Is one of the keys to Philadelphia’s tax reform an increase in commercial property taxes? My take … yes.


That answer may be closer to “yes” than it has been in a long time. Hello, Philadelphia Jobs Growth Coalition.

The Problem:

The City of Philadelphia has unfair and archaic tax policies on both people who live in and/or work in the city, and businesses who are located in the city.

The Solution:

Find a reasonable fix without short-funding the city’s budget, and without increasing taxes on both city-based residential homeowners and city-based workers (as that has already been done too many times over the past half century, and hasn’t worked).

This is where the Philadelphia Jobs Growth Coalition comes in. As stated on their website:

“We formed with one goal in mind: fostering the growth of 50,000 to 100,000 jobs in Philadelphia over the next 10 years. We know how to make that happen; by reducing business and wage taxes, we can create an environment that encourages small and minority businesses to start and grow, existing business to expand or to relocate here, and workers of all kinds to find opportunity in Philadelphia. We can do this without opening any gap in the City’s budget, by increasing the property tax rate exclusively on commercial real estate and use that to provide immediate and substantial tax reduction for all workers and for all businesses, small and large.”

Sounds great, right?

I thought so, but there are always pros/cons to every public idea, theory, and solution. I mean seriously, did we not just go through one of the most insane presidential elections in history, where every voter had drastic differences in opinion? We did, and we’re getting through it.

What I personally find fascinating about PJGC’s approach, is that some of the city’s most prominent business leaders (i.e. Jerry Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust) are the ones actually proposing/supporting this idea. That means they personally stand to receive property tax increases on their city-based commercial properties, if this change in legislation goes through PA’s lawmakers. Just because it seems ironic, does not mean it doesn’t make sense for Philadelphia as a whole.

So, why would commercial property owners even bring this up as a solution?

Because they know that the commercial property tax increase they are proposing is a drop-in-the-bucket compared to what the positive wage/business tax changes would do for the City of Philadelphia, such as: bring more jobs to Philadelphia proper by competing with our suburban neighbors, decrease the wage tax for both city-based residents who work in the city and suburban-based residents who work in the city, and be more competitive on a national scale to other US cities that currently offer more business-friendly tax policies than Philadelphia. Oh, and the commercial property tax increase would still make Philadelphia competitive with our Northeastern neighbors (i.e. NYC, Boston, DC, etc); so there’s that too.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Well, it will most likely be an uphill battle, as we have all seen over the past few years with Governor Wolf. Just because Mayor Jim Kenney and “Un-Official” Mayor Paul Levy (that’s where the name “Levy-Sweeney Plan” came from) are enthusiastically behind this legislation, it does not mean that Philadelphia’s (and also, Pennsylvania’s) constituents are behind it as well. In order for this to move forward, and for Philadelphia to put an end to PA’s uniformity clause, it will take an amendment to the state constitution, two consecutive (and successful) sessions by PA lawmakers, and a voter referendum.

So needless to say, we still have a ways to go.

The good news is that people are finally starting to talk about this issue, both public and private, and a plan is on the table. It will be interesting to see how things play out in 2017, after passing the PA sniff test in June 2016.

Philadelphia’s “second” skyline will be here before we know it


Today, when people talk about all of Philadelphia’s positive energy and potential, the discussion typically leans toward Center City. Some may disagree with me, but hey … that’s what opinions are for.

Center City has the best restaurants, the nicest/newest condos, and the densest population of people in the entire city. More or less, Center City is Philadelphia’s heartbeat. Anyone and everyone, young and old, natives and transplants, urban-born and suburban-born, most of them look at Center City first when considering a serious move to our city (believe me, it’s what I do for a living).

And you have to admit, Center City is pretty freakin’ awesome these days.

But … there is another super-positive discussion brewing among those who have a present/future stake in Philadelphia (i.e. developers, businesses, hospitals, universities, etc), that not too many have taken notice to yet. Yup, I’m talking about University City.

I know, I know … I know.

I’ve written many blog posts in the past about UC on the old (which are now available on the all new, woo hoo!), but there is something different in the air. Something bigger than anything I have seen/heard before about University City.

It’s almost as if UC has become a brand-new city altogether … right? There are brand-new restaurants (both local and franchise options abound), brand-new buildings (both public and private), and brand-new people (seriously, from like every corner of the world). But yet, I would still say that most conversations about Philadelphia these days, regarding the “new” Philadelphia (as some folks like to call it), still sway toward Center City.

Just last month, I caught a first-hand/up-to-date glimpse of everything that is going on right now in University City.

Andrew Janos, Ryan Garrity, and I recently took a hard hat tour of the new FMC Tower in University City … and man, what a great project that is shaping up to be. Ground floor commercial spaces, middle floor office spaces, and upper floor residential spaces (home to the future AKA University City). Not to mention all of the thought that went into the architecture + planning: sleek building design, stunning lobby, Cira Green, and an unbelievably-convenient location to Philadelphia’s business district and 30th Street Station (just walk right over).

