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For Comcast, the Sky’s the Limit With Philly Innovation Center Plans

One of the goals of a newly proposed, 1,211-foot, technology-focused skyscraper that Comcast hopes to complete by the fall of 2017 is to bring some Silicon Valley chic to the City of Brotherly Love.

“We’re competing for talent with Silicon Valley,” David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, said at the unveiling of plans for the building, Philadelphia media outlets reported. “We want to have a building and a facility and a feel that is competitive with that.”

The new building, to be called the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, “will be a melting pot of talent and people who want to change the world in the business that we are in,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said at the Jan. 15 presser.

And, in case you missed it, Comcast is apparently not in the “cable” business anymore as it continues to steer itself into a company that specializes in software and applications — areas that are typically linked to Northern California’s hip, too-coolfor- school startup culture. “We used to be a cable company,” Roberts said, according to Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV. “We would not call ourselves that any longer.”

Even before its new glass and stainless behemoth is complete, Comcast is already trying to attract top talent out west at its recently expanded 70,000-square-foot Silicon Valley Innovation Center, a facility that now employs about 250 engineers.

But the new, proposed building, which will commence construction this summer and cost an estimated $1.2 billion, will put the Silicon Valley facility to shame in more ways than one.

In addition to supporting 1.517 million rentable square feet, the new skyscraper will serve as the workplace for about 3,750 more employees than the small satellite hub Comcast operates out west.

The new building was designed by world-renowned architect Lord Norman Foster, giving the Philly-based software and applications engineers something else to brag on. For all we know, the nondescript building that contains the Comcast’s Silicon Valley facility was designed by George Costanza.

And, for a bit of fun, perhaps the new building, to be the tallest in Philadelphia and the tallest in the country outside of New York and Chicago, will start a sibling rivalry with workers at the Comcast Center, which, at 973 feet, will be downright stubby in comparison. After all, who wants to work in the old, short building when the cool, tall building (with a built-in Four Seasons, no less) opens its doors?

Or on it. To the relief of Philly sports nuts, a tiny statue of William Penn, currently atop the Comcast Center and credited by locals for ending the city’s 25-year championship sports drought (the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the year of the Comcast Center’s grand opening), reportedly will be moved to the new, taller building. (The so-called Curse of Billy Penn refers to a championship drought that began in the 1980s, when Center City skyscrapers began exceeding the height of the statue of Penn atop Philadelphia’s City Hall.)

We’re already starting to bear witness to both praise and criticism when it comes to the appearance of the new skyscraper.

While some view the initial renderings of the building as sleek and stylish, an addition that will have a positive, transformational effect on the Philly skyline, others see something else entirely.

Out on the Twitterverse, @knarphie likened it to a “soft pack of cigarettes with one hanging out.”

You’ll recall the environmentally friendly Comcast Center, now Philly’s tallest structure, drew some less-than-complimentary opinions early on.

Inga Saffron, architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote in a 2008 review of the MSO’s headquarters building that it looked like a “giant flash drive,” while also noting that the building was, overall, “a respectable work of architecture.”

Saffron offered more initial praise for Comcast’s latest effort. Comcast’s “second high-rise should be a glorious vertical atelier where employees can make a mess while they invent and build stuff ,” she wrote last week, noting the tower “bears a strong resemblance” to Richard Rogers’s design for the still-unbuilt 3 World Trade Center in New York.

“In short, this is what the future of the growing Comcast campus at 18th and Arch Streets will look like: Suits to the east, hipster engineers in cutoffs and flip-flops to the west.”

Time Warner Inc. Sells Space, Eyes Posh New HQ in NYC

Time Warner Inc., meanwhile, ended months of speculation last week by saying it plans to sell its 1.1 million square feet of office space at the twin-towered Time Warner Center in Manhattan’s Columbus Square for $1.3 billion, making way for an eventual move to a new luxury skyscraper also on the city’s West Side.

The Time Warner Center opened in 2004, shortly after the media giant’s ill-fated merger with AOL. The 2.8-million square-foot edifice includes office space, shops, restaurants and the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Time Warner Inc. expects to acquire more than 1 million square feet of the available commercial space in 30 Hudson Yards, located at the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and West 33rd Street. About 5,000 employees from Time Warner’s corporate operations and its HBO, TurnerBroadcasting System and Warner Bros. businesses will move into the new office space in 30 Hudson Yards at the end of 2018.

The LEED Gold 80-story 30 Hudson Yards building, designed by global architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, will stand 1,227 feet tall and offer stateof- the-art commercial office space for Time Warner Inc.’s 5,000 employees, including screening rooms, studio space and dedicated corporate amenity spaces, with panoramic views of the city’s skyline and the Hudson River.

Upon completion, 30 Hudson Yards is expected to be the fourth-tallest building in New York.

— Mike Farrell