Thursday, December 18, 2014

POSTED: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 2:19 PM

After three years of "improving" finances at Haverford Township School District, Moody's Investors Service has boosted the district's credit rating to Aa3 from A1, just in time for two pending bond issues totalling $18.6 million,

The boost partly reverses a two notch Moody's downgrade in January 2012, when the agency warned Haverford had collected too much: budget deficit; debt; and risky interest-rate swaps.  

Haverford has since showed "growth in fund balance and cash reserves" as managers and the school board are no longer spending more than they collect from property taxpayers and other income, Moody's reports. The debt is still "above average," and the township's share of Pennsylvania's underfunded school employee pension obligations are still a fiscal threat. But Haverford is "stable and affluent," so Moody's isn't so worried it will stiff its bondholders.

POSTED: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 1:52 PM
1608 Chestnut St., former home of Filene's Basement. (image via Google Maps)

TIAA-CREF, the New York-based college professors' retirement investment fund, has paid $24.5 million for 1608 Chestnut St., the former Art Institute of Philadelphia building that has housed Japan-based clothing retailer Uniqlo's main Philadelphia-area store since October.

Michael Barmash's Colliers International team brokered the deal with Taylor King of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank's King of Prussia office.  (Updated)

POSTED: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 5:37 AM
'Trump Tower' site. Photo c/o Pictometry.

The vacant site of the 45-story "Trump Tower" project, approved for the Delaware River waterfront at 709-717 North Penn St. north of Center City Philadelphia but never built, is for sale, by U.S. Bank and other disappointed lenders who hoped to finance the project. Broker Michael Barmash at Colliers International, Philadelphia, has the listing. "A call for offers is due by March 2," Barmash told me. "We don't have an official asking price."

The two-acre site, formerly the city's Pier 35-1/2, "is zoned CMX-3, Community Commercial Mixed Use District, suitable for a variety of uses, most notably: multifamily, retail, office, medical or hotel," though Colliers says apartments are still the most likely use for the site. 

The Trump-brand project was one of the grand high rise proposals killed off by the financial crisis of 2008 and the following recession. "However, the project’s approvals may still be valid until 7/2/2016 based upon subsequent legislation (Pennsylvania’s Development Permit Extension Act) which was passed in July of 2013," according to Colliers.

POSTED: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 5:36 AM

Anthony Weagley, the new boss at Malvern Bank since his predecessor was ousted in a shareholder revolt, is moving the formerly depositor-owned Upper Main Line lender upscale. Last night Weagley, his team and bank associates including Cassandra Toroian, whose Bell Rock Capital Weagley hired to manage client investments, held a get-to-know-you at Ardrossan, the 50-room Montgomery Scott family mansion in Radnor made famous as the inspiration for the mid-1900s Philadelphia Story movies, starring first Katharine Hepburn, then Grace Kelly.

The many heirs to the family's old railroad and investment fortune have sold off half the original square-mile-plus grounds for fancy homes over the years, and have been busy lately carving up the rest; Radnor Township plans to borrow north of $10 million to buy three chunks for parkland. I invited a neighboring property owner, retired Goldman Sachs partner Ed McGinley, to join me at the Big House, where parking valets arranged dozens of higher-end SUVs that had crept up the narrow driveways. Inside we mingled with bankers, brokers and local business owners like Devon photo studio owner John Ansley (who remembered my brothers growing up in Berwyn village 40 years ago), as caterers passed drinks and bits of tenderloin and crab in the paneled first-floor rooms under generations of Scott oil portraits.

Weagley, a veteran of North Jersey's Union Center Bank before its merger with Englewood-based ConnectOne Bank last year, spoke confidently of the improved service Malvern will offer business owners, developers, consumers. The venue wasn't incidental; Weagley told us Malvern planned to finance 17 new homes at Ardrossan. McGinley asked if Malvern had a deal for the rest of the 65+ additional houses planned for the property; the banker said he wasn't familiar with those additional lots. He should be, said McGinley: Neighbors worry the farm-country roads that bring traffic to the estate -- Newtown and Darby-Paoli -- are already plenty busy and won't easily handle the increased commuter trips.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 1:41 PM

44 percent of Pennsylvania taxpayer grants from several state programs to businesses produced no jobs or failed to save the jobs they were designed to preserve, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says in this report: http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Media/Default/Reports/DCEDFinal12914.pdf

UPDATE: Gov. Tom Corbett's Department of Community and Econmic Development chief, C. Alan Walker, posted this response: http://www.newpa.com/sites/default/files/uploads/DCED_Response_to_Auditor_General_memo.pdf arguing that the agency was collecting extra interest from some companies that failed to hire, suggesting DePasquale should have also counted programs that only pay companies after jobs have been created, and citing or promising improvements designed to hold companies that pick up taxpayer money more accountable. 

POSTED: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 12:13 PM
1835 Market St., Philadelphia, PA

The office tower at 1835 Market St., Center City Philadelphia, has been sold by Clarion Partners to Elie Schwartz's New York-based Nightingale Properties for $100 million, says broker Doug Rodio, head of the Jones Lang LaSalle team that managed the deal.

The 650,000 sq. ft. building is 75% leased, according to Rodio. It's Nightingale's third Philadelphia purchase since 2011. Nightingale is also an owner of 1700 Market St. and 1500 Spring Garden St. (the former Smith Kline building).

Starwood Properties will finance $90 million of the sale price, through a five-year, floating-rate loan. JLL says his firm will close on $1 billion in Philadlephia property sales for 2014. 

POSTED: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 4:33 PM
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Duane Morris is one of those Philadelphia law firms with powerful corporate clients in energy, telecom and other big Pennsylvania industries, and partners active in both political parties. They'll be at the yearly Pennsylvania Society festivities (in Manhattan, of course, because where else could Pa. politicians and their patrons possibly party?) this weekend to press for influence with those close to Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf and the new Republican legislative leaders.

The firm says there's a waiting list for its Friday night reception at 21. Before they left town, I met with Tom Ellis (R), a past Montgomery County commissioner, and Alan Kessler (D), whose Rendell and Clinton ties got him onto the U.S. Postal Service board, to ask where Pa.'s headed. Highlights:

(Can Democrat Wolf get anything done with a Republican General Assembly?) Kessler: I think he'll follow the game plan Ed Rendell followed when he was elected mayor: go upstairs and befriend the guy... you opposed in two elections. Tom Wolf understands what he's up against and will do what he has to.

Ellis: The House and Senate are more conservative than they were in the last administration. The power has moved out of the Southeast (Philadelphia and its relatively liberal suburbs). It's much more in the Center and West of the state.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 1:13 PM

Read the US Senate report on CIA torture here.  The Senate review finds that torture proved, as in the past, to be  "ineffective" at getting useful information from accused terrorists: "The CIA Conducts No Research on Effective Interrogations, Relies on Contractors with No Relevant Experience."

NBC story identifies the former Air Force psychologists who formed a company the CIA paid $81 million to teach torture techniques here. 

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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