|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 07, 2010--ARC Properties Inc., which helped develop the swanky 10 Rittenhouse condominium project, is proposing to convert the former Pincus Bros. Maxwell Building at Fourth and Race Streets into an $80 million to $100 million mixed-use complex.
As outlined in a preliminary plan presented to the Old City Civic Association, the development is to be called Franklin Place and would include a 140-room hotel, 70 residential units, 50,000 square feet of retail, at least one restaurant, and a 200-space parking garage.
The hotel portion of the project was approved for $10 million in state funding along with the 2010-11 state budget signed Tuesday by Gov. Rendell.
Gary Tuma, a spokesman for Rendell, said the debt-authorization bill included a $10 million allocation for "construction and other related costs" for a retail and hotel project at the Old City location.
When asked why certain projects were funded, Tuma said: "The capital budget bill will fund economic-development projects that will attract businesses to or keep business in Pennsylvania, or allow them to expand. It is all with the goal of creating jobs and boosting Pennsylvania's economy."
Robert J. Ambrosi, chairman, chief executive officer, and founder of ARC Properties, declined comment Tuesday, as did Gil Rivera, vice president of development.
The building, which once housed a candy factory, later was used by Pincus Bros. Maxwell to manufacture and distribute clothing for several lines.
The site covers a full city block and is at the base of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. It is near a historic area that attracts droves of tourists daily, at the rear of the U.S. Mint and kitty-corner from the National Constitution Center.
"I've talked to people about this project," said State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.), whose district includes the site. "I feel about this project like I do any other project in my district, which is it's going to create jobs at a time we have an 11 percent unemployment rate in the city of Philadelphia.
"We need jobs -- family-sustaining jobs -- and this project will provide that," Farnese said Tuesday.
According to its corporate website, Clifton, N.J.-based ARC Properties, founded by Ambrosi in 1985, has been responsible for acquisition and development of more than 200 properties nationwide, concentrating in the New York, Philadelphia, and Washington areas.
Preliminary designs for Franklin Place show retail spaces and a restaurant occupying the first floor, facing Fifth and Race Streets.
The hotel and residential space would fill the remaining floors, for a total of 11.
"We welcome any new, quality hotels here," said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.
"We are still hoping to see a big-box anchor hotel to support the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center, preferably on the west entrance of the expansion," Grose added.
The Convention Center will be 62 percent larger when the expanded facility opens in March. Tourism and convention officials have been pushing for the creation of new hotels to help support the $786 million effort.
But frozen credit markets and a slowed travel sector stalled most of the hotel projects that had been planned for Center City. So some view the Franklin Place proposal as a positive sign.
"We market our city as a walkable city compared to our competitors," Grose said, "so being able to continue that trend with new hotels strategically located in close proximity to the Convention Center will only help us to continue that -- as long as we don't saturate the market by adding too many new rooms."
The new hotel would bring the city's total to about 11,300 rooms.
Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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