Look around Center City’s retail scene, and what do you see? You’re likely to notice plenty of “discount” retailers like H&M, Century 21, Marshall’s, and Nordstrom Rack. More may be coming soon: Neiman Marcus’ Last Call and Saks’ Off 5th are said to be interested in moving in. You’ll soon see a spate of outlets available at Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia. Clearly, “inexpensive” is the name of the game when it comes to what Center City has on offer.
But why is this? And why haven’t more designers moved in on the heart of Philadelphia, when they flock to King of Prussia? These are the questions that were asked by a recent article on BizJournals.com.
When the Fashion Outlets were in the conceptual stage, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) CEO Joseph H. Coradino approached designer anchors like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s to see if they were interested in opening a location in what he then envisioned as a high-end shopper’s paradise. Their response was tepid. Was this proof that Center City doesn’t have what it takes to attract a designer tenant? Laurence L. Steinberg, a Center City retail expert with CBRE Inc. who was quoted in the article, says that the answer is yes.
He blames Center City’s lack of an environment supportive to high-end shopping on the area’s proximity to other shopping meccas. Those in search of couture and designer accessories can either hop on the train to New York or take their cars over to King of Prussia or Cherry Hill, where designer shopping has an abundance. Steinberg points out that luxury brands like to congregate near one another, and that other cities have done a better job building up a designer presence.
1.) Philadelphia and several surrounding counties – Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester – are dropping ReadyNotifyPA in favor of a new emergency notification system. The new system takes advantage of newer technology to amplify services already available to the public, says Samantha Phillips, Philadelphia’s Emergency Operations Director. In addition to e-mails and text alerts, which were available under ReadyNotifyPA, the new system will also integrate voice notifications – crucial for those who don’t text or have internet capabilities. Residents will have to enroll in the new service, but once they do they can choose notifications for the area(s) they select. For instance, citizens may choose notifications for home and work, as well as the area of a child’s school. Philadelphia residents can sign up at phila.gov/ready.
2.) Following the unveiling of a hip new logo, the Philadelphia 76ers have rolled out their new uniforms. The unis will be available in white, blue, and red versions – suitably patriotic. Several news outfits have pointed out the fact that the uniforms might be a bit of smart marketing for the Sixers, who have suffered one of the NBA’s worst records in recent years, as the throwback look will undoubtedly remind fans of past greatness. The uniforms have a classic look, with “PHILA” emblazoned across the front and stars running down the underarm seam. The red alternate uniforms will say “SIXERS.”
3.) An expansion of the state’s non-smoking law would extend the ban into all bars, hotels, and private clubs – places where Pennsylvania smokers are still currently allowed to light up. The original non-smoking law dates back to 2008. As there is little opposition to the bill, it is expected that it will pass. Under the bill, the use of vapor cigarette alternatives would also be banned in these locations.
The city of Philadelphia is currently in the midst of a hotel building boom. The building activity going on right now hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s. Builders are taking advantage of a wave of tourism, as well as business from convention-goers and those who come to Philly for work. Those who support the hotels’ building say that the increase in rooms is needed to support Philadelphia’s higher profile as a destination for all kinds of travel. It’s believed that the availability of more rooms will only cause tourism to swell.
Eight hotels are currently under construction in Center City Philadelphia. When completed, the hotels will flood the market with 2,000 new rooms – a 20% increase over current max occupancy levels. This is the largest increase in hotel room levels since the Republican National Convention came to town in 2000. Hotel occupancy levels hit a high of 76% last year; an increase from 73% in 2013.
The new hotels include the Four Seasons planned for the monolithic Comcast Tower, which, when completed, will be one of the country’s tallest buildings. There is also the Kimpton Hotel planned for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a converted historic building.
All these hotel rooms could be a mixed blessing, warn analysts. With more rooms, there is more pressure to fill them all – and experts wonder if it can be done. Back in 2009, occupancy rates hit a 20-year low as the economy tanked and tourism ground nearly to a halt. Those numbers are up, but are they up enough to support the addition of some 2,000 rooms to the city’s existing 11,500 ones? Only time will tell.
