Friday, December 21, 2007

Eating the Illadelph: Deciphering Why CityGrange’s Seemingly Imminent Demise Was Almost Unavoidable

In order to answer how and why CityGrange came to begin its, what we can only assume will be, too short existence with one foot already in the grave, we can simply look towards one of Mr. Bruni’s First Impression posts over on Diner’s Journal, where he pretty much explains it perfectly.
Hotel restaurants that don’t have their own entrances on the street — that are tucked inside the hotels they inhabit, accessible only through the lobbies — have it tough.

They’re sometimes far enough from the nearest source of natural light to seem like culinary catacombs of a sort, and they can have the atmosphere of afterthoughts, of add-on’s: mess halls necessary for the feeding of guests, not dining destinations with enough merit and panache to lure discerning locals who are choosing from a whole city’s worth of options.

[CityGrange], the new restaurant in the [Westin] Hotel, is a case in point. You walk a long way from the hotel’s entrance on [17th] Street to reach the restaurant, buried deep inside, and by the time you get to the host station, you’re likely to feel that you’ve passed all of the action, not that you’re joining it.
We took the liberty of replacing “Brasserie 44” with “CityGrange”; “newly renovated Royalton” with “Westin”; and “West 44th” with “17th.” Mr. Bruni was talking about another hotel restaurant entirely. But, honestly, we don’t know if it’s possible for that description to be any more apropos.

It might be unfair, but atmosphere is simply way too important these days to consistently drawing a crowd for a spot like CityGrange to have a fair shot. The writing has been on the walls forevs. Le Bec Fin. The Grill at the Ritz Carlton. Even Stephen Starr is susceptible — look at Washington Square.

Now, it’s not the rule — some interior hotel restaurants can get by on their good looks cuisine (read Lacroix and Fountain). But look at Tavern 17. Compare that with what used to be there (Circles on th Square). The new space is much more open and much more oriented to 17th Street, i.e. potential customers not associated with the hotel.

It’s a shame really, because the concept of CityGrange is good and one that we’d love to love. (Anyone who’s all about supporting local farms and their foods, and thereby preserving open space and conserving natural resources, is someone we’d happily endorse.) But with a space like that, you’re basically starting off with one hand already tied behind your back. And then to under-whelm basically everyone, including several critics, from the onset… that’s just not a formula that’s going to get it done.

If this were Eater, CityGrange would have been DeathWatched, like, yesterday.

Tough break. Especially because those sliders are fucking good.

First Impressions: Brasserie 44 [ Diner’s Journal ]
CityGrange [ Official Site ]
Craig Laban to CityGrange: I Eat Pieces of Shit Like You For Breakfast [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Photo via Foobooz ]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Official Preemptive Illadelph Crush: Penn’s Weave Bridge by Cecil Balmond

Penn's Weave Bridge by Cecil BalmondDesigned by Cecil Balmond, the British engineer-cum-architect (and, ahem, part-time Professor at Penn), whose bold designs seemingly enable steel to defy gravity, the Weave Bridge (rendering above) signals the beginning of Penn’s ambitious plan to create a vibrant, mixed use neighborhood on the eastern edge of its campus that will connect the campus with Center City. Appropriately, that plan is called Penn Connects.

And an auspicious beginning at that. The bridge, slated to open in 2008, is truly one-of-a-kind. The bridge’s span actually doubles as the bridge’s support.
Penn initially planned to construct a purely functional, temporary walkway over the Amtrak rails. But as it was putting the finishing touches on its new 30-year master plan with consultant Sasaki Associates, the university began to see the overpass as a kick-off project that could demonstrate its commitment to bold architecture. It sought out Balmond, who, despite being an engineer, teaches an architecture studio in the School of Design.
With the completion last year of Balmond’s own charmingly asymmetrical bridge in Coimbra, Portugal, he finally got to affix his signature to a project. The Weave Bridge will be an important next step for Balmond’s Advanced Geometry Unit at Arup, a sort of think tank, or R&D unit, that he founded inside the engineering giant. Working together with Daniel Bosia and a select group of designers, he specializes in finding elegant solutions to engineering problems. Balmond may be dipping more into architecture, but engineering structure remains his point of departure.

Unlike Frank Gehry, who is happy to drape his bloblike forms onto any old framework that can hold them up, Balmond sees structure and design as one and the same. There are no vertical supports holding up the Weave Bridge because its twisting stainless-steel strips carry the load, in the way that cables and trusses do on conventional bridges.
The bridge will be located in a currently off-the-beaten-path area of campus behind Franklin Field (see image below). But no matter — it will definitely be worth the trek.

Map of Penn Connects and the Weave BridgeLet us just say this: bold architecture is good. Bold architecture in Philadelphia is also good. Philadelphia’s propensity for red brick notwithstanding, there is plenty of room for awesome modern architecture to coexist with Philadelphia’s esteemed and diverse architectural past.

