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Within Arm’s Reach

by Tom Sebastian
Philadelphia, like many other major metropolitan markets nationwide, is experiencing a lifestyle shift. There is a greater focus on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and people are placing a higher priority on happiness and experiences.

Through this shift, Philadelphia has seen a strong uptick in outdoor dining, entertainment and communal gathering spaces in recent years. According to a new report on outdoor seating from the Center City District, 372 eateries now offer outdoor dining amassing to over 5,500 seats—a 439 percent increase since 2001. There have also been increases in activations of parks and other reclaimed public spaces according to the report—a prime example is the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s pop-up gardens throughout the city. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing number of mixed-use development projects in Philadelphia, and in surrounding communities, in order to meet the changing needs of consumers. While the “Live, Work, Play” model is no longer novel in an urban setting, I do not see it disappearing. It continues to be desirable among both commercial and residential tenants who are seeking properties that emphasize communal spaces and experiential amenities. As developers continue to find new ways to modernize and enhance offerings to evolve with consumer behaviors and trends, I think we can expect to see more of this focus on experiential living and working to create a pleasurable, yet convenient, space where people want to spend their time.

As the Philadelphia region continues to flourish, suburban development and expansion is growing. In the western suburbs, King of Prussia has risen to become a central hub for surrounding communities. Recognized nationally for its retail, King of Prussia is also an emerging corporate epicenter home to nearly 4,000 businesses, and boasts a growing culinary scene that is attracting distinctive restaurant concepts from out-of-town who have identified King of Prussia as a desirable market.

Contributing to the growth of the region is our newest development project, the King of Prussia Town Center, a vibrant, 260,000- square-foot upscale outdoor lifestyle center that is part of a larger master plan called The Village at Valley Forge, which is designed to mimic the “downtown” feel of Center City Philadelphia. The Village at Valley Forge will bring more than 1,000 new residential townhomes and apartments, as well as commercial businesses—most notably the new Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia facility. Centrally located in the heart of this new development, The King of Prussia Town Center will serve as a community gathering place, and will feature a balanced mix of retail, lifestyle services and restaurants, designed to emulate the “Live, Work, Play” model that has been immensely successful in the city, as well as other major urban markets.

In the future, as we see the city limits continue to expand—beginning with the planned development west of the Schuylkill in University City—the suburbs will continue to expand at an exponential rate. I envision other larger suburban areas—in counties like Chester, Bucks and Delaware—to follow King of Prussia’s lead in attracting businesses and residents by designing engaging spaces for communal interactivity and events in mixed-use spaces. In my opinion, this is the development paradigm of the future because it facilitates a higher quality of life for the end user.

The Philadelphia region has a promising future. With its robust history and culture, world-class education and health care facilities, and growing number of acclaimed chefs elevating the culinary scene, the city is on the cusp of exploding onto the international scene as a dynamic destination for both business and pleasure. The King of Prussia Town Center is our first major development project in the market, but our company will be looking for additional opportunities to further contribute to the Philadelphia region’s growth and expansion.

As Senior Vice President of JBG’s development team, Tom Sebastian is responsible for the acquisition, entitlement, financing, construction and asset management functions for specific retail and mixed-use development projects, including the King of Prussia Town Center.

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 10 (September, 2016).
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