Home rental services like Airbnb have, until recently, been technically illegal in the city of Philadelphia. The popular service hooks up homeowners with short-term renters (so that people can rent an extra bedroom or a vacant apartment, for instance), similar to hotel stays – but those who use Airbnb and similar services have not had to pay Philadelphia’s 8.5% hotel tax. That is about to change.
Yesterday, the City Council voted unanimously (15-0) to institute the hotel tax on home rentals. The bill legitimizes home stays of 30 days or less, but places new restrictions on this kind of service. First of all, owners who rent out their homes for more than 90 days a year must get a rental license. Nobody is allowed to rent out their home for more than 180 days a year. Previously, city law didn’t allow for home rentals in residential neighborhoods. This means that sites like Airbnb were technically operating in something of a black market in Philadelphia.
The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association had argued that Airbnb operating unregulated and having rentals not pay the hotel tax gave the home rental business an unfair advantage. On the other end of things, Airbnb hosts argue that they do not provide any of the amenities of a full-service hotel and are just trying to make a little extra money. The timing of the measure has seen the city accused of instituting the law as a money grab. With the Pope’s visit happening in September and the city rental market expected to swell, businesses like Airbnb will likely see a brisk trade. Philly has been accused of capitalizing on the rush.
Hot on the heels of the Pope’s much-touted visit to Philadelphia in September will come the arrival of another prominent world leader… the Dalai Lama, who will be honored with the prestigious Liberty Medal in late October. The announcement was made this morning.
The Dalai Lama is being recognized for his compassion and commitment to promoting human rights around the globe. In announcing the honor, National Constitution Center CEO Jeffrey Rosen mentioned that the leader has “emphasized the ideals of freedom, dialogue and tolerance.”
The Dalai Lama has said that he is honored to be receiving the award. He released a statement on the occasion. “I am delighted as a recipient to be in the company of so many other inspirational leaders. I have made it my life’s work to spread the message of kindness and compassion and I can think of no better place to be recognized than in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” said the Dalai Lama.
Former recipients of the Liberty Medal include Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, Hilary Clinton, and rock musician Bono. It is awarded annually by the Constitution Center to those who work towards spreading liberty around the globe. The award comes with a $100,000 cash prize.
The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, believed to be the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The current Dalai Lama has reigned since 1950. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He has lived in India due to political exile from Tibet since 1959.
As Philadelphia prepares to welcome Pope Francis in September, city officials are also bracing for the onslaught of some two million visitors entering the city to come see the pontiff. Having so many people within city limits poses certain logistic complications, of course. There are lodging considerations – where will everyone stay? And then, of course, there’s the question of how they will get around. Philadelphia is a city that thrives on public transportation. Many people in the city center don’t have cars and rely on subway, bus, or rail to get around. What will happen when the city’s population essentially doubles?
City officials have a message for residents: be prepared to walk. That, verbatim, is the official word from Mayor Michael Nutter, who was asked about the transportation issue during a recent press conference. During the week of September 22nd, when the pope will be in town, he says that there is a high likelihood that normal transportation will be disrupted due to overcrowding.
Nutter referred to the pope’s visit as one of the largest events in Philadelphia in modern history. Accordingly, he said, the lives of many citizens will be impacted by it. SEPTA says that it believes its daily passenger load of 300,000 will at least double during the papal visit. For two days of the pope’s visit, September 26th and 27th, just 31 of SEPTA’s 281 stations will be open, and for boarding only. Regional Rail lines will carry special tickets, and it is expected that these will sell out. These rails only have a capacity of 180,000.
In short, residents should expect the unexpected – and break out their walking shoes.
Big changes are coming to the Avenue of the Arts/Graduate Hospital neighborhood in Center City. A pair of vacant spaces are in the works to be developed on a grand scale. As the sites are situated in a highly-visible location in Center City, this is big news for the area.
First up is a site that is currently a surface parking lot in GradHosp, at the northwest corner of Broad and Washington. Plans are currently under development to turn the site into Lincoln Square, a mixed-use retail and apartment complex. The project would stack 310 apartments on top of approximately six retail spaces in a U-shaped building several stories tall. The building will surround a parking deck with 95 spots. At nearby Broad and Prime Streets the old train shed will be developed into two additional retail spaces. Altogether, the sites will consist of 71,000 square feet of retail space. It’s estimated that the project will be finished some time in 2017.
