Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Philly's Condo Beat Goes On

There must be some life left in Philly's condo boom yet. The last few weeks have seen developers rachet up their marketing effort for a couple of the more high-priced, better-located towers, including 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street (left), designed by Cope Linder Architects. After a long, ominous period of inactivity, a large sign displaying a new, sleeker rendering for the 30-unit tower went up recently at the corner of 17th and Rittenhouse Square Street. That was followed by the opening of a sales office at 1708 Rittenhouse Square Street, and substantial advertising in places like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine. And just in case those publications can't produce 30 readers with $3.5 million to spend on a Center City condo, developer Tom Scannapieco put an ad in the New Yorker. (Yes! The New Yorker!) See the far back pages of the Oct. 16 issues, nestled among the glossy ads for Main Line-style bling. Next thing you know the New Yorker will be running ads for plastic surgery and Philly will really be officially declared the Sixth Borough.

1706 Rittenhouse isn't the only tower on a marketing blitz. Mandeville Place, the 43-story slab from Richard Meier's California office, also has a new sales office in the Bell Atlantic Tower, and developer Chuck Block is predicting groundbreaking for this time next fall. Hal Wheeler's 10 Rittenhouse, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, has also set up a storefront sales office, on 17th Street, north of Walnut - not to mention a web page that plays the obligatory violin concerto.

22 Comments:

Anonymous four7nine said...

I recently read that the metro Philadlephia area was the 5th wealthiest in the usa behind NYC,LA,Chicago and SF. There are supposedly over 101,000 millionaires living in the metro so the supply is there.

I still think the city violence that we read about everyday, although not concentrated in Center City, keeps 98% of those suburbanites out of Philadelphia.

The foundation is there for a pretty spectacular downtown but its going to be a shell of its potential as long as the surrounding hoods remain a disaster.

The sad reality is that if the city had its act together these developers wouldn't have to be advertising in New York City.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our 4-county suburbanites hate and fear Philadelphia in a way unmatched in any other metropolitan area. The current murder rate is just confirmation of long-held opinions.

Not that the gun crime issue shouldn't be addressed. But I don't think it really will make a difference in suburbanites' long-term planning.

2:43 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

I don't mean to downplay the violence in the city, but I live in a neighborhood, Germantown, that had an undeserved bad reputation because of poor local news coverage. Of course we have crime here, but for a couple of years the local news consistently referred to Germantown even when the crimes they were covering happened in other neighborhoods nearby.

Local news coverage everywhere (not just in Philadelphia) paints an exaggerated picture of the crime rate because of the amount of air time it devotes to crime. Suburbanites who are afraid of the city may be responding to exaggerated perceptions created by local news coverage as much as to realities. The city's crime rate is too high, but it is not as high as fear and local news make it.

That said, four7nine has a good point. Development in the city has concentrated on Center City, with too little attention to the neighborhoods. There have been some promising developments, like the new and far more imaginative public housing that we've seen going up in the last five years. But City programs like the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative have often misfired or even done harm.

It's nice to see Center City booming. But we need to rebuild the neighborhoods, too.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tower proposed for 1706 Rittenhouse is easily the most gorgeous of all the proposed hi-rises. While Mandeville will be a very cool building, 1706 Rittenhouse is much more elegant and refined.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to hear that these two projects are still alive. The 1706 building is really a beautiful design. I think it is really elegant being so slender.

As others have said, it is probably a shame that what does get built is more in despite of prevailing city conditions, as much as becuase of them. I'm an outsider (I live in Tampa) and it is apparent there is so much more the city government should be doing to improve the basic economics of the city.

By the way, I just have to say Rittenhouse Sq area is one of my favorite vacation destinations. I love to just visit and soak up the great urban vibe going on there. I love the narrow streets, the hustle and bustle of actual people on the sidewalks (Tampa has noone of that).

7:44 PM  
Anonymous VINCE DEAN said...

WHO CARES ABOUT SUBURBANITES ? THEY'RE ASSHOLES !!! PHILADELPHIA WILL ALWAYS BE CONNECTED TO NEW YORK, IT ALWAYS WAS. THAT IS JUST ANOTHER PERK OF LIVING IN OUR GREAT CITY ! AS FOR CRIME, ITS EVERYWHERE AND ON THE RISE IN EVERY CITY IN OUR COUNTRY !

