Friday, August 28, 2015

$18M from taxpayers to fancy N. Phila. restaurants, apts

Vetri, Starr join Blumenfeld, Caplan, and millions in public money to redevelop Wilkie Buick

$18M from taxpayers to fancy N. Phila. restaurants, apts


An hour after announcing Glaxo was moving 1,300 jobs out of Center City down to the Navy Yard, Mayor Nutter was up at the old Wilkie Buick auto showroom in the 600 block of Broad Street, bragging on 97 new apartments at developer Eric Blumenfeld's Biberman Building, adjoining fancy new restaurants by Center City dining moguls Marc Vetri and Stephen Starr, and a catering hall by Joe Volpe of Cescaphe Ballroom, Tendenza and Atrium at the Curtis Center..

Cost: $43 million, of which $18 million is paid or lent by US and Pennsylvania taxpayers, through $11 million in federal tax credits, a $5 million HUD 108 loan through PIDC, and a $2 million Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant, says Sam Rhoads of PIDC (updated).

Value: 150 construction jobs through this fall, then dozens of permanent jobs, says Mayor Nutter. And profits for Blumenfeld and his fellow investors down the road.

Blumenfeld's EB Realty is partners with Ron Caplan's PMC Property Group in the Bieberman project. Blumenfeld in recent years built 362 apartments at 600 and 640 North Broad adjoining the old Wilkie complex, just north of Benjamin Franklin High School. He says they're just about all rented.

In renovating North Broad, the developers are trying to link Center City with the recent commercial growth around Temple University, said city councilman Darrell Clarke, who helped land public assistance for the project.

Can Center City keep attracting apartment dwellers and fancy eaters if companies like Glaxo keep following companies like Rohm and Haas, Arkema, Sunoco, Verizon, etc. in vacating offices downtown?

Sure, insists Caplan. He's boosting his downtown residential bet with his planned conversion of the vacant AAA Auto Club and insurance building on Market Street into apartments, right in the heart of what used to be Philadelphia's modern Market St West office district (now home also to the Murano and Two Liberty condos, among others.) 

"When you put in a good mayor, people want to live here," Caplan told me. "People are still gonna live in Center City," even if companies keep moving out.

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PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

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