PhillyDeals: Amid Pa. cuts, $437 million goes to private projects

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Among grants given Gov. Corbett's nod are, above, the Barnes, $11.5 million; below left, Dilworth Plaza, in an Olin rendering, $15.5 million; and proposed Janney Montgomery Scott offices at Bell Atlantic Tower on Arch, $10 million.

As state budget negotiations these last five months were slicing taxpayer funding for Pennsylvania public schools and colleges, Gov. Corbett has sent letters approving $437 million in grants to 104 private developers, corporations, and nonprofits around the state, including $249 million to 40 projects in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

These grants, under the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), were chosen from a longer list of more than 700 projects endorsed by state legislators and former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Corbett, a Republican, froze the program on taking office in January. But on Valentine's Day, his office began choosing winners from the list, telling favored projects they would be funded from past state bond-borrowing authority.

RACP pays part of the cost of completed projects for developers who have been able to match the state gifts with funding from other sources. Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk said the governor was considering more projects for approval.

Top Philadelphia-area grants that won Corbett's nod:

$30 million for the proposed national museum of the American Revolution Center near Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

$18 million to the Wistar Institute for expansion of its anatomy and disease research center next to the University of Pennsylvania.

$15.5 million to rebuild Dilworth Plaza, the sunken SEPTA station entrance just west of City Hall.

$12 million for Chicago-based John Buck Co.'s plan to build apartments at 2116 Chestnut St., site of the union-owned Sidney Hillman medical and apartment complex.

$12 million for Philadelphia developer Michael Grasso's planned Baker Square project, including a Brown Family ShopRite grocery, at the former Tasty Baking Co. in Nicetown. "We've already started demolition work," Grasso told me.

$11.5 million for the new Barnes Foundation on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, part of $47 million in state subsidies for the $150 million project.

$10 million for a proposed new headquarters for the profitable Philadelphia stock brokerage Janney Montgomery Scott. Janney is weighing a move from its current Market Street offices to 1717 Arch St., the former Bell Atlantic building, managed by Brandywine Realty Trust of Radnor, says Janney spokeswoman Karen Shakoske.

$10 million for a research building at Thomas Jefferson University.

Grants between $5 million and $10 million were approved for: Nueva Esperanza, the North Philadelphia social-services agency that is building a gym, theater, classrooms, music studios, and parking, says its president, the Rev. Luis Cortes; and Drexel University's LeBow business school. Also, the Philadelphia Zoo; Gwynedd-Mercy College; the Navy Yard business center; the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation; Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Goldenberg Group's plan to turn the former John Wanamaker Middle School into housing for Temple University students.

Grants of $5 million or less were approved for a string of Delaware County projects, including the Lansdowne Theater, a Fresh Grocer store in Darby, and the Wharf at Rivertown in Chester. Also: Teva Pharmaceuticals' Northeast Philadelphia warehouse; developer Brian O'Neill's Uptown Worthington development near Malvern; the Pennsylvania Ballet; the James A. Michener Museum in Bucks County; Dennis Maloomian's proposed Convention Center hotel, and the National Museum of American Jewish History.


Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194

or JoeD@phillynews.com.