Next up for the Navy Yard: Nightlife

A rendering of the so-called Canal District at the Navy Yard, which now has the same number of employees as it did before the shipyard closed in 1995.
A rendering of the so-called Canal District at the Navy Yard, which now has the same number of employees as it did before the shipyard closed in 1995.
Posted: February 15, 2013

FOR THE LAST DECADE, construction cranes have been busy at the Navy Yard churning up dirt and converting the former shipyard into an office mecca for companies of all sizes.

After celebrating the 10,000-employee milestone last week - the same number that was there before the shipyard closed in 1995 - developers said they're ready to turn their attention to a new phase: nightlife.

Planning officials said they soon hope to secure the first restaurant that would be open for dinner and that would cater largely to the after-work crowd. The Courtyard by Marriott - the center's first hotel - is set to open this fall, which will also generate evening traffic.

"That begins to start the first amenity down at the Navy Yard," John Gattuso, regional director and senior vice president of Liberty Property Trust, which oversees development of the corporate center at the y ard, said of the hotel. "It's just one gesture, I will be open to admitting, but it's an initial gesture that starts to create other hours down there. We really believe that will become more of its character [as] you go further into the future."

Officials plan to add a convenience store and other amenities that high-profile employers look for. The amenities also are being added with an eye toward the future, with plans for the first residential units about two or three years away.

The updated master plan unveiled last week calls for as many as 1,000 rental units, as opposed to the mix of rentals and single-family homes outlined in the 2004 plan.

"We do not believe the Navy Yard needs that much of a residential-only community, which is part of what had been proposed," said Will Agate, senior vice president of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which spearheads planning for the 1,200-acre center. "In the original plan we still had envisioned residential in the historic core that was 850 units max, but we've added more density in the historic core."

But make no mistake, the center is sticking with its bread and butter. Officials have tripled the amount of dedicated commercial space, which they believe will help generate another 10,000 employees in the next decade.

And to those who argue that hubs such as the Navy Yard just cannabalize business, Agate said that 65 percent of the businesses there are new to the city. Only 27 percent of businesses are using tax exemptions, he said.

The ongoing development and new amenities has created significant buzz among tenants like GlaxoSmithKline, whose 1,300 employees in one of the Navy Yard's 11 new buildings tipped the workforce past 10,000.

"It's an incredible spot. It's changing literally by the month down here," said Ray Milora, project executive for the pharmaceutical giant. "A lot of the other things that were planned are picking up speed. It's an amazing spot to be part of."


" @ChroniclesofSol

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