To fully understand what the future of Philadelphia could look like, it’s important to consider how far the city has come over the past few decades. Specifically, on the west side of the Schuylkill River in University City. The transformation this area has experienced in just a few short years is remarkable, largely due to the visionary minds of John Fry, president of Drexel University and Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust, and the commitment they have shown toward evolving this neighborhood into a hub of innovation and technology. This, paired with the national acclaim that the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have brought to the neighborhood have led me to become so enthusiastic about University City, and I think it could become the city’s sixth “square” providing a modern adaptation to the original city layout designed by the founding fathers. As a member of the boards of PennDesign and Drexel Hospitality & Sport Management, I have had the opportunity to see the evolution firsthand, and now through the vision expressed for Schuylkill Yards and with the addition of Cira Centre South—which I am thrilled to be working on in partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust— the area is designed to attract millennials and a range of audiences to live, work and spend their free time; and the infrastructure plans are ideal for big business. This will not only encourage people nationwide to relocate to Philadelphia, but students who came to Philadelphia to study will be more inclined to stay, which will help to further the local economy. We could begin to see major corporations on par with Comcast turning to Philadelphia to open their headquarters.
In addition to a future aimed toward technology, innovation and business, I envision Philadelphia as the East Coast capital for film and entertainment. These industries have been major drivers of success for AKA since its inception, so I have had the opportunity to hear firsthand from major Hollywood producers, directors and actors how desirable Philadelphia could be for film. Through my involvement with the Philadelphia Film Society and the Philadelphia Film Commission, I have now seen and can understand why. Philadelphia brings three-dimensional depth to the film industry through its prime location and iconic setting.
While Philadelphia is no stranger to the big screen, having been the primary setting for movies like Silver Linings Playbook, the Rocky series and the majority of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies, there is significant value in creating additional opportunities. The benefit to the city would be monumental in terms of international popularity leading to significant increases in tourism and business, while also helping restaurants, retailers, hotels, attractions and unions. Director David O. Russell just signed a major contract with Netflix. He has already identified Philadelphia as a desirable place to shoot, as seen by his work in Silver Linings Playbook. It would be great if he selected our city as the prime location in which to film the show, however Philadelphia’s current tax benefit structure is less than appealing to filmmakers, often deterring them from using the city for production. We must invest in film in order to benefit from the positive return and the far-reaching impact we know it will have on the city.
In 2013, I personally made an investment in film by launching a.films, a division of AKA. In just three short years, we have played a role in the production of three award-winning documentary style films, including The Barefoot Artist and King Georges, which profiles French chef Georges Perrier on his crusade to keep his 40-year-old, internationally renowned restaurant, Le Bec-Fin.
We have the tools, infrastructure and the vision to create a destination that competes with some of the world’s leading cities, and I believe that if we continue on our current trajectory, we will be successful in shaping Philadelphia into one of the world’s largest, most innovative and diverse cities.
Larry Korman is president of AKA Hotel Residences and co-CEO of Korman Communities, a fourth generation residential real estate company. Larry, along with his brother Brad as co-CEO, created Korman Communities in 1995 to take the furnished apartment concept to a higher level by developing and acquiring new mid-rise apartment communities in some of the most dynamic locations on the East Coast.
Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 10 (September, 2016).
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