PhillyDeals: Pa. funding program's projects unclear

Spending of $9.25 million for improvements to the Franklin Institute has been cleared, but which of these projects actually goes ahead is unclear.
Spending of $9.25 million for improvements to the Franklin Institute has been cleared, but which of these projects actually goes ahead is unclear. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 21, 2011

Pennsylvania's General Assembly has voted to borrow $1.67 billion more to fund prisons, roads, railroads, bridges, and other public projects.

The deal includes $270 million for "redevelopment assistance" for private developers' projects, through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

The senators and reps voted without knowing exactly which projects the people's money will subsidize, since the projects are not listed in the bill.

"The Governor's Office decides" which of hundreds of previously approved but as yet unfunded projects will get this money, Greg Jordan, aide to bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Corman (R., Centre), told me.

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D., Phila.) was in the minority voting "no." She has challenged the current RACP program as a grab bag that awards money based on political influence, not project merit.

Gov. Corbett's office didn't immediately provide a list of his priority projects. But his state budget office has posted a list of more than 500 projects, all previously backed by Corbett's predecessor, Ed Rendell, and the legislature. Corbett already has agreed to "rerelease" RACP funding.

They won't all get funded any time soon, and certainly not under the new bill, which covers little more than one-quarter of the $1 billion in RACP grants Corbett endorses.

Earlier this year, I listed Philadelphia projects such as the American Revolution Center, the new Janney Montgomery Scott L.L.C. headquarters, the Wistar Institute expansion, and the new Barnes Museum that Corbett previously agreed to finance under the program.

Here are some more recent approvals:

$9 million for Ron Rubin's Gallery at Market East mall improvements, plus $7.5 million for SSH Real Estate's plans to develop the nearby proposed Pavilion at Market East on ground leased from the city-controlled, financially challenged Girard Estate.

Work on those two projects hasn't started, so it's a safe bet state money won't be flowing into them soon.

$9.25 million for the Franklin Institute.

$7 million for developer Robert Ambrosi's Franklin Place Hotel at 401 Race St.

$5 million to redevelop the Franklin Mint property near Media.

$5 million to the Norris Square Civic Association, which wants to redevelop the former St. Boniface parish site in its North Philly neighborhood, and $5 million to the nearby Taller Puertorriqueno cultural center.

$2.75 million for a privately owned supermarket in West Philly's Mantua section.

$2.5 million for West Pharmaceuticals in Chester County.

$2 million for a privately owned hotel in Swarthmore.

$2 million to builder Bart Blatstein's Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties.

And dozens more. For a complete list, go to http://www.budget.state.pa.us, click on the "Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program" button, then the RACP listing.

$35,000 an hour

Two law firms that won a big plaintiffs' judgment in a shareholder dispute in Delaware's business-friendly Court of Chancery will split a $285 million fee.

That works out to $35,000 an hour for work done by law firms Kessler, Topaz, Meltzer & Check L.L.P., of Radnor, and Prickett Jones & Elliott, P.A., of Wilmington. "It is believed to be the biggest fee award ever" by Delaware's Court of Chancery, Reuters reported.

The suit accused Grupo Mexico's board of directors of overpaying for its own affiliate, Minera Mexico, when the group's Southern Copper division paid $3.75 billion in stock for Minera in 2004.

Chancery Judge Leo Strine agreed in October the group had overpaid and ordered Grupo Mexico to give Southern Copper $1.9 billion in stock. He ruled on the lawyer payments Monday.

The giant fees, which face a possible appeal, come at a sensitive time, according to Delaware corporate lawyer Francis Pileggi.

In a paper published last year, two British law professors found Delaware has been losing corporate-lawsuit market share to other states. Pileggi and other observers figure the headline-grabbing fee award will help keep corporate lawyers interested in Delaware filings, even if it is trimmed on appeal.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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