In The Lead: Carnegie / The Comeback Continues

Hans and Virginia Gruenert wanted to start a theater company when they lived in New York City. That’s where you’d do something like that.

But Off the Wall Theater Co. was destined to be born in Western Pennsylvania when Mr. Gruenert’s work brought the couple here in 2007. And after five years in Washington, Pa., they found a better fit in Carnegie.

Their decision happened to mesh with the borough’s trajectory of late.

The economic doldrums that gripped the region for years didn’t miss Carnegie. Then in 2004, when Chartiers Creek overran the business district as a remnant of Hurricane Ivan, dozens of businesses were damaged and many did not return.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/in-the-lead-2015/reports/2015/05/14/In-The-Lead-Carnegie-The-comeback-continues

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(Greater) Center City Philadelphia’s Population Now Second Only To Midtown Manhattan’s

An expanded Center City Philadelphia has grown so much that it now ranks second only to Midtown Manhattan when it comes to people who live in the heart of the city.

That’s according to the Center City District, which released its annual report Monday – and which is defining the area as extending from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street.

Over the past 15 years, population grew 16 percent in the district that is also bounded by the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, bringing the population to 183,240, according to latest State of Center City report.

Brisk redevelopment also continued last year in that area, the CCD reported, with 1,983 new residential units completed by developers in that area.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150421__Greater__Center_City_s_population_now_second_only_to_Midtown_Manhattan_s.html#8uGCG8AyUkPxSytk.99

Development Could Soon Be Booming In West End

Pittsburgh’s building boom, centered for years on Downtown and East End neighborhoods, is spreading into the West End.

Developers are focusing on Banksville Road where nearly $3 million is being spent to build a hotel, an office building and an expansion of offices for an engineering firm.

“The city of Pittsburgh overall is doing well in terms of development,” said City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who represents West End communities. “Banksville has good access to Downtown, the Parkway (West), the airport and suburbs.”

A Comfort Inn and Suites is going up near a Days Inn along lower Banksville Road. The $2.7 million project includes a four-story hotel building with 69 rooms and 64 parking spaces, according to Pittsburgh Planning Commission records.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8187310-74/banksville-building-west#ixzz3XfbnKxm8
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No Man’s Land, Atlantic City

full-state map

full-state map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tucked into northeast Atlantic City, where ocean meets inlet, is a two-by-six block expanse of undeveloped land that in other shore towns would be carved up by wealthy outsiders to build $2 million homes.

Instead, the few surviving, decades-old houses dot hundreds of empty lots like jagged teeth at the mouth of a yawning ocean in this sleepy part of town. Some call it North Beach; others South Inlet. Bill Terrigino, 69, lives at one end, his home one of those visible teeth.

An empty Revel casino shimmers in the background, emblematic of the mirage Atlantic City has become. Terrigino, a laid-off casino banquet server who resembles a Jersey Shore version of Hemingway, has a two-story home on South Metropolitan Avenue.

His house boasts an unobstructed waterfront view – but not by design. It’s just that nothing stands between it and the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/No_Mans_Land_Atlantic_City_.html

Changing Skyline: Subsidized Housing Deal May Benefit Developers More

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

It wasn’t always that way. From the 1950s through the Clinton years, the federal government financed thousands of units of affordable housing. Though the results weren’t always well-designed, the programs did at least ensure the poor had places to live. But in the last decade, federal money dried up and cities were left to their own devices. It’s no accident that wage stagnation has become a hot issue as low-cost housing has become harder to find.

So, as with many urban improvements these days, cities have begun to look to the private sector to pick up the slack. The strategy is called “inclusionary housing,” and it involves trading zoning bonuses for apartments.

Developers get to put up taller, denser towers. Cities get a bunch of units in the new buildings that can be rented at below-market rates. Low-wage workers get fabulous apartments with skyline views.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20141017_Changing_Skyline__Subsidized_housing_deal_may_benefit_developers_more.html#TCCsm4dMWl0uHb5b.99

Downtown Residents, Developers Enjoy Romance With Rooftops

Downtown Pittsburgh as seen from PNC Park across the Allegheny River

Downtown Pittsburgh as seen from PNC Park across the Allegheny River

From atop the Lando Building at Penn Avenue and Ninth Street, Todd Palacic can see PNC Park, kayaks on the Allegheny River, construction work on The Tower at PNC Plaza and glimpses of the shimmering glass of PPG Place.

