NBC10.com.com - George Spencer
The announcement of the new Comcast skyscraper comes amid something of a construction boom in Center City. NBC10's George Spencer looks at the big picture.
A new skyscraper will soon be reshaping the Philadelphia skyline for the second time in a decade and along with the physical building, there are hopes that the development will redefine the city's destiny.
On Wednesday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts unveiled The Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a 59-story glass and steel skyscraper, from the 45th floor of the company's global headquarters, Comcast Center, in Center City Philadelphia.
"I don't think my dad could have ever imagined we'd outgrow this amazing home," Roberts said, speaking of his father Ralph Roberts, who founded the company. "We want to have the greatest technological capabilities of any high-rise in America in this building."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, City Council President Darrell Clarke and the head of Liberty Property Trust, the real estate company constructing the building, were all on hand to take part in the announcement.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also joined in via video conference from Seattle, Wash., where he is delivering a speech.
Being built across the street at 18th and Arch Streets, the tower and its spire will soar 1,121 feet into the sky and house Comcast employees, tech startups, NBC10, Telemundo 62 and a new Four Seasons Hotel. The center was designed by famed British architect Norman Foster, known for London's "The Gherkin" and Millennium Bridge and Apple's new "Spaceship" headquarters.
"This building will serve as yet another physical monument to the transformation of our great city," Nutter said. "Philadelphia is a city that belongs on the world stage."
While the physical construction of a new tower is at the center of this development, leaders are hoping it will serve as a catalyst to turn Philadelphia into a hub for entertainment, and most especially, technology and tech talent.
Comcast plans to have its software development teams housed inside the building's "urban lofts," which include thee-story atriums in several parts of the building, alongside news and entertainment content creators from its subsidiary NBCUniversal.
The company also seeks to nurture new talent inside the center -- offering state-of-the-art space to growing technology companies.
"We also want to incubate new companies and partners that we work with. We will have space dedicated to incubation and working with academic institutions," said Roberts. "And really try to do research and development."
"What is the future going to be 10 years from now?" Gov. Tom Corbett asked. "Maybe the next Google is going to start in one of those rooms."
Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman, whose company First Round Capital moved into Center City from Montgomery County in 2012, is encouraged by the new development and its potential impact on Philly's growing tech scene.
"More tech talent in Philly, attracted by Comcast, can only help the environment here," he said. "We’ve seen Comcast doing more and more to encourage entrepreneurism in Philadelphia – and I love the fact that they are doubling down here."
Chris Cera, owner of Old City software company Arcweb, founded Philly Startup Leaders -- one the largest groups of local entrepreneurs in the region. He's "delighted" Comcast is strengthening its roots in the city and hopes that translates to the company making a larger investment in the local tech scene than they have in the past.
“I would love to see Comcast acquire a Philadelphia startup. That would be a huge thing that would get the city excited and the scene that I play in excited," he said.
Cera, a Drexel University graduate and lifelong local, said one building won't be enough to transform Philadelphia into the East Coast Silicon Valley. However, he says it can stop the "brain drain" of technology talent, who go to college in the city before leaving with their new ideas.
"That building could have been built in New York," he said. "I do believe that Comcast is the type of company that is going to go after world-class talent."