Glass Tower Starts Construction at 20th and Market

The corner of 20th and Market is going to look at lot different. Full rendering below.

The corner of 20th and Market is going to look at lot different. Full rendering below.

It was more than a year ago when Brandywine Realty Trust announced specific plans for a building that would sit on the lot at 20th and Market Street, next to the Independence Blue Cross building, which recently completed its own street-level renovation. Throughout the day on Friday, there was a lot of activity at 1919 Market Street (the vacant lot’s actual address), with a large construction vehicle making tracks in the dirt as I stared down from my nearby office window 36 stories above. People moved back and forth, industrious as ants. A public announcement had to be coming soon.

Indeed, today the company that was named Developer of the Year by Development Magazine announced that it has formed a joint venture with Berwyn-based real estate company LCOR and the California State Teacher’s Retirement System that will make the 29-story mixed-use building possible. Brandywine will handle retail, which is currently slated to be a ground-floor CVS, and the public parking lot that will accommodate 215 cars. Hunter Roberts Construction will manage the process of building the 455,000-square-foot  tower, which was designed by Barton Partners.

Here’s what we know in terms of details:

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Development Roundup: Digital Billboards Are Finally Coming to Market Street and Other Projects…

Market Street side of Mellon Independence Center. Photo credit: Google Street View

Market Street side of Mellon Independence Center.
Photo credit: Google Street View

Construction making way for video billboards set to line the roof of the former Lit Bros. building on Market Street has begun. Philly.com’s Maria Panaritis reports $10 million went into the project with an additional $10 million going to updating nearby public amenities.

Investors and other involved parties are aiming for a New Year’s Eve light up as the area has long been a ghost of its retail past. The “stadiumlike, wraparound, LED signs” are expected to encourage redevelopment and bring in revenue, something it has already started doing:

Indeed, advertising contracts for billboards of this nature can be very lucrative. Merlini estimated that annual revenues from the signs to be installed atop the Lits building would be in the “seven figures.”

“We didn’t know what a revenue source it would be until we got into it,” he said, adding that advertisement contracts were already in place.

Here are other unfolding projects…

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Morning Headlines: Vaguely Plausible Plans to Demolish, Build at 11th and Market

11th and Market, facing west.  Photo credit: Google Street View.

11th and Market, facing west.
Photo credit: Google Street View.

Philadelphia’s stagnating retail corridor on the east side of Market Street might finally get a major wake-up call, and we’re not talking about the Gallery. Instead, the owners of the drab strip of stores on the block between 11th and 12th have secured new backing from IBEW and National Real Estate Advisors that makes their plans for the block seem like they might finally come to fruition. The stores currently on the 1100 block have been cleared out for demolition in July, to make way for a development named East Market.

Restaurants, entertainment, fashion stores, and even grocers will be included in the new project, but here’s a more elaborate description by the Inquirer’s Joe DiStefano:

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Morning Headlines: Looking Even Worse for the Salvation Army

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The Inquirer has an examination of what people knew and when they knew it before the Hoagie City building collapsed onto the Salvation Army thrift store. This goes to the heart of the matter in terms of culpability, both criminal (civil lawsuits) and moral. It also reemphasizes what we already knew and which Victor Fiorillo wrote about in September: The Salvation Army is not looking good in this whole thing. Some fundamental questions:

– Did the store manager at the Salvation Army know the employees were at risk?
– Did the Salvation Army supervisor of nine stores know the employees were at risk?
– Did the Salvation Army organization know that the demolition was risky enough to merit closing the location while the work continued?

The Salvation Army’s lawyer, Eric A. Weiss, told the Inquirer that the organization had no idea what stage the demo had reached.

At decision-making levels, Weiss said, the charity thought it was still negotiating with its Market Street neighbor over what steps would be taken to shield the shop during demolition when the collapse occurred.

He said the Salvation Army had designated a Harrisburg lawyer to negotiate with the owner of the building being torn down, STB Investments Corp., a company controlled by real estate investor Richard Basciano.

But the Inquirer reported previously that STB warned the organization of the hazards in a series of emails. As it stands now, aside from the criminal charges filed against the demolition contractor and the excavator operator, it seems as though the Salvation Army will bear the brunt of the blame for the loss of life and the injuries suffered. Good thing they’ve got deep pockets.