Palacic, who is developing the seven-story structure into 27 apartments and building a deck on its roof, foresees tenants throwing parties, watching fireworks and lounging amid Pittsburgh’s skyline.

“People who live Downtown want to show off, and a deck allows them to show off,” Palacic, a developer at Penn Avenue Renaissance, said as he leaned over the deck railing to look out over the river. “A lot of first kisses will happen up here on this deck. I guarantee it.”

As more people move Downtown — the population jumped 10.5 percent in the past three years, reaching more than 7,500, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership — residents are claiming rooftops as social spaces to dine, drink, relax and take in sights. Restaurants have opened rooftop bars and seating areas. Nearly 10 apartment complexes boast roof patios and lounges, and new developments almost all have rooftop plans.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/editorspicks/6451106-74/downtown-pittsburgh-tower#ixzz37vYrS6MJ
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Changing Skyline: Is ‘Over-Success’ In Development Hurting Philadelphia?

English: 1616 Walnut Street Building in Philad...

English: 1616 Walnut Street Building in Philadelphia. On NRHP since October 17, 1983 1616 Walnut Street in Rittenhouse Square East neighborhood of Center City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It wasn’t long ago that Philadelphia’s movers and shakers were lamenting that the city was being ignored by international retailers. Those chains finally discovered the city, and now they’re colonizing the shopping districts around Rittenhouse Square and the West Philadelphia universities at a stunning pace. Sometimes, the only way to be sure you’re not at the King of Prussia Mall is to look up at the sky.

Having gotten what it wished for, the city is starting to feel the first side effects of what New York urbanist Kent Barwick, former head of the Municipal Arts Society, identified as “the over-successful city.”

This may sound like an odd worry in a town that looks over its shoulder and still sees Detroit. It’s certainly great that the chains help draw throngs to Walnut and Chestnut Streets again. They’ve brought their stylish displays and uncovered the dormant charms of many old commercial buildings. Yet, there is a numbing sameness to much of the retail. You’ve seen identical mannequins in identical outfits perched in windows on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Boston’s Newbury Street, and Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/inga_saffron/20140711_Is__over-success__in_development_hurting_Phila__.html#OwFqlzCPsHwibjmA.99

Philadelphia’s Luxury Rental Market Is Booming

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city’s for-sale housing market is experiencing fits and starts on a seemingly unending road to recovery. The luxury rental market, on the other hand, remains hot.

Yet another illustration of that comes Wednesday with the official opening of Dranoff Properties’ Southstar Lofts, an 85-unit, mid-rise rental project at Broad and South Streets that is heavier on one-bedrooms than the company’s fully leased 777 South Broad a few blocks away.

Developer Carl Dranoff considers the buildings complementary, and tenants at Southstar will get to use the roof deck at 777 and will share other amenities.

Rents will range from $1,595 to $3,395 a month, he said. About 63 percent of those leasing are singles in their 20s, and 35 percent list their occupation as medicine. Most earn $50,000 to $150,000, and 48 percent are moving from within six blocks.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140427_Phila__luxury_rental_market_is_booming.html#jYw0YTP7lsBDLXES.99

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Housing Crisis: Rising Prices, Fewer Options, Long Waiting Lists Make Finding A Livable Space Difficult

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jessica Castro in September moved herself, her daughter and her son, ages 10 and 9, into a one-bedroom apartment, sacrificing elbowroom to save on rent.

“What I need is a three-bedroom,” said Castro, 36, but it wasn’t in her budget. Even two-bedroom units were beyond her means as she worked 40 hours a week plus a second part-time job.

She now frets over how long her kids will tolerate the tight squeeze.

Thousands of renters across Lancaster County can identify with Castro. They’re priced out of decent, right-sized housing and settle for cramped, substandard quarters.

Experts warn that the shortage of affordable units is at the point that working people will leave the county to find a place to live.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/917486_Housing-crisis–Rising-prices–fewer-options–long-waiting-lists-make-finding-a-livable-space-difficult.html#ixzz2l1Rw7Kn6

State Agency OKs Millions More In Loans For Projects In Downtown Reading

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks County courthouse on left; July 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A state agency has approved an extra $5 million in low-cost loans for new projects in downtown Reading, as well as an extra $1 million for the planned Doubletree Hotel on Penn Street.

