January brings many state-of-the-state addresses by governors, who announce their priorities and budget plans for the coming year. In Pennsylvania, however, many counties didn’t have to wait for 2020’s speech to know some money was coming their way for infrastructure and construction needs. On December 30, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of more than $5 million in funding through the Keystone Communities program for 42 revitalization projects that include construction and business development.
The following funds and projects were included in the governor’s announcement:
Quakertown: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in the designated Keystone Main Street area of Quakertown Borough, benefiting at least ten storefronts.
Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in downtown Bristol, benefiting at least ten storefronts.
Lansdowne Economic Development Corp.: $50,000 to assist in the construction of the Lansdowne Maker Space, a 2,500-square-foot tech-based maker space.
City of Philadelphia: $250,000 for renovations to the Happy Hollow playground at the Happy Hollow Recreation Center in Germantown, to address the failing conditions of the playground and to restructure its layout, install new site furnishings and lighting, replace equipment, purchase and install safety surface material and new outdoor fitness equipment.
Wolf is also hoping his state legislature backs his Restore Pennsylvania multibillion-dollar capital plan that he proposed last year to help with the state’s infrastructure issues. Funding the plan requires a severance tax on natural gas and has met with resistance. Wolf recently tweeted that if the plan gets approved, some of that money can be used to help with the infrastructure issues in Philadelphia schools—including remediating contaminants such as asbestos.
The 246-acre Happy Days Farm in Exton, PA, is now under contract by Audubon Land Development. But the plans for the development of the site at the Downingtown Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike are unknown.
The Happy Days site has sat untouched by construction for years while projects were proposed then abandoned. The Vanguard Group bought the property 20 years ago with the initial intention of using it to expand its corporate campus. It instead chose to do that somewhere else, leased the property and never developed the land.
The company put the property up for sale in the spring and its location made it incredibly attractive to developers. In fact, before Vanguard, multiple developers considered the property for retail and mixed-use sites.
The site is zoned for industrial and commercial use, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That includes farming and the Vanguard tenant has been continuing to operate it as a working farm. The barn and fields of crops would obviously disappear, though, should the sale go through and Audubon move forward with development.
A commercial real estate management and development company based in southeastern Pennsylvania, Audobon’s projects include everything from offices and warehouses to retail centers, retirement communities, and hotels.
Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia has filed for bankruptcy and faces possible closure. If the medical campus closes, there are obvious concerns about serving the community’s health needs, as well as the loss of jobs of those who work there. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the seven medical buildings and parking garage that take up over nearly six acres on Broad Street along the Vine Street Expressway could become one of the “most enticing-if challenging” development sites the city has seen in years.
The age and condition of the buildings make it difficult to modernize to continue its use as a hospital. But the site sits between Center City and Broad Street making it a “gateway” location for redevelopment should that inevitably happen. At this point, there is no consensus of what kind of development it would be or if it would encompass the entire site or pieces of it.
Should redevelopment happen, it won’t be the first hospital site in the city to be redeveloped and re-imagined. The former Mt. Sinai Hospital at 400 Reed Street was turned into nearly 100 luxury townhomes with “pocket parks” and pedestrian walkways configured into the buildings’ layout. Southwark on Reed became the fastest selling townhome project in Philadelphia to date. And St. Joseph’s Hospital’s transformation into a mixed-use site with 88 apartments, The Civic Apartments, is nearing completion.
But Hahnemann’s future at this point is unknown. The president of the Center City District Business Association, Paul Levy, told the Inquirer that while his group hopes to keep the services and employment from the hospital if it closes, but there would be a huge, new opportunity for the city.
“The top priority is to preserve the medical services and jobs the hospital represents,” Levy said. “If, unfortunately, it was impossible to save them…it could create a whole new zone in the city.”
The Green Building Council’s (USGBC) newest version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4.1, is open for registration for both new construction projects, as well as interior spaces.
The goal of the new version is “to make the rating system more accessible to more projects based on lessons learned from LEED v4 project teams,” according to the USGBC. This newest beta version updates performance thresholds and referenced standards. The changes also advocate for improved performance throughout the life of buildings, reward leaders based on performance and incorporate performance reporting so that building owners can track progress toward environmental, social and governance goals.
The USGBC is also currently looking for volunteers for its LEED for Cities and Communities working group. The organization is looking for experts with technical knowledge across the rating system to serve on the inaugural LEED for Cities and Communities Working Group to advise on global, city-scale and urban sustainability issues across the organization’s programs, policies and products and support development, deployment and evolution of the LEED for Cities and Communities standard and program.
The most mentioned feature of the stunning new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia is its height. Whenever anyone talks about the new tech hub and 60-story, skyline-defining building, they will no doubt bring up the 1,121 feet that make it the ninth tallest building in the United States and tallest outside of Chicago or New York.
But developer Liberty Property Trust’s mixed used space at 1800 Arch Street is much more than a gleaming tower that looks down on the rest of the City of Brotherly Love. Designed by Lord Norman Foster of Foster + Partners with Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc as the Architect of Record and L.F. Driscoll Co as the general contractor, BOSS Magazine named the building one of the most interesting construction projects of 2019.
The state of the art steel and concrete building with glass façade has a “split core” that allows for as much light as possible inside during the day. A chilled beam system will keep the interior cool and the structure is designed to shelter the outdoor spaces and plaza from Philly winters. The building was designed to attain LEED Platinum certification.
The $1.5 billion building has 1.8 million square feet—1.3 designated for “office space” (designed as much more open than typical office according to those who have toured Comcast’s already open offices in the building), 200,000 square feet for a 200+ room Four Seasons luxury hotel and 3,770 of retail space. It will house the local NBC and Telemundo studios as well. There is an “accelerator space” for tech start-ups and a commuter concourse underground to connect to the sister Comcast building as well as mass transit. The top floor will have a world-class restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
The building’s lobby, complete with gardens, artwork, and coffee bar, opened to the public in October. Comcast employees are working in some of the office space as the construction continues on other floors. The project is expected to be completed spring 2019.