$75M Government Subsidy Apparently Not Enough for Luxury Center City Hotels

Rendering courtesy of Tierney Agency

Rendering courtesy of the Tierney Agency

In 2013, Philadelphia’s City Council approved a $33 million tax-credit package to help developer Brook Lenfest build two boutique hotels on a vacant lot at 15th and Chestnut in Center City.

The deal was meant to offset the cost of the construction, which was estimated at $280 million, using something called “Tax Increment Financing.” Lenfest also secured other state and federal grants worth an additional $42 million, bringing the total public subsidy of the hotel project, which is supposed to include a W hotel and an Element hotel, to $75 million.

But apparently Lenfest, son of the former Inquirer and Daily News owner H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, is still struggling to pull together all the money he needs. Last week, Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced a bill on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke that would create a “Neighborhood Improvement District” on just that one property alone. That would allow the developer to secure a private loan against the value of the subsidy. Read more »

Construction of W / Element Hotel at 15th and Chestnut Underway

Rendering courtesy of Tierney Agency

Rendering courtesy of Tierney Agency

The former parking lot is gone and the teasing presence of inactive site prep vehicles is officially behind us – in other words, construction is underway on the 51-story skyscraper charged with holding a dual-brand hotel development consisting of the 295-room W Philadelphia and 460-room Element Philadelphia.

Check out the bonus night rendering below.

The W/Element project, whose construction commencement was announced yesterday, is being developed by Vine Street Matthews Development, but is owned by Chestlen Development. Starwood Hotels & Resorts will be managing the property. Funding for the $280 million development was made possible with the help of $33 million in tax increment financing and, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni, $160 million in loans.

The building is anticipated to have banquet facilities, an outdoor pool bar and terrace, and food and beverage outlets, as well as retail space along Chestnut Street. And make no mistake: the two hotels may occupy the same space, but they will maintain their distinctive styles and offer different amenities to their guests. Below, a list of their respective features.

Read more »

6 Philly Development Projects That Are Springing Forward

Now that we’ve all had a chance to adjust to that that whole spring forward phenomenon, let’s take a few minutes to look at a handful of projects that are making progress as we officially head into spring. Remember, you’re not losing an hour of precious sleep, you’re gaining another hour of glorious sunlight!

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center:


Sure, the near-record breaking concrete pour at the turn of the year may have garnered all of the attention, but that’s winter type stuff. Spring will see the city’s soon-to-be-tallest building rise higher and higher out of the large hole at 19th and Arch. To be frank: that’s exciting. Comcast has recently said they’re going to take up all of the office space within the building and it’s possible that it’s not the last one in the area for the cable goliath. Don’t forget: the Four Seasons will also become one of Philly’s most exclusive hotels as it moves from the Parkway all the way up to the top floors of the CITC.

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Morning Headlines: Construction at the W Hotel Could Start Next Month

This was the scene from February 11 | Photo: James Jennings

This was the scene from February 11 | Photo: James Jennings

You already know that construction crews have been on the scene at 15th and Chestnut for about a month getting it ready for the upcoming W Hotel. Now it seems it’s about to turn a corner. Natalie Kostelni of the Philadelphia Business Journal reports that Tutor Perini Building Corp. has equipment on site and quotes Matt Morgan of Tutor Perini as saying that digging the foundation could start “as early as next month depending on what they find.”

The possible timeline for the project could have moved up as well. The $280 million hotel is reportedly a 36-month build and Jack Ferguson, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said they’re anticipating the dual-hotel (an upscale W and mid-range Element by Westin) to be delivered in January 2018, which, if it is a 36-month build, would still be ahead of schedule. Kostelni reports the project is anticipated to be completed by October 2017–a three to four month difference.

W Hotel construction has started, completion projected to be in 2017 [Philadelphia Business Journal] Philly schools, 181 Market and drones/demolition!

