Joseph Zuritsky, chairman and CEO of Parkway Corporation, agrees with critics that his new hotel, the Home2Suites near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, is ugly.
“I would have preferred granite too," he admitted. "As it was, it was impossible to build without six governmental subsidies."
But Zuritsky defends the hotel, which is the first built from the ground up in Philadelphia in about 11 years, as a source of new jobs, especially at the retail locations included in the site. It will also add rooms that the convention center needs to attract large events to the city.
Zuritsky places most of the blame for the high construction costs on unions.
“Philadelphia is a union town," he said. "The building trade unions are very strong here. They dictate the high construction costs, which are the same as New York City. Yet we can only charge one-third of the rent or room rate New York does.
Zuritsky believes rents will only go up if the city changes its tax structure to make it more attractive to businesses.
“Cities can’t have a wage tax over 3 percent, which includes the state’s portion, to stay competitive," he said. "Most cities do not tax businesses.”
He is much more proud of 1700 Rittenhouse Square's architecture, which was developed at the site of one of Parkway’s old parking lots. The condo building commands the highest per foot sales price in the city at $1,000 to $1,200 per square foot, and it is not even on Rittenhouse Square.
The Wall Street Journal recently raved about the luxurious building, which boasts of one apartment per floor, an automated garage, swimming pool and koi pond.
Driving the Parkway
Parkway, which was founded 83 years ago, is perhaps best known as an operator of parking lots. Zuritsky concedes that the parking business has suffered due to the recession, loss of jobs in Center City and businesses moving to the Navy Yard and 30th Street Station area.
“The annual volume of cars that we park has not returned to the 2007 levels," said Zuritsky.
Parkway, which charges $20 to $40 per day to park depending on the location, boasts the most hi-tech parking systems in the country.
"You never have to look for your car in Liberty Place parking lots," said Zuritsky. "If you lose your car, you can type in your license number into the nearest kiosk or the app on your phone to find the location of your car."