Accordingly, we are definitely looking forward to the two major projects coming to the Parkway — remember the Free Library expansion (one non-winning proposal for which is depicted below) and the relocation of the Barnes?

Ten Arquitectos proposal for the Philadelphia Free LibrarySo it is without apologies and with open arms that we prematurely welcome the Weave Bridge to Philadelphia. (Especially, when compared to what’s happening on the other side of the river.)

Well done, Penn. And well done, Mr. Balmond.

We just wish Penn would build the promised pedestrian bridge over the Schuylkill River by 2020 — not 2040 (as recently reported by Ms. Saffron).

Rendering of Penn Connects including pedestrian bridge over Schuylkill RiverWe mean, really. What. The. Fuck.

Not building that for another 30 years is simply total bollocks.

The Weave Bridge at Penn Connects [ Official Site ]
A Bridge That’s Way Beyond Pedestrian [ PDF on Penn Connects via Philadelphia Inquirer ]
The Weave Bridge: An Impossible Structure [ Esquire ]
Why Does a Philadelphian Cross the CSX Tracks [ Changing Skyline ]

Penn's Weave Bridge

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Ballad of Billy the King, Fall Guy Extraordinaire *

Billy King and Allen Iverson1997
+ Keith Van Horn
+ Jim Jackson
+ Tim Thomas
+ Eric Montross.
- Keith Van Horn.
+ Theo Ratliff
+ Aaron Mckie
- Jerry Stackhouse.
+ Eric Snow
+ Joe Smith
+ Brian Shaw
- Clarence Weatherspoon
- Jim Jackson.
+ Larry Hughes
+ Nazr Mohammed
+ Jumaine Jones
+ Todd MacCulloch
+ Toni Kukoc.
- Larry Hughes
+ Speedy Claxton
+ Dikembe Mutombo.
- Toni Kukoc
- Theo Ratliff
- Nazr Muhammed
- Pat Croce
+ Samuel Dalembert
+ Jiri Welsch
- Jiri Welsch
+ Todd MacCulloch
+ Keith Van Horn
- Dikembe Mutombo
- Larry Brown
+ Randy Ayers
+ Willie Green
+ Kyle Korver
+ Glenn Robinson
- Randy Ayers
+ Chris Ford
- Chris Ford
+ Jim O’Brien
+ Andre Iguodala
+ Kevin Ollie
- Eric Snow
+ Chris Webber
+ Rodney Rogers
+ Jamal Mashburn
- Glenn Robinson.
- Jim O’Brien
+ Maurice Cheeks


- Allen Iverson …

And so ended our affiliation with the Philadelphia 76ers, a team we loved oh so much. A team, for which we still retain hope that we will, someday, love again.

But that won’t occur while the franchise is owned and operated by the despotic whim of Ed “the worst dude in Philadelphia history” Snider.

Excuse us for a minute as we need to address Mr. Snider directly.

Confidential to Ed Snider: You have single-handedly ruined a great NBA franchise. Please, please sell it. You were right to have considered selling the team last year. Keep the Flyers if you want. But please, PLEASE sell the Sixers.

The abysmal attendance and unbelievably depressing atmosphere at Sixers home games is a direct result of and a perfect metaphor for your colossally poor ownership.

You have been nothing but a nightmare for professional basketball in Philadelphia. Please make this nightmare stop.

At this point, not even Kate, Jenn and Erica could get us in one of your seats.

Philadelphia 76ers Dance TeamAnd that, old man, is saying something.

* Obviously, Billy King was not a true fall guy. The point, however, is that he was hardly the real problem.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hotel Hotwire: Winners and Losers, Boom Edition

So a flurry of new hotels would have you believe that they wish to grace Philadelphia with their presence.

Does this mean the Philadelphia hotel scene is finally going to catch up with the rest of the city and start being cool?

It could.

But it definitely means it’s time for us to we weigh in on the plans.

So without further ado.

- Aloft Philadelphia. We first caught wind of Aloft, the first of three Starwood properties on their way to city, back in ’06. At that time, we had a few qualms with their location choice at Philadelphia International. We have a little more information now. Aloft’s business model actually dictates that it locates its hotels near airports whenever possible (doing as much in Chicago, DC region, Mass, etc.).

Fine, but Aloft adjusted the model when it wanted to move into a market that was more urban — Aloft Brooklyn will be located downtown. That’s exactly what should have happened in Philadelphia. Starwood definitely dropped the ball putting Aloft Philadelphia at the airport. That location adds pretty much nothing to the city or the visitor experience.

Sure the hotel might do fine economically with its airport locale, but it could have done so much more with a Center City location. (Midtown Village to be exact.) It could have been a positive addition to the city and actual active participant in Philly’s buzzing night scene. But, alas, Starwood didn’t have the vision to realize as much and Philadelphia now has one more cookie cutter hotel for culturally-challenged travelers to enjoy
nice and close to the beautiful Philadelphia Airport.