Spotted: Is That Construction Equipment at the Future W and Element Hotel Site?

photo 3

Is the construction of the 755-room W and Element Hotel about to commence on the former parking lot at 15th and Chestnut Street? It certainly looks that way.

We walked by the other day and snapped a few photos of the scene. There was some construction equipment on the site, a large hole and a prominent “Work In Progress” sign hung on the fence near the corner. It’s unclear what kind of work is being done and it seems as though mum is the word on when an official groundbreaking for the hotel will occur.

“It’s a very good indication that construction will be underway shortly, if it’s not part of the construction,” said Jack Ferguson, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Ferguson, while not directly involved in the inner workings of the project, also said that he had been told it will be a 36-month project and that it’s planned to be delivered in January 2018. “We are telling our customers that the hotel will be ready in 2018.” Read more »

Five Developments We’re Tracking in 2015

Photo credit: Ethan Schwartz via Flickr.

Photo credit: Ethan Schwartz via Flickr.

Here on Property we’ve been covering an assorted number of new projects poised to transform Philadelphia’s cityscape. As the new year approaches, that number will only continue to grow, and you can be sure we’ll be following all of them.

However, of those that have been announced for 2015, there have been some which have struck us as being potential game-changers. Below you will find five areas in Philadelphia development that we will keep a special eye on in the coming year.

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Morning Headlines: More Info On Planned W / Element Hotels Coming Next Week

Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

1441 Chestnut. Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the developers of the planned W and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut (currently a parking lot) don’t need zoning variances to build their project. For this reason, their meeting with the Center City Residents Association next week, where they will present their new designs, will be for informational purposes only.

Here’s what to expect of the double tower:

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED Certification for the building.

Lenfest, if you recall, caused waves last year when he requested (and got) $33 million in tax breaks for the project.

Read more »

Toll Brothers Pushing 410 At Society Hill

A rendering of 410 at Society Hill, courtesy of Toll Brothers

Toll Brothers, the Horsham, PA-based megadeveloper, has found late-career success in the unlikeliest of places: bustling cities. The company has done projects throughout New York City, as well as the remarkably successful 600-unit Naval Square in Graduate Hospital. Now Toll Bros. is pushing its latest Philadelphia offering: the still-under-construction 410 at Society Hill, the luxury condo complex on Headhouse Square that replaces the large hole where Newmarket once stood.

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Update on Two Big Projects at 15th and Chestnut

The latest available rendering of Brook Lenfest's proposed dual-hotel tower, via this recent Center City District report

The latest available rendering of Brook Lenfest’s proposed dual-hotel tower, via this recent Center City District report

We’re seeing progress on two major projects that’ll radically change the intersection of 15th and Chestnut: Brook Lenfest’s long-discussed W and Element hotel tower right behind the Residences at the Ritz Carlton, and, right across 15th Street, Alterra Property Group and the Scully Company’s conversion of 150,000 square feet of class B office space into 180 apartments, with a small amount of office and retail space. (That latter project was mentioned in an Inquirer story a few days ago.)

Earlier today, we noticed that the parking lot on the hotel site was closed (temporarily, a sign said). Philly Chit Chat’s HughE Dillon explains:

This week they are beginning to test the soil in anticipation for the building as well as the extensive underground parking lot they’re building.  Last week officials from the project went around to the surrounding buildings, including the new Alterra project, and took photos of them inside an out – “The Before Photos”, just in case vibrations from the drilling and building the W causes any cracks in the neighboring buildings.

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The W Hotel Tax Break: Foolish or Defensible?

1441 chestnut street

Photo of 1441 Chestnut Street via Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

So let’s see if I’ve gotten this right: The real reason the bigger, bolder Pennsylvania Convention Center is empty much of the time and getting emptier is because we don’t have enough hotel rooms.

This comes as a total surprise to me. Here I’ve been laboring under the conventional wisdom that the center’s well publicized labor (and labor cost) problems are the main reason conventions are staying away in droves.

Read more »

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