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Analysis: Philly’s building boom means 1.4M sq. ft. of new construction by 2020

But can absorption keep up?

A 38-story office tower designed by SOM is in the works for 1301 Market.
Rendering by SOM

As of today, there are currently 25 high-rises under construction in Philadelphia, and at least 14 of them are expected to deliver this year. Plus, many more projects have been proposed for the city over the next few years. While all that may sound like a good thing for a growing city, one question remains: Can Philly actually keep up?

That’s the question poised by commercial real estate firm JLL, which recently put out its Chart of the Week, looking into Philly’s boom in new office buildings.

Courtesy of JLL Research

Lauren Gilchrist, vice president and director of research for JLL Philadelphia, points out that in 2016, the FMC Tower in University City, Bjarke Ingels’ 1200 Intrepid at the Navy Yard, and 1100 Ludlow at East Market delivered 891,000 square feet of new construction alone in the city.

Still, 27 percent of these three buildings remain available for lease, while another 1 million square of new construction begins on 3675 Market, 2400 Market, and One Franklin Tower. While much of the buildings have been pre-leased another 600,000 square feet remains up for grabs.

Gilchrist says that the absorption rate of all of this new space, “will help determine the viability of a third wave of recent proposals.” That includes what Gilchrist calls “trophy-caliber” projects, including the proposed SOM-designed tower at 1301 Market and Parkway Corporation/Nightingale’s office-residential tower at 500 North Broad Street.

As North Broad’s boom continues, as does Market East’s, these new projects will directly compete with other office hubs emerging in University City (think Schuylkill Yards and uCitySquare) to attract tenants both within Philly and from other markets. Gilchrist says, “The city will need a sharp uptick in both to see this pipeline fully realized.”