The loans, sought months ago and already part of the hotel’s financing package, were formally approved today by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

Both packages will go through the Greater Berks Development Fund.

The $5 million will be available for as-yet-undetermined downtown projects, said Edward J. Swoyer, Greater Berks executive director.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=511616

Pottstown Poised To Loosen Tree Rules

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: What’s that I hear?  Is it the sound of wailing coming from the 200 block of Chestnut Street?  To say the tree ordinance was “a little bit extreme” is the understatement of the decade.

POTTSTOWN — Borough council is expected to vote Monday on a proposal to lessen the requirements for plantingtrees when a property is developed or re-developed.

Specifically, the vote would authorize Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. to advertise an amendment to the borough’s sub-division and land development ordinance, known as a SLDO, and would apply to “open space trees” and to “parking lot trees.”

“This is the result of an ongoing theme at the planning commission,” Garner told council during the Wednesday work session.

“We were calculating a large number of trees and then granting waivers and it was becoming problematic,” he said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130906/NEWS01/130909576/pottstown-poised-to-loosen-tree-rules

Two Developers Set Sights On Fayette And Elm, Conshohocken

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONSHOHOCKEN — The Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority (RDA) has released redacted copies of two proposals to redevelop the Verizon building and a vacant parcel at the intersection of Fayette and Elm streets, reuse the historic Washington Fire Co. building and provide additional parking for Fayette Street merchants and shoppers.

The Times Herald filed a Right to Know request July 26 for the two proposals from Brandywine Realty Trust (BRT) of Radnor, Delaware County, and Keystone Property Group (KPG) of Lower Merion after officials at the RDA refused to provide the proposals without allowing the two realty development companies to redact “confidential and proprietary information.”

Jerry Nugent III, the executive director of the RDA, said in a July 31 letter that the information was “commercial or financial information received by an agency which is privileged or confidential and the disclosure of which would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person that submitted the information.”

The redacted version of the BRT proposal included an executive summary and six conceptual drawings illustrating the firm’s plans for replacing the Verizon building at 402 Fayette St., with a 24,000-square-foot building for borough workers and the police department.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130802/NEWS01/130809921/two-developers-set-sights-on-fayette-and-elm-conshohocken-#full_story

Easton Reviewing Bids For Sale Of Alpha Building

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette ...

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Easton‘s iconic brick and stone skyscraper is on target to be in new hands by the end of the year.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. confirmed that the city is talking to a pair of finalists who want to buy the 91/2 -story city-owned Alpha Building, which anchors the southwest corner of Centre Square.  The city agreed earlier this year to list the building for sale and solicit proposals from developers.

Officials declined to name the two finalists, or to say how many proposals were received — although Panto did say it was more than two.

“We are working more with one (developer) because they offered more,” Panto said of the ongoing negotiations.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-easton-alpha-building-sale-close-20130802,0,7783825.story#ixzz2aqcrj1xa
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Hotel Sterling Demo Could Change More Than Just The Landscape

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Ali Kazimi’s arrival at work was memorable Tuesday because the seven-story Hotel Sterling next door was almost entirely demolished.

“It was strange. You can see the eagles on the Market Street Bridge from our property.  We have a riverfront view,” said Kazimi, the third-generation owner of M. Abraham Importer on West Market, which opened by the once bustling Sterling in 1927.

Kazimi looks forward to losing that view to new development on the 4-acre Sterling parcel.  City officials condemned and demolished the former hotel and plan to seize the cleared lot from its nonprofit owner, CityVest, so the site can be marketed and sold to a private developer.

Read more:   http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/715688/View-from-River-and-Market-is-optimistic

BOSS 2020 Seeks Boost For Sinking Spring

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sinking Spring‘s BOSS 2020 organization is getting ready to ask the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $300,000 grant for its bold plan to remake the 100-year-old borough.

According to officials, $250,000 would supplement a $346,860 PennDOT grant for sidewalk improvement on the downtown’s west side.

