The firm’s name is Blackrock, but blue chip is the more operative description for commercial real estate developers and brokers. The financial services company, in which Merrill Lynch has a 44 percent ownership stake, now has its headquarters at 800 Scudders Mill Road in Plainsboro, where it employs some 1,200 well-paid professionals.
Having signaled that it is considering moving out of its current location, Blackrock has been mentioned as a prime tenant for developments near train stations in Princeton Junction, New Brunswick, and Trenton. Now another city has announced its entrance in the hunt: Philadelphia.
With just a few weeks left before city and state lawmakers recess for summer, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter are pushing for new tax breaks to coax Blackrock to Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday, June 15.
So substantial would the effect on the city be, that the Inquirer wrote “the move would represent a historic influx of professional workers into the city — with each currently earning an average annual salary of $125,000.” Rendell and Nutter have been working to lure the company since the fall, and have made doing so a top priority.
Commercial real estate broker Gerard Fennelly, owner of NAI Fennelly on Quakerbridge Road, says that Blackrock still has three or four years on its current lease, and would most likely move into space that would be built for its needs, which he estimates at 700,000 to 800,000 square feet, “depending on how the company is doing.” The company’s business is inherently risky, he explains, and a dip could reduce its need for space.
Looking only at the upside of having a substantial player in the finance industry in its city, Philadelphia badly wants Blackrock as a chief tenant to anchor a proposed sister office building to the three-year-old Cira Centre, which in turn would help create a mini-neighborhood and close the gap between Center City and University City.
To go forward, Blackrock and Cira Centre developer Brandywine Realty Trust want the city and state to quickly pass legislation that would, in essence, exempt BlackRock from paying any taxes, except the city wage tax, through 2025, according to the Inquirer article.
Specifically, a provision of the bill would grant a seven-year extension of tax-free benefits already enjoyed by tenants of the Cira Centre, located near 30th Street Station in what is designated as the West Philadelphia Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone. The new office tower would also be in that zone.
One of the world’s largest investment management companies, Blackrock is actively looking to relocate its Plainsboro, office before its lease there expires, according to the Inquirer.
Plainsboro mayor Peter Cantu says that he would love to keep Blackrock in town. “It’s a major employer in the township,” he says. “We’d like to have them stay.”
BlackRock Inc. (BLK), 800 Scudders Mill Road, , Box 9074, Princeton 08543-9074; 212-810-5300. Bob Doll, vice chairman and global CIO for equities. Home page: www.blackrock.com.