Friday, April 29, 2005

RiverLink Ferry Season Begins

The RiverLink Ferry is now operating between Penn’s Landing and the Camden waterfront. The ferry runs Friday to Sunday from April to October. Daily service is available from May through September. Another ship - the Independence - will offer 90-minute harbor tours beginning May 1.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

School District Establishes Center City Region

The School District of Philadelphia – led by the visionary CEO Paul Vallas - has established a 10th, separate region for Center City that includes all public elementary, middle and high schools in the area circumscribed by Poplar Street, Washington Avenue, and the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. This initiative is a collaborative effort of the Center City District and Philadelphia School District designed to improve public school options for Center City residents through marketing campaigns, expansion of school choice programs and infrastructure improvements. For more information, go to the Center City Schools Initiative.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Philadelphia and the BPT: Imperfect Together

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an interesting story this weekend about Philadelphia’s wage tax. It talked about recent wage tax collection data and the story it tells; while employment and population continue to shrink (albeit slowly) incomes in Philadelphia are going up. The last four years for which the City has complete data – 2001 through 2004 – indicate that private-sector jobs in Philadelphia decreased approximately 4.3 percent. The wage tax rate paid by residents and commuters also went down, as it has annually since 1996. However, aggregate wage tax revenue increase during that same period by over $60 million. These figures suggest that the “Philadelphia story is no longer one of straight-line loss in employment and people, but rather of an evolving city, gradually becoming home to higher-paying jobs and higher-earning residents.” However, Philadelphia's recent gains are apparently concentrated in sectors dominated by non-profit employers such as colleges and hospitals. Other industry sectors are either static or decreasing in Philadelphia, but growing elsewhere in the region. Firms that create such jobs are for-profit and subject to the City's tax on gross receipts and profits – the Business Privilege Tax. This tax receipt data suggests that such for-profits are apprehensive about investing in Philadelphia. What’s the solution? Continued incremental wage tax reductions and a wholesale reengineering of the business privilege tax, with a gradual phase out of the gross receipts portion. Philadelphia Forward and about a million other people have been talking about it for years; the question has been asked and answered, with anecdotal and empirical evidence proving the point over and over again.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cruising from Philadelphia

The cruise ship terminal at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard will see more than 92,000 travelers this year, 50% more than last (see story). In fact, cruising from Philadelphia has become so popular that some are concerned that the former Navy Yard will run out of capacity for passenger handling. Not to worry. The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation - the agency that manages and markets the Naval Yard - is working with the Philadelphia Port Authority to find expansion space.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Another Philadelphia Hidden Treasure: The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is a regional and national leader in urban environmental education. According to their website “The Schuylkill Center's primary purpose is to promote, through environmental education, the preservation and improvement of our natural environment by fostering appreciation, understanding and responsible use of the ecosystem; by disseminating information on current environmental issues; and by encouraging appropriate public response to environmental problems.” The Center owns over 400 acres of land in Andorra - the largest private parcel in Philadelphia - in the most northwesterly part of the City.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

May is "Buy Local Philly Month"

When we buy local, money stays in our neighborhoods and helps build a strong, local economy. Did you know that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back into the community while only $14 comes back when that same $100 is spent at a chain store? A new campaign is launching in May to support local, independent Philadelphia business. For more information, check out

February Results for Center City Hotels

Center City's hotels did well during a typically slow month. According to Tyson Hospitality Consulting, hotel occupancy was at 61.9%, a 3.7% increase from February 2004. Most rooms were occupied by commercial travelers (35%) with convention/meeting attendees and leisure travelers at 31% and 26%, respectively.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Tax Reform in Philadelphia: Ya Think?

According to Philadelphia Forward, “A 1998 study by Vertex, Inc., a state and local tax research and software firm, determined that Philadelphia’s business tax burden was the highest among 27 major U. S. cities. The study estimated the combined federal, state, and local tax liability of a representative service company with $15 million in gross revenue and $1.5 million profits. In terms of local business taxes, Philadelphia’s tax burden ranked fourth out of 27 cities, behind only New York City, Chicago, and Cleveland. While the overall business tax burden in Philadelphia in 1998 declined by 2.15 percent from the 1993 estimate published in a previous Vertex report—more than any other city—the overall tax burden in Philadelphia in 1998 remained the highest among the 27 comparison cities.” Think this is just a concern to big and wealthy corporations? Not exactly; small businesses are excoriated by our City’s oppressive tax burden. Check out this recent film by Philadelphia Forward that chronicles the plight of small business in our town.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Clinton, Rendell, Kvaerner, and $1 Billion Dollars

As reported by KYW radio, former president Bill Clinton and former Mayor and now Governor Ed Rendell were in town today for the announcement of a $1 billion, 10-ship deal at the Kvaerner shipyard. Before Kvaerner, the former Philadelphia Navy Yard had gone three decades without a constructing a new ship. Ten double-hulled ships (pursuant to new environmental safety regulations) are to be fabricated, guaranteeing over 1,000 jobs through 2010 and could possibly generate 5,000 jobs in service/trade businesses that support the facility. Reviving the shipbuilding industry in Philadelphia was fueled by an infusion of hundreds of millions of Federal and State economic development funding; cynics and realists alike thought this might be too much. While hindsight is certainly 20/20 and nobody should gloat about the fabulous success of this revival initiative, it should be an inspiration to the Philadelphia region and others who would bring back manufacturing jobs to a city that used to be known as the “workshop of the world.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Temple Town to Get a Supermarket: Another Positive Development for North Philadelphia