When we got to one of FMC Tower’s top floors (40+ stories, in the open air), I got a sweeping view of both Center City and University City (as well as Fairmount, South Philly, etc). All sides of the floor we exited on to were only blocked off by guard rails, no glass had been put up yet; and since I don’t mind heights, I thought it was amazing. Of course, Center City is absolutely stunning these days (i.e. Comcast ITC, One Riverside, etc); dense, green, and buzzing with development. But, I will say that University City is definitely giving Center City a run for its money. New buildings, new parks, new neighborhoods, you name it.

That’s where we are currently, in September 2016.

Now … look ahead 35 years (which I know is not easy to do), and here’s what University City could look like (on top of what it already looks like):

  • 88-acres of new neighborhood: Built over rail yards (next to 30th Street Station), the Powelton Yard vision may be one of the most ambitious urban projects in the US.
  • Further development of the surrounding neighborhoods: Think live-work-play, residential-office-entertainment.
  • Connecting Amtrak & Septa: Making the connection better, safer, and more convenient.
  • New bus terminal: With a new pedestrian bridge, connecting Arch St to 30th Street Station.
  • More local parks and green spaces: Need I say more?

That’s right, we’re talkin’ serious. Feel free to click on any/all of my links above for more details.

Philadelphia is becoming a millennial powerhouse

Our wonderful city at night. Courtesy of


Here are some interesting stats/stories to help paint the picture:

– “Philly’s Millennial Population Growing Fastest Among 10 Largest US Cities

– “Where Millennials Live in Philadelphia

– “Two Philadelphia-Area Companies Named Best Places to Work for Millennials

– “Philadelphia Ranks as the Best City for Millennials to Work & Live” (which coincidentally, is the inspiration for this blog post)

There is even more great/positive press out there for Philadelphia and the millennial contingent, but rather than post a few more links that all prove the same thing, I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the subject.

So let’s break this topic down

– The obvious reason … our affordable housing.

If you compare the average cost to buy a home in Philadelphia, versus the average cost to buy a home in Texas, The City of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection may not seem like a steal. But … If you compare the average cost to buy a home in Philadelphia, versus the average cost to buy a home in New York, Philadelphia is the deal of the century.

We also look good compared to DC and Boston, just sayin’.

Now, if the average buyer only focused on areas like Center City or University City, the good deals may not seem as prevalent. But a quick home search in South Philadelphia or Northwest Philadelphia really opens up the doors for most young buyers, and still provides all of the benefits (e.g. convenient location, public transportation, neighborhood restaurants/festivals, etc).

I know a lot of the naysayers out there will say that millennials would prefer to rent than buy, or that millennials fear the commitment associated with owning a home; there is some truth to that. But when the monthly “cost to own” is less than the “cost to rent” (and Philadelphia’s diversified renter pool typically allows the option to keep your home as an investment rental property, even in the event you have to leave the city and prefer not to sell), this is where Philadelphia’s home buying affordability starts to really shine through.

– Our city’s vibrant cultural, dining, and entertainment scenes.

If you are a traveler that likes to “see and do things” on your trips, Philadelphia is a cornucopia of culture.

There’s the history: Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, everything Benjamin Franklin, etc. There’s the food: Stephen Starr, Jose Garces, our Top Chef alum, cheesesteaks, roast pork, etc. There’s the art: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, more public art than most national/international cities, etc. There are the sports: Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Union (oh, and Rocky). There’s the music: Electric Factory, Union Transfer, The Fillmore, Johnny Brenda’s, etc.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Most people in the US (as well as around the world) do not realize how big and awesome Philadelphia really is, along with all of the things it has to offer its visitors and residents.

If you’re looking for more, is a great website to peruse.

– Our world-class universities and hospitals.

Second only to Boston, Philadelphia has more to offer in the “Eds & Meds” category than any other city in the US; hands down.

UPenn and Drexel keep getting bigger and harder to get into. Temple has created its own neighborhood. Villanova just won the NCAA title. Need I say more.

Our hospitals are not only great for those looking to become doctors and/or medical specialists, but they offer great job opportunities once a degree is in hand. Oh, and let’s not forget that Philadelphians have access to some of the best healthcare institutions in the world, whether you are in the city proper or in the suburbs.

So, what does all of this have to do with millennials you say? Well, a lot.

Most millennials strive to go to college; Philadelphia has some of the best. Post-college, most millennials plan to work right away; Philadelphia has great co-op/intern programs, job opportunities, and a vibrant entrepreneurial community. When not working, millennials enjoy their meals out; Philadelphia has so many restaurants, it can be hard to make a decision sometimes. Finally, millennials are less into owning cars and more into public transit; tons of SEPTA trains, subways, and buses in/around Philadelphia.

Needless to say, millennials love Philadelphia.

Our city checks all of the appropriate boxes, and offers a convenient US location to boot. Staying relevant to younger generations around the world is an obvious bright spot in Philadelphia’s promising future.