The American Commerce Center has shed light on an ongoing construction boom in Center City.
The building plans will make it the tallest in the city by its completion in 2012, as reported by The Temple News, despite fears over a struggling U.S. economy. The American Commerce Center announcement came on the heels of a proposal to raze one of the Philadelphia’s oldest skyscrapers, the 1896 Stephen Girard Building at 12th and Market Streets.
The Delaware Riverfront is seeing a well-publicized condominium crunch, including plans for the tallest residential tower in the city and The Delano, a 269-unit, 30-story luxury apartment tower developed by Walnut Street Capital, the same company behind the American Commerce Center. That crunch has lasted for at least two years, including launches of Marina View, 101 Sky and the 950-foot-tall, $600 million Bridgeman’s View from March 2006.
The Pennsylvania Convention Center is under a massive expansion bringing it to 1 million square feet, including the largest contiguous exhibit space in the Northeast, and there are as many as 26 new hotel projects in and around Center City that could bring more than 2,500 new hotel rooms in Philadelphia by 2011, when the first conventions are expected to come to their newly expanded home. Still, all construction has suddenly been overshadowed by the American Commerce Center behemoth.
Walnut Street Capital bought the mixed-use lot at 1800 Arch Street in October. Since then, the group hired Kohn Pederson Fox, an architecture firm, and developed plans for an $800 million, 2.2 million-square-foot, 63-story office tower standing 1,500 feet tall, with an adjacent 26-story hotel, according to PhillySkyline.com, which first broke the story March 13. As proposed, it would be taller than the Empire State Building in New York City, making it the second tallest building in the United States, behind the Sears Tower in Chicago. The American Commerce Center would be 525 taller than the recently completed Comcast Center, which officially becamethe tallest building in Philadelphia in a ceremony in June 2007. That building is located at 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
The building push comes amid a sagging economy and debates over whether a recession has already begun in the United States. The Philadelphia development company Walnut Street Capital has partnered with a pension fund from Washington state that is financing the project, backed by its $6.18 billion in assets, allowing the American Commerce Center project to avoid the pressure of the country’s economic sluggishness.
Other projects are less independent of fear over available credit. While at least four notable hotel projects of the 26 proposed are underway, perhaps four more have been recently shelved out of financial fears, as first reported by the Philadelphia Business Journal last week.
Christopher Wink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Walnut Street Capital and Kohn Pederson Fox, depicting the proposed street view of the American Commerce Center.