ULI Special Report: REITs Revitalize Philly’s Market Street

ULI 2016 Spring Meeting attendees toured recent and under-construction properties from Brandywine Realty Trust and Liberty Property Trust that are transforming Center City.
Brandywine Realty Trust  completed a $25 million renovation of 1900 Market Street, including upgrading the 18,000-square-foot atrium.

Brandywine Realty Trust completed a $25 million renovation of 1900 Market Street, including upgrades to the 18,000-square-foot atrium.

Philadelphia—Two big-name REITS are contributing to the transformation of Philadelphia’s Center City from a traditional business district into a live-work-play neighborhood thanks to its new developments along Market Street. Attendees at the 2016 ULI Spring Meeting took a tour of several Brandywine Realty Trust and Liberty Property Trust properties, including a renovated office building, a new residential development and 60-story trophy tower that are all conveniently located near subway, rail and other transportation options.

A 451-square-foot studio in Brandywine's 1919 Market maximizes space with a murphy bed.

A 451-square-foot studio in Brandywine’s 1919 Market maximizes space with a murphy bed.

First up was 1900 Market Street, the former Stock Exchange Building at which Brandywine completed a $25 million renovation in 2014. The REIT transformed the outdated atrium space into an 18,000-square-foot area with a koi pond, free-flowing waterfall, two gas fireplaces and various seating areas. Brian Orr, senior leasing representative with Brandywine, said the atrium is a really unique feature for an office building in Philadelphia. The eight-story building offers open office plans for collaboration with balconies and private spaces as well. The anchor tenant is AmeriHealth Administrators.

Across the street, Brandywine is developing residential community 1919 Market with partner LCOR. The 321-unit rental building will be the first market-rate apartment community on Market Street and is targeting working professionals who “work long hours and want to be in the center of the city,” said Don Tracy, vice president of LCOR. He added that the joint venture is striving for LEED Gold Certification.

Studio, one- and two-bedroom units are located on floors 3-25, with penthouses on the 26th and 27th floors. The 28th floor will include the building’s amenities, such as an infinity pool, CrossFit, golf simulator and a coffee bar. Tracy said the larger units aren’t currently being leased but 80 of the smaller units are already occupied, reflecting the strong lease-up rate.

Construction of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center is currently underway.

Construction of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center is currently underway.

Rounding out the tour was a visit to the upcoming Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, which is being developed by Liberty Property Trust and will be occupied by Comcast in 2017. The 60-story tower will be Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper and will neighbor the Comcast Center, the company’s global headquarters. A $1.3 billion investment from a joint venture led by Liberty Property Trust will help build an expanded underground concourse with food and retail that will connect the two buildings and to the popular Suburban Station commuter rail and subway system.

The new tower, targeted for LEED Platinum, will house the operations of NBC and Telemundo’s local broadcast stations and provide space for local tech startups, but perhaps its most unusual feature will be a Four Seasons hotel that will take the top of the tower. The hotel will be “upside down, with a 16th-floor lobby and guests will travel down into their rooms,” explained Serge Nalbantian, Liberty Propert Trust’s vice president of development. The hotel will open in the first or second quarter of 2018.