8:34 AM  
Anonymous CC Guy said...

Crime isn't the issue here folks. Violent crime is pratically non-existent in the areas these condo's are being built. I live and work in Center City and have never seen any real crime.

The problem is lack of high-paying white-collar jobs IN Center City. Where are these millionaires going to work? What major headquarters (outside of Comcast and insurance co's) are still in the City? Most have moved out to KoP and Mainline burbs. Some people might be willing to reverse commute, but most don't want to pay the wage tax just for living here!

The City needs new leadership to lower the Business Privilege Tax, Gross Receipts Tax, AND City wage tax. Attract employers to Center City. More office jobs also translates into more opportunities for those in the outlying neighborhoods.

Keeping the labor unions in check would do a world of good too.

We just need more business type jobs here in town and everything else will eventually fall into place...even the crime rate will go down...eventually.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous tip said...

Some valid points here but to simply dismiss Philadlephia's crime, poverty, and grittiness is foolish.

Why are all the new businesses generating out in the suburbs and not the city? Is it strictly because of taxes? Or is it the overall general high quality of life issues?

Manhattan is proof positive that businesses will pay bucketloads of money for the oppurtunity to work in a superior environment.

Philadelphia's cost of doing business is about 1/3 of what it is in London, Hong Kong, NYC etc. and it still has trouble attracting business.

Quality of Life issues and then taxes are what businesses and people that can afford $3.5 M condos look at.

Fix up the city,attack the wretched crime problems, transform Market East from a third world shopping district into something the city can take pride in and watch those European pharmacuetical companies open their HQ's in Center City rather than Chesterbrooke. Watch the suburbanites start buying some of these high-rise condos.






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CC Guy said...
Crime isn't the issue here folks. Violent crime is pratically non-existent in the areas these condo's are being built. I live and work in Center City and have never seen any real crime.

The problem is lack of high-paying white-collar jobs IN Center City. Where are these millionaires going to work? What major headquarters (outside of Comcast and insurance co's) are still in the City? Most have moved out to KoP and Mainline burbs. Some people might be willing to reverse commute, but most don't want to pay the wage tax just for living here!

The City needs new leadership to lower the Business Privilege Tax, Gross Receipts Tax, AND City wage tax. Attract employers to Center City. More office jobs also translates into more opportunities for those in the outlying neighborhoods.

Keeping the labor unions in check would do a world of good too.

We just need more business type jobs here in town and everything else will eventually fall into place...even the crime rate will go down...eventually.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philadelphia needs to add to it's appeal worldwide in order to compete with higher profile cities such as Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. The regional component is important, but we need to think globally in order to stimulate new ways of growing our moribund economy. This is, of course, a leadership issue that the current administration has chosen not to address in pursuit of other goals. The next administration had better provide the economic leadership that Philadelphians need and deserve, or we'll be talking about the problem of slow growth ad infinitum.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember when Inga posted about the "suburban" style fence behind the Franklin Institute and a commenter referred to this city's lack of standards? The next administration will not be elected by the blogging class. Unlikely that it will differ much from the present one.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this string was about condos....no?

1706 is hardly an "elegant" design...its a bunch of stacked units, a bit boxy and plain....kind
of like a frumpy sweater.

Mandeville is clearly a stronger design by a master architect- something this city desperately needs if it wants to elevate itself (and its standards).

Nevertheless, its nice to see that these projects are pushing forward after much recent "speculation" of the market flattening out.

7:19 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

1706 is hardly an "elegant" design...its a bunch of stacked units, a bit boxy and plain....kind
of like a frumpy sweater.


I'm also glad to see these projects going forward, but the above puts my opinion on 1706 (as a building) very well.

My other question, which you can't judge from the drawing, is how this design will look in context. Not all the buildings on Rittenhouse Square are exciting, but in context with the Square they make a very good city space. The design for 1706 isn't very interesting, and it looks like it might also detract from the Square. On the other hand, if the alternative is a vacant lot or a parking garage. . .

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I checked out the New Yorker magazine. Seems like they only paid for the version of the New Yorker that comes out in Philly. The ad is in a special local advertising section. Ain't no way anyone in NYC is seeing that ad.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Fen Branklin said...

