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Penn’s South Bank Master Plan To Include 200,000 Sq. Ft. Innovation Center

10 Mar 2014, 3:41 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

University of Pennsylvania - South Bank aerial view

University of Pennsylvania – South Bank aerial view

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) revealed plans for a research park anchored by a new innovation center that will be built on the former DuPont Marchall Research Laboratories site, a large industrial property along the Schuylkill River that will house the planned South bank campus.

Philadelphia Inquirer previously reported that the 23-acre industrial site located between 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue served as an automotive paint lab, manufacturing and testing facility for DuPont until 2009, when the factory was shut down. One year later the site containing 250,000 square feet of laboratory, office and warehouse space was acquired by Penn for $13 million.

University of Pennsylvania - South Bank conceptual land use plan

University of Pennsylvania – South Bank conceptual land use plan

Designed by architecture firm Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) to support entrepreneurial and innovation growth in Philadelphia, the South Bank is an important component of Penn Connects 2.0—an ambitious long-term development strategy that has added almost 3 million square feet of space to Penn’s campus and increased the university’s open space on campus by 25 percent since 2006, when the university embarked on a two-decade expansion plan.

A 200,000-square-foot incubator and accelerator dubbed the “Pennovation Center” will anchor the university’s campus and will serve as a hub for collaboration and creativity while encouraging the exchange of ideas for innovators from Penn’s departments. According to a news release, Penn’s flexible project design allows for another 550,000 sq. ft. of new campus space that will be built in phases over the next twenty years.

Penn’s South Bank is very much in sync with Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation’s (PIDC) long-term revitalization plan of the entire Lower Schuylkill River into a 500-acre Innovation District, a Logistics Hub and an Energy Corridor while expanding riverfront green space.


Renderings courtesy of PennConnects

New Owners Announce Luxury Apartments for Avenue of the Arts Building

3 Mar 2014, 10:03 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor


MRP Residential, a division of MRP Realty of Washington, D.C., and Des Moines-based Principal Real Estate Investors recently acquired the full, 209,000-square-foot residential component of the Avenue of the Arts Building in Center City Philadelphia, with plans to redevelop the asset into high-end apartments. The new owners did not disclose the purchase price, but sources quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer say the amount could be in the range of $29 million to $34 million—or $175 to $200 per square foot.

Avenue of the Arts Building, Philadelphia, PA

“By acquiring the Avenue of the Arts Building, MRP and Principal Real Estate Investors have a unique opportunity to redevelop this historic structure into a luxury apartment project in the heart of Philadelphia’s Center City,” said in a statement for the press Bob Murphy, managing principal of MRP Realty. “The immediate access to vibrant nightlife, retail, dining and entertainment options, and the proximity to top universities, hospitals and employers combine to make the Avenue of the Arts Building a prime location for a best-in-class development.”

Located at 1338-1348 Chestnut Street in one of Philadelphia’s most elite neighborhoods, the Beaux Arts style structure was constructed in 1897 as an office building. A century later it was acquired by Lubert-Adler Partners and Philadelphia  Management Co. who converted the building into dorms for students enrolled at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.  In 2004 New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. bought the building for a reported $45 million, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

Currently the building houses around 600 students, while the first flour floors are occupied by retail and commercial tenants. The new owners announced plans to convert the residential space into 220 high-end rental units totaling around 176,000 square feet of space while keeping the existing property façade and structural system. The redeveloped building will include a state-of-the-art lobby, leasing office, fitness center, theater room, clubroom, interior landscaped courtyard and roof deck. According to the MRP Residential/Principal partnership, construction on the renovation is scheduled to start in late 2014 (after the art institute’s lease expires) with a completion date set for early 2016.


Image courtesy of MRP Residential

Mormon Church Reveals Plans for Apartment Tower, Meeting House in Center City

20 Feb 2014, 4:32 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

1601 Vine Street – View from Logan Square

With construction at a new temple in Center City Philadelphia advancing according to plans, Mormon Church officials recently revealed renderings of another development that will be located just one block from the future temple, on an existing surface parking lot immediately north of Vine Street and 16th Street.

Jointly designed by Philadelphia-based BLT Architects and Robert A. M. Stern Architects of New York, the private development backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints consists of two distinct projects: a public meeting house for the church and a 32-story residential tower developed by Property Reserve Inc., the Mormon Church’s for-profit real estate investment arm.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the two-story meeting house located at Vine and Franklin Town Boulevard will serve as a place of gathering, recreation and worship for around 1,000 of the 25,000 Mormons living in Philadelphia. The 24,000-square-foot meeting house will also host history and cultural centers for church and community members, as well as an outdoor courtyard.

