operated laundry room, eliminating the need for sacks full of quarters.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

High School Being Converted to Shopping Center, Apartments

Two Philadelphia real estate developers — Mosaic Development Partners and Orens Brothers Real Estate Inc. — have teamed up to redevelop the former Thomas Edison High School on Lehigh Avenue in Philadelphia.

The duo is scheduled to break ground May 4 on an $15 million project that will be called Edison Square.

The project will include a 38,000-square-foot shopping center with a Save-A-Lot grocery on the site of the older portion of the school at 701 W. Lehigh Ave., and a 56-apartment building for low-income seniors in the art deco-style northern annex that will be salvaged.

A portion of the building was damaged by fire last year.

Monday, April 23, 2012

25 Story Tower Proposed For 38th and Chestnut

In a case that could set precedent, the Episcopal Cathedral Chapter is making a complicated claim of acting in the “public interest”, in its request to the historical commission to tear down two buildings on the Philadelphia register of historic places. The Philadelphia diocese wants to build a 25-story apartment tower at 38th Street and Chestnut - adjacent to the Cathedral and International House of Philadelphia.

Citing reports from the Partnership for Sacred Places and engineering and construction firms, the Cathedral’s plan is to complete a $4 million-plus renovation of the Cathedral itself (originally the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Savior, built in 1889 and rebuilt after a fire, in 1906) to be completed as part of the construction of the retail and apartment tower.

The church’s argument is that the Cathedral’s preservation, more pressing than originally thought, is too expensive given the church’s current budget. The only answer, according to Church officials, is to develop church-owned property, creating a sustainable stream of revenue.

This, they say, will benefit the public interest by saving a major landmark.

The question before the Historical Commission’s architectural committee is whether to grant the claim and allow the demolition of the church’s 1903, 4 story brownstone Parrish House (both the church and Parrish House were designed by noted ecclesiastical architect Charles M. Burns).

The Historical Commission will also have to decide to allow a contemporary glass entrance addition to the Cathedral. Preliminary applications suggest that BLT Architects will design the tower.

The Cathedral has previously provoked controversy with aggressive remodeling of the church’s interior in 2001, following a plan pushed by the former head of the church, the Very Reverend Richard Giles. That renovation, designed by architect George Yu, substantially altered the interior. It was decried by Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron and other architectural observers.

The Cathedral has chosen Radnor Property Group, with substantial experience in preservation and mixed-use projects.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Office Buildings to Become 150 Room Hotel

The Biddle building at 1217 Sansom St. and the Bailey building at 1218 Chestnut St. in Center City will be transformed into Hotel Indigo, said Michael H. Sonnabend of PMZ Realty Capital, which is arranging the financing for the project.

The full-service boutique hotel will be managed by InterContinental Hotels, the parent company of Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza and, of course, Hotel Indigo.

The eight-story Biddle building comprises 40,000 square feet and the 10-story Bailey building has 101,000 square feet.

Construction will cost an estimated $50 million and is expected to commence sometime this summer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tower Place Project Starting Up in Philadelphia

Tower Investments Inc. tomorrow will kick off the construction of Tower Place, a $120 million redevelopment of the former state office building and construction of a new residential tower at Broad and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia. 

The build-out at 1400 Spring Garden Street will be comprised of 400 residential units and 60,000 square feet of commercial space.

Phase one is the conversion of the 300,000-square-foot former state office building into 204 high-end apartments that will have a fitness facility and a 24-hour concierge on staff. That work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Phase two consists of building a new 18-story, 200-unit residential tower along 15th Street adjacent to the existing building. Phase two also includes ground-up construction of a two-story, 60,000-square-foot retail building along Spring Garden Street.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PECO Invests More Than $60 Million in New Philadelphia Substation

The newly constructed Peltz substation is designate to improve electric service reliability for customers in portions of Center City and University City. Its completion also allows for the retirement of the Schuylkill substation, which has been in operation since 1906.
The Peltz substation takes higher voltage electricity, 230-kilovolt (kv), from PECO's electric transmission system and converts it to lower voltage electricity, 13 kv, for distribution to the nearby area. The substation provides power to thirty-two circuits through three new transformers to help accommodate increasing customer electric needs. 
In addition to the new transformers and existing circuits, work on the substation included the installation of 100,000 feet of underground cable, 60 manholes and 25 pieces of new underground equipment designed to minimize the number of customers affected if an outage occurs.
Peltz substation is the fifth new electric substation built in recent years to modernize the electric infrastructure and meet increasing customer demand in certain areas of Philadelphia. PECO completed the construction of Tunnel substation adjacent to University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital in 2009.

