Where are Philly's jobs? Protesters cited at Center City hotel

A dozen protesters, many of them either clergy or members of the hospitality workers’ union, were issued citations Thursday evening as they massed in the lobby of the Aloft Hotel at Broad and Arch Streets, Philadelphia police said.

The protesters said the 179-room hotel, a conversion of the 1920s Liberty Title & Trust Building, received $33 million in government subsidies on the promise of providing 170 jobs, including 115 in a restaurant. The hotel opened Aug. 31 without the restaurant and its jobs, the protesters said

Starwood Hotels & Resorts, now owned by Marriott International Inc., is operating the hotel. No one from the company’s press office responded to a request for comment.

The protest was organized by Center City Organized for Responsible Development.

In June, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D, Pa.) wrote to the U.S. Treasury Department raising questions about the biggest grant, a $15 million New Market Tax Credit designed to encourage development and jobs in low-income neighborhoods. Household income in the neighborhood around the hotel is 1.5 times higher than the city average.

The development team also received a $2-million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from Pennsylvania and a $10-million award of federal historic tax credits, and it is expected to receive about $6 million in city tax abatements for new construction, according to Brady’s letter.

Among those cited Thursday was the Rev. Robin Hynicka, pastor of Arch Street United Methodist Church, across Arch Street from the hotel.

“If developers want to come to the poorest big city in America and ask the public to pay for their projects, we will hold them accountable to the promises that they make. We demand that the Aloft Hotel either create the jobs they promised, or give us back our money,” Hynicka said in a statement.

Also cited were two top officials of Unite Here Local 274:  Rosslyn Wuchinich, president, and Briheem Douglas, vice president. The union represents hotel and food-service workers and hopes to unionize workers at new hotels under construction around the city.