The 490,000-square-foot apartment tower at 1601 Vine Street will have 250 market-rate rental units, 13 three-story townhouses and nearly 12,000 square feet of street level retail space meant to enhance the pedestrian character of 16th Street.

While church officials haven’t revealed any details regarding the total building costs, the Philadelphia Business Journal estimates that the project will need around $120 million in private financing. No groundbreaking date has been announced either, as project plans are yet to be approved by the City Planning Commission. However, the development is expected to create 1,500 to 1,800 construction jobs during construction.

Rendering courtesy of Robert A. M. Stern Architects 

Apartments and Boutique Hotel Coming to Queen Village

13 Feb 2014, 4:05 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

An area that comprises 13 buildings spanning from the corner of 5thand Bainbridge to Kater Street in the neighborhood of Queen Village immediately south of Center City will soon be replaced by an interesting mix of apartment buildings and an upscale boutique hotel.

Former John C. Paul store in Queen Village, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that local real estate firm Zaken Realty Trust acquired 13 properties from the Paul family which operated John C. Paul & Sons, a paper goods and cleaning products store that closed last summer. Zaken Realty Trust is focused on purchasing value-add assets in residential areas with high retail and multifamily demand. The company has already developed 15 mixed-use properties throughout Center City Philadelphia. With the help of Precision Realty Group—which also serves as the developer behind the Queen Village project—Zaken Realty Trust is now expanding its footprint in other neighborhoods outside Center City.

According to the Journal, the project should be completed by the end of summer 2014. Only two buildings will be transformed into apartment units. The remaining properties will be converted into a 30-room boutique hotel. The project also includes 7,000 square feet of street level retail space that could house a restaurant and a number of small independent stores that are expected to meet the need for boutique retail in this neighborhood.

Australian Energy Efficiency Company to Open U.S. Headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard

7 Feb 2014, 3:23 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Business is thriving in South Philadelphia. A new tenant joins the long list of companies at the growing Navy Yard campus.

Ecosave (logo)

Ecosave, Inc., a large Australian company that provides energy- and water-saving services to commercial and institutional clients, has chosen the Navy Yard as the location for its headquarters in the U.S. and plans to create around 125 new jobs over the next three years. Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Ecosave spent two years determining which North American city (the shortlist included Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Toronto) has high energy costs that could provide a large pool of potential clients.

Philadelphia Navy Yard

The two-year effort to attract Ecosave to the Navy Yard business campus was led by Select Greater Philadelphia (an economic development marketing organization focused on business attraction and retention in the Greater Philadelphia region), Philadelphia Industrial Corporation (PIDC), the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“As a national hub for energy efficiency research and commercialization, The Navy Yard’s Smart Energy Campus is an ideal location for Ecosave to launch into North America. Ecosave’s new headquarters at the Navy Yard will add to the dynamic mix of more than 10,000 employees and 130 companies already located at this sustainable and innovative business campus,” said John Grady, president of PIDC.

According to officials, in January 2015 Ecosave will move in around 20,000 square feet of space in a new, 75,000-square-foot state-of-the-art office building that will be developed by Liberty Property Trust and Synterra Partners. Until then the Australian company will occupy 6,000 square feet of office space at 3 Cresent Drive.

Image via The Navy Yard

Parkway, Hanover JV Unveils Design Plans for Massive Mixed-Use Project at Broad and Callowhill

30 Jan 2014, 3:16 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Hanover North Broad

Hanover North Broad

A joint venture between the Parkway Corporation, one of the biggest parking space owners in Philadelphia, and The Hanover Company of Houston, TX has plans to transform the large public surface parking lot—a 60,140-square-foot grouping of parcels, to be more exact—between Callowhill and Wood Streets with Broad Street into a huge residential and commercial complex with hundreds of apartments and plenty of retail space.

The plans submitted for approval with the City reveal two separate buildings with identical configurations and across the street from each other on the southeast and southwest sides of the intersection, forming a potentially vibrant commercial corridor.

The larger of the two buildings, a six-story structure, will occupy the southwest corner of Callowhill and Broad Streets. According to Curbed Philly, it will include 229 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and more than 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, a residents’ lounge, pool and fitness room. Residents will also have access to a bicycle storage facility with 77 spaces and 130 parking spaces contained within a 256-spot garage.

