Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Electricians Suffer Burns in Center City Electrical Fire

Two electricians suffered burns during an electrical mishap at an underground PECO substation at 23rd and Market streets in Center City.

According to reports, a PECO employee and an outside electrical contractor were working on equipment when a flash fire erupted, causing both workers to suffer serious burn injuries.

One of the electricians, a 35-year-old man, suffered second and third degree burns to his body.

He was taken to the Temple University Burn Unit and is currently in stable condition.

The second worker, who is 40 years old, was taken to Presbyterian Hospital, having suffered superficial burns to his face and hand.

Eight PECO customers lost power as a result of the accident.

Officials have not yet revealed the cause of the fire.

PECO says both men were wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified of the incident and they have initiated an investigation.

OSHA will have six months to release its findings.

The Public Utility Commission is also investigating the incident.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Massive $6.5B Redevelopment Planned for University City

University City is in for some major changes thanks to a new redevelopment plan from Amtrak and partners SEPTA, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Drexel University. The plan will be the single largest development project in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and turn West Philadelphia into a regional economic hub. 

The development is expected to cost $6.5 billion, with $2 billion going to infrastructure investments and the other $4.5 billion coming from developers.

The project is expected to create 22,000 construction jobs and another 10,000 permanent jobs, and add 8,000 to 10,000 residents to the city’s population.

The massive venture will focus on the area around 30th Street Station, the second-busiest station in the Amtrak system, ultimately turning the area into a second downtown for Philadelphia.

Plans for the station and surrounding neighborhood will start with the capping of the existing Amtrak and SEPTA-owned rail yards to accommodate 10 million square feet of development along the Schuylkill River.

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New office, retail and residential buildings containing 18 million square feet of total space and 40 acres of open space would be created, with most of the development privately financed.

The project will include housing for 10,000 residents and create 1.2 million square feet of commercial space.

Three pedestrian bridges across the Schuylkill River, linking University City with Logan Square and Center City, are also planned.

The redevelopment site consists of a total of 175 acres in the University City neighborhood, 88 of which is occupied by the Amtrak rail yard.

This project is the culmination of a two-year study of the site, which extends east of Drexel’s campus between Walnut and Spring Garden Streets and northeast from 30th Street Station.

Among the infrastructure improvements are plans to relocate a ramp for the Schuylkill Expressway in favor of a new bus terminal.

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In addition to the bus facility, Amtrak also plans to expand The Porch at 30th Street Station.

A new gateway park will surround the facility with a tree-lined promenade along the river, a west-side plaza that could be used for large-scale events and a north plaza along Arch Street.

The 30th Street Station itself will also receive a major renovation that will add retail space and a new pedestrian plaza around the train station.

A new underground concourse that will connect the SEPTA subway station at 30th Street to the Amtrak station, is also planned.


Friday, June 17, 2016

$280M W Hotel Ready to Rise on Chestnut Street

Chestlen Development is beginning work for a 52-story tower that will soon begin to rise at 1441 Chestnut Street in Center City. The 780,000 square foot project will construct 755 hotel rooms, of which 295 rooms will be managed under the W Hotel brand and 460 rooms dedicated to the Element by Westin. The development is projected to create 1,800 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs and is expected be completed by Spring 2018.
The W Hotel and Residences will rise 582 feet and have 41,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, an 8,600-square-foot restaurant, and three levels of  below-grade parking garage for 185 vehicles.

Element Philadelphia will feature 460 rooms and a 6,392 square-foot sky lobby, and W Philadelphia will feature 295 rooms, a 2,900 square-foot spa, a 3,505 square foot outdoor pool and deck, a 1,590 square foot pool bar, and a 2,974 square foot garden area.

The tower will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut.

Tutor Perini is building the 769,704 square-foot project for Chestlen Development. Cope Linder Architects is the project designer.

The project, which sits across from City Hall and next to the Ritz Carlton, is estimated to cost $280.4 million.

Chestlen Development will put up $205.4 million, and receive $75 million in tax-payer subsidies over 20 years.

It is not unusual for the city to arrange tax incremental financing for construction projects, especially if the work will give an otherwise blighted area an economic boost.

However, tax incremental financing can be controversial when it is put into areas where development would likely have happened without it.

Once the project is completed, it is expected to generate $220.6 million in incremental tax revenues over 20 years and will represent an estimated $25.8 million net gain to the city and $12.3 million to the school district over those two decades.

The W Hotel and Element by Westin is expected to be completed by Spring 2018.

