PhillyDeals: Temple: ‘Invest in us’ as expansion planned

Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer
November 13, 2011

“As Temple goes, so goes Philadelphia,” says multistate apartment mogul Mitchell Morgan, who says he paid for his Temple University accounting and law degrees in the 1970s by selling shoes. To Morgan, Temple is the people’s university, in the middle of the city, and growing fast.

Morgan heads Temple’s facilities committee, which is pushing a multimillion-dollar expansion program to spread the school’s residential campus north to Temple Medical School and south to Center City.

Two weeks into the fall semester, Morgan preached Temple-and-pass-the-collection-plate at the school’s restored former Baptist Temple to an audience of Philadelphia’s Jewish Federation Real Estate group, whose members include some of Philadelphia’s richest developers and property investors: Ira Lubert and Dean Adler, who manage state pension funds; shopping mall czar Ron Rubin, who’s negotiating the purchase of the Gallery shopping mall sites from the city as a possible prelude to a Market East redevelopment; Firstrust Bank owner Richard Green; city parking magnate Joseph Zuritsky; national student-housing landlord David Adelman; and scores more developers, lawyers, deal-makers.

“Invest in us,” Morgan told the group. “We know times are tough.”

The state has trimmed its yearly Temple operating subsidy from a peak of $178 million prerecession to $136 million this year, and a yearly capital-projects subsidy by half, to $20 million. Temple’s operating budget is nearly $1 billion, paid mostly by tuition (and student loans).

If any Temple board member could sway, not just millionaire alumni, but also school-budget-cutting Republican Gov. Corbett, you’d figure Morgan and trustee chairman Patrick O’Connor of the Cozen O’Connor law firm would top that list. Each contributed more than $15,000 to Corbett’s election, state records show.

“I’ve given money for Democrats, too,” O’Connor protested. Corbett “isn’t going to hurt Temple, but he cut us back. It’s a high-wire act we perform.”

In fact, construction under Temple’s ambitious three-year-old 2020 plan is still on track.

In the past year, Temple has changed the way it builds, hiring more outside firms instead of running its own construction. Andrew Riccardi, formerly in charge of construction projects, shifted last summer to the top facilities job at Temple’s medical school. Temple hired Margaret Carney from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio as university architect to work with outside firms. It also brought in Jim Creedon, former head of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, which oversees state-funded college projects.

Among Temple projects in the pipeline:

A $215 million residence hall with 1,275 beds (roughly as much, per bed, as Philadelphia-based Hersha Hotels paid for a Miami Beach Marriott last week), plus cafeteria, restaurant, coffee shop, and parking. The project, proposed at $150 million, was laid out in higher detail and cost after Temple hired Aegis Property Group as real estate adviser, plus L.F. Driscoll Co. (with experience building towers) as general contractor. The complex will be funded partly from a bond issue, partly by a Temple loan to its own housing department, which will pay it back from student rents and other fee services, and by several million dollars from food-service contractor Sodexho Corp.

new temple residence hall

The $58 million renovation and expansion of the Pierce and McGonigle Halls athletic complex, using $20 million left over from a 2005 bond issue after the school spent less than expected upgrading dorms.

A new library, costing up to $190 million (including $50 million in Corbett-approved state funds), with wide windows opening to Broad Street. Why a library, in digital times? To house Temple’s extensive paper collections, and offer group research areas, “like a great living room” for all Philadelphia, Carney said.

temple university library

A $100 million science, engineering, and research hall that Temple plans to design internally.

A $20 million parking garage on Montgomery Avenue.

A $13 million architecture building, funded with a $10 million state grant.

A reconstruction of the old Paley Library as glass-walled classrooms and upstairs offices, costing up to $100 million in borrowed and donated funds.

“We have been able to keep pace” despite the slumped economy, from higher tuition collection (thanks to rising enrollment), and by juggling university, state, borrowed and donated funds, said Ken Kaiser, senior associate vice president of finance, who reports to Temple’s top financial officer, Anthony Wagner.

Money flows, not just because trustees and staffers beg for it, but “because Temple has a plan,” Carney said. “A very solid financial plan, to back up a physical plan, that is based on an academic plan. Without a plan, political strength wouldn’t help.”

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194,

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