FMC Corp. has agreed to move its headquarters from 1745 Market St. in Center City into the new tower that Brandywine Realty Trust has been trying to build, NE corner of 30th and Walnut Sts. in University City, for the past 5 years. The $341 million FMC Tower will rise 47 stories -- 650 feet -- and include 575,000 sq ft of offices, 10,000 sq ft of retail -- plus 260 apartments.
The way John Columbo saw it, East Chestnut Street in Center City was a ghetto. From 8th to 13th, the once-beautiful and bustling street brimmed with empty storefronts with graffitied windows and bottom-feeder businesses like dollar stores and check-cashing joints. Drug dealers jockeyed with street hustlers for sidewalk space.
It was the perfect place, he and his business partner Mike Lewis decided six years ago, for their gourmet cupcake bakery, Philly Cupcake. “You look at what everybody else is doing and do the opposite – place luxury right in the center of the ghetto,” Columbo said of their business philosophy.
While a few other brave merchants followed their lead, the changes weren’t always positive and a rebirth remained elusive, Columbo said. A sex shop moved in a few doors away and filled its storefront windows with space-age vibrators and near-naked mannequins to tempt passers-by. Farther east, some cheered the closure of the old Funk-o-Mart electronics store, only to see another dollar store move in.
“They want this to be Woolworth’s, and we’re trying to be more Chanel,” Columbo said of the battle to revitalize Chestnut Street.
The expansion will ultimately mean an additional 2,000 jobs in the city and another 500 in Gap, according to Richard Hayne, Urban Outfitter’s founder and chief executive officer.
Three groups of developers have pitched plans for converting the 72-year-old Family Court building at 18th and Vine Streets into a luxury hotel, raising expectations for another big investment in an area undergoing major change.
In plans submitted to the city Wednesday, each group was aligned with a hotel operator. They are:
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, teaming up with Logan Square Holdings, a limited partnership that counts the Goldenberg Group of Philadelphia among its five investors.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, working with Philadelphia’s Dranoff Properties and HRI Properties of New Orleans.
Kimpton Hotels, aligned with P&A Associates of Philadelphia and the Peebles Corp. of New York City.
Where North Beach Street twists and turns into Richmond Avenue in Fishtown, the old William Cramp & Sons shipyard has been the envy of developers and dreamers alike.
It’s 60 open acres of Delaware River waterfront, a vast blank canvas.
And the man with all the paintbrushes is Las Vegas resort-and-casino developer Steve Wynn.
Two weeks ago, Wynn finally released his plan for developing the site. Local reaction has run hot and cold.
Everyone agrees that the Wynn project could be a game-changer for the waterfront, finally giving purpose to land that has been idle since after World War II.
VERNA TYNER was 10 when her family moved to Venango Street in Tioga 40 years ago.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Tyner said of her new home. “It was just a gorgeous, beautiful neighborhood. The lawns were manicured. The trees were trimmed.”
But as Tyner grew up, the neighborhood fell down.
Dozens of factories that dotted Tioga, Nicetown and Allegheny West began closing, putting thousands of people out of work.
Among them: the Budd Co., which made railcars and later automobile doors; Tasty Baking Co., maker of Tastykakes; and the Stanley Blacker suit factory.
The developer calls Malvern “the town that time forgot” – its main street lined with Victorian-style houses, small boutiques, and local watering holes like the Flying Pig Saloon.
But Eli Kahn and his partners are betting that a $45 million apartment and retail complex on East King Street will help satisfy urban appetites in one of the region’s most venerable suburbs – and entice empty nesters and young professionals looking for a citified environment outside the city.
Construction on the East King Street redevelopment project began in June and includes two large apartment buildings with 190 units, plus first-floor retail space that Kahn envisions renting to restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques. The complex, due for completion in August, also is to house a Whole Foods grocery.
Kahn and his partner, David Della Porta, spent several years buying 11 parcels on the site, and the project has been a decade in the making. A house on one small parcel remains because an elderly resident didn’t want to leave her home and declined to sell, Kahn said.
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Malls and big box stores upset the traditional relationship between residents of boroughs and their Main Street businesses.
But thanks to revitalization plans that have unfolded over the last decade, Main Streets are being beautified and making a gradual comeback.
“I believe we can recreate much of the community feel that was alive in the era before the mall, but the new and improved downtown will reflect businesses and activity relevant to the current decade,” said Lansdale Borough Council member Mary Fuller.
“Communities don´t go downhill overnight. They aren´t going to come back overnight,” said Pam Coleman, manager of the Souderton-Telford Main Streets organization. “The reality is the boroughs (of Souderton and Telford) have been working on it 11 years. We´re fortunate that we have a committed council.”
To meet their deadline, the developers asked City Council to allow an above-ground stormwater basin planned for the site to go underground instead. Developer Don Pulver said the site has a large amount of dirt that would have to be moved unless it is used to cover the basin.
“We are struggling to get the hotel up and are behind schedule,” Pulver said. “We need to do something with that dirt and try to get the site finished. Time is of the essence.”
The developers are revising the overall plans for the project, which include the hotel, an office building and a restaurant. The revision includes changing the originally proposed parking garage and making all on-site parking surface level.
NEWTOWN — It does not seem to matter what the economic forecast is or how rough other employees are having it.
When it comes to the world’s largest business software provider, the “Help Wanted” sign always seems to be front and center.
Coming off what company officials called “the best year in our 40-year history,” SAP will add 500 jobs at its North America headquarters on West Chester Pike.
“The growth of the company as a whole was very strong in 2011 and these jobs in Newtown Square are part of a larger hiring of about 2,800 people across North America,” said company spokesman Atle Erlingsson. “They will be filled by a broad spectrum of people, from those with 10 or 15 years of experience to interns and those looking for their first job out of college.”