Despite challenges, Philly construction projects on the rise

Liberty One, City Hall, and the Comcast building among others

Philadelphia skyline (NewsWorks Photo, file)

Construction cranes stretching into the skyline across several sections of Philadelphia give rise to hopes that the city has shaken the shackles that constrained new building during the recession.

NewsWorks Tonight Host Dave Heller talked about the recent uptick in Center City construction with Darwin Beauvais, real estate attorney at Zarwin Baum in Philadelphia, and Stephen Mullin, president of the economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions.

“Permits are on the rise,” said Beauvais. “If anyone walks down the street, there are street closures throughout Center City. You’ll find that we’re moving in cranes, there’s a couple of various projects in Center City of note that will give the average citizen an idea that there is construction going on.”

Still, Mullin said, construction has been largely limited to residential and institutional development from universities and hospitals. The city still has the same commercial occupancy in Center City that it did in 1980 in terms of square footage, he said.

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“The city’s tax code for businesses still is very, very harsh,” said Mullin. “We’re the only city in the country, for all intents and purposes, that levies a corporate income tax on businesses. That is a killer for commercial offices.”

On the residential side, while the city has seen growth in young professionals and empty nesters, it still struggles to attract families with school-age children.

“You have to have opportunities for schools for families if you really want to grow,” said Mullin. “Ultimately, if you don’t have good school options, you are not going to be living in the city unless you’re super rich … and you can afford other options … that’s like a tax. If you have to pay your property tax and pay for private education, that’s like double taxation. That’s a really hard thing for people to do.”

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