Less than six weeks after Comcast announced it would build a second tower in Center City, in what the company is calling the largest private investment in the history of Pennsylvania (bolstered by $40 million in state and city grants for public improvements), nearly all of the approvals are in place for construction to begin. On Tuesday, two City Council committees approved five bills that would allow the project to move forward.
The bills, which were introduced in Council the week after the announcement, and approved by the Planning Commission earlier this month, could come up for a full Council vote as early as next week. The project will also need to go to the Civic Design Review committee, which can recommend improvements to public-realm aspects of the project’s design, but which has no formal approval or disapproval power.
The bills moved through the committee hearings on Tuesday with little discussion, though Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr., used the hearing as an opportunity to push for more information from the city’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
According to an Economic Opportunity Plan for the development of the new Comcast tower, the developer aims to meet the following goals for minority, female, and local-resident participation:
25 percent of journey hours worked by minorities,
2 percent of journey hours worked by women,
50 percent of apprentice hours worked by minorities,
7 percent of apprentice hours worked by women,
50 percent of all hours worked by local residents (Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester counties).
Councilman Goode used a portion of the hearing to grill OEO director Angela Dowd-Burton on whether the goals of various projects’ Economic Opportunity Plans are being met.
He also asked the office to explain how it arrives at its goals, and to provide data to back it up. Goode said he wouldn’t weigh in on whether the goals are too high or too low—only that the numbers appear to be “made up.”
“The simple question is, if the Economic Opportunity Cabinet set goals that were recommended by the Mayor’s [Advisory] Commission on Construction Industry Diversity, are those goals … being monitored and enforced, and how many of those economic opportunity plans are hitting those goals?” Goode said, after the hearing. “So when you have a project like [the new Comcast tower], of this magnitude, we of course want it to move forward, we want it to meet its goals, but it’s also the appropriate time to raise questions about whether the system is working in general.”