The Fresh Grocer - a Drexel Hill-based supermarket chain with three stores in University City and West Philadelphia - has signed a lease to operate a 24-hour supermarket in Progress Plaza Shopping Center, right next to Temple University on North Broad Street (see story). Fresh Grocer's occupancy will begin after Progress Plaza is renovated and supermarket space is constructed. It is expected that having a strong anchor tenant like Fresh Grocer sign on will encourage private lenders and the Commonwealth to finance the estimated $7-$10 million project. The North Philadelphia renaissance continues.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Center City Parking Lots: Enough Already

A recent, comprehensive Philadelphia Planning Commission study has determined "there is a major gap between the perceived availability of parking and the actual number of spaces that are available at any one time." (see story). Philadelphia parking policy has been driven by developers and anecdotes; let’s hope that the findings in this report signal the beginning of a more informed parking policy that is less auto-centric and guided by an informed and enlightened vision for Center City.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Philadelphia Sustainable Business Network Annual Conference

The 2005 SBN Annual Conference (May 20-21, 2005 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School) will bring together entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, government representatives and citizens who care about building a sustainable economy in the Philadelphia region. Entrepreneurs will learn how to strengthen their business and their communities. Speakers will include Randy Hayes, founder and Board President of the Rainforest Action Network and current Director of Sustainability for the City of Oakland (CA) and Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now! For more information, go to

Friday, April 08, 2005

Proposed Quantitative Performance Measurement to Gauge School/Community Connectivity

Currently, no metric gauges connectivity between a Philadelphia public neighborhood school and its catchment area, the community in which it sits and ostensibly serves. School/community connectivity is important for a variety of reasons, including a school’s potential to be an educational, social, and recreational community center. Further, connectivity is important in that taxpayers with children are essentially customers (potential or actual) of their local school; these taxpayers/customers are justified in their expectation that the local school will actively seek out their “business” (e.g., sending their children to the school) and work to keep it over the long-term.

One measure of school/community connectivity is to track the percentage of eligible students attending a catchment area’s school. Initial measurements could serve as a baseline against which to gauge future progress/regress. Percentage metrics could be developed for the entire catchment area as well as sub-catchment areas. A more refined sub-catchment measurement would reveal how well a school’s student attraction/retention efforts are working in smaller subsets of a community/catchment area. If the percentage of eligible students from the catchment or sub-catchment area decreases over a period of time, strategies should be developed and implemented to reverse the trend. Relatedly, if sub-catchment areas are lower to being with, strategies to address particular attraction/retention issues could be developed. Creating this metric would be possible using GIS mapping and demographic data.

Philadelphia to Host 2020 Olympics?

An advisory committee has been formed to determine whether the Philadelphia region (including the suburban counties, NJ and DE) has the resources to compete for the games and if so, whether we should pursue them. The committee is collaborating with the Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Pennsylvania Economy League. The William Penn Foundation is providing funding. Joe Torsella – who led the effort to build the City’s spectacular National Constitution Center – is heading up the advisory committee.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Encourage City Council to Pass Anti "Pay-to-Play" Legislation

In March, Philadelphia City Council could have modernized City government by passing two of Councilman Michael Nutter's bills that would have significantly changed the method by which professional service contracts are solicited and secured. The bills each needed 12 yes votes, but fell one vote short in each case. If you're disappointed, let the "status quo five" (the five Councilpeople who didn't support the bills) know that you are disappointed in them and want them to approve these bills - or similar pieces of legislation - when they come up in the future. Here's the website:

More Center City Condo News

A new, 43-story condominium complex has been proposed for the northwest corner of 21st and Market Streets. The project will also include approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of street-level retail. Solomon Cardwell Buenz - who designed the St. James project near Washington Square - is the architect.

Spanning the Globe

US Airways has announced plans for non-stop flights from Philadelphia International Airport to Venice and Barcelona starting next month. Additional flights to Bermuda, Denver and Los Angeles are also in the works.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Philadelphia Taxis to Improve

The Philadelphia Parking Authority (“PPA”) will assume authority over Philadelphia’s 1,600 taxicabs and limos on April 10th. The PPA has set tight new rules requiring drivers to take a five-day course that includes customer-service training and will also require GPS technology as well as newer, more presentable vehicles. The plan is to improve taxi service for residents and visitors alike.

The Cookie Crumbles?

So far, five unions – the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”), District Council 47 (the “white collar” City workers’ union), District Council 33 (the "blue collar" City workers' union), Local 234 (the transit wokers' union), and Local 1199C (the hospital workers' union) have thrown their support behind Seth Williams' surging candidacy for District Attorney. Young Philly Politics has got the latest. Union support in Philadelphia isn't everything, nor should it be. However, it can be important. These recent endorsements certainly reveal that a diverse group of labor groups think the DA's office should head in another direction.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hotel Occupancy Off to a Strong Start in 2005

Smith Travel Research reported a 60.1% occupancy in January/February for Center City hotels, compared to 55.7% for the same months a year prior. February 2005 was at 61.9% this year, compared to 59% in 2004.

Friday, April 01, 2005

More North Broad Street Rebound

Over the next five months, the Philadelphia School District will consolidate multiple administrative operations into one refurbished building at 440 N. Broad Street (see story). When fully occupied this Summer, 1,551 administrators will work there; approximately 500 visitors daily will visit on business. A few restaurants, a food store, and residential projects have commenced and more are planned. Census tracts in the area grew from by 100 residents from 1990 - 2000. Planned residential expansion could double that increase during the next few years.

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