Bravo, Starwood. Bravo.

Verdict: LOSER. Giant. Effing. Loser.

- But wait. That’s only one of three Starwood properties headed to Philly proper. Don’t count them out just yet.

The next Starwood project slated to open here is the W Philadelphia
two renderings of which appear above. The W was also announced last summer after years of rumors about a W coming to town, in places like Headhouse Square. So when Starwood finally announced plans for the W Philadelphia and that it had selected 12th and Arch as the location, eyebrows were raised.

And many (we among them) began to second-guess the competence of the Real Estate Development Group at Starwood. Sure, the location is right next to the Convention Center, which is great for convention/business travel, but doesn’t the W want to be more hip than corporate. Wouldn’t a location where there’s a little more nighttime activity make more sense for the W?? 12th and Arch gets kinda quiet after 5 p.m.

For that reason, rumors persisted after the announcement that the W was reconsidering its location choice, trying to find a location “closer to to younger demographic it seeks.” But local parking titan, Joe Zuritsky, dug in deep and Starwood was convinced to move ahead with situating the W on his lot at 12th and Arch.

Starwood has procured Stephen Starr to do the restaurant. So maybe he can help. Projected opening: sometime in 2009. They were supposed to break ground this summer. Then it was this fall. Not sure if they actually have yet.

Verdict: Neutral. The W Philadelphia will surely be successful. (And a good addition to the city.) But we could easily, off the top of our heads, name a half-dozen downtown locations at which it would be considerably more successful. (Bang-up job so far, Starwood Development Group.)

- Starwood’s third property headed to the City of Brotherly Love? That would be one of their Le Meridien brand.

Le Meridien Philadelphia will be going into the old YMCA building on the 1400 block of Arch Street. We first told you about a hotel going in there back in April when the building was sold. The lobby and floors 5-10 will be the hotel’s. The building is historic and a prime candidate for a reclamation project. It’s like 50 feet from Love Park and will be less than a block away from the new main entrance of the Convention Center on Broad after it expands.

Projected opening: 2009.

Verdict: Winner. This could be amazing if done well. And help North Broad's rebirth.

UPDATE: Today, 12.4, details were announced.
The 202-room hotel will offer five floors of 4-star accommodations, a 90-seat restaurant with a 30-seat bar and lounge at the lobby level, a state-of-the-art business centre, 5,300 square feet of technology-enhanced meeting space, and a grand ballroom, which will be located on the third floor and feature dramatic views of Philadelphia’s architecturally striking City Hall, three blocks away. The hotel also will feature a central atrium courtyard on the fifth floor of the historic building, boasting a skylight at the crown of its 75-foot ceiling. [ Yahoo ]
Bueno. Although it won't be complete until 2010.

- Stephen Starr's Micro Hotel. Some of you may remember when we were making a big stink about Stephen Starr trying to renege on his self-professed desire to open a boutique hotel in Philadelphia.

So why, after we heard about him actually doing one at 706 Chestnut Street, didn’t we make a bigger deal about it?

Because it’s a frickin’ four-room micro “hotel.” That is not what we were talking about when we said Starr should keep his word and open a hotel in the illy. Sure, at least it’s something. But a four-suite micro hotel doesn’t really do anything to address the massive dearth of cool, independent, designer boutique hotels we have here in Philadelphia.

Oh, great. He's working with Taavo Somer on the design. Super. That doesn’t make up for the fact that it will have all of four rooms. It’s simply too small. A place this size will have no lobby scene or hotel restaurant. (Yes, there will be the restaurant on the first floor in the space that most recently held Angelina, but that was going to be a restaurant anyway. Also designed by Taavo.)

But beggars should not be choosers, right? Admittedly, Starr adding this hotel to Philly’s offerings is definitely a win for the city. We just wish it were going to be a bigger win. Like 10 to 20 times bigger.

A legitimate independent boutique hotel with at least 40 rooms is, however, still very much needed in Philadelphia. Starr gets a pass with this project. We’ll let him get his feet wet with this little mini-endeavor. Hopefully, it will boost his confidence so in a year or so, he’ll be serious about adding a “/hotelier” to his “restaurateur” status and be ready to develop an actual boutique hotel. You know, one with more than, like, four rooms. (It doesn’t even need to be new construction — there are tons of buildings ripe for conversion.)

Verdict: Winner. But not a very exciting one at that. We will take it. We’re just a little disappointed Starr went with a micro boutique hotel instead of a legit boutique hotel. Hopefully, it's only an apéritif.

- Let’s see — what’s next? How about Stephen Starr’s old rival, Mr. Neil Stein? We’ve discussed Mr. Stein’s hotel dreams in the past. He wanted (wants) a hotel project of his own, but he may have to wait on that. Last month, Dan Gross reported that Stein was working on a potential project with the Morris House Hotel, a five-year-old, 16-room boutique hotel on South 8th Street in the historic Morris residence. The project is two part: 1) do a restaurant in first floor of the hotel, where Restaurant M opened in ‘06 and closed in ‘07; and 2) expand the hotel into another building on the same block.