The second building will stand five-stories high and will include 110 studio, one- and two-bedroom units, 6,122 square feet of ground floor retail space, 38 bicycle parking spaces and 58 parking spaces contained in a 114-spot garage.

Hanover North Broad

Dubbed Hanover North Broad, the project was designed by Baltimore-based Design Collective, Inc. to achieve National Green Building Standard Certification. The project will incorporate a variety of sustainable strategies that will equally benefit the future residents and retail tenants, as well as the Greater Center City community: light-colored roofing and landscaped courtyards to help alleviate the heat-island effect of the surface lots; the use of vegetated planter boxes located within the internal building courtyards to provide shading for the sidewalk and buildings; Low-E glazing on windows to maximize daylight use and energy performance; Energy Star appliances and low-flow fixtures; and low-VOC materials to optimize indoor air quality.

Because of its large size, the project will undergo a public design review which will be conducted by the Philadelphia Planning Commission on February 4.

Renderings courtesy of The Hanover Company 

Philadelphia Listed Among Top 10 Cities for Green Meetings

24 Jan 2014, 6:48 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Though in recent years the meetings and events industry was badly impacted by the economic downturn, this sector is trying to regain its well-deserved place among the best performing industries in the country. To underscore these efforts, GreenBiz.com recently announced the Top Ten U.S. Cities for Green Meetings, a list developed based on industry standards for sustainable meetings and convention practices.

Shortly after Philadelphia hosted US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Greenbuild International Conference, the city has been ranked among the top ten U.S. cities for most Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified meeting spaces.

GreenBiz.com listed a number of energy efficient factors at the Pennsylvania Convention Center: the LEED Gold Certification that the venue earned for its expansion in 2011; the use of 100 percent decomposable and biodegradable food and beverage products and Green Seal-certified cleaning products; the use of renewable energy and other energy-saving initiatives that that led to its high ranking.

“We have made a concerted effort to make the facility a national leader in the race to provide environmentally sustainable meeting space. This ranking affirms our commitment to the environment and lets our customers know that we are focused on sustainability in our daily practices and long-term strategic plan,” said John McNichol, Acting President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, in a press statement.

Pennsylvania Convention Center

Located at 1101 Arch Street in Center City Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Convention Center opened in 1993 as a response to the growing convention industry in the state. Originally designed by Thompson, Ventulett & Stainback Associates with Vitetta Group and Kelly/Maiello Architects and Planners to accommodate conventions, exhibitions, conferences and other public events, in 2006 the venue embarked on a 5-year, $786 million expansion process under plans designed by tvsdesign with Vitetta Group and Kelly/Maiello Architects and Planners.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center currently provides almost 1 million square feet of sealable space that includes the largest convention center ballroom on the East Coast (55,400 square feet) and the largest contiguous exhibition space in the Northeast region (five halls totaling 528,000 square feet). Featuring high-definition cameras with full-perimeter views, cell-phone charging, way-finding and exploring machines, expanded digital signage and free Wi-Fi for attendees, this is the most technologically advanced convention center in the country. The venue implemented a more efficient use of electric power which resulted in a 34 percent drop in electricity costs in 2012.

As part of the convention center’s green initiative, the venue also provides user-friendly charging stations for electric vehicles and a  green roof—that also serves as a “green parking facility” thanks to a LED lighting system—designed to manage storm water and reduce energy consumption, while reducing noise and air pollution.

In August 2011, the Pennsylvania Convention Center achieved LEED Gold certification in recognition of the convention center’s constant commitment to sustainability.

Image via Pennsylvania Convention Center on Facebook

First Courtyard by Marriott Hotel Opens at Philadelphia Navy Yard

16 Jan 2014, 8:34 pm

Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Navy Yard

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

As the Navy Yard Corporate Center keeps growing and adding new businesses, the hospitality industry follows the same positive trend in this thriving business campus in South Philadelphia.

Long Beach, CA-based development company Ensemble Hotel Partners, LLC last week officially opened its first hotel at the Navy Yard, roughly one year after groundbreaking. Located at 1001 Intrepid Avenue with convenient access to the Philadelphia Sports Complex, Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia Zoo and City Hall, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel was developed by contractor INTECH Construction and will be managed by Marriott International, Inc.

The $34 million facility was designed by Erdy McHenry Architecture to achieve LEED certification for energy efficiency by incorporating a range of “green” amenities and services—such as composting its organic materials or encouraging guests to join the hotel’s recycling program.

