Updated Oct. 17
Any day now, the tallest building in Philadelphia will open for business.
Towering over the city at 1,121 feet from its home at 18th and Arch streets, the Comcast Technology Center has been four years in the making. Though the skyscraper’s target completion date has shifted a bit since it was first announced, things appear primed and very close to ready.
The powers that be have not yet announced an official launch date for Comcast II, but what we do know is how we got to this point. Here’s a recap of the journey.
Jan. 15, 2014: The announcement
The $1.2-billion-dollar project proposal for a 59-story, LEED Platinum-certified neighbor to the Comcast Center is announced by Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO, and William Handowky, chairman and CEO of building owner Liberty Property Trust.
The steel mammoth — dubbed the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center — is designed to accommodate engineers, software architects, budding techies, hotel guests and the entirety of Comcast-owned NBC 10 and Telemundo 62, which will move their studios from Bala Cynwyd.
Liberty Property Trust’s first day for the long haul begins just as the bulldozers, shovels and cranes populated the lot on 18th and Arch streets.
Around the time construction commences, Comcast decides that the 957,000 square feet it had planned to take up in the new building is not enough, so the cable giant tacks on another 25,257 square feet to its lease. This means Comcasting will take up most of the 1.33-million-sq.-ft. building.
Original renderings for the building showed an interior atrium with a three-story slide that weaved its way through glass and stainless steel. Alas, it was only just a figment of the imagination, Billy Penn discovers. The slide (and that robot, can you spot it?) were merely “concepts,” it turns out, not actually approved.
The elusive British architect who came up with the master design gives a talk on his inspiration for the structure, as “a product of buildings and designs he’s studied that go back centuries, from the Vitruvian Man to airplanes to open-air markets in Europe.”
He believes this will bring a reinvigorated business district, he says, citing the nearly 3,500 square feet of retail space, a public transportation connection between the tower and Suburban Station.
Per a report in Curbed Philly, the city learns that the tower will be the ninth-tallest building in the nation. It’s more than double the height of the the Great Pyramid of Giza (about 456 feet tall) and taller than the Eiffel Tower (about 984 feet tall).
Oh, innovation, we hardly knew ye. The building is redubbed “Comcast Technology Center” instead of CITC, because, per Comcast spokesman John Demming, it makes the the name “shorter and more digestible.”
For $14.33 million dollars, the Comcast CEO and his wife purchase not one, not two, but three humongous condominiums on the 45th floor of the CTC. The residence is reported to encompass 14,663-square-feet (certainly not the entire 1.56-million square feet of the tower, but a hefty chunk).
Details emerge on the Four Seasons Hotel set to open in the building (replacing the former Four Seasons on Logan Square). Per John Gattuso, Liberty Property Trust SVP and regional director, it will be “the most highly situated hotel above street-level in North America.”
The hotel will be housed in the top 12 floors of the CTC, and comprise of 218 rooms (with 38 suites), a spa, a fitness center, an indoor lap pool, a restaurant and a lounge. An express elevator will take people there, and the general manager will be Ben Shank, a Philly native.
One restaurant will have an outstanding 60th-floor view of the city, the other will be at the base and get the benefit of street-level foot traffic.
Eeek. Gattuso admits that during an inspection, 35 to 40 cracks were identified in the tower’s steel frame. Even though that sounds horrifying to the untrained ear, Gattuso assures everyone the cracks won’t lead to calamity and will be “easily fixed.”
A great day for all those who are superstitious (or even just a little “stitious”).
The Curse of Billy Penn, the legend that holds Philly sports teams can’t win a championship if William Penn isn’t at the highest vantage point in the city, is avoided as a four-inch statuette of the commonwealth’s founder is placed at the top of the CTC, just like it was on the original Comcast Center. (Considering what happened at the Super Bowl the following February, it worked.)
In fiction, when there’s an artificially intelligent character, you know things won’t end well for the humans around.
But the CTC is taking a chance on AI in real life — and it’s still a bit creepy. The building’s central “smart brain” plant will be able to track pretty much every person in the building and predict the weather, among other cool/frightening features.
Ooh la la.
Foster+Partners designed some upgraded sidewalk newsstands with features you’d expect to find on the Champs-Élysées. Like at a normal kiosk, you’ll be able to grab your media staples here, but you’ll also find pastries, coffee, sandwiches and other baked goodies at the 16-feet-by-7.6-feet booths.
Moreover, the Euro-chic newsstands will be used for advertising Comcast and NBCUniversal tech and programming.
The restaurant space at the top is revealed to be “Vernick Fish.” Not the most innovative name, to be sure, but chef Greg Vernick is known for his talent in elevating the simple things.
Per a Four Seasons press release, the “modern oyster bar” will be able to accommodate 200 guests, will have indoor and outdoor (!!!) seating and will feature a custom terrazzo floor meant to imitate the sea.
Liberty Property Trust conceds to being over budget by $67 million. Sounds like a lot, but compared to the total $1.2-billion price tag, it’s basically pocket change.
How’d it happen? Various changes, including the addition of floor 60, but also what a Liberty Property Trust spokeswoman said was a “contractual issue.”
There was a promise that space inside the CTC would be dedicated to a startup incubator. Well, the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator launched, but the building wasn’t ready.
This first cohort, made up of 10 companies, will spend 13 weeks at Three Logan Square instead.
The first round of Comcast employees shifted their offices to the new tower. After some initial confusion about swipe card access — the turnstiles are actually outside the building, instead of in the lobby like at Comcast I — the move appeared to go just fine.
Billy Penn accompanied a group on a preview tour led by none other than Brian L. Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO (and future resident of the CTC’s 60th floor). Our early peek covered Floors 6, 9, 27 and 30, and showed a building full of local art, with open floorplans for desks.
Oct. 18, 2018: The lobby grand-opens to the public
Who could have predicted that office towers would become tourist attractions?