Verdict: Winner. The outdoor dining/drinking area at the Morris House could easily become a hotspot. And make the hotel a little cooler by association.

- And finally, we have the Kimpton Group. Kimpton appears to have been tipped off to the fact that Philadelphia is fucking ripe for some cool hotel properties — and they want to fill the void. We hear that Kimpton is currently looking at three historic buildings to convert into Kimpton Hotels.

And, apparently, whomever the Kimpton Group has running their Real Estate Development Group is a lot more proficient than their counterparts over at Starwood. Because the three buildings they’re looking at are all hot shit.

The first, which Michael Klein reported last week, is in the Architects Building at 17th and Sansom.

This is, without a doubt, going to be the coolest project of any on the horizon — present company included. The location is a ten. The W passed on this location and their loss has turned into Kimpton’s gain. With the Sofitel already holding it down across the street, this block of 17th Street is destined to be the place where all the cool kids want to stay when they come to town.

Moreover, the Architects building is sick. And Kimpton is working with the Heritage Consulting Group to restore and convert the space. So expect the hotel to be awesome. We certainly do.

The other two locations Kimpton is working on are behind the new Comcast Center (with a totally rad green roof) and on Independence Mall respectively.

Verdict: WINNER. Huge. Effing. Winner. Well done, Kimpton. We are happy to have you in our fine city. Please do plan to stay a while.

UPDATE: No sooner had we posted about the hotel boom in Center City then we heard of another hotel, this one proposed for University City. (Via Philly Skyline and one of our astute commenters).

Hilton Homewood Suites Philadelphia — at 40th and Pine. (Rendered above, from Pine Street.)

Verdict: WINNER. The four-block 40th Street corridor, from Chestnut at the north and Pine on the south, is a veritable destination these days. There is the Hub, which will soon have Chilango; Fresh Grocer; The Bridge, Marathon Grill and MarBar; Smokey Joe’s; The Greek Lady; Copabana (oh, poor Billy Bob’s…), etc.

Inevitably, there are a few NIMBYs who are complaining that the location is too residential. They are wrong. The 3900 and 4000 blocks of Pine, Delancey, Spruce, and Baltimore are predominantly occupied by students. Students like vibrancy on the street, so the more pedestrians, the better.

“Of the 50 properties [closest to the proposed] the location, added Lussenhop, only one is owned by an individual; the remaining are owned by commercial landlords and Penn.”

It is a great hotel for the location. It gives people visiting Penn another option to stay at other than the Inn at Penn, and the Sheraton. Moreover, University City is burgeoning with young residents that aren’t even affiliated with Penn.

Moreover, the building design is sensitive to the historic nature of the block. Sure, it’s not an uber-hip, designer hotel — but that’s more than ok. [ UC Review ]

- If you’re looking for a hip boutique hotel in an outer neighborhood, look east, toward Northern Liberties. Bart Blatstein wants to build a boutique hotel in Northern Liberties, catercorner to Standard Tap. (Hat tip to Philly Skyline, again.)

Verdict: WINNER. Obviously. Second Street is hot. Sure, a few die hard Northern Liberties preservationists may want to see their neighborhood never change, but that’s what city’s do. They change. And the trick is to get them to change for the better
— to progress and improve. That’s what good city planning and urban design can accomplish.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Target Corp. Finally Headed to Market East; Purported to Cure All Related Ills with Plucky Ads and Design For All

Target Store rendering on Market East PhiladelphiaM. Klein over at the Inquirer is reporting that Target is, in fact, finally headed to Market East to occupy at least two floors of the old Strawbridge and Clothier Building at 8th and Market.

This word comes just more than a year after fellow Inquirer columnist Inga Saffron reported that Boscov’s was headed to floors 1-3 of the Strawbridge’s building and that the Family Court would be relocating from Logan Square to floors 4-6.

If PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) has indeed secured Target as a tenant in place of Boscov’s, bully for them. (Boscov’s can take the store at 11th.) City officials have long coveted a Target for 8th and Market, only they wished it to be built on the Southwest corner (above), where currently resides a totally awesome fucktastic surface parking lot.

So what is to become of that lot remains to be seen. As well, the issues with the rest of the stories in the S&C building.

But what we do know is that we sincerely hope Mayor Elect Nutter is boys with Paul Levy and his crew at the Center City District… because the CCD comes correct.

Nutter should be sure to check out exhibits A and B — related to Market Street East — and then make sure that he appropriates the needed authority to the CCD so they can act on their plan and fix that mess.

Market Street East - Philadelphia Pedestrian ConnectionsBecause the potential be deafening.

