Who Runs Philly? Part 10: Leo Addimando, Allan Domb, and Comcast are standing in the way of ending Philly’s ten-year tax abatement
Who Runs Philly? is an ongoing project from Philly Power Research focused on highlighting the powerful people, organizations, businesses, and interest groups that shape Philadelphia. This post features the people, corporations, and organizations opposing ending the city’ ten-year tax abatement—and the politicians they are investing in. To explore campaign finance data on your own, check out our tool: The Philadelphia Campaign Finance Data Explorer
For years, education and housing justice activists have called for the end of Philadelphia’s ten-year tax abatement. They argue the abatement rewards luxury real estate developers at the expense of schools, affordable housing, and other essential public services Philadelphians need. Last fall, the Our City Our Schools Coalition, in partnership with Philly Power Research, released a report arguing that ending the 10-year tax abatement would have saved $61 million in 2018 for the schools.Those funds are badly needed to cleanup toxic lead, asbestos, mold, rodents, faulty electrical and poor ventilation in the city’s public schools.
Facing public pressure, city council will almost certainly make some changes to the abatement in the coming year. But will city council go far enough to fund the schools and affordable housing that Philadelphians deserve? Or will they bow to the city’s luxury real estate developers who depend on the abatement to boost their profits?
In this post, Philly Power Research identifies the key actors who have been fighting to keep the 10-year tax abatement in place and the politicians they have invested in. We found:
Key opponents of ending the ten-year tax abatement include: real estate developer Leo Addimando (of Alterra Property Group), the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia, real estate developer and city councilman Allan Domb, and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (whose top investors are Comcast, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, PNC, PECO and Wells Fargo).
Opponents of ending the 10-year tax abatement make millions of dollars off of the abatement each year--money that would otherwise be going to the School District of Philadelphia. For example, in 2018, five luxury condo buildings that Allan Domb developed received $1.1 million in abatements, $605,707 of which would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia. The Comcast Technology Center is the top abated building in 2019--receiving $4.2 million in abatements, $2.3 million of which would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia.****
The General Building Contractors Association and the University Science Center have also lobbied against ending the 10-year tax abatement. University Science Center is a collaboration between many of the region’s “eds and meds” players. Board members include executives and researchers of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. They are actively developing a “mixed-use” campus between 34th Street and 39th Street along Market Street in West Philadelphia.
These key opponents of ending the abatement* contributed at least $364,472 total to current city council members and city council candidates since the beginning of 2018. The Building Industry Association PAC donated $23,500 and Alterra Property Group (including its co-founder and managing partner Leo Addimando) donated $20,000.The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce donated $19,750.
Among current City Councilmembers, Allan Domb, Kenyatta Johnson, and Mark Squilla were the top recipients of campaign contributions from pro-tax abatement interests since the start of 2018. Notable donations include: Councilmember Squilla received $8,000 from the Building and Industry Association PAC; Councilmember Johnson received $5,000 from Building Industry Association Vice President Leo Addimando and his firm Alterra Property Group; Allan Domb received $2,000 from the BIA PAC and $2,000 from Addimando and related entities. He also received more than $228,622 from himself.
Of non-incumbents running for city council, Justin DiBerardinis and Eryn Santamoor have received the most money from pro-tax abatement interests. Eryn Santamoor is the only city council challenger who has received a donation from the Building Industry Association PAC.
Meet the Opponents: The Building Industry Association, one of Philly’s most influential real estate lobbies and outspoken opponent of ending the 10-year tax abatement.
The Building Industry Association (BIA) of Philadelphia is one of the city’s most powerful real estate interest groups. They are leading the opposition to ending the 10-year tax abatement. In 2017, The BIA funded a study to argue the benefits of the tax abatement. They lobbied against Helen Gym’s Bill 180750 to end the 10-year tax abatement last year. They also created Phillytaxabatement.com, a website promoting the 10-year tax abatement.
Since 2018, the BIA’s PAC donated $23,500 to current city council members and city council candidates. Of that, the largest amount - $8,000 - went to Councilmember Squilla. The BIA donated an average of $2,611 to candidates they supported. Councilmembers Quiñones-Sánchez, Green, Domb, Henon, and Johnson were among the next tier of recipients. Eryn Santamoor was the only non-incumbent candidate to receive BIA PAC money - a $1,000 donation.
The graph below shows contributions from the BIA PAC to city council members and candidates since the start of 2018.
