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.