Inqlings | The Biz Watch [ Philadelphia Inquirer, Second Item ]
Center City: Planning for Growth, 2007-2012 [ Center City District ]
Nordstrom to Market East: Believe That When Your Shit Turns Purple and Smells Like Rainbow Sherbert

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pennsylvania Green — PA the Second Greenest State in the Union When Rated by Volume of LEED-Certified Projects

LEED certified projects by stateWhen it comes to building green, Pennsylvania is on the right track — with 81 buildings currently certified and another 400+ in the works. Only California tops the Keystone State, boasting 173 already LEED-certified buildings of its own.

Washington State and Oregon are #3 and #4 respectively. (The suckers in New York are #11.)

Three out of the top four states are progressive Pacific coast states. No shocker there.
Green Architecture in the United States is as geographically polarized as the political landscape — and a look at future eco-building sites suggests the trend will continue. The good news? More LEED projects on the horizon. Lots more.
What LEED-cluttered regions have in common are high population densities, stringent government mandates, and strong local USGBC chapters—all of which help explain California’s nationwide high of 173 LEED-certified projects, with 1,217 more in the pipeline. The state’s urban population, nearly 32 million, is almost double that of Texas or New York, and its government has encouraged green architecture through a variety of incentives.

The largely rural states in the center of the country, often lacking big-city infrastructure and broad professional networks, lag behind the coasts. “From a sustainability standpoint, it’s greener to develop in urban areas,” says Max Zahniser, LEED program manager.
There is, however, talk of the LEED system being somewhat flawed.
We're concerned that LEED has become expensive, slow, confusing, and unwieldy, a death march for applicants administered by a soviet-style bureaucracy that makes green building more difficult than it needs to be.

[ resulting in 1) mediocre "green" buildings where certification, not environmental responsibility, is the primary goal; 2) a few super-high-level eco-structures built by ultra-motivated (and wealthy) owners that stand like the Taj Mahal as beacons of impossibility; 3) an explosion of LEED-accredited architects and engineers chasing lots of money but designing few buildings; and 4) a discouraged cadre of professionals who want to build green, but can't afford to certify their buildings. ]

The idea behind LEED is laudable. The execution, so far, has been disappointing. In the final analysis, the world needs green buildings a lot more than green buildings need LEED certification. If LEED continues to cost too much in dollars, time, and effort, we are not going to stop building green projects, we'll just stop certifying them.
So while the U.S. Green Building Council might have to refine the LEED system a bit, it’s nevertheless great to see construction in Pennsylvania making the investment and pursuing mad certifications.

Red, Blue, and Green States [ Metropolis Magazine ]
Can LEED Survive the Carbon Neutral Age [ Metropolis Magazine ]
LEEDing Us Astray? Top green-building system is in desperate need of repair [ Grist ]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Breaking: Single Stream Recycling — including plastic — finally comes to Center City. Hallelujah. Holy Shit. Where’s the Tylenol?

Single Stream Recycling in PhiladelphiaStarting on December 3rd, for the first time since 1992 — NINETEEN FUCKING NINETY TWO, PEOPLE — you will be able to recycle your plastic bottles at the curb with the other stuff you normally recycle (aluminum cans and glass bottles) in Center City and South Philadelphia.

It’s true. The Streets Department has seen the writing on the wall and is finally beginning to get off their fat, lazy asses. Impressively, in the second expansion of the single stream program that began in Northeast Philadelphia last year and was added to West Philadelphia this spring, single stream recycling is now coming to Center City and South Philadelphia.

Single stream recycling is where it’s at. No sorting necessary. Just toss your cans, glass, plastic, cardboard and mixed paper all in the same bin. Put it out on the curb. And poof. It’s gone.

It’s taken away to the Blue Mountain Recycling Center in Grays Ferry, where “state-of-the-art machines use magnets, fans, gravity and centrifugal force to sort the hodgepodge, weeding paper from cardboard, plastic from glass.”

So make sure you tell everybody you know. Recycling plastic is back. Recycling cardboard is back. Recycling in Philadelphia is back. Starting on December 3rd, if you live south of Vine Street between the Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers, you can toss all your recyclables in the same bin and get rid of ‘em curbside.

Recycling bins in Philadelphia at pennYou don’t even need a blue bin. (Which is good because apparently Penn snatched up pretty much all of them.) Just mark one of your containers “RECYCLING” and throw everything in it. Water bottles. Soda bottles. Mouthwash bottles. Laundry soap bottles. Any plastic bottle that has a #1 or #2 on the bottom of it. Effing recycle it.

(For more details about how to single stream, etc., check out the Streets Department website or give a shout in the comments. This PDF outlines what's what, but it has not been updated to reflect South Philly and Center City going single stream.)

