Taking care of business

John Grady sees value in pre­serving acre­age for in­dus­tri­al use. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES PHOTO

New pres­id­ent John Grady in­tends to con­tin­ue the Phil­adelphia In­dus­tri­al De­vel­op­ment Corp.’s mis­sion of be­ing a bridge for busi­ness.

PIDC has an “I” in its name for a reas­on, ac­cord­ing to John Grady, the new pres­id­ent of the Phil­adelphia In­dus­tri­al De­vel­op­ment Corp.

A 53-year-old non-profit part­ner­ship of the City of Phil­adelphia and the Great­er Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce, PIDC helps private busi­nesses in all eco­nom­ic sec­tors with real es­tate and fin­an­cing. But the agency is most con­cerned with pro­mot­ing the de­vel­op­ment of in­dus­tri­al land, which has be­come, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, scarce with­in the city’s bound­ar­ies.

“We don’t have any­thing against re­tail or in­vest­ing in re­tail, but if we don’t pro­tect the in­dus­tri­al, eco­nom­ic forces will over­whelm them,” said Grady, who suc­ceeded Peter Long­streth as PIDC’s chief ex­ec­ut­ive this month.

On the open mar­ket, re­tail land is more valu­able, so real-es­tate in­vestors of­ten ac­quire in­dus­tri­al prop­erty and try to have it rezoned for re­tail use to make it more valu­able — re­gard­less of wheth­er a com­munity needs an­oth­er big-box store or shop­ping cen­ter.

“The thing we stress is it’s im­port­ant that we have bal­ance in the eco­nomy,” Grady said.

Mean­while, it’s in the city’s best in­terests to pro­tect and cul­tiv­ate in­dus­tri­al prop­erty largely be­cause of the type of jobs com­pan­ies in the sec­tor gen­er­ally cre­ate. In­dus­tri­al jobs gen­er­ally pay bet­ter and of­fer bet­ter be­ne­fits than those in re­tail or tour­ism and hos­pit­al­ity.

“The in­dus­tri­al sec­tor is im­port­ant to the city be­cause of the qual­ity of jobs that they of­fer,” said Tom Dalfo, PIDC’s vice pres­id­ent for real-es­tate ser­vices.

Their re­search in the area and their vis­ion for the fu­ture of the city’s eco­nomy are de­tailed in the re­port An In­dus­tri­al Land & Mar­ket Strategy for the City of Phil­adelphia, re­leased jointly by PIDC, the City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, the may­or’s of­fice and the Com­merce De­part­ment last Septem­ber. At the time, Grady was ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent of PIDC, over­see­ing all of its real-es­tate activ­it­ies, while Dalfo sat on the pro­ject team.

Grady, 43, grew up in Ol­ney and East Oak Lane, gradu­ated from La Salle Col­lege High School and earned a bach­el­or’s in eco­nom­ics from La Salle Uni­versity.

From 1988 to 1998, he served as chief op­er­at­ing of­ficer of the Cooper’s Ferry De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­ation, which guided com­mer­cial re­devel­op­ment of Cam­den’s wa­ter­front. In that time, he earned a mas­ter’s in gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion from the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania.

Grady joined PIDC in 1998 and has been a lead fig­ure in its ac­quis­i­tion and re­devel­op­ment of the Navy Yard in South Phil­adelphia, along with many oth­er real-es­tate pro­jects, in­clud­ing dozens in the North­east.

“North­east Phil­adelphia con­tin­ues to be the single-largest con­cen­tra­tion of act­ive in­dus­tri­al land that we have in the city,” Grady said. “En­sur­ing the sus­tain­ab­il­ity of North­east in­dus­tri­al parks is clearly high on our agenda.”

These days, when Grady and his col­leagues say “in­dus­tri­al,” they mean it in a much broad­er sense than how it might have been defined a half-cen­tury ago.

