Monday, June 08, 2009

Fantasy Towers Make the Biggest Noise

Put away the violins. Reading today's story in the Inquirer about how the would-be developers of the World Trade Center on Delaware Avenue were supposedly thwarted by the city's big bad bureaucracy and recalcitrant neighborhood groups, the inclination might be to mutter about Philly's never-ending cluelessness.

Actually, it's the developers who seem pretty clueless, if not outright disingenuous. After 17 years of pursuing this mega office project on the far side of Center City, I wonder if it's occurred to them that the real problem with their project is that Center City still has plenty of good office sites that go begging - and those are located just a few steps from the transit nodes at Suburban Station and 30th Street Station. Yes, this site sits at the foot of Callowhill Street, close to the Spring Garden stop of the Market-Frankford El, but getting there would still require an extra transfer for people coming in by regional rail. The fantasy workforce of 13,000 can't all arrive there by car.

Before the WTC-Philly becomes more than a gleam in the developers' eyes, it's likely we'll first see the construction of 1) a second Comcast building at 18th and JFK 2) some version of the wildly overscaled American Commerce Center at 18th and Arch 3) Brandywine Realty's mixed use office tower at 31st and Walnut. 4) a companion for Blue Cross at 20th and Market. 5) Some clever office tower to replace the one-story retail space-holders at 17th and Chestnut. 6) modest office development at the Navy Yard.

That is - if America's cities weren't already stuck with an oversupply of office space.


Blogger rasphila said...

A very good analysis. I don't suppose there are very many cities without a surplus of office space right now. Philadelphia is no exception.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous jaimephoto said...

Great read. To the point honest, and to the point.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another snide, disingenous and uniformed column
the so-called gleam in the clueless developers has cost them tens of millions of dollars and years of sweat equity working w/ the neighbors and the city
WTC has assembled a staff of eleven that already have increased trade to the port of over $200 million dollars, so much for agleam in their eyes
if only your darling vision for the riverfront could prove anything near a positive contribution to the city and regions economy
inga should get down into the development trenches and off your ivory tower
get serious

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philadelphia is a city that will NEVER get anywhere. The city is cursed by its own.

Always lost millions in Philly in real estate transactions. many many millions.

Philadelphia is its own worst enemy. Any Developer who enters this city is GUARANTEED to get burned. Even if you try to do right by ALL in the city, you will fail.

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if this story is bs, unfortunately the developers argument sounds valid. Phila. has been dying a slow death for the last 50 years. Maybe its destiny is to be a one party, welfare city. There is simply too little dynamism in the private sector and the public sector is too often the enemy of growth. Unless the city starts growing again with people and businesses, we'll never reclain our wonderful heritage as "the workshop of the world."

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

100% correct story. Silver & Harting started touting this site in the 1980s. It didn't make sense for this size and type of development then and it still doesn't. Since real estate is all about location this site fails on many levels. Their best bet would be to make it an entertainment/restaurant complex. But a large office building? Oh, please.

9:30 AM  

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