Now, while we do have to admit that the Streets Department should definitely be commended for expanding the single stream recycling somewhat rapidly, this is only one piece of the puzzle. To reach the citywide 40% recycling rate, a goal that the city first set in 1987, you not only have to make recycling really easy (single stream), you are going to have to add incentives as well.

Philadelphia Recycling MapAnd that’s where RecycleBank comes in. Single stream is good, but single stream plus incentives, which is RecycleBank’s formula, is even better. We strongly urge Mayor Elect Nutter to greatly expand RecycleBank’s pilot area in Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane and see if the company can’t provide its services to the entire city. (Hint: it can.)

The city’s recycling rate is currently around 6%. The expansion of single stream is a good baby step. One that might get the rate up to 16% in three years (according to a Streets Department official). But if you seriously want to approach a respectable recycling rate of 35% — a rate that would save the city more than $17 million annually and a rate that would signal that the city has, indeed, moved into the 21st Century, then you have to look toward an innovation by the name of RecycleBank.

It shouldn’t be so difficult to recycle. On the contrary, it should be ridiculously easy.

Let’s make it so.

Philadelphia Streets Department Recognizes “America Recycles Day” [Recycling Pays @]
The Recycling Riddle [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Getting West Philadelphia Greener, Bin by Bin [ Daily Pennsylvanian ]
RecycleNow Philadelphia [ Official Site ]
Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia [ Official Site ]
RecycleBank [Official Site]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eating/Drinking the Illadelph Alert: Pre-Turkey Day East Passyunk Pow Wow Promises to Be True South Philadelphia Shit-Kicker

East Passyunk AvenueEast Passyunk comes correct. You know they do.

This year’s pre-Thanksgiving, East Passyunk Avenue POW WOW is just the latest example as to how.

A Thanksgiving Eve bar-crawl of sorts along the ‘Shunk, the Pow Wow gets started at Ray’s esteemed Happy Birthday Bar at 6 pm and then makes its way down the Ave, stopping at basically every establishment that endorses fun.

Word is there will be drinks and snacks at each stop, which include Triangle Tavern,
Rita's, Pub on Passyunk East, Paradiso, Cantina Los Cabillitos and Marra's. Tickets are $25 and are available for purchase online.

Obviously, it is time to get your headdresses on.

First Annual East Passyunk Avenue POW WOW [East Passyunk Avenue BID]

[ Photo via Philly Skyline ]

Sunday, November 04, 2007

AP details Philly’s current efforts to shed city’s way-outdated image; stumbles when it accompanies said story with a photo from — wait for it — 1988

Old Philadelphia skyline photo from AP article in USA today november 2007The good folk at Philly Skyline would have a field day with this one.

They’re presently out of town so we’re going to have to go ahead and point out the AP’s rather egregious error ourselves.

In an article published Friday, running flush next to the headline, “Philly tourism officials try to shake blue-collar image,” the above photo of the Philadelphia skyline appeared.

Thing is — it’s a bit outdated. Like, by two decades. And not on purpose.

The photo shows the city in the 1988 or 89, after the completion of One Liberty Place and One Commerce Square, with the Bell Atlantic Tower under construction in the background.

The mind baffles.

You’d think the AP, in their vast network of resources, would have a more recent shot of Philadelphia. Or, perhaps, the editor was simply feeling a little ironic.

Whatever the case, for those that are indeed interested in a updated image of Philadelphia, see the appended image, via the accomplished local Flickr user Fen Branklin.

Philadelphia skyline from south street bridge by flickr user fen branklin
Philly tourism officials try to shake blue-collar image… and we’ll be damned if we sit idly by and let them shake shit [ AP via USA Today ]
Yr City's a Sucker by LCD Soundsystem [ Hype Machine ]

[ Photo via Flickr user Fen Branklin ]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tastes of Center City denizens prove, thankfully, to be far too refined for the likes of artless national chain restaurants

Reaffirming news from this week’s Business Journal.
National chain restaurants are increasing their presence in the suburbs while still largely skirting Philadelphia itself.

Chains such as Cheeseburger in Paradise, Cheesecake Factory, NinetyNine and Fatburger have opened or plan to open in and around the area's major shopping malls.
While Center City does have some chain restaurants, particularly steak houses, most of the big casual dining chains have swarmed to the suburbs. To the point, the nation's two largest owners of casual dining restaurants -- Darden Restaurants Inc. of Orlando and OSI Restaurant Partners LLC of Tampa, Fla. -- have a combined 48 restaurants in the eight-county Philadelphia market, but only three are in Center City.
Casual dining restaurants are often attracted to big shopping centers because of the incentives they receive from landlords.

For instance, Cheesecake Factory is known for drawing hordes of people, and often has a line of more than an hour to get a table. As a result, Gorodesky said, the restaurant chain can command status as an anchor tenant, and with that receive improvement dollars toward renovations.

Plus, they need households.

"Center City has a strong residential population," Gorodesky said. "It's mostly young and old, but not the middle, which is the market for casual dining."
Apparently, the middle is the market for sucking too.

