Friday, September 14, 2012

Liberty eyes new tower

by Natalie Kostelni

Liberty Property Trust is hawking a new office tower in Center City that would stand 27 stories and total around 400,000 square feet.
The building would be constructed on a narrow parking lot on the northwest corner of 19th and Arch streets that is now being used as a small surface parking lot. Cost estimates put a price tag for a building of that size around $160 million.
Liberty quietly bought the sliver of land over the summer and has been taking the plans around to Center City office brokers and prospective tenants who could potentially anchor the building and kick off its construction.
The list of downtown companies now looking for space in the office market who could take a chunk of a new building include: FMC Corp., which is seeking 250,000 square feet; Pepper Hamilton, which is looking for 250,000 square feet; Drinker Biddle, which is seeking about 200,000 square feet; and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, currently seeking 215,000 square feet.
Liberty declined comment. The company is expected to present its plans to the Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s zoning committee this month. Ed Panek, who chairs that committee, hasn’t seen the project proposal but is aware of it.
“If it’s inconsistent with the neighborhood plan, we will have a problem, but we try to work everything out,” Panek said. “We rarely go to the [Zoning Board of Adjustment.]”
A large construction project is already under way in that pocket of the city. PMC Property Group Inc. is constructing a new 14-story apartment building on the southwest corner of 19th and Arch streets. Liberty also owns a 1.5-acre site at 18th and Arch streets where a giant skyscraper called the American Commerce Center was proposed. Market speculation has Liberty saving that site to eventually construct a mixed-use complex that would have Comcast occupying a significant amount of the space.
The last time a new office tower was constructed in Center City was in 2008 when Liberty completed Comcast Center at 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Since then, the recession dragged down the office market and the lack of large, new companies locating or expanding in Philadelphia hampered the need for new office construction. In the last few years, however, owners of trophy towers have lowered rents to fill vacant space in their buildings and resulted in a shortage of high-end space.

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