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Morning Headlines: Woman Who Lost Legs in Building Collapse Recounts Awful Details

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The Daily News reports today on the deposition of Mariya Plekan, the woman who was trapped under the rubble of the Salvation Army thrift store for 13 hours. By the time she was rescued, her injuries were too severe to save her legs, which had to be amputated. The details she gave are haunting and hard to hear:

Plekan, who said she was conscious for the entire ordeal, recounted how she found a small hole through which she could see light and hear parts of the rescue operation above her.

“They started to move things around, then I had a hope, I had a hope that they will save me shortly. But it didn’t happen,” she said. “I was screaming, ‘Help, help.’ But nobody heard me.”

“I was praying, praying, ‘God, help me,’ so I could be found,” she said.

A search dog tracked her down.

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Market8 Group: ‘Understands Dynamics of African-American Community’

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Today Market8, one of the five remaining contenders for Philadelphia’s casino license, announced new endorsements for its project: those of the Philadelphia NAACP; the Urban League of Philadelphia (ULP); the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC); and the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The endorsements shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, at least coming from ULP and UAC, with whom Market8 worked to create an inclusion strategy to benefit members of the community who are not generally included in the success of such ventures.

The NAACP’s Jerry Mondesire was impressed by the plan: “I don’t know of any other organization doing a major project that has put this much thought into its inclusion plan,” he said, explaining his organization’s endorsement.

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The Murano Is Selling Like High-Rise Hotcakes

murano sample room

It’s the final sale phase of the Murano, the 43-story residential skyscraper designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Associates of Chicago. Developed by Thomas Properties and P&A Associates, the Murano saw some tough times during the Great Recession, but the duress is clearly over. Since Oct. 21st, seven units have sold — ranging from $555,000 for a 1,100-square-foot one-bedroom to $1.5 million for a 2,350-square-foot three-bedroom.

Looks like there are still about 20 units left on the market, with garage parking as an option for $35,000.

Here are the photos the building is using to sell the remaining units in the final phase.

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Morning Opinion: Nutter Is Dragging His Feet on the Building Collapse

Philadelphia Building Collapse

We’re calling it opinion, but perhaps it’s more like fact. As Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky points out today, after the building collapse at 2140 Market Street, Mayor Nutter promised to convene an independent, blue-ribbon commission to assess the accident. He has not done so. On Monday, Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, told Polaneczky it would happen “very soon.”

“He said the same thing 37 days ago,” she writes.

Though Polaneczky keeps an even tone, bringing in Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan, whose 24-year-old daughter Anne was killed in the collapse, to make the point, it’s actually something of an outrage that Nutter is putting this off. Winkler tells Polaneczky:

“[This] was a horrific, avoidable crime that was the result of a widespread, systemic failure to put public safety first.”

Now, Winkler and Ryan “want the city to use this moment to undergo an honest examination of the systems, people and processes that affect building, demo and development in Philly.”

Winkler, who is city treasurer, sure is optimistic for an insider.

Mayor Nutter, what are you afraid of? Or, to put it more generously, take some time out from your schedule — which today includes officiating at a first-grade safety officer’s swearing-in ceremony — and GET IT DONE.

Seeing the big picture of the Market Street collapse

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Morning Headlines: City Has Higher Standards for Its Own Demolition Projects

Philadelphia City Council’s special committee to investigate the building collapse at 22nd and Market has released its findings this morning — and it ain’t pretty. The Special Investigating Committee on Demolition Practices’ report can be read cynically or pragmatically, but reading it in the former fashion might lead one to believe the city cares less about its citizens than covering its collective governmental behind. From CBS Philly:

The 70-page report from City Council’s makes clear that the city imposes higher standards on its own demolitions than those carried out by contractors on privately owned buildings.  For example, contractors demolishing public buildings must submit a criminal background check and provide evidence of competency and experience.

We’ve written before about the lax requirements for becoming a demolition contractor for private jobs, but to seem them in contrast with city requirements is offensive and discouraging.

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Building Collapse New: Another Lawsuit Filed

Roseline Conteh, mother of eight, was one of the people who died when the “Hoagie City” building collapsed onto the Salvation Army at 22nd and Market. Now Conteh’s family is filing the second wrongful death suit related to the tragedy, and the defendants are the same, according to philly.com:

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