What? Do we think less of people that dine at chain restaurants? Absolutely.

The suburbs are for chumps. And chain restaurants are just one of the many reasons why.

Chain restaurants expand in the suburbs, not in city [Philadelphia Business Journal]
Chain restaurants in the United States are promoting dangerous "X-treme Eating", a US watchdog has said [BBC]
Chains Bring Strip Mall Flavor, Or Lack of It, To Manhattan [New York Times]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Official Illadelph Crush: TreeVitalize + TreeTenders… and the amazing street trees they hold so dear

TreeVitalize near East Passyunk in PhiladelphiaOur affection for many things green has been well documented in the past, but loving tree-planting efforts in Philadelphia is truly a no-brainer. And something that everybody can dig.

It’s almost so obvious, we think some people must overlook it.

Actually, we think that trees are not given credit for just how much they (can) improve quality of life in urban settings.

But it’s not just quality of life — it’s also the overall attractiveness of a city as a place to live, work or visit.

The Next Great City, which appropriately identified tree-planting as one of their 10 action steps, goes ahead and says “Trees Increase Retail Profitability: Studies show that people prefer to shop on tree-lined streets and will spend more time and money at these stores.”

But they stop there and don’t point out the logical next step that, accordingly, people are also more likely to want to live, work or visit a city that is filled with neighborhoods that are similarly filled with tree-lined streets. Not just for shopping. But also for touring, dining, drinking, gathering, playing, etc.

Think about a few examples. Consider certain blocks in Fairmount, G-Ho and Fishtown. Some (2100 block of Green, 2100 block of Kater, etc.) have an amazing natural canopy provided by street trees and, subsequently, are incredibly desirable. Meanwhile other blocks nearby have no trees and instead appear blighted, desolate and unsafe.

Take Penn’s campus as another example. It is indisputably one of the most picturesque and eminently walkable neighborhoods in the city. Anyone who has ever been down Locust Walk knows as much.

Penn's awesomely green and tree-covered campusIs it a coincidence that it is also one the most tree-filled? Obviously not.

And think about all of the restaurants offering sidewalk seating outside? Aren’t the places like North Third, the new Tria and Twenty Manning, where the trees overhead add to the experience more appealing than the places on tree-less streets where the outdoor seating seems forced and almost counterintuitive.

So the point is, yes, trees have major utilitarian benefits, including reducing asthma, increasing air quality, reducing water runoff and flooding, slowing traffic, reducing temperatures, and increasing property values in turn.

But almost more important are the benefits that are more psychological: trees improve people’s moods and dispositions. They increase people’s sense of safety. Fundamentally, trees make a street a more appealing place to do any number of activities: to walk through, dine at, shop at, gather at… and all the other things associated with living, working or playing there.

These seemingly “superficial” benefits are anything but — if more trees make a street/neighborhood/city more outwardly attractive to the people that we want to come to that street/neighborhood/city to live/work/visit, then it’s time we take a page from PLANYC and plant a tree in every single sidewalk space that can legitimately sustain a street tree.

And then watch as Philadelphia becomes the most aesthetically attractive city in the US.

Not to mention a healthier, cooler, more sustainable and more economically prosperous city to boot.

Local Volunteers Needed for Large Tree-Planting Effort [KYW 1060]
Next Great City: Replant Neighborhood Trees [Official Site]
Philadelphia's future looking 'greener,' but battle's not over [Philadelphia Inquirer]
TreeVitalize [Official Site]
Tree Tenders [Official Site]

[ Photo via Flickr user dimasi ]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eating the Illadelph: The Manayunk Invasion Edition

The future site of a new gastropub at 11th and Ellsworth in South Philadelphia- The owners of Old Eagle Tavern — the venerable, authentic Manayunk watering hole filled with local craft beers on draught and accompanying $15, three course prix fixe dinners — are opening a new bar in South Philadelphia. No word yet on if it will be dubbed the Spread Eagle or, perhaps more apropos, the Choking Eagle.

UPDATE: Are the Eagle folks headed to 11th and Ellsworth (above) in the spot that was formerly Felicia's? Certainly sounds like it.

- Meanwhile, Johnny Mañana’s of Midvale Avenue fame — yes, we know it’s in East Falls, but it’s close enough — will be slinging their Tex Mex fare in Center City before too long. They’ll be opening a new location at 2031 Walnut, adjacent to Monkey Bar, just down the street from Bard’s and a stone’s throw from Rittenhouse Square.

