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Quiet opening for city's new giant

Comcast Center wows workers as they slip in.

Ssshhh! The Comcast Center is open. Sorta.

Comcast corporate isn't officially talking yet about the move-in at Philadelphia's tallest building, the 57-story glass tower that is expected to be completed in 2008.

But quietly, shortly after Thanksgiving, workers began moving in, handfuls by the week. Some enter through the front of the building at 17th and JFK, crossing the wide floor in the glassed-in lobby, visible to passersby on the street.

Others enter through double-glass doors tucked in a quiet corner of Suburban Station, where a small sign says "To Comcast Center Lobby."

"Every week, someone is moving in," Comcast product manager Sheila Rouse of Glenside said yesterday.

Rouse is among the employees who step off trains, walk to the quiet corner, and buzz themselves through the glass doorway.

Next to their tasteful entrance is another opening, to a long hallway.

Far more workers enter there. They wear sweatshirts, dusty jeans and heavy boots.

Yes, she has worked to the sound of jackhammers, said Marsha Lawton, an analyst for Comcast, as she paused at the double-glass doors.

"Yesterday, it went on for a couple of hours," said Lawton, who moved from Comcast's quarters at 1500 Market St. to the center's sixth floor about two weeks ago.

Still, she's glad to be in the new tower.

"It's open. It's real bright. It's cheery," the Lansdowne resident said.

What about the artwork?

"Oh, that's beautiful," she said of the artwork being installed.

"We have a picture of Elvis, and we have a picture of three televisions, abstract," Lawton said of her work area.

One floor down, on 5, art is still going up. J.P. Kennedy, director of technical operations, said he was seeing a new picture every day.

Kennedy, of Malvern, is more taken with the cafe on Floor 6.

Rouse was impressed, too. "It's a cashless environment," she said.

"You just tap your ID card on a little black device and your purchase is made," Lawton explained.

"Very convenient, also very dangerous" is how Kennedy described it. "Like being in a resort."

Of the new building, he said: "It's been a big step up for us."

The folks at Center City Film & Video feel the same way.

"Being in this building is such a high profile," said Steve Cipollone, executive vice president of the business. "It's a premier space."

The 30-year-old company moved about 40 people into a 14,000-square-foot space on the 24th floor on Dec. 12. The business, with more than 90 employees, also plans to keep offices in the 1500 block of Walnut Street, where the other executive vice president will remain, Cipollone said.

"I think we flipped a coin," he said, laughing. "The greatest part of this is, everything is glass. It's nine-foot glass everywhere. The view with the sun is amazing."

At 973 feet, the Comcast Center, expected to be finished by spring at the earliest, will be the tallest building between New York and Chicago.

It also holds the promise of high-end shopping and good eating, Ellen Weiler of Chestnut Hill said. Yesterday morning, the legal assistant slipped out of her office at 17th and Arch Streets, descended into Suburban Station and hurried to the quiet corner.

There, she peered into the double-glass doors, ready to reconnoiter for coworkers eager to shop and dine in the stylish new structure.

"I wanted to see what our options were going to be," said Weiler, who tried the glass doors and found she could enter. On a bulletin board inside, she read the names of vendors: Di Bruno Bros., Godiva, Termini Bros. "There's going to be a produce place," she said.

"They say the center is going to open in May of '08," she reported.

As for Comcast, a spokesman said the company was not ready to discuss the building because it is incomplete.