It really kills me that you suburbanites create a "reality" based upon local media coverage, rather than real world experiences.

As a dogwalker/amature photographer, I spend the majority of my day walking and photographing the streets of Center City and many of it's surrounding neighborhoods, and I can tell you this much: Philadelphia is going through a massive building boom, and not just condo towers. Since I know you wouldn't dare walk, due to fear of getting shot, try driving your SUV around the area west of Broad Street, between South Street & Washington Ave next time you "use" our city for entertainment or dining, and look at all of the new homes fetching multiple hundreds of thousands. Or take a drive around University City and it's surrounding neighborhoods. Or Northern Liberties. Or Art Museum Area. Or North Broad. I could go on and on. This prevailing myth about Center City being the only prospering section of the city is nonsense.

I invite all of you to see Philadelpia through my eyes, and then tell me how crazy I am for defending it the way I do: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fenbranklin/sets/72157594296943354/

1:04 AM  
Blogger rasphila said...

This is a nice set of photos, but the link given doesn't work. Here is one that does.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, Fen. Better than any calendar I've seen. That's what they should put in The New Yorker.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous jesse said...

[quote]http://changingskyline.blogspot.com[/quote]NO one is saying Center City and University City are not fabulous places.They are. However the ring of violent ghettoes surrounding it take 99% of the suburbanites out of the equation when considering a move to Center City. Thats a problem when 80% of the wealth live out in the suburbs.

Anyone who is visiting this blog, suburbanites included, are aware of center city's renaissance, but you simply cannot turn a blind eye on whats going on in west Philly,north philly, sw philly,camden and blame it all on media sensationalism.

Center City is home to about 90,000 people, if the wretched inner city wasn't firmly entrenched, Center City could morph into something 4 or 5 times that amount.

Thats why the condo development in Philly although healthy is a fraction of what it could/should be.

So Mantua and Strawberry Mansion have a direct correlation on why Craig Spencer and Hal Wheeler are dragging their feet with skeleton crews, spending 6 months on infrastructure pre construction.

Strawberry Mansion, Point Breeze and Brewerytown have more to do with the condo slowdown than any tax or tariff this city can bestow.


Money, money, money is abundant out in the suburbs and its going to stay out in the suburbs as long as long as the inhumane crime rate and quality of life in the inner cities of Philadlephia continue.

People love the lifestyle of Center City thats why I don't understand why a West Chester , who doesn't have Philly's problems doesn't go on an exapansion blitz much like Philadlephia did in the 19th century. They could learn from mistakes of the big cities and build a modern day friendlier gentler Center City Philadelphia. Yet Chester County planners seem content on letting the mcmansion and strip mall sprawl continue unabated.



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Fen Branklin said...
It really kills me that you suburbanites create a "reality" based upon local media coverage, rather than real world experiences.

As a dogwalker/amature photographer, I spend the majority of my day walking and photographing the streets of Center City and many of it's surrounding neighborhoods, and I can tell you this much: Philadelphia is going through a massive building boom, and not just condo towers. Since I know you wouldn't dare walk, due to fear of getting shot, try driving your SUV around the area west of Broad Street, between South Street & Washington Ave next time you "use" our city for entertainment or dining, and look at all of the new homes fetching multiple hundreds of thousands. Or take a drive around University City and it's surrounding neighborhoods. Or Northern Liberties. Or Art Museum Area. Or North Broad. I could go on and on. This prevailing myth about Center City being the only prospering section of the city is nonsense.

I invite all of you to see Philadelpia through my eyes, and then tell me how crazy I am for defending it the way I do: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fenbranklin/sets/72157594296943354/

1:04 AM

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can not compare Philadelphia to NYC without realizing that they are "It" and we are only a provincial outpost, not ever a fifth boro. Even Baltimore which is a closer match to us has grown faster outward because their Inner Habor was a home run. Penn's Landing and most of the money spent in 1976 for the Bicentenial resulted in a complete setback for the city once realized. In our defence we fell further to begin with. We were the city that made things and we don't make anything here anymore.
We also suffered more from bad urban planning decisions than NYC. Robert Moses seems more enlightened that Edwin Bacon in retrospect. I think allowing 95 to run above ground through Society Hill was a terminal blow and the Market East Development ( above transit level) killed Market Street East Maybe we just needed our own Jane Jacobs. Besides we all realize the city is a sociological and politcal organization, not one that can be helped solely with Buildings.

