The Biddle Building at 1217 Sansom St., investor Leonard Thylan's former jewelry factory, was supposed to be part of a boutique hotel that never got built. Instead, it has been renovated and won new life as a home to tech and creative companies.
Enterprise-mobility software-maker CloudMine, once a tenant at The Inquirer's digital incubator, is taking a floor at the Biddle. Branding agency At Media is taking half of another floor. So is ad and marketing agency Ark Ideas, and several more firms are in talks, say the brokers at the PernaFrederick real estate agency, which represents some of the new-era firms where workers seem to care more about bike lockups than car garages.
Midtown Village, best known as a residential neighborhood, "has become an office submarket, all to itself," said PernaFrederick's Keith Kiner. He says Biddle's high barrel-vaulted masonry ceilings and other historic features, as with the Philadelphia Building around the corner, appeal to "small and mid-sized arts, cultural, and technology businesses."
It's not that rents are lower than elsewhere in Center City, where asking rents are higher than before the recession (unlike in the still-depressed suburbs), according to a study last week by national tenant rep Savills Studley.
Rather, "this is a demographic, it's a culture, it's these creative loft funky-cool spaces," Kiner says. At a time when no one is building new office towers to replace old ones converted to homes, hotels, and retail in recent years, working spaces like
the Biddle, full of bright young tenants, will help keep Center City from turning into a mere bedroom community and tourist center.
Cognizant, the big Teaneck, N.J.-based info-tech consulting company, said Tuesday that it has bought 12-year-old Cadient Group. Cadient is a marketing agency that employs 140 "digital specialists" and other workers for drug and medical-device companies at its King of Prussia headquarters and Pune, India, satellite office.
Investors who will share in the sale price - which the buyer and seller won't disclose - include Edison Partners, of Lawrenceville, N.J.
"There was a clear signal from our customers that a different form of a digital agency was needed for life sciences," Cadient chief executive Stephen Wray, who joined the company in 2004, told me. "Our customers are looking for social and mobile" marketing to help sell drugs. As part of Cognizant, Cadient will have the deeper pockets to "innovate, integrate, and implement."
Clearlake Capital Group L.P., of Santa Monica, Calif., says it has agreed to buy the Trevose-based crane-leasing giant AmQuip Holdings L.L.C., whose 500 cranes have helped build Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, Philadelphia high-rises, and Sunoco Logistics' conversion of its Marcus Hook refinery into a gas-shipment center.
AmQuip employs 200 at offices from Boston to Dallas. Sales total about $150 million a year. The buyer won't say what it's paying. The seller is a group led by New York-based Altpoint Capital Partners L.L.C., which bought AmQuip in 2007 with backing from Joseph L. Wesley Sr., who founded AmQuip in 1967.