Saturday, November 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 1:38 PM
2101 Washington Ave. is up for sale (Google Maps)

Commercial real estate broker CBRE Inc. is offering the former Frankford Chocolate factory, a 241,000 square foot brick complex on a 100,000 sf lot at 2101 Washington Ave., For Sale. "This is the largest piece of available development land in the city at the moment," CBRE's Robert Fahey says. Has Center City finally reached that old industrial strech of Washington? "It's the hottest residential neighborhood in the city for people of decent means who want to walk to work," Fahey insists.

The ex-factory's late owner, Vienamese immigrant turned New York low-rent hotelier Truong Vinh Tran, paid a modest $5.75 million for the property in 2007, and proposed a $100 million senior housing/medical/grocery mixed-use development centered on the city's Vietnamese community. Troung's project was scaled down and approved by the city, but languished in the recession; he died in 2012, leaving the project in litigation among his many descendants. At double the 2007 price -- say, $100/sf -- it could go for $12 million, Fahey says. 

Truong's assets -- he was majority owner of Alphonse Hotel Corp. -- are being sold in liquidation, says lawyer Kevin Smith, at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which represents estate administrator Ernst Rosenberger, a retired judge. The estate has agreed to sell the Hotel Carter, Truong's flagship property, to Chetrit Organization of New York for a price Smith confirmed was "more than $175 million."

POSTED: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 12:41 PM

Trade reps from Italy, Germany, Britain, Poland, Holland, Sweden and other countries, in Philadelphia for a tour of business sites today as European and North American diplomats are inching toward new global free-trade deals, were eager to learn more about importing cheap gas and other fuels and raw materials from Pennsylvania and other states.

"How many of your countries import gas from the Soviet Union?" Michael Krancer, a former Pennsylvania environmental secretary who now represents oil refineries and gas fracking companies as head of the Blank Rome law firm's energy practice, asked the Europeans who assembled at the Reed Smith law firm for breakfast before touring the Navy Yard business center.

"I don't need to tell you what energy development means for the good guys in the world," Krancer went on, warming to his pitch: “The energy business is centered here in Philadelphia. We have an amazing location to take advantage of the resources in your back yard... This is the place to invest your money."

POSTED: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 11:28 AM
Artist's rendering of new Whole Foods in Newtown Square

Equus Capital Partners, Daniel M. DiLella's Philadelphia-based real estate investment firm, says it has agreed to build a 41,700 sq. ft. (size corrected) Whole Foods Market at the 210-acre Ellis Preserve, the former girls' charity school that Equus and its predecessors have developed into a corporate office center.

Whole Foods will be the first store at the complex, which includes or adjoins head offices for SAP Americas, Catholic Health East, Main Line Health, Petplan, the Graham investment group and other companies. Sunoco plans to move there from Tinicum and Center City in the Spring.

DiLella's group also plans a 127-room hotel, and at least 63,000 sq. ft. of additional stores next to Whole Foods. Equus had battled rival developer Claude de Botton in court for years for permission to build stores on the site. The announcement follows a 4-3 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in which Equus, whose plans are backed by Newtown Township, crushed de Botton's last appeal. (Rival justices Castille and McCaffery, who has since departed, were on the same side: they ruled for Equus.) Work is scheduled to start in the Spring.

POSTED: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 9:10 AM
(VIVIANA PERNOT/ Staff Photographer)

Aldi, the European-owned discount grocery store chain, has agreed to pay rival Delaize $15 million for the 66 Bottom Dollar discount groceries scheduled to close in Pennsylvania by the end of this year. Aldi won't say if it will reopen any of the stores; but it is inviting 2,200 Bottom  Dollar grocery and warehouse workers at the doomed facilities to apply for jobs at the Aldi's chain, spokeswoman Julie Ketay told me this morning. Aldi's has 85 stores in Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia area, and more in South Jersey.

Aldi is also soliciting Bottom Dollar veterans at its two Pennsylvania warehouses: 2700 Saucon Valley Road in Center Valley, Pa., which is north of Quakertown near Allentown; and 6000 N. Noah Drive in Saxonburg, western Pennsylvania.