The company built the Tuna substation along North Delaware Avenue in 2005, completed the Waverly substation in Center City in the 2007, and completed the Southwark substation, feeding the former Navy Yard, in April of 2008.

These projects alone represent a $180 million investment in Philadelphia's electric distribution system.

In addition to electric service enhancement projects such as the Peltz substation, PECO will complete more than 60 projects through the spring designed to ensure reliable service and accommodate the increased customer demand placed on the electric system during the summer months.

As part of the project, PECO contributed $250,000 to the Philadelphia Percent for Art Program, which was established in 1959 by the City of Philadelphia. The program provides local companies and organizations the opportunity to give back through local community art installations. PECO's support of the program includes funding for the development of a community art curriculum at the University Of The Arts, whose students will develop a public art project benefiting Grays Ferry, Point Breeze, and neighborhoods south of South Street in Philadelphia.

Based in Philadelphia, PECO is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corporation which serves approximately 695,000 customers in Philadelphia County.. PECO serves 1.6 million electric and 490,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania and employs about 2,400 people in the region. PECO delivered 87.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 39.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010.

Founded in 1881, PECO is one of the Greater Philadelphia Region's most active corporate citizens, providing leadership, volunteer and financial support to numerous arts and culture, education, environmental, economic development and community programs and organizations. 

PECO has invested more than $60 million in the newly-constructed Peltz substation to improve electric service reliability and meet the growing energy needs of customers in portions of Center City and University City in Philadelphia. Construction of the new substation began in December 2009.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Construction Industry Expects More Jobs in Philadelphia Area

Construction employment will go up - very slightly - in 2012, contractors predicted in a survey released Monday by the Associated General Contractors of America. Presently, unemployment in construction remains at 16 percent - or nearly one in six in the business, out of work.

Modest improvements in hiring in 2011 and equally modest forecasts for 2012 will do little to compensate for two million jobs lost in construction since the start of the recession in December 2007, said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive.

In a best-case scenario, the organization's chief economist Ken Simonson forecasts an increase of 250,000 jobs in 2012, but that increase could easily slip to a deficit of 3,000 jobs if housing remains dismal and public spending declines drastically.

Fueling any gains are increases in power, hospital, and higher education projects, Simonson said.

As consumers increasingly switch to online buying, warehouse construction for order fulfillment is on the rise and there is new construction near ports as Eastern seaboard communities gear up for the arrival of larger ships able to move through a deepened Panama Canal, he said.

Construction in bricks-and-mortar retail seems to be in retrofit work as retailers repurpose new space captured at distressed market prices, he said.

Tight credit is still hurting construction, with firms reporting that their customers can't get the funding to move ahead on projects. 

Also, "the impacts of the stimulus are fading fast," Simonson said.

The survey notes that many contractors relied on stimulus-funding projects over the past years, but few expect to perform much stimulus-funded work in 2012.

In Pennsylvania, for example, 62 percent of those surveyed had stimulus work, with most of them assigning the majority of their workers to those projects. But in 2012, only one in five expects stimulus work.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Courthouse Construction Two Months Behind Schedule

Construction of the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown has fallen 10 weeks behind schedule as crews struggle to stabilize the historic armory building on the site.

Crews working to tear down pieces of the 103-year-old armory building on Shewell Avenue discovered the structure in a much-weakened condition, said Jerry Anderson, Bucks County operations director.

Contractors are supporting parts of the building with “tremendous” steel braces to prevent its total collapse. Security fencing surrounds the structure.
The armory is on a residential street, where crews recently were busy carving out the rear wall.  The closest homeowner to the armory said he believed the county was taking all necessary precautions with the steel beams. Recently, crews had asked to inspect his basement to check the foundations, he said.

Portions of the armory are to be incorporated into the $84 million courthouse, which is scheduled to open in October 2013.

Anderson said the delays will have a minimal impact on the overall construction cost. “We should have our foundation in soon and the steel goes up quick,” he said.

Contracts were signed in January 2011 with five contractors to do the majority of the work on the eight-story center, which will sit off Broad and Main streets.

Ernest Bock & Sons of Philadelphia won the general construction bid of $58.2 million. Fairfield Co. of Lititz is to be paid $13 million for electrical work. Worth and Company of Pipersville will be paid $9 million for mechanical and plumbing. Schindler Elevator Corporation of Downingtown is to receive $2 million for elevators. Guy M. Cooper Inc. of Willow Grove was awarded a $1 million contract to install fire protection systems.