Friday, June 10, 2016

32-Story Apt Tower to Replace Former Boyd Theatre

A new 32-story tower is about to begin construction on the site of the former Boyd movie theatre at 19th & Chestnut Streets.  The new tower, which will have 250 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space, and 117 underground parking spaces, will be built where the large, ornate auditorium once stood.  

The grand 2,300-seat movie palace was demolished by developers Pearl Properties after they won approval from the City Historical Commission to raze theater after a long fight by preservationists to save it. 

The ornate lobby of the 1920’s movie theater will be restored and used as a retail space on Chestnut Street.

The development site includes 1900-1906 Chestnut, 1910 Chestnut, 1912 Chestnut, 110 South 19th and 112 South 19th Street.

The new tower, dubbed 19th + Chestnut, was designed by Cecil Baker Architects and will have 250 rental apartment units and retail spaces on 19th Street and Sansom Street, in addition to the retail space in the former Boyd Theatre lobby. 

There will, also, be retail at the corner of 19th and Chestnut in an attached project being built by Pearl, which will have a Target store and will preserve the historic Alexander Building on the corner. 

The tower will be clad in glass panels and it will be oriented lengthwise from north to south.  The project will have amenities for the residents, including a second floor terrace, a fitness center, a yoga room, a guest suite, and a lounge. All parking will be underground and accessible on 20th Street.

This project was approved by the City Planning Commission’s Civic Design Review committee late last year. 

The new tower is designed "as-of-right", so the project doesn’t need any zoning variances. That means construction can proceed as soon as the developer is ready.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Developer Plans Towering Project in South Philly

A local developer has big plans for the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia. Tower Developments has plans to build a major mixed-use development on a vacant 4-acre block that will bring nearly 1,000 apartments and an 80-room hotel to the city.
Known as 1001 South Broad Street, the 4.4-acre mega-project will comprise 1.8 million square feet of retail and residential.

Plans call for the construction of a 34-story, 944-unit luxury apartment tower (with 80 hotel rooms on floors two through nine), 11 ground-floor retail stores, 882 parking spots and 357 bike parking spaces, at the corner of South Broad Street and Washington Avenue.

The 371-foot-high building will need zoning variances for roof decks for non-residential use and a parking garage.

The L-shaped development will also comprise a smaller residential building with approximately 60 units and additional commercial/retail and dining establishments on its fourth-level rooftop, dubbed the ‘Village.’

The Village is set to include outdoor gathering spaces and more intimate exterior pathways lined with small retail boutiques and both formal and casual dining establishments, reminiscent of a French village in Provence.

Overlooking the pedestrian streets, this surface will also feature two stories of quaint but luxurious walk-up apartments totaling approximately 100-120 units.

Additionally, the development will bring office space for modestly-sized businesses and co-working users, as well as three levels of a structured self-park garage with about 625 spaces for the use of residents, shoppers and visitors alike.

The site of the project, viewed as a gateway intersection between South Philadelphia and Center City, is bounded by South Broad Street to the west, Washington Avenue to the south, N. 13th Street on the east and Carpenter Street to the north.

Vehicle access to both the parking facility and the numerous internal off-street loading dock facilities is proposed to be through curb-cuts and entrance portals, two of which are along Carpenter Street and one along Washington Avenue. No curb cuts are proposed along S. Broad or S. 13th Streets.

A zoning variance will be needed for the project’s roof decks for non-residential use and parking garage.

The site is already zoned CMX-5, the most permissive commercial zoning classification in the city. The CMX-5 zoning requires a special exception to include parking spaces above ground.

Washington Avenue is brimming with potential, and its future has become a hot-button topic in real estate circles. Developers have snapped up its many vacant lots and aging industrial buildings, and the city has been seeking to re-zone the former industrial thoroughfare in order to spur its development.

Trendy businesses have open alongside long-standing construction supply warehouses, seafood mongers and auto-repair shops.

The developer’s past projects in the city include the development of Piazza in Northern Liberties, which is modeled after Rome’s Piazza Navona, as well as shopping centers on Columbus Boulevard in South Philly.

A few years ago, Bart Blatstein unsuccessfully attempted to convert the old Inquirer building on North Broad Street into a hotel and casino.

In a partnership with Cescaphe Event Group, the developer is also planning to convert the former PECO power station next to Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown into a wedding venue and event space.

Mr. Blatstein is currently building a mansion for himself on Rittenhouse Square.