It's not hard to get a roomful of Philadelphia boosters to brag the city is affordable and the region is pleasant and easy to get around -- compared to New York, or Washington, D.C. It's harder to get them to explain why out-of-town companies haven't been more eager to move here. The "Region on the Rise" conference, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the General Building Contractors Association met Tuesday on the unfinished 25th floor of Liberty Property Trust's new Comcast tower. Deputy mayor and ex-New York developer and -D.C. city official Andrew Altman, after touring the Comcast building, called it "an incredible slice of the 21st Century economy," with floors-full of "programmers in jeans" alternating with "venture capitalist folks in casual business attire" and button-down "corporate" officers. He said the Naval Business Center offers another good advertisement for Philadelphia diversity, with its mix of shipyard workers, Urban Outfitters designers and the state-subsidized Tastykake bakery that recently broke ground. Citizens Bank's top real estate lender Charlie Cooke acknowledged that the recent scarcity of conduit financing and other credit for builders hasn't quite made up for the surplus of equity investment capital -- though his own bank "is in business. We are lending,” especially in the apartment market, where demand and rents are surging as home sales fall. Penn vice president Anna Papageorge reviewed the timetable for $500 million in West Bank Schuylkill development, including Brandywine Realty Trust's planned Cira 2 tower, if BlackRock or some other big investment company can be lured to take more premium Philadelphia space. And Dennis Yablonsky, head of economic development in the Rendell administration, warned tenants of the big increase in Peco Energy prices expected under the state's deregulation schedule over the next couple of years. "You'll want that LEEDs (green-building) conservation designation," he added.
Posted: May 28, 2008 - 4:00 PM
Joseph N. DiStefano
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