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PHILADELPHIA-Development rights for the American Commerce Center, a proposed 1,510-foot office and hotel tower to be built at 1800 Arch St. here, have passed from Walnut Street Capital to a newly formed real estate venture of construction management firm Hill International. Terms were not disclosed. Garrett Miller, co-founder and former president of Walnut Street, has been named president of Hill International Real Estate Partners.

In a prepared statement, Irvin Richter, chairman and CEO of Marlton, NJ-based Hill, calls the establishment of HIREP “another step in our strategic plan to provide both development services and project management services on major projects. Long-term, we expect to grow Hill International Real Estate Partners into a formidable player in the development market for office, hotel and other projects throughout the region.” HIREP, which intends to partner with institutional equity firms, will pursue deals “across the investment spectrum, not just those with development and construction components,” according to a release.

Walnut Street, co-founded by Joseph Grasso, had acquired the 1.5-acre parcel for the proposed ACC from Verizon in October 2007, reportedly in conjunction with Washington State-based Multi-Employer Property Trust. Last spring, Walnut Street revealed plans for the 2.2-million-sf mixed development project, being designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

In May, GlobeSt.com reported that the project had gotten a favorable response in an informational presentation before the Philadelphia City Council. At that time, attorney Peter Kelsen, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome LP representing the developers, told GlobeSt.com that the project would include a 1.3-million-sf, 63-story office component—half again as tall as the 975-foot Comcast Center, currently the city’s tallest building. Kelsen said Walnut Street hoped to attract an anchor tenant of about 500,000 sf. A 26-story luxury hotel and 300,000 sf of retail above and below street level were also planned.

According to published reports, zoning hurdles still must be surmounted before the project can be built and Richter acknowledged that current market conditions represent a further challenge. Calls to HIREP for additional comment were not returned by press time.

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