In 1985, the "gentleman's agreement" to not build anything taller than William Penn's hat atop City Hall was broken when construction began on One Liberty Place. Twenty years later, work started on the Comcast Building, which eventually rose even higher. And three years after that, plans were announced for the American Commerce Center at 1800 Arch St., which would rise over 1,500 feet, dwarfing the Comcast Building. But alas, the best laid plans are sometimes not fulfilled.
Yesterday, Comcast and Liberty Property Trust announced that they're teaming up to build the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center on the ACC site, which has been a surface parking lot for many years. The CITC will rise 59 stories, and 1,121 feet in the air. The bottom floors will house Comcast employees along with NBC10, Telemundo, and technology startups. The middle of the building will feature some kind of multi-story food court with an entertainment center, the next eighteen stories will contain a relocated Four Seasons Hotel, and the top of the building will boast a restaurant with the best views in town. The renderings show a building shorter than the ACC, but still pretty boss.
Architecture for the building is being done by Foster + Partners, and there are several interesting design features. The first floor will have a large open lobby area, a "window on Philadelphia," if you will. There will be a restaurant there, along with direct access to Suburban Station. Hopefully, most of the thousands of people working in the building will live in town, but we'll allow some of 'em to live in the suburbs, if need be. As you can imagine, this new building will create heaps of temporary construction job and many new permanent jobs as well. Turns out that being the home of one of the world's media giants has some nice fringe benefits.
This is undoubtedly the biggest development story in Philadelphia this year. When we hear about a giant like Comcast investing hundred of millions in a new building like this, it gives us no small reassurance that we're all onto something here in Philadelphia. Sure, the city has its problems. Our tax structure is arcane and local bureaucracy is maddening. The schools are a mess and a pension problem looms. Crime is down but still quite high, and vacant land still plagues many neighborhoods.
But a building like this gives us hope for the future. Hope that development will continue. That the building boom of the last decade will persist. That our problems can be solved. That businesses do indeed want to do business in Philadelphia if we would just let them.
We're all in for the CITC, folks. Let's do this thing.