The Liberty Title & Trust Building at 101 N. Broad St. was built in 1929, rather unfortunate timing for a bank building. Over the years, it was home to a number of different tenants, with the Water Department being the most recent occupant. That was back in the 1990s though, and the building has sat vacant ever since. Somehow, it dodged the wrecking ball when the Convention Center expanded, though it continued to languish under the ownership of Realen Properties, a developer that bought the property back in 2008. For quite some time, we were hearing that a hotel would land here, but it wasn’t until the end of 2015 that this plan finally came into focus as construction got started.
Construction moved at a relatively zippy pace, as the 179 room Aloft hotel opened at the end of last month. As we always enjoy drinking in a good adaptive reuse, we figured it would be worth sticking our head in the door, to at least check out the lobby. We came away incredibly impressed. The interior has been completely restored, with a collection of huge windows evident in all their glory. The lobby space is huge, with a bar called W XYZ on one side (with an outdoor space, to boot) and the front desk on the other side. In the middle is an electronic archway, with a stock exchange ticker running through it. Check it out:
This hotel is a great addition to the hospitality sector in town, and makes the architecture of the awful Home2 Suites Hotel around the corner look even more terrible, by comparison. This project wasn’t without controversy though, as it took advantage of millions of dollars in public subsidies. According to Plan Philly, the project received $10M in historic tax credits, $15M in New Market Tax Credits, $2M from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and like any other construction project in town, a ten year tax abatement. Per a group called Center City Organized for Responsible Development, these subsidies amount to roughly $183K per hotel room. And the folks from CCORD don’t believe that there’s enough public good provided by the development to justify those dollars.
With the construction finished and the hotel open, the ink is dry on this deal, and we don’t believe there’s much that CCORD can do to change the situation. We do wonder though, whether the backlash against the subsidies for this hotel will result in future projects being held to tougher standards when seeking public dollars for development. Don’t ask us what that would look like, but it bears watching as large scale projects continue to proliferate around town.