Children's Hospital of Philadelphia plans a building project almost as big as the Comcast Center or One Liberty Place - but not so tall - on nine acres it has bought stretching from South Street south along Schuylkill Avenue.
Children's Hospital has asked builders to submit proposals for one million square feet of offices and labs at the site of the former John F. Kennedy Vocational Technical School and the neighboring Springfield Beverage site.
The school, in a former U.S. Marine Corps tank warehouse, was gutted by developer Sam Switzenbaum for a condo project that was canceled after the real estate market crashed.
"It's right across the South Street Bridge from our main campus," Children's spokesman George V. Bochanski Jr. told me. "It offers us an opportunity to allow for growth, to maybe bring in some research areas we currently have in other places, closer to the main campus."
The location "has been vacant for years. It's been underutilized and unsightly," Gus Scheerbaum, an engineer who heads the South of South Neighborhood Association, told me. "The neighborhood is really interested and excited about CHOP moving onto the property."
A hospital official first called Scheerbaum's group two years ago to gauge neighbors' reaction to moving some operations there from its crowded University City home. "They are still early in the process," he told me. "Our concerns are related to traffic, pedestrian safety, street lighting," and a design that doesn't have an unfriendly brick wall facing residents.
Children's would fill a vacant area that adjoins rowhouse blocks that have lately attracted expensive redevelopment.
"It's a clean use," says developer Carl Dranoff, whose projects include the nearby Locust on the Park apartments. "It brings a lot of employment. It will have a positive ripple effect on the neighborhood."
Dranoff expects Children's will seek a hotel for patient families at the site.
Nobody's mentioned a hotel to the neighbors, Scheerbaum said. "We haven't had a community meeting about this development," he said. "But there will be."
Aramark Corp., the Philadelphia cafeteria operator, says it is selling a $50 million minority stake in SeamlessWeb, a mobile-phone-based restaurant-takeout and delivery-ordering service it bought in 2006. Spectrum Equity Investors, a $5 billion-asset Boston investment firm, is the buyer.
SeamlessWeb says meal volume will top $400 million this year, including more than $200 million direct to consumers, up tenfold since 2006. The service is free to diners via smartphones and mobile Web services, and is paid for by restaurants, like a credit-card fee.
The service at first focused on investment banks, law firms, and other late-night Manhattan clients, said SeamlessWeb chief executive Jonathan Zabusky, a Gladwyne resident and Penn grad.
Aramark boss Joseph Neubauer said SeamlessWeb operations would be separated from Aramark's. Zabusky said the separation would make it easier to finance SeamlessWeb's expansion from its current base in New York, Center City, and other major downtowns, partly through acquisitions.
"Most restaurants would rather serve you a meal. But the world is changing," said Richard George, food-marketing professor at St. Joseph's University. Many young people who keep late hours prefer to text their orders and eat at home, George said.
Len Amoroso, who runs his family's century-old West Philadelphia roll bakery and its delivery trucks, says he has "sold or committed" contracts for 62 bread routes to Teamsters drivers, who would become independent operators, paying their own insurance and road costs instead of working long shifts as company employees. The proposal is supposed to go into effect later this month.
Not everyone is making the move. Amoroso acknowledged that drivers nearing retirement age aren't happy about borrowing $100,000 or more to buy their routes. He is working with the union (Teamsters Local 463) on a new contract that would allow some drivers to remain employees, Amoroso told me. Drivers say he's trying to cut their share of sales to better compete with Liscio's and other bakeries.