The two-part project would consist of putting a sidewalk on Penn Avenue between Park and Wynnewood avenues, and widening the sidewalk on Penn Avenue from Columbia Avenue to Hull Street to six feet.

Right now, according to Sam Loth, consulting coordinator for BOSS 2020, the sidewalk is only 21/2 to 3 feet wide in some portions, which sometimes forces pedestrians to walk on the road.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=486342

Reading Looks To Rewrite The Rules To Help Business

Contractors, developers and even city officials have complained for years that getting approvals and permits from City Hall is too complicated and takes too long.

Developer Alan Shuman, prodded recently by City Council, said it often takes him four weeks and longer to get permits in hand for many of his projects.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer had campaigned on building a more business-friendly City Hall and told a business group in April that it often takes four to six weeks to issue a permit.

“Businesses jump down my throat for that,” he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=484891

Downtown Wilkes-Barre Putting On A New Face

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The loud purple facade of the former Flaming Star Tattoos shop will soon be toned down to fit in with the downtown Wilkes-Barre neighborhood’s historical character — a subtle yet significant sign of once-shuttered storefronts being renovated or reopened around the theater complex.

It wasn’t just the color that unsettled city officials who saw the potential for the shop’s row of old architecture on South Main Street. It was the way the vibrant hue stopped midway up the building in an uneven line, accentuating the unfinished progress of the paint job and much of the neighborhood.

“One of the first things the new owners will do is repaint that facade,” said attorney William Vinsko, who bought the building at a Luzerne County back-tax auction for $33,000 last week on behalf of private clients who will be identified when the deed is recorded.  The buyers plan to renovate the property at 86 S. Main St. to attract tenants, Vinsko said.

Next door, Joseph and Pamela Masi are redoing the facade and interior of their property, which previously housed Topper’s topless bar, Vinsko said.  The Masis, who purchased the property for $85,000 in 2010, have added an ice cream shop at the rear of the property.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/462842/Putting-on-a-new-face

Baltimore City Council Approves Tax Break For New Apartments

Developers converting older office buildings into apartments or building new complexes could get a significant tax break under a measure the Baltimore City Council approved Monday.

The legislation is aimed at addressing a glut of vacancies in office buildings downtown, encouraging new or converted apartments in six other neighborhoods, and drawing new residents to the city.

The list of requirements to qualify for the tax break is short: The development must be in one of the seven areas, must be a project involving at least 50 apartment units, and must have an environmentally friendly certification.  Supporters said this tax break would be more “predictable” for developers, who typically have to lobby City Hall for individual incentives.

“It can open up the development market to outside developers,” said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, which lobbied for the credit.  “Before, developers had to know the system in order to access some [tax] credits. It will create more predictability and transparency.”

Read more:  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-apartment-tax-incentive-20130408,0,332010.story

Restaurants, Residences Planned For Former Whistles Pub In Scranton

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A downtown developer’s plans for a vacant building on Franklin Avenue promises to bring more business and foot traffic to what just a year ago had been a neglected block of downtown.

This week, Art Russo of Scranton purchased the Bittenbender Building, which formerly housed the popular Whistles Pub and Eatery.  His rough plans for the building call for 15 apartments on the third and fourth floors, possibly offices on the second floor, and a restaurant, deli and possibly a third ground-floor tenant.

“The first floor space is too big for one restaurant, and we’d like to create space for two or three different business,” Mr. Russo said.

He’s talked to a potential operator of a deli that sells prepared foods and some groceries as a potential tenant.  The restaurant and kitchen side, which has equipment in place, is a turnkey operation, Mr. Russo said.  The former Whistles had a sizable back room, which could have potential as a third entity.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/restaurants-residences-planned-for-former-whistles-pub-1.1382682

Unfinished West Reading Project Leaves Residents With Dirt, Weeds, Fading Hopes

Every year on the anniversary of her move-in date, Holly Zdravecki picks up the phone to call West Reading Borough Hall.

She bought the first town house in the promising Villas at West Reading development off Tulpehocken Avenue on March 16, 2008.

But Zdravecki still doesn’t have a paved street in front of her home.

Instead, mounds of dirt covered with grass and weeds adorn the lot at the entrance to the development. Six large concrete foundations with utility lines poking through the ground make up the north side of the complex.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=379000