Meanwhile, county officials are busy deciding what to do with the existing courthouse at Main and Court streets. Moving more county workers into that building would allow the county to sell existing properties dispersed throughout Bucks, said Brian Hessenthaler, the county’s chief operating officer.

The existing courthouse was constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the county had about 310,000 residents and four judges. The county population has doubled and the number of judges has increased to 13.
Construction of the courthouse comes on the heels of a new parking garage. The $22 million parking structure at Broad and Union streets has 1,200 spaces, three elevators and was completed in 18 months.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ban on Incandescent Bulbs Upheld Despite Dangers of CFL Lamps

The House of Representatives again failed to pass the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” aimed at repealing legislation mandating energy efficient replacements - such as LED-based lamps - for 100W incandescent lamps which were phased out on January 1st.

The Republican sponsored bill - which ran contrary to the escalating green movement - failed to achieve the two thirds vote required to repeal the 2007 legislation. Despite the fact that energy efficient lighting will help to significantly energy use, party members believe the government has no place legislating what type of light bulbs citizens buy.

The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent or LED lamps. It simply requires that companies make their incandescent bulbs work better. In reality, only technologies such as LED and CFL will meet the new government requirements.

Lighting is responsible for nearly 20% of the world's energy consumption, and is one of the easiest places to save energy. But the savings will come with higher upfront costs, which will be recovered over the long lifetime of the lamps.

Failure of the bill is good news for proponents of LED-based solid-state lighting.

Recent studies have linked CFL lamps to a number of health problems including fatigue, eye strain and migraine headaches, and if broken, compact fluorescent are hazardous to your health. Some manufacturers have started to label their boxes with warnings on how to deal with a broken bulb. In fact, some states will now require that you recycle these bulbs at special facilities because of the large amount of mercury contained in each bulb.

In 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), requiring more-efficient light bulbs. The legislation - which takes effect on January 1st - specifically requires that light bulb manufacturers improve the efficiency of 100 watt incandescent lamps (lamps with a light output of 1700 lumens), by 25 percent.

The legislation will apply to 75W, 60W, and 40W lamps in successive years between 2012 and 2014., followed more stringent efficiency requirements beginning 2016.

By Peter Coyne

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cops say Cooper Thief Butt-Dialed 911

Connecticut State Police used GPS to pinpoint the location of the cell phone call and found a burglary in progress. A man wearing his cell phone accidentally dialed 911 in the early morning hours on Thursday, while allegedly stealing copper scrap from a residential housing complex construction site.
According to police, the 911 dispatcher heard noises in the background and - thinking that maybe someone was in some type of medical distress - used GPS technology to pinpoint the caller's location.

Officers arrived at the construction site and found the thief loading more than 700 lbs. of copper scrap, which he had hidden in a dumpster, into the back of his pickup truck.

A spokesperson from the Connecticut State Police said "the thief thought he was going to get away with something, but instead he butt-dialed his cell phone and put himself away."

Charged with grand larceny and criminal trespass, the 'butt-dialing thief' was released on $5,000 bond.

Friday, March 16, 2012

T12 Fluorescent Bulb Phase Out: How Much Time Do I Have Left?

Are you still installing T12 fluorescent lamps? If so, time is running out on the opportunity for your customers to take advantage of rebates and tax incentives for upgrading to more energy-efficient alternatives.

The National Lighting Bureau has estimated that more than 500 million T12 lamps are still in use. However, recent regulations by the Department of Energy have initiated a plan to phase out traditional T12 lamps and ballasts by July 2012.

T12s were originally designed to respond to demand for more energy-efficient fluorescent lamps back in the 1970s during the energy crisis. Unfortunately, for a number of technical reasons, T12s have proved to have shorter lamp life, poor color and low lighting output.

Despite continued use, T12s are widely known as inefficient, dead technology that is easily replaced by T8 or T5 fluorescents, which are more energy-efficient, longer lasting and have better quality light.

“With available rebates and tax incentives, plus the monthly energy cost savings that occur when retrofitting to energy-efficient T8s or T5s, the upgrade virtually pays for itself within a year,” said Sean Neman, director of operations at ReGreen Inc., an energy conservation company. “People need to act fast to cash in on the available rebates and incentives while they are still available. With recent regulations virtually eliminating traditional T12s by 2012, these incentives will not be available for long."

The simplest retrofit for T12 lamp and magnetic ballast is a T8 lamp and electronic ballast. This switch-out can save 30 to 40 percent on energy costs. In qualifying areas, rebates from utilities can subsidize the cost for upgrades anywhere from 60 to 100 percent. Additionally, using the Commercial Building Tax Deduction, owners and managers can receive tax benefits up to 60 cents per square foot.