I am enjoying seeing the city finally expand. It will take time. Be positive about what we want while realizing we should be fixing prior mistakes like market East and Penn's Landing..... Keep up the chatter.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"1706 is hardly an "elegant" design...its a bunch of stacked units, a bit boxy and plain....kind
of like a frumpy sweater."

Well, I said it was elegant in context to mostly to what I see going up here in Tampa. Our premier address is Bayshore Blvd where there is no end to the number of developers chomping at the bit to get another high rise tower built. If it wasn't for local neighborhood opposition and some degree of restraint from city planning, it would probably end up like Brickell Blvd in Miami - a solid wall of high rises. Anyway, my point is that what does go up are these hideous, concrete and stucco jobs. Talk about 'stacked units', these buildings are just fancy suburban tract houses stacked up 30+ stories. But because they are on the watr, they sell for $600K and up. So when I see the 1706 rendering, in comparison, it's a very nice design.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many reasons why people don’t want to move to Philadelphia, and in fact, we lose population every year. Despite recent positive developments like the construction boom and the addition of new shops and restaurants, etc., Philadelphia is still in decline. The first thing we have to do is look at the whole picture, and it’s not pretty, but this is the city we call home.
1) A city government that’s incompetent and corrupt, yet somehow manages to get reelected year after year.
2) A tax structure that’s completely counter-productive – not only are taxes high, but things like the business privilege tax hurt small & mid-size businesses and create barriers for new start-ups. Not to mention the difficulty in getting through the city’s red tape.
3) Violent crime and crime in general is a result of incompetence from the police & the district attorney’s office and a lack of personal responsibility and civic duty on the part of the citizenry.
4) An alarming poverty rate – currently at 25%, and no solution in sight
5) High cost of living – while it might not seem that way for many reading this, the average household income in Philadelphia is around $32,000 a year, and that puts you in the lower end of the middle class. Even if the average income was brought up to the Pennsylvania average of $42,000/year, it would still be a struggle for most to afford the cost of living in Philadelphia. People, no matter who they are, don’t want to just get by.
6) Block after block of blighted houses and vacant, polluted industrial lots
7) Bad schools
8) A complete lack of unity -- from the city government to the neighborhoods to the Philadelphia-based forums like this one, you see continuous in-fighting and bickering, and the net result is that nothing gets done.
9) From architecture to politics, Philadelphia is stuck in the past. We can’t expect to be a great city if we don’t embrace the future. Our history, as great as it is, is just that—history. And if we learned anything from our history, we should know that we need to embrace new ideas. The reason our history is so great is because of innovative ideas and people with the temerity to carry them out.
10) The rise of authoritarian nanny-state policies being pushed by so-called progressives, turning cities into places where personal liberties and expression become more and more limited, with the government and community groups seeking control over what should be personal choice issues through legislation (whether it be individuals or businesses). This is counter-productive. Cities have historically been the places where people go to escape the conformity of suburban and rural life, and now the opposite is starting to occur.
11) This one’s out of our hands, but the reality is that people actually like the suburbs—as crazy as that may seem to all of you, they really do. It’s quiet, relatively safe, the cost of living is about the same and sometimes lower, and you get all the benefits of the city (museums, concerts, sports, etc.) without most of the problems listed above.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who look to buy high end condos in Philly are not concerned about crime rates in poorer neighborhoods, nor do they care about the inefficient government or any of that. There are simply too many high end condo projects on the market right now and not enough buyers. More jobs would help to increase the number of wealthy people moving to the City, but you cant assume that well off people are not moving here just because the local condo market is cooling. This is a nationwide trend and Philly isnt even doing as poorly as some other cities.

Philadelphia is not large enough to absorb several hundred (or thousand) units of luxury housing in center city each year and thus things had to slow down. It has nothing to do with suburbanites being scared off because the local news is obsessed with covering murders, The lives of the people shooting each other and those who can afford $500k+ condos do not have anything in common and those respective groups rarely come into contact.

With a pro-business attitude the next mayor can really capitalize on what has happened in the last 5 years and move Philly to another level.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous buzz said...

5:59's argument that quality of life issues are irrelevant concerning where one wants to call home is completely irrational.

9:27 AM  

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