AKA University City assumes a lofty perch in Cira Centre South

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This rendering depicts what Cira Center South will look like when the FMC tower is finished. Cira Green lies between the tower and the 33-story Evo apartments.

On a July day with temperatures in the mid-90s, the breeze rushing through the unfinished 46th floor of the FMC Tower at Cira Centre South provides little relief.

No matter. The views on every side are spectacular, to say the least, and make other high-rises near this one at 30th and Walnut Streets - with the exception of the new Comcast tower directly east - look very small.

That includes the 33-story Evo apartments next door, which, with Cira Green, the parking garage with a one-acre park on its top - are both completed and in use.

All comprise the nearly $700 million Cira Centre South project that is a large part of the eastern gateway to Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

There will be 49 stories when this Brandywine Realty Trust tower is completed, but the 46th crowns the 19-floor residential portion to be occupied by AKA University City.

Leading a hard-hat tour of the construction site, Evan O'Donnell, AKA University City's general manager, never runs out of superlatives to describe what the firm's third Philadelphia property will offer on Floors 29 through 46 when it is completed in November.

"The detail sends the message" about AKA University City, O'Donnell said as he guided visitors through the ground-floor residential lobby, where the service elevator, now in operation, has "the same finish as the three others" that will ferry tenants to the 29th floor and higher.

The space next to the lobby will house a 100-seat restaurant, he said.

This is Philadelphia-based AKA's first ground-up project. Two other city properties - AKA Washington Square, in the former Benjamin Franklin Hotel at Ninth and Chestnut Streets, and AKA Rittenhouse at 136 S. 18th St. - were redeveloped at a combined cost of $50 million over the last decade.

Starting from scratch allowed AKA, owned by brothers Larry and Brad Korman, to create spaces accommodating high-end tenants - whether they choose to design the interior of a year-round apartment or move into a custom-designed Piero Lissoni-furnished residence for days, weeks or months.

Studio, one- and two-bedroom, and penthouse residences will be offered, "with little difference in square footage but different finishes," he said.

Furnished one-bedroom suites will start at $325 a day, with lower rates for longer stays, while unfurnished one-bedrooms will start at $2,800 a month.

An important piece of any "ultra-luxury" high-rise - whether rental or owner-occupied - is the amenities floor. In this instance, it's the 28th floor and will be accessible by residents and employees of commercial tenants via separate elevators, O'Donnell said.

The amenities floor, or "club level," is itself a work in progress.

"The architect [Pelli Clarke Pelli], the designer [Lissoni] and the operator have input into what goes into the amenities floor of any project, and it typically focuses on as many as eight components that will be 'most impactful,' " O'Donnell said.

Because AKA University City will have unfurnished apartments with annual leases, furnished units with semiannual leases, serviced units with monthly leases, and hotel residences, tenants will "have different needs and requirements" that the club floor must meet, he said.

Because special features of AKA establishments have "a." before them, the club floor will have a.lounge, which will open onto a.terrace, a four-season "greenscaped oasis" with fire pits, as well as a 72-foot indoor pool, a "techno-gym" fitness center, and a 3-D indoor golf simulator, O'Donnell said.

Being added to existing AKA properties, as well, he said, is "a.cinema," a private theater with 16 fully automated leather seats, surround sound, and a film library.

Larry Korman said AKA University City is part of an area "underappreciated because the water [the Schuylkill] cuts it off from Center City."

Korman, who sits on the boards of both Drexel and Penn, said the project is what makes AKA "bullish about Philadelphia, and we want to be part of it."

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472@alheavens

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