If you'd like to know more about this tax deduction, go here:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

U.S. Construction Projects Are Now Made In China

Rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure is a growing priority, with President Obama highlighting construction jobs as part of his $447 billion jobs plan. Nevertheless, more $400 million in federal funds to renovate the Alexander Hamilton Bridge here in New York has been awarded a Chinese government owned construction company. The company uses U.S. labor but the coveted skilled jobs, such as engineering and design work, are being done in Beijing. The profits will also go overseas.  

However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. China Construction America - a subsidiary of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation - has been awarded $100 million in contracts for the 50th Street Ventilation Facility as part of the Long Island Railroad East Side Access project.  CCA also holds a $65 million contract to build a ventilation building structure on the 7 Line Extension project, as well more than $42 million in current NYC Housing Authority contracts. 
At a time when we do not have enough work to support our own industry, how can our government officials justify giving away the little we do have?  
The Port Authority last year announced it was looking to the private sector to construct the replacement for the aging Goethals -- a project expected to cost $1.5 billion with a slated completion date of 2017. 
The Tappan Zee Bridge, long overdue for an overhaul, is one of 14 projects chosen by the Obama administration for expedited federal review and approval — possibly allowing work on a new $5.2 billion replacement bridge to begin as early as the spring of 2013. China Construction America is already high on the short list for both projects. 

'Savings' don’t tell whole story
Politicians have justified awarding the contract to China Construction based on numerous savings they claimed it would produce. That does not take into account the wages lost by workers who otherwise would have been employed on the project. It does not take into account the taxes those workers would have paid — from state and city income tax to Social Security and unemployment taxes. 

It does not take into account the multiplier effect, all the related benefits derived across the economy from the daily purchases made by people with jobs. It does not count all the state and local taxes that employed workers pay for schools and highways. Nor does it take into account all the tax revenue that New York State and City government will have to expend for unemployment, health care and other costs run up by people who have no jobs. In short, what may look like a "savings" is anything but

      • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money.
      • If people don't make money, they don't buy things.
      • If people don't buy things, there is less demand.
      • If there is less demand, then companies don't produce goods.
      • If companies don't produce goods, they don't need employees. 
      • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money... 

What is clear is that New York has lost an exceptional opportunity to create good-paying jobs at home during a time of high domestic unemployment.

With 25 million Americans unemployed, underemployed, working part time because they cannot find a full-time job, or so discouraged they gave up looking for a job; when millions are out of work for the longest period in our history; when millions are in the process of losing their homes because they were unable to keep up with mortgage payments after corporations eliminated their jobs or they were forced to absorb runaway medical bills, New York is providing work for a Chinese construction company, and shipping more our tax dollars oveseas

by Peter Coyne,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mercury vapor released from broken compact fluorescent light bulbs can exceed safe exposure levels

Once broken, a compact fluorescent light bulb continuously releases mercury vapor into the air for weeks to months, and the total amount can exceed safe human exposure levels in a poorly ventilated room, according to study results reported in Environmental Engineering Science.

The amount of liquid mercury (Hg) that leaches from a broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) is lower than the level allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so CFLs are not considered hazardous waste. However, Yadong Li and Li Jin, Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) report that the total amount of Hg vapor released from a broken CFL over time can be higher than the amount considered safe for human exposure.

They document their findings in the article “Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps.” (

As people can readily inhale vapor-phase mercury, the authors suggest rapid removal of broken CFLs and adequate ventilation, as well as suitable packaging to minimize the risk of breakage of CFLs and to retain Hg vapor if they do break, thereby limiting human exposure.

Tests of eight different brands of CFLs and four different wattages revealed that Hg content varies significantly from brand to brand. To determine the amount of Hg released by a broken CFL, Li and Jin used standard procedures developed by the EPA to measure leaching of mercury in liquids and used an emission monitoring system to detect Hg vapor.

“This paper is a very nice holistic analysis of potential risks associated with mercury release from broken CFLs and points to potential human health threats that have not always been considered,” according to Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate College, University of Vermont.

By Mary Ann Liebert / Environmental Engineering Science  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

ElectricWeb-Philadelphia | Website Launch April 1st

ElectricWeb Communications, LLC is pleased to announce the opening of our new Philadelphia office on March 1, 2012. The Philadelphia office will focus primarily on providing news, information and online services. We are excited about this new opportunity to expand our business and better serve our customers in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region. The scheduled launch date for ElectricWeb-Philadelphia .com is April 1, 2012.