Courtyard Philadelphia South offers 172 stylish guest rooms, each of them featuring plush bedding, a functional work space, spacious bathrooms, a separate seating area and complimentary in-room high-speed Internet. Designed for business travelers and tourists alike, the new hotel also includes a fitness center and more than 1,800 square feet of meeting space that can hold up to 100 people.

“From day one, Courtyard has prided itself as a brand that listens to what business travelers want from a hotel,” said Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager, Courtyard. “Guests want more control and choice with services and amenities that create a healthy balance between working and relaxing. The Courtyard lobby invites guests to get out of their rooms to work, socialize or be entertained, whether traveling alone or with colleagues.”

Spanning 6.5 million square feet at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the Navy Yard Corporate Center is a business campus committed to smart energy innovation and sustainability. It is home to more than 10,000 employees and 130 companies in the office, industrial/manufacturing, and research and development sectors.

Rendering via Ensemble Hotel Partners

Non-Profit Design Center Reveals Renderings of Columbus Square Park

11 Jan 2014, 8:47 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor


The neglected Passyunk Square neighborhood park is set for a much-need redesign with the help of a grant coming from a local non-profit organization.

Columbus Square Park – rendering

In March 2013 the Passyunk Post reported that the Community Design Collaborative—a community design center that provides pro-bono preliminary design services in Greater Philadelphia—awarded Columbus Square Park a grant meant to help the park’s revitalization. Located in South Philadelphia, Columbus Square Park is bound by 12th, 13th, Reed and Wharton streets and features a fenced athletic field that is rarely used, a playground and dog run.

Community members along with representatives from the private sector and the city joined the Community Design Collaborative team to redesign the park and turn it into a stylish green space for the neighborhood. Fast forward a few months and the community task force led by landscape architectural designed Leah Rominger came up with the conceptual design for what appears to be a friendlier Columbus Square Park.

As revealed in a blog post by the Community Design Collaborative team, the redevelopment costs at Columbus Square Park will total $2.8 million (of which around $35,000 will cover the value of the design services).

A major turning point for this revitalization plan was the design team’s decision to remove an underutilized building at the corner of the 12th and Reed streets to make room for the entrance to the park and “give the community the flow and circulation they wanted”, according to Rominger.

The park will have a new entrance at 12th and Reed and a network of pathways that will connect all corners of the park’s gathering places. The athletic fields, which will be reduced by 25 percent from the original layout, will take up more than two-thirds of the park and will serve adult and youth sport leagues from around Philadelphia. The redesigned park will also include a new pathway system at the periphery, an expanded dog park and gathering places such as a community “lawn” along Reed Street and a “patio” along 13th Street.


 Rendering via Community Design Collborative


FedEx Ground Plans $175 Million Massive Distribution Center in Lehigh Valley

10 Jan 2014, 5:20 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

FedEx Ground logo

Just before the end of 2013 a large shipping company submitted plans for a 1.3-million-square-foot package sorting center in Allen Township, in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley region. The project was filed with the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission by Moon Township, PA-based FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of the FedEx Corporation that serves businesses and retailers delivering merchandise to customers in no more than five days.

The Morning Call reports that the FedEx Ground “megahub” could generate more than 800 new jobs in Allen Township and a $25 million private investment in infrastructure improvements. Furthermore, the distribution center would be able to process roughly 15,000 packages per hour that will be brought by trucks from across the region. The entire process of unloading the packages and sorting them by ZIP code and type of freight could be completed within minutes from the arrival, so that the packages could be reloaded and delivered more quickly throughout the United States and Canada.

The $175 million plant will be built on 253 acres of land at Willowbrook Road and Race Street, near the Lehigh Valley International Airport. According to LehighValleyLive.com, earlier this year the site was sold by the airport to a developer—apparently the Rockefeller Group, as reported by The Morning Call—for $9.6 million.

FedEx Ground’s proposed package sorting center will be built in two phases. An L-shaped, 1-million-square-foot building with three parallel wings and multiple docks for tractor-trailers is estimated to open in 2015. According to The Morning Call, the second phase will be completed in 2017 and will include a 307,000-square-foot building with almost 1,350 parking spaces and 2,200 spaces for trucks and equipment. It is estimated that nearly 14,000 trucks and cars could pass through daily, including 7,500 belonging to the FedEx Ground distribution center.

Logo and image via FedEx 

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