Across the street, at the second site, Bart Blatstein will be developing an entire city block at Broad and Washington. Blatstein, who spearheaded the Piazza in Northern Liberties, wants to bring the same dynamic approach to mixed-use space to the new site. It is being designed as an “all in one” community, one that Blatstein says residents will never want to leave. There will be every conceivable amenity: “a dog park, a pool, a running park, a private garden, fire pits, grilling areas, outdoor movies, and tennis courts that convert into volleyball pits.” All the outdoor activities will take place on the spacious roof. Inside, there will be retail and restaurants alongside the residences, along with even more amenities.
1.) The Marvel Experience is coming to Lincoln Financial Field. Are you crazy about superheroes – thrilled by Thor, crazy about Captain America, made happy by the Hulk? You’ll love this traveling exhibition, which places you right alongside the beloved comic book and movie characters as a new agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. You’ll get your own ID card and superhero “training” as you work to find out why Adaptoids are menacing the Earth. The 360-degree projection theater will help you soar alongside Iron Man, smash things with the Hulk, and try your skills with a Holo-Blaster. After, face off against the powers of evil in a simulated battle! The exhibit starts this Friday, June 19th, and runs through July 5th.
2.) Rosa’s Pizza is a Center City institution, and not just because of their delicious $1 pizza slices. The pizza joint helps to feed the homeless by offering patrons the opportunity to buy an extra slice to feed someone who is hungry. In this way, Rosa’s feeds about 150 hungry people every day. Now, they are expanding their charitable services and helping to clothe the homeless as well. Rosa’s has unrolled their own line of sweatshirts. When you buy one, another is donated to someone who needs clothing. A list of services available to the homeless is printed right on the inside. Three cheers for people doing good!
3.) A mural dedicated to the Phillies is taking shape on the corner of 24th and Walnut in Center City. The eight-story wall, which faces the Schuylkill Expressway and Schuylkill River, will be covered over with the 3,750 square foot mural. It will be applied like wallpaper in 143 sections and will feature Phillies players in action. The mural is the brainchild of David McShane, an award-winning Mural Arts Program artist. The mural is expected to be completed in time for Phillies alumni weekend, which kicks off August 1st.
The super location and charming character combine for a perfect center city living experience. Many windows provide lots of light pouring sunshine into this home. Bring outdoors in by enjoying a very private, brick-paved rear patio and a second floor roof deck. This home features oak hardwood flooring on three levels, classic Philadelphia-Style staircase with open handrails and balusters and a super master bedroom suite located on the second floor. 1st floor greets you with an open living room leading into a dining room with lots of natural light. An updated kitchen with plenty of counter space and cabinets make this a very livable home. 2nd floor features a master bedroom suite including oak hardwood floors, 2 large windows, a big walk-in closet and an oversized bathroom. The rooftop deck is located on this level. 3rd floor has a bedroom w/private bathroom & open den or 3rd bedroom with lots of natural sunlight.
Frank L. DeFazio, Esq.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS
530 Walnut Street, Suite 260
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Over 48 Million in 2014 sales!
2014 “America’s Best Real Estate Agents” a prestigious national award by Real Trends and Trulia recognized in the Wall Street Journal
2014 PREA 100 – Top 100 Real Estate Agents at BHHS Fox & Roach Nationally
2014 Best of Trulia Top Agent Award
Chairman’s Circle Diamond – Top ½% of Fox & Roach Agents – 2013, 2014
Philadelphia Magazine top real estate agent – 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Asking Price: $224,900
**INVESTOR SPECIAL** – Don’t miss this 4 bedroom, 2 bath home with TWO CAR PARKING on a quiet street close to campus! Updated first floor bathroom and kitchen. HUGE back yard with two storage sheds. Finished basement. HVAC system one year old. Perfect for a Temple U rental or owner occupant! Schedule your showing today!
John A. Cesarine