By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Mayor Nutter’s plan to give a tax break to a developer who wants to build two new hotels in Center City has drawn protests from other hotels in town. The plan comes before City Council later this week.
A city council committee on Thursday will debate Mayor Nutter’s plan to give a tax break known as a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) for a planned hotel complex at 15th and Chestnut. That site once held an office building that was torn down after the 1991 Meridian fire and is now a parking lot.
The current owner, Brook Lenfest, plans two hotels at the site: an “Element” and a “W.” Nutter says the resulting 700 rooms will be needed if the Convention Center is able to book two major gatherings at the same time:
“We clearly need more hotel rooms in the city, if we’re going to get the true benefit of the now-expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center.”
Some hoteliers are fighting the tax break, which would save the developer about $30 million. Several spoke out against the idea in City Council this past week. Among them was Sean Clancy, general manager of the nearby Loews Hotel:
“Philadelphia’s downtown hotel market is not strong enough to absorb another 700 rooms on top of what’s already planned, without cannibalizing business from existing properties,” he said.
And Clancy adds it’s a bad deal for taxpayers:
“The proposed project will not generate nearly the amount of tax increment or jobs that the developers claim. And the city may very well end up giving away more money in subsidies than it receives in additional taxes.”
Nutter, though, said several other hotels also received various tax incentives to build.
TIFs were used several times during the tenures of Ed Rendell and John Street. This is Nutter’s first as mayor, and he says he may want to do more TIFs going forward:
“There will quite possibly be others to coming to generate significant, large, impactful economic development.”
The debate will play out in the council committee hearing Thursday, and several council members have already voiced misgivings about the tax break.