Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Archive: January, 2012

POSTED: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 10:52 AM

My column today on developers fixing up bargain-priced commercial properties in Mount Airy and Germantown after previous owners went bankrupt begs the question: Who is expected to fill the renovated apartments, eat in the quirky restaurants, shop in the stores, work in and patronize the offices returning to the old neighborhood commercial strips? (Blog version here, print version here)

Developers Ken Weinstein (Philly Office Retail) and Matt Canno (Iron Stone) say they're banking on a lot of middle-income people who never left the neighborhood. It's not the Center City-area phenomenon of young and old people "moving downtown" to enjoy urban life, Weinstein said. Germantown Ave. is an easy commute, both to Center City, and to the suburbs, and has always attracted people who want some of both.

Steve Wanczyk, publicist for Mike and Matt Pestronk's development company, Post Brothers, had a little different take: "This is part of a larger trend that has more to do with the new demographic that’s looking to move into that area. There are a lot of young professionals that like Germantown and areas like it because it provides quick transportation to Center City, but also makes it easy to get to the suburbs as well."

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 4:25 PM

Liberty Property Trust is spending $80 million-plus to build 200,000 square feet of new offices down at the Navy Yard. Meanwhile, Germantown Ave.-based developer Ken Weinstein, partners with Stan Smith, Howard Treatman and Bob Kaufman  in Philly Office Retail, says his group has bought around 200,000 square feet of commercial properties in Germantown and Mount Airy in the past two years - for just $1.75 million.

Of course, Weinstein's properties aren't in move-in condition. Instead, he and other developers are using the recession to acquire neighborhood business and institiutional locations from troubled landlords. They're recruiting office, store and restaurant tenants in hopes of reviving what was once a busy shopping district for the adjoining diverse middle-income neighborhoods.

For example, Weinstein and Treatman are foreclosing on a vacant six-acre Germantown Ave. property, once a Catholic parish complex, most recently home to a now-defunct charter school operated by the former state-subsidized Germantown Settlement House, whose dissolution has put dozens of vacant properties the group acquired into play for possible re-use.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 2:17 PM

Chester County engineer-businessman Steve Welch, founder of Mitos (now part of Parker Hannifin) and KinderTown and the start-up tech firm developer Dreamit Ventures, and one of the Republican candidates jockeying to knock off US Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., this fall, has added his voice to the Google-led chorus of critics of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress.

“As someone who has been intimately involved in the startup of multiple web-based companies, this SOPA/PIPA legislation is the perfect example of how out–of-touch Washington is with the real world," Welch begins.

Of course, SOPA isn't a wholly made-in-Washington creation. It's backed by Fox News owner News Corp., CBS, Disney-ABC, TimeWarner, the NFL, Major League Baseball - and NBC owner Comcast, the most successful company (by market value) still based in Pennsylvania, and one of the Philadelphia region's biggest employers.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 12:01 PM

US Rep. Jim Gerlach's proposed new Congressional district (PA-6) "looks like one of those Transformer monsters the kids put together and play with," writes John C. Fuhr, owner and boss at Paratherm Corp. in West Conshocken, which, with part of its twin borough of Conshohocken, is in US Rep. Pat Meehan's district, surrounded by Gerlach wards, including Fuhr's own home neighborhood. "You live within the monster?"

POSTED: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 3:33 PM

It's that time of year: Randy J. Maniloff and Joshua Mooney, attorneys at White and Williams LLP, Philadelphia, have assembled their annual lists of the "Most Significant" and, separately, of the most "Inane" insurance cases of 2011. From the latter:

- Insurer sued to cover claims against man who got in trouble for having "hired an underage woman to assist him with testing sex toys that he was designing for... the military." USDC E. Mich.

- Bartender ignites Bacardi 151 rum on bar top; patron goes up in flames. Brother Jimmy's BBQ vs AIG, NY Superior Court

POSTED: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 10:44 AM

Everybody goes to Gino's/ Gino's is the place to go...

Back before McDonald's took over half the US hamburger-chain business, regional knockoffs like Philadelphia's Gino's stuffed local guts. The chain, owned by ex-Baltimore Colts Gino Marchetti and Alan Ameche, spread to more than 500 stores before Host Marriott Corp. bought it 30 years ago and turned them into Roy Rogers ("Wanna Trigger-burger?").

But Gino's is back, reports Jason Nark in the Daily News here. Marchetti, of West Chester, is helping Tom Romano, once a Gino's boss, later head of Saladworks, at the new chain. The first stores, in King of Prussia, Bensalem and suburban Baltimore, aren't taking on the cheap-and-fast chains; they're more casual-dining sit-down joints, like Five Guys. 

POSTED: Monday, January 16, 2012, 2:42 PM

Gary Marshall, boss at Aberdeen Asset Management, the Scotland-based multinational money manager whose US headquarters is on Market Street, is taking the Dad Vail Regatta's Corporate Challenge seriously: He's dressed in the Keith and Marshall family tartan kilt, painted his face old-time Pictish blue (see Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart), and issued a new challenge to corporate Philadelphia: to boat rival crews on the Schuylkill at this year's Dad Vail, which corporate backer Aberdeen helped rescue from moving to Jersey a few years back.

Vanguard Group Janney Montgomery Scott, Nielsen-Kellerman, Yellow Book USA,  and KPMG, all of whom launched in last  year's races, are among the companies that have risen to Aberdeen's challenge and promised to crew rival boats. First-time crews have also been recruited from Nationwide Fund Group and Glenmede, giving the event a financial tilt.

Marshall is betting $5,000 (to be given to charity) against any other crew for winners' bragging rights. In a statement, he added, in his native tongue: "Scots wha Hae: here's tae us!"

POSTED: Monday, January 16, 2012, 2:25 PM

Girard College, the city-owned, 43-acre free boarding school complex built with a landmark bequest from trader-banker Stephen Girard 180 years ago, hosted Vice President Joe Biden this morning to address volunteers marshalled for the Martin Luther King Day of Service - along with protesters who said the city-run school is short-changing staff and students.

Teachers have been working without a contract since 2009, according to a leaflet passed at the gate by members of the Pennsylvania affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The staff has been cut from around 270 five years ago to below 200, and programs reduced. The student body, once nearly 2,000 and still north of 750 five years ago, is now less than 500, and shrinking, as president Autumn Graves awaits a new strategic plan this summer. 

The teachers blamed "poor financial stewardship," in part, for this decline. The Board of City Trusts has said its ability to fund the school has suffered due to a drop in its real estate valuations and in income from its Girard Block properties in Center City.

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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