Liberty Property Trust and Comcast Corp. will construct a new $1.2 billion skyscraper on a surface parking lot at 18th and Arch streets in Center City. The new tower will have 59 stories and stand 1,121 feet, which will make it the tallest building in the United States outside of New York City and Chicago. It will have a 125-foot blade at the top that will jut out into the sky. By comparison, Comcast Center stands 58 stories and a total of 975 feet.
The building — to be called the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center — will have a total of 1.5 million square feet of space of which 1.284 million square feet will be dedicated to office. Of that amount, Comcast has committed to lease 957,000 square feet, which is 75 percent of the office space.
The cable company will have until September 2015 to decide if it needs to lease the entire building or have the remainder of the space leased out to other tenants. The studios of NBC-10, which currently reside on City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, will eventually relocate to the building.
The office portion of the building will occupy the lower 45 floors. The upper stories will house a 220-room Four Seasons Hotel. The current Four Seasons is expected to take on a new flag.
The tower was designed by visionary architect Norman Foster of Foster + Partners. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Liberty invited last year five architectural firms to participate in what was an international competition for the building. Foster, a world-renowned architect, was selected.
The building will not be a run-of-the mill office structure.
“It is a departure from a traditional highrise and even the first Comcast building,” said John Gattuso, senior vice president and regional director for Liberty Property. “It is much in the spirit of a loft building and a much more robust structure.”
Where office towers are typically designed with the elevator bank in the center of the building this structure will have its elevator core pushed to its west. This will allow the building to have larger floorplates between 27,000 and 32,000 square feet that will be conducive to an open, collaborative work environment. The exterior will be glass and stainless steel.
The building will compliment the first Comcast tower but will not be a mirror image, Gattuso said.
“We wanted to have a building that was not a carbon copy but one that will add to the texture of the skyline and a sense of place in Philadelphia,” he said.
Its design caters to the type of work that will be going on inside of it. Rather than a sterile corporate environment, the space will seek to foster innovation, research, technology and discovery.
“You would typically find this type of building in Silicon Valley,” Gattuso said.
In a way, it will hark back to a time in Philadelphia when “things were made in buildings” when the city was a manufacturing center.
“They will be creating and producing products,” he said.
Liberty, which constructed Comcast’s headquarters, controls 20 percent of this project with the cable company controlling the remainder. The development will receive $30 million in public funds from the state and $10 million from the city. The remainder of the financing will come from Liberty and Comcast.
Liberty, a real estate investment trust based in Malvern, Pa., anticipates breaking ground early this summer with a target completion by the end of 2017.
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Source: Philadelphia Business Journal