Kenney: Ultra-luxury tower rising on South Broad signals success of Philly’s tax abatement

A rendering of the Arthaus tower planned for South Broad Street.(Kohn Pederson Fox Associates)

A rendering of the Arthaus tower planned for South Broad Street.(Kohn Pederson Fox Associates)

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

An ultra-luxury South Broad Street condo tower will offer Center City’s elite the chance to live, party, and garden without ever leaving the building.

That was the promise made by developer Carl Dranoff at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the 47-story residential development he plans to build over the hole in the ground where the legendary Gamble & Huff recording studio once stood.

The $253 million “Arthaus” development will put 108 condos priced at $2 to $10 million under a soaring spire on the property at Broad and Spruce, across the street from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

The glassy development is expected to open in 2021. It will be the tallest and most aspirational of the several residential projects developed by Dranoff on the stretch of South Broad former Mayor Ed Rendell reinvented as the Avenue of the Arts in the early 1990s. Dranoff has sought to build on the site since 2013.

“With Arthaus coming to the [Avenue of the Arts], we will have the largest, the tallest and most transformative residential tower,” Dranoff said. “It will be an exclamation point confirming the Avenue as amongst Philadelphia’s most desirable places to live.”

Dranoff said the forthcoming project’s iconic design by architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox would place it among other landmark structures like City Hall, the PSFS building, Liberty Place and the Comcast towers.

He described the post-modern structure’s name as a portmanteau of “Bauhaus” –– a mid-century design movement –– and the word “art.”

“‘Haus’ derives from the Bauhaus movement, a period of architecture and design that stressed function and form over decoration and excess,” he said, “‘Arts’ derives from the arts, artists the music and cultural scene we’re surrounded by on the Avenue of the Arts.”

Although the building shares few outward Bauhaus design elements, Dranoff said the condo units would be called “hauses” and come with meticulous design touches.

Dranoff said residents will enjoy private access to a 36,000 square foot rooftop garden and greenhouse, a dog run, a day spa, junior Olympic-sized pool, restaurants, day-care facilities and other amenities, all in-house.

“You can enjoy them without ever having to leave the building,” he said.

A rendering of an Arthaus condo interior. (Kohn Pederson Fox Associates)

Numerous public officials were on hand for Tuesday’s groundbreaking, including Mayor Jim Kenney, former Governor Ed Rendell, councilmembers Mark Squilla and Allan Domb, among others.

Kenney praised the skyscraper as a milestone for Center City and a success story for the city’s 10-year tax abatement.

“I know we’ve had a lot of discussion and controversy about the 10-year tax abatement. It works,” Kenney said. “It works, it has worked. It’s why people are living in Center City.”

Alluding to recent criticism of the development incentive as a giveaway to moneyed developers and wealthy homebuyers, he indicated that while reform is possible, the abatement is here to stay.

“There may be something that needs to be tweaked in some way so that it’s more acceptable to other communities,” Kenney said. His comments on the abatement earned applause from the crowd of real estate professionals and public officials.

Buyers of the multimillion dollar condos will benefit from the tax break for a decade at a cost of several million dollars in tax revenue the city would otherwise earn. Dranoff said the concession would help attract buyers that will make the Arthaus project viable and pay off for the city in the long run.

“The ten-year tax abatement brings in people to the city from the suburbs. They’re coming in and paying a high wage tax and other city taxes,” he said. “At the end of 10 years they pay full taxes so it’s a great economic investment for the city.”

Dranoff has also built the Symphony House condo building at Broad and Pine, 777 S. Broad Street and Southstar Lofts apartments farther south on Broad.

His earlier project, which included SLS International as a hotel operator, was awarded $2.4 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds, which Dranoff indicated would be used to support a yet-unnamed restaurant tenant.

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