The announcement that Comcast plans to build a 59-story skyscraper in Center City could be heard across the country Wednesday, but perhaps nowhere more loudly than six miles away at the NBC10/Telemundo 62 studios.
"It’s a gamechanger," said Eric Lerner, president and general manager of the station.
"I’m ready to move right now. Let’s go."
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NBC10 and Noticiero Telemundo 62 will eventually relocate to the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center at 1800 Arch St. from the local station’s current location at 10 Monument Road, Bala Cynwyd.
Tentative plans suggest at least three control rooms and three studios, along with the station’s sales department and administrative staff, will occupy the 6th, 7th, and 8th floors of the 1.5 million-square-foot building, Lerner said.
Details are still being worked out, but the offices will be designed in the open-floor plan style architect Lord Norman Foster presented.
"I’m going to be in the thick of the action," said Lerner, who currently works out of a corner office located on a different floor from the editorial staff. “I’m going to be much closer to news and sales."
News Director Anzio Williams also welcomes the change.
"We have always seen ourselves as innovators and on the cutting edge of broadcast journalism," Williams said. "It fits in perfectly."
The new facilities will be move-in ready by the end of 2017, about three and a half years after a planned summer 2014 groundbreaking, according to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.
Two of the Philadelphia market’s four other stations upgraded their offices in the last ten years. CBS3 began broadcasting from 1500 Spring Garden St. in 2007 and 6ABC started operating out of a brand-new facility at 4100 City Ave. in 2009. FOX29 operates from 330 Market St.
Like many in the area, the local broadcast’s staff speculated on whether the station would move since talk of a possible tower began increasing in fall 2013. But few outside of leadership roles were privy to Comcast’s highly confidential plans before Wednesday.
Some expressed excitement about the new digs, including NBC10's Keith Jones, who tweeted "New Tallest Bldg in #Philly --New NBC10 Studios in Center City announced!" and Tim Furlong, who tweeted "nbc10 getting a new crib!"
But it is likely some concerns will arise given the staff is comprised of 230 employees who travel from across southeastern Pennsylvania, south Jersey and northern Delaware to man the 24-hour station.
Aside from possible commuting issues, employees living outside of city limits may wonder how city-wage tax will affect their paychecks.
"I think people will be naturally nervous," said Williams, who likened it to the worries anyone would have while moving.
"We have three-and-a-half years to look at these issues," Lerner said. "We hope to resolve them so when it is the fourth quarter of 2017 and we’re moving to Center City, they’re not issues."
An underground concourse will connect the Innovation and Technology Center to Suburban Station, increasing access to public transit for staff.
Lerner says he plans to take SEPTA, although he acknowledges there may be some days when he will need to travel by car to attend meetings or functions away from the office.
Crews heading out to cover breaking news will face other challenges, as the downtown location changes how they will access the area’s major roadways.
"We have unique challenges right now leaving Bala Cynwyd going to Center City," Williams said. "So I think we will have those same unique challenges just going the opposite way.”
Lerner added the central location gives the station "a competitive advantage when we cover City Hall and when we need to get the Mayor."
Both Lerner and Williams agreed that the difference in proximity to I-76 will not affect broadcast content and the station will continue to produce top-quality journalism that covers the Delaware Valley.
The station at 10 Monument Road is an icon in its own right. The 100,000-square-foot building was constructed specifically for broadcasting in 1952 – a first in the country.
"Most likely we will sell it," Lerner said. "I don’t know of any uses that either our division or Comcast has for this property."
Real estate experts say it is unlikely another production company would acquire the property, but it is poised to attract buyers.
"There are very few sites as big as NBC10," said David Binswanger, president of Philadelphia-based real estate firm Binswanger Management Corp.
Most commercial properties within the City Ave District are multi-tenant, making the Bala Cynwyd property a unique opportunity for full development once the station vacates the building, he said.
The current zoning on the property means a developer could build as high as 200 feet, or about 9-stories, depending on the project, according to Lower Merion Township records.
The building is part of the townships historic inventory, meaning any developer planning to demolish or renovate the exterior of the structure will need plans reviewed and recommended by the Lower Merion Historic Commission, according to Michael Wylie, zoning officer.
But that won’t deter buyers, said Spencer Yablon, vice president in the Philadelphia office of Calabasas, Calif.-based Marcus & Millichap.
"Lower Merion is not looking to have that sit vacant," said Yablon, who suspects a new office building would go up at the site.
"It is close to 76…It is a good location in terms of visibility and prestige. It is tough to find ground out there," said Yablon, who added the vacancy in Bala Cynwyd is 100 basis points lower than the rest of the suburbs.
Binswanger agrees that office space is a viable option, citing employers’ desire to avoid city-wage taxes.
"Retailers are less concerned about that," he said. "Because of the number of employees that actually occupy the building, it is less of an issue."
Although a mixed-use property, which includes an office tenant, is also a possibility, Binswanger added.
An overlay district encourages the creation of a mixed-use environment along City Avenue, he said.
No final decision on selling the property has been made, Lerner said.
Either way, NBC10 is trading one of the area’s marquee buildings for another.