While the term can still be used to clas­si­fy the kind of heavy man­u­fac­tur­ing activ­it­ies that drove the city’s eco­nomy for most of the 20th cen­tury, it’s now a much broad­er term en­com­passing light man­u­fac­tur­ing, ware­house/dis­tri­bu­tion, med­ic­al, phar­ma­ceut­ic­al, edu­ca­tion and of­fice space.

“Those are sec­tors that were non-ex­ist­ent or very small fifty years ago,” Grady said.

When the city and cham­ber of com­merce co-foun­ded PIDC, the re­gion already was start­ing a trans­ition to a post-in­dus­tri­al eco­nomy. Phil­adelphia already has lost some 100,000 of its 300,000 or more in­dus­tri­al man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs.

“(PIDC’s) re­sponse was to de­vel­op a series of fin­an­cing pro­grams and real-es­tate pro­grams to sup­port man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dustry,” Grady said.

Since then, the agency has helped de­vel­op more than 3,000 acres. It now owns about 300 acres in the Navy Yard, along with about 300 ad­di­tion­al acres else­where in the city.

Much of its early work in the 1960s and ’70s in­volved prop­er­ties on the peri­met­er of North­east Phil­adelphia Air­port. In the 1980s, it began re­devel­op­ing the former Phil­adelphia State Hos­pit­al grounds in the Far North­east.

PIDC built the By­berry East and By­berry West in­dus­tri­al parks, vir­tu­ally all of which are now privately owned. Later, the agency bought the re­main­ing 153 acres of hos­pit­al ground from the state and resold it to private res­id­en­tial and com­mer­cial de­velopers.

The Westrum De­vel­op­ment Corp. is build­ing an older-adult com­munity on part of the former hos­pit­al ground, while PIDC is as­sist­ing Brandy­wine Re­alty Trust in its search for a long-term oc­cu­pant for an ad­di­tion­al 50 acres along Roosevelt Boulevard, north of Southamp­ton Road.

“The idea is con­vert­ing older in­dus­tri­al to new com­mer­cial/in­dus­tri­al. Most in­dus­tri­al uses today are pretty com­pat­ible with neigh­bor­ing (uses),” Grady said.

PIDC has a keen in­terest in two oth­er large North­east prop­er­ties, al­though both are privately owned.

The agency is help­ing Teva North Amer­ica to get ne­ces­sary gov­ern­ment­al ap­provals to re­devel­op the former Is­land Green golf course on Red Li­on Road near Sand­mey­er Lane in­to a pre­scrip­tion-drug dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity. The site formerly hos­ted a rail­road-car man­u­fac­tur­ing plant be­fore it was con­ver­ted to a golf course as a state-sup­por­ted “brown­field re­clam­a­tion” pro­ject.

“The golf course was a great trans­ition­al use but the city re­tained in­dus­tri­al zon­ing for a reas­on,” Grady said. “It’s in an in­dus­tri­al area. The at­trac­tion of in­vest­ment and jobs and taxes to the city is an im­port­ant mes­sage. It sends a sig­nal that the city is open for in­vest­ment.”

Mean­while, along Roosevelt Boulevard just south of Comly Road, a 38-acre site has sat idle since the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice va­cated the prop­erty in fa­vor of the ren­ov­ated U.S. post of­fice at 30th and Mar­ket streets. The site is zoned in­dus­tri­al, but owned by a New York firm that spe­cial­izes in de­vel­op­ing and man­aging re­tail prop­er­ties.

The site is now up for sale. Were it not for the in­volve­ment of PIDC and loc­al elec­ted of­fi­cials, the site might’ve be­come an­oth­er shop­ping cen­ter.

“Nowadays, every­body talks about pub­lic/private joint ven­tures. Well, (PIDC) is the ori­gin­al,” Grady said. “People think of PIDC and think of big pro­jects, like the sports com­plex. But the truth is that ninety per­cent of our activ­it­ies are in the neigh­bor­hoods.” ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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