Aldi's was founded by members of Germany's Albrecht family. One group of cousins (Aldi Nord) operates stores in northern Europe and the U.S. Trader Joe's chain, while the separate Aldi Sud group's properties include the Aldi discount stores in the U.S.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 4:47 PM

Paula Fryland says she "can talk y'all,' after six years running PNC Financial Services Group's healthcare business in Louisville and three more in Raleigh. But the Rutgers grad since September has been back in "youse" country as PNC's regional President for Philadelphia and South Jersey, replacing long-serving Bill Mills.

PNC, a Pittsburgh-based company that bought its way into Philadelphia with the purchase of the former Provident National Bank and its innovative investment businesses in the early 1990s, celebrated with a get-to-know-us dinner for blue-chip clients when CoreStates, the last big native Philadelphia bank, sold out to what's now Wells Fargo & Co. in 1998.

Instead of replacing CoreStates as the dominant Philadelphia lender, PNC focused on financing the region's higher-quality business customers, which helped the company through the 2008-09 recession. "We're in a cyclical industry," Fryland told me. "We wanted to be a great bank. We also needed to be conscious of maintaining our health and stability." So PNC "was able to be there through the downturn with our clients, and support them when times got tough." Discipline worked.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 3:27 PM

GE Power & Water employs more than 350 at the Trevose headquarters and labs of its $2.5 billion/annual sales, 7,500-employee Global Water and Process Technologies business, and the engineers who run the group expect more business for customers in the region (revised) as the exploitation of Marcellus Shale gas and other fuels increases, chief executive Heiner Markhoff told a group of energy scholars and GE clients at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School on Thursday.

"The shale revolution is really changing the world," Markhoff said. "We thought we'd be out of fossil fuels," but scientists now expect shale gases and oil to last for centuries. He noted that shale fuel has sparked construction of "the first new petrochemical complex in Texas in a long time," with plans for more in Virginia and wetsern Pennsylvania.

"With great opportunity comes great responsibility, too," Markhoff added, citing the large volume of chemically-treated water needed in hydraulic "fracturing" that forces fuel to the surface through deep wells. GE sees opportunity in building more efficient, less polluting water systems to support energy extraction.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 2:39 PM

"That little junk dealer from Jenkintown has built a multibillion-dollar entity in New York," says Furlong-based broker and investment advisor Austin Dutton, of real estate mogul Nicholas Schorsch. "He went from Old York Rd. to Park Ave."

Schorsch is chairman of giant corporate landlord American Realty Capital Corp., and also of investment bank and brokerage RCS Capital Corp., two publicly-traded companies now at odds with one another over the planned $700 milllion sale of an American Capital brokerage business to RCS. RCS wants to cancel the deal in the wake of last week's departure by two American Realty Capital Corp. financial executives for posting false financial reports. American Capital, whose largest investor is Malvern-based Vanguard Group, and whose board includes ex-Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell, insists the deal go through. 

Shares of both American Realty and RCS fell sharply following last week's revelation. Both RCS and American Capital stopped falling today and recovered slightly after RCS issued a statement underlining its legal, board and strategic distance from American Capital, despite the fact that Schorsch is chairman of both.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 5:00 PM

Italy's Consul General in Philadelphia, Andrea Canepari, has joined with state and city officials, the Philadelphia chamber of commerce, the convention and visitors' bureau and other local boosters to host a group of European trade representatives over the next couple of days, in hopes of boosting European investment in Philadelphia, and maybe the other way around, too, as the U.S. and Europe negotiate a new trade agreement. 

Here's the schedule: Wednesday afternoon, arrive from Washington. Tour Independence Mall historic and tourist sites. Reception at Pepper Hamilton law firm led by lawyer and Italian-American National Foundation leader Joseph Del Raso. . 

Thursday: breakfast at Reed Smith law firm. Energy lawyer Mike Krancer of Blank Rome, Steve Herzog of Carlyle/Sunoco refinery complex Philadelphia Energy Solutions, and city and booster group officials to talk about deal opportunities. Navy Yard tour. Visits to Urban Outfitters, Aker Shipyard, GSK, Tasty Baking. 

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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