City Council this afternoon gave final approval to zoning legislation needed to build the American Commerce Center, a 1,510-foot tower proposed for 18th and Arch streets.  Mayor Nutter, who has supported the skyscraper, is expected to sign the zoning changes into law.

Next question:  Can developer Hill International Real Estate Partners scare up the money to build the $1.1 billion project while the national economy is tanking?  Peter Kelsen, an attorney for the developer, acknowledged the "challenging times" but said HIREP would not have sunk millions so far into the project if the firm was not committed to seeing it built.

"We feel cautiously optimistic that even with these economic times we can bring to bear this project and we have the resources to do so," Kelsen said.  The project includes a 1,210-foot office tower topped by a 300-foot spire and a 477-foot adjacent hotel, attached by a sky bridge over a public plaza below.