A New World Trade Center … In Camden?

The former site of the Riverfront State Prison in North Camden will get a makeover in the form of a 2.3 million square-foot world trade center if development firm Waterfront Renaissance Associates gets its way. And, of course, what better day to pitch it to city planning board than on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

WRA will be working with the World Trade Center of Philadelphia to broker the deal, reflecting the structure of the world’s existing trade centers via partnering with a trade services provider:

The proposed Camden complex would be called the Greater Philadelphia World Trade Center, said Schiffman, who noted land in Philadelphia originally planned for a trade center “is no longer appropriate.”

The preliminary project design in Camden includes 2.3 million square feet of space with four stand-alone phases. The plan will create subcampuses to create a feel of small commercial neighborhoods, while integrating each into the greater 16-plus-acre project.

The idea here is to create jobs for ailing Camden, or at least bring some employed people into town—a task for which WRA managing partner Martin Schiffman says there isn’t “anyone in the area who comes close” to his firm.

For Camden’s sake, let’s hope so. [Courier Post]

The Homestead Exemption Deadline Is Extremely Nigh

If you’re trying to save $400 off the city’s upcoming Actual Value Initiative property tax hikes, you’d better get your forms in order by Friday.

That’s the deadline for Philly’s first ever Homestead Exemption, a measure that promises to knock $30,000 off the value of a home, which translates to property tax savings totaling $400. A good deal, considering that the property tax tops out at 1.34 percent.

To apply, there are just two criteria:

  1. You must own your own home.
  2. You must live in that house as your primary residence.

Easy, right? Unfortunately, only about 2/3 of Philly homeowners have applied for the exemption, meaning around 113,000 properties won’t be exempt as of right now. Officials, like deputy administrator for the Office of Property Assessment Kate Dreher, meanwhile, hopes more residents will call in:

“We’re hoping that, in this last week, a lot of people will take the time to apply. It takes only a few minutes if you call. If people don’t apply, they’re just leaving free money on the table.”

Hear that, guys? Free money. On the table. You can reach the OPA at 215-686-9200 for yours. [CBS]

L&I Says Goldtex’s Lofts Are Not for Living In

Trouble continues for the Pestronk brothers today, though not from the usual union sources sabotaging their properties. This time, the ire is on the part of L&I, who recently paid a visit to the Post Brothers property to OK occupancy of the Goldtex building’s eight floor while the building is under construction.

Turns out some units have lofts included, which reps have been billing as living spaces despite approval from L&I to use them only as utility spaces. Liz Spikol breaks it down on our Property blog:

According to L&I, the lofts are approved as utility spaces, not living spaces, but a Goldtex sales rep tells the undercover reporter that the loft can be used as a bedroom with a twin or double bed. This, says Post Bros. co-owner Mike Pestronk, is an error on the rep’s part, as is a listings photo that portrays the loft as a living space.

The lofts’ pull-down stairways, in the opinion of one firefighter union rep, pose a substantial hazard in the event of a fire because they could block inhabitants from making their way out of the building. Matt Pestronk has not yet commented on the matter. [Property]

Housing Sales in Philly Up 20 Percent Over Last Year

Something title “The Residential and Foreclosure Sales Report” isn’t usually the go-to source for good news these days, but RealtyTrac’s extensive survey does have some great news from its July 2013 edition: turns out our real-estate market isn’t drowning!

From the report:

Among 20 of the nation’s largest metro areas with annual sales estimates tracked in the report, the biggest year-over-year increases in sales volume were in Chicago (up 27 percent), Minneapolis (up 23 percent), Baltimore (up 21 percent), Boston (up 20 percent), and Philadelphia (up 20 percent).

For the layman, this means that Philly-area homes sold 20 percent more homes than last year, meaning that people in our area are actually generating the money needed to buy homes. Not only that, but nationally, we’ve seen a jump in sales of residential properties to the tune of 11 percent. These are the best numbers RealtyTrac has seen in 2013.

Sure, the housing market isn’t safe just yet. But as Liz Spikol says, this news errs more on the “glass half-full” side of things. Like SEPTA, we’re getting there. [Property]

Why Philly Needs an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

It’s no secret that, for all its cinematic traditions, from The Philadelphia Story to Rocky to Bradley Cooper jogging while wearing a garbage bag, Philadelphia isn’t exactly the world’s greatest moviegoing city.

I’ve been a film critic in this city for eight years now, and a hardcore cinephile for even longer than that, and I know I’d love it if there were more and easier options to see movies here in town.

But you don’t have to be critic to see there’s a problem here. There are way fewer screens in Center City—only 14— than in just about any major U.S. city of its size. There’s not a single movie theater that’s in any way centrally located in the city, and with the Roxy still not open and the Boyd no closer to restoration, it doesn’t look like there will be one anytime soon. Philly very much lacks a signature movie house.

But I have an idea for solving this problem: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema needs to come to Philadelphia.
Read more »

Warren Buffett Buys Prudential Fox & Roach

Prudential Fox & Roach, the Devon, PA-based real estate giant, has been bought by a division of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment fund. PruFoxRoach will keep its name until the fall, when it will be rebranded under the umbrella of Home Services Inc., which bought it. Word is Buffett was especially interested in realtors who use guerrilla tactics to bring down competitors’ houses–like dumping dead rodents in their driveways. [Property]

30-Year-Old Woman Dies After Fall From Window of Luxury Condo

At 4:20 a.m. this morning, a still unidentified 30-year-old woman fell from the 12th story window of the luxurious Dockside Condominiums on the Delaware River. She was pronounced dead at 4:36 after after hitting a fourth-floor balcony. It’s unclear whether she jumped, fell, or if foul play was to blame.

A bunch of local athletes and celebrity types have called the place home recently, including Tony Bruno, Darren Daulton, Geno Vento, and once upon a time, DeSean Jackson. Here’s Bruno’s take.

Here’s a promo video for the joint, to give you a sense for the place.

[Inquirer]

Will the Roxy Theater Ever Reopen?

When we first learned last September that Sansom Street’s Roxy Theater was closing, it was sad — though not entirely unexpected — news. Center City’s only active movie theater had become dirty, run-down and generally decrepit, screening the worst that the big studios had to offer.

But then the city let out a resounding cheer when it learned in October that the Philadelphia Film Society (the organization behind the annual Philadelphia Film Festival) was taking over the Roxy and turning it into a respectable cinema for truly independent and repertory film. When I spoke with PFS executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt back in October, he suggested that screenings could begin prior to the new year, meaning Jan. 1, 2013.
Read more »

Nutter: Cigarette Link to Explosion is “Pure Speculation”

NBC 10 reports:

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said reports that Monday’s house explosion in South Philly may have been caused when a handyman lit a cigarette, were “pure speculation at this point.”

“There is a lot of speculation about what was happening in the house Monday morning. I’m not able to address rumors and speculation,” Nutter said in an afternoon news conference.

Of course, that speculation was fed by a seemingly official source, Councilman Mark Squilla, who visited the explosion site on Tuesday and suggested the cigarette connection.  “He supposedly went in the building, tried to do it, couldn’t get it to work, went out, came back in. Sometime during that process he lit a cigarette and when that happened the house exploded,” Squilla said of a contractor on the house, which was undergoing rehab.

Eight people were injured in explosion.

Read a full report from the Mayor’s news conference on Property.

 

Rappaport Heirs to Building Collapse Victims: Get In Line

It has been nearly two months since the deadly building collapse at 22nd and Market streets. Victims and families of the deceased have been lining up in Philadelphia’s civil court to sue the demolition contractor, the equipment operator (who was later arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter) and building owner Richard Basciano. Read more »

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