Council approves 2 new Philadelphia hotels

PHILADELPHIA - December 12, 2013

The plan was green-lighted in City Council Thursday night.

15th and Chestnut is a parking lot but could soon become a gleaming tower of windows housing two hotels, a "W" and an "Element." There will be 700 rooms, banquet, restaurant and other retail space.

"You're talking about $280 million investment, 75% of which is private money. The city's portion of this is for future revenue," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

City council voted 15-1 to provide a 20 year tax break to developer Brooke Lenfest.

The deferred money will be used to help fund the project, and the city estimates it will generate $144 million in additional tax revenue over that period, creating 1800 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs.

Rosslyn Wuchinich represents hospitality workers and brokered a labor deal with the developer before council's vote.

"It means we agree there won't be labor disputes at the hotel, and the hotel developer agrees there will be a fair process for the worker if the workers at the hotel decide to form a union," said Rosslyn Wuchinich.

Lawmakers hope the project will help attract business to the struggling convention center and spur other development down Market East.

Their hope, "if you build it...they will come."

"We thought now as the right time with the right location with the right developer to make this project happen," said Mayor Nutter.

Councilman Wilson Goode opposed the tax break. He pens it at $76 million dollars.

He says the site could have been developed without tax abatement.

He released a statement that reads in part: "It's wrong because it's a special tax break carved out for a specific project - a 20-year, $76 million tax abatement on multiple taxes invested in only one Center City site."

Construction of the new hotels is expected to begin early next year with the construction taking roughly three years.

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