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Philly skyscraper to be tallest outside NY, Ill.

Wednesday - 1/15/2014, 7:40pm  ET

MATT MOORE
AP Business Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Comcast Corp. already built the tallest skyscraper in town. On Wednesday, it announced plans to build an even taller one.

The Philadelphia-based media giant said it plans to build a $1.2 billion, 1,121-feet tall technology center that, upon completion in late 2017, will be the largest building in the United States outside of New York and Chicago.

The 59-story, Norman Foster-designed glass and stainless steel tower will rise in downtown Philadelphia next to the existing Comcast Center, which stands 975 feet tall and opened in June 2008.

Comcast Corp. said the building would become the "dedicated home" for its expanding workforce of "technologists, engineers, and software architects." It will also boast a media center that will be home to the region's local NBC and Telemundo affiliates.

The joint venture between the global media and technology company and real estate investment trust Liberty Property Trust is getting $40 million from the city and state, with Philadelphia providing $10 million and Pennsylvania $30 million in grants and $4.5 million in job creation tax credits.

Comcast holds 80 percent of the venture and Liberty 20 percent. Construction is set to start this summer with completion by fall 2017.

"We continue to be proud to call Philadelphia our home, and are thrilled to build a world-class media, technology and innovation center right in the heart of the city, to bring NBC 10 and Telemundo 62 downtown, and to create thousands of jobs and further drive economic activity in the region," Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian L. Roberts said in a statement.

One World Trade Center will be the tallest skyscraper in the U.S. at 1,776 feet when it opens this year. The Willis Tower in Chicago stands 1,451 feet, while the world's tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 2,717 feet.

The new Comcast tower would be just seven feet shy of the 1,128-foot John Hancock Tower in Chicago and nine feet taller than Moscow's Mercury City Tower, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Daniel Safarik, editor at the council, said the expense of building such towers is immense. Last year, of 73 buildings that were 200 meters or taller, just one was in the United States, the 750-feet tall Courtyard-Residence Inn Central Park in New York, which opened in December.

Safarik said the proposed Comcast tower is likely to hold onto to its title as tallest in the U.S. outside of New York and Chicago.

"It looks like Philly may hang onto that title," he said.

The building is set to have more than 1.5 million rentable square feet and will include a Four Seasons hotel and a block-long lobby with a glass-enclosed indoor plaza that will offset the Comcast Center's outdoor plaza.

The lobby will feature a restaurant and a concourse that provides direct connections with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's regional commuter train hub, Suburban Station, which will be extended for access to the new building.

"This is a very special project. It is an opportunity to create a unique and sustainable model for mixed-use, high density development, which uniquely combines spaces for high-tech research and development with restaurants, gardens, fitness facilities and a significant public reception space -- a window on Philadelphia," Foster said.

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