The BIA board is a “Who’s Who” of Philadelphia’s developers - many of whom also donate to city council candidates. In addition to the $22,500 the BIA political action committee contributed to current city councilmembers and city council candidates since 2018, BIA board members and related entities gave an additional $90,807 combined.** Leo Addimando, Greg Hill, Barbara Capozzi, Carl Dranoff, and Ori Feibush are among the top donors from the board of the BIA. By far the largest donor is Leo Addimando and his firm Alterra Property Group, who together gave $20,000 to city council members and candidates since the start of 2018.
This graph shows 2018 & 2019 contributions by the BIA PAC, BIA board members, and related entities to city council.
Meet the opponents: Leo Addimando, Vice President of the Building Industry Association, and his firm Alterra Property Group
Building Industry Association Vice President Leo Addimando has been a frequent and vocal opponent of ending the 10-year real estate tax abatement to fund Philly’s public Schools. His firm Alterra Property Group is among the top 20 real estate industry donors to the current city council. His testimony opposing the tax abatement titled “Keep the 10-year tax abatement in place - or risk a major development slowdown” was published as a Guest Commentary in Biz Journals. Several Alterra properties have tax abatements, including the Wharton Street Lofts, luxury condos in an old Catholic school building.
From 2014-2019, Addimando and his firm Alterra Property Group contributed $65,050 to current city council members and city council candidates, making him one of the biggest real estate donors in the city. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson was the largest recipient of Addimando contributions since 2018 - a total of $5,000. Councilmembers Derek Green, Allan Domb, and Mark Squilla, and non-incumbent Justin DiBerardinis all received between $2,000-$4,000 from Addimando and his firm since 2018.
This graph shows contributions to city council candidates from Leo Addimando and his firm Alterra Property Group in 2018 & 2019:
Meet the opponent: “Condo King” and City Councilman Allan Domb is a major beneficiary of the tax abatement
Councilmember Allan Domb introduced a competing bill to Gym’s bill to end the 10-year tax abatement. His bill would reduce the time period on abated properties to 8.5 years. It does not substantially change the current tax-abatement provision. Domb is a real estate broker, luxury condo developer, and property owner in Center City.
It is difficult to overstate how much Allan Domb has benefitted from the 10-year tax abatement. As a real estate broker, developer, and owner he has profited from the abatement. Just last year, five luxury condo buildings that Allan Domb developed (The Lanesborough, The Warwick Condominiums, Parc Rittenhouse, The Barclay, and The Bank Building) received $1.1 million in abatements, $605,707 of which would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia.***
In addition to the properties he develops, Allan Domb has business relationships with dozens of luxury condominium buildings as a real estate broker. In 2018 alone, condo buildings in which Allan Domb Real Estate rents and sells luxury units received $12.3 million in abatements, $6.8 million of which would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia. That $6.8 million is more than 10% of the total amount ($58.5 million) the School District lost out on last year due to the 10-year tax abatement.
In 2018, units in these 22 buildings (in which Allan Domb Real Estate rents and sells luxury apartments) received $12.3 million total in abatements, $6.8 million of which would have gone to the School District of Philadelphia. That $6.8 million is more than 10% of the total amount ($58.5 million) the School District lost out on last year due to the 10-year tax abatement.
Domb is the largest donor to city council since 2014, having donated over $1.3 million to self fund his campaigns. He has also donated $1,000 each to Councilmembers Darrell Clarke, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, and Mark Squilla.
Meet the opponent: The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business advocacy organization is publicly opposed to ending the tax-abatement
Unsurprisingly, in 2018, the Chamber sent an open letter to Philadelphia City Council publicly opposing ending the tax-abatement. But who is behind the Chamber? The group’s top investors are Comcast, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, PECO, PNC, and Wells Fargo.
The Chamber contributed $19,750 to current city council members and city council candidates since 2018. To date - the Chamber has donated only to incumbent candidates, including $4,500 to Cherelle Parker. They have also given $3,500 to Allan Domb and Mark Squilla.
*Meaning the Building Industry Association PAC, Building Industry Association Board Members (and related entities), Allan Domb, and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce PAC
**“BIA board members and related entities” includes: Alterra Property Group, Barbara Capozzi, Carl Dranoff, City Living Philly, Cornelius Brown, Daniel Sobol, David Hyman, Gary Jonas, Gregory Hill, Herbert Reid, How Properties Acquisitions, Jacob Cooper, James Rogers, James Goldstein, James Maransky, Jason Nusbaum, Jerry Roller, John Farina, Kevin Gillen, Laila Reilly, Leo Addimando, Noah Ostroff, Ori Feibush, Paul Badger, Sarina Overton, Yishai Kedar
*** According to the Office of Property Assessment’s list of all certified properties making use of the ten-year tax abatement 2008-2019.
****According to the Office of Property Assessment’s list of all certified properties making use of the ten-year tax abatement 2008-2019.