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Originally published Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Comcast headquarters to top Philly skyline

Liberty Property Trust is developing a $435 million, 57-story building in Philadelphia that will be the city's tallest and become the new headquarters of Comcast, the world's biggest...

Bloomberg News

Liberty Property Trust is developing a $435 million, 57-story building in Philadelphia that will be the city's tallest and become the new headquarters of Comcast, the world's biggest cable-television operator.

Liberty will build Comcast Center at 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd. atop a commuter rail station. Construction on the 975-foot-tall, 1.2 million-square-foot building will begin in mid-January, and the tower will be ready for occupancy in fall 2007, Liberty said in a statement.

Tax breaks and grants for the project divided state lawmakers last year. About 17.6 percent of Philadelphia office space was vacant in the third quarter, up 4.1 percentage points from the same period a year earlier, according to data from real-estate services provider Cushman & Wakefield. The national average vacancy for central business districts was 14.8 percent.

Comcast is signing a 15-1/2-year lease to be the anchor tenant, occupying 534,000 square feet, or 44 percent, of the building's rentable office space, Liberty said in a statement. The cable company will have the option of requesting the construction of a 250,000-square-foot office building on the site, Liberty said.

The Center City Owners Association, a group of downtown landlords, opposed the tax breaks Comcast sought to keep its headquarters in Philadelphia. The tax breaks were denied by the state Legislature.

Comcast's current headquarters is leased office space at 1500 Market St. in Philadelphia's Center City, Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said in an interview.

Dave Campoli, Center City Owners president and regional manager of HRPT Properties Trust, which owns the Market Street building, said downtown Philadelphia doesn't need more office space.

"Supply does not create demand in the office sector," he said. "All this does is add another building that's half empty to the Philadelphia skyline."

Comcast employs 1,300 at its headquarters and plans to add 600 by the time it moves into the new building, Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development said in a statement.

Philadelphia's tallest building, also built by Liberty, is Liberty Place, which opened in 1988 and is 61 stories and 945 feet tall.

Construction of that building, which contains a shopping complex and Cigna's headquarters, broke an unwritten "gentlemen's agreement" not to build taller than City Hall, which is 548 feet high, topped by a statue of William Penn, the city's founder.

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