Philadelphia Story Has L.A. Connection : Crocker Center Developers Become Partners on IBM Project

Times Staff Writer

Maguire/Thomas Partners, a major developer of the so-called "new downtown" in Los Angeles, surprised the Philadelphia development community late last year when it was named joint-venture partner with International Business Machines Corp. for the $300-million Commerce Square in downtown Philadelphia.

The project, involving the redevelopment of an entire city block on Market Street between 20th and 21st streets, includes twin 40-story office towers with 2 million square feet of space and 50,000 square feet of retail space. The architect is I. M. Pei & Partners. Construction of the first tower is scheduled to begin in June, with completion by early 1987.

According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, some of the area's major development firms--Richard I. Rubin & Co., Rouse & Associates, Toombs Development Co., Linpro Co. and the Radnor Corp.--had "spent the last 12 to 18 months pursuing the computer giant with the fervor of hounds chasing a fox."

The story went on to say that everybody in Philadelphia wanted the massive project. But Maguire/Thomas was in a good position to join with IBM in the project, thanks to Crocker Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The similarities are striking: Both are twin-tower projects, with IBM taking a substantial amount of space in each (600,000 square feet in Crocker Center, 500,000 in the proposed Commerce Square). The $400-million Crocker Center is jointly owned and developed by IBM and Maguire/Thomas, as will be the Commerce Center project in Philadelphia.

"We selected Maguire/Thomas as our development partner because, through past association, we know that company is committed to combining fine urban planning and architecture with solid economics that result in long-term project values," A. J. Hedge Jr., vice president of IBM's real estate and construction division, said.

Robert F. Maguire III, co-managing partner of Maguire/Thomas, said that the Philadelphia project will "reflect the city's best urban tradition. . . . The towers preserve William Penn's (the founder of Philadelphia) view from atop city hall, a tradition that has done much to give Philadelphia its distinctive character among major American cities."

A large central courtyard is being designed as a major public space by Hanna/Olin Ltd., a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm.

Samuel Evans III, a Philadelphia developer, has been named project executive to oversee the Commerce Square project.

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