- Nice to see that Dave Magrogan’s Kildare’s empire is going green with Grady David's, a new concept with one location deep in Chester County that “features seasonal and locally grown foods and a wood-fired oven.” Also, “the to-go packaging, which is corn based, degrades after six weeks. [And] Grease is recycled for biofuel.” The restaurant is targeted at baby boomers over 50 who shop at TJ’s and Whole Foods. [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Philly’s Foie Gras Saga Drags On, National Media Starting to Take Note

foie gras and hangar steak at vintage in philadelphiaAnd you know what? We’re totally ok with that.
But in Philadelphia last week, foie was the food of the people. At Caribou Cafe, the sliders came topped with caramelized onions and a piece of pan-seared foie gras. At Zinc, the foie came poached with mango chutney and waffle chips. Diners wearing bold red "We Love Foie Gras" T-Shirts embarked on foie-cathalons.
If anything, at least all the commotion is placing Philadelphia’s bevy of awesome restaurants in the national spotlight anew, something the dining scene here more than warrants. (Consider the alternatives.)
Hugs For Puppies, which began as an informal vegetarian outreach and animal rescue group in Philadelphia in 2002, started approaching restaurants a few years ago and occasionally protesting, says founder Nick Cooney.

"Last December [restaurateur] Stephen Starr stopped serving foie gras and it really motivated us to keep going. Now we are out protesting every week."
Starr, who owns a dozen Philadelphia hotspots, insists that the activists had little to do with his decision to remove foie gras from all of his Philadelphia restaurants. "If they said, 'Can we meet with you?' I probably would have, but instead they use the bullhorn, these really creepy tactics. The bottom line is," he adds, "that it's probably not a good thing to do to the animals. But honestly to me it was a non-issue. It didn't sell that well, I don't like to eat it myself."

But having taken credit for a victory, the Hugs for Puppies group has moved onto other restaurants, picketing the businesses and homes of chefs like David Ansill who recently removed foie gras from his menu at his restaurant Ansill after protesters hounded his customers and staff and leafleted his neighborhood for months. "When I talked to him he hadn't slept in 15 days," says foie gras distributor Daguin. "The acts of the protesters are nearly terroristic," she says. Said Ansill wearily: "It wasn't worth it. I caved."
Jeebus… Poor David.

like we were saying… the formation of Philadelphia Chefs for Choice and their “Freedom Foie for Five” promotion marks “the first time anywhere that chefs have organized to protest the foie gras protesters.” Bravo, Philadelphia Chefs. Firsts are good. Debate, we must say, is also good.

And how can you not love it when an AP story proclaims Stephen Starr to be a “celebrity chef”?

You can’t.

Nor can you not love an article with a title like, “Fight for your right to Pâté.”

Fight for your right to Pâté [Time]
Chefs fight back in war on foie gras [AP, Business Week]

[ Photo via Phila Foodie ]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Eating the Illadelph: Buzz, Design and Build Edition

gallery cafe in perelman building philadelphia- So you heard that La Colombe recently opened up a storefront in Tribeca, finally blessing Manhattanites with their torrefaction, yes? Good. But did you also know that La Colombe now provides the exclusive coffee blend for the MoMa’s restaurant and café, both run by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer? La Colombe’s MoMa Blend boasts “a ‘chocolate tone,’ zero bitterness and a 'soft and velvety' feel on the palate. Supposedly, it’s so naturally sweet, you may not need sugar…" It is on sale only at the MoMa second floor cafe. For $12. [ New York Post ]

- Speaking of museums, anyone else hoping the Perelman's new Gallery Café turns out to be a kick-ass spot for lunch? Cause it already kinda looks it… (at top). What’s more — admission to the Perelman Building is free through the end of the year. Holla. [ Zagat Buzz ]

- Meanwhile, Stephen Starr and Starwood are definitely up to something. It has been confirmed that Starr will be doing the main restaurant, haute and all, for the new W Hotel Philadelphia when it opens in 2009.
That makes two restaurants for Steve-o in W Hotels the first will be in Ft. Lauderdale. Allegedly, Starr is also working on a small, “very cozy,” four-suite boutique hotel in the upper floors of 706 Chestnut Street here in Philadelphia, the building whose first floor formerly housed Angelina and is now slated to become a gastropub. Or something. [ PBJ + CityPaper ]

- Stephen’s boy, one Massaharu Morimoto, will be swinging by the Free Library’s admirable Author Events series in a few weeks to promote his new book, Morimoto: The Art of Japanese Cooking. Stop by and see if he’ll make you dinner. October 16, 7 pm. [ Official Site ]

- Wegmans wants to sell you beer in their PA stores. (Um, yes please.) And we definitely have their back. Pennsylvania’s liquor and beer distribution laws need to ditch the Dark Ages. [ Official Site ]

- Early verdict on the fare at Jose Pistolas? Definitely work to be done. The tacos are lacking. (A lot.) The nachos are decent. But it's quite possible that the empanada (a new addition) was the worst menu item we’ve ever been served in a restaurant or bar.

tinto expansion philadelphia- A reader was kind enough to send in this photo they took of the progress Tinto is making on its expansion into the building next door. But from the photo, a camera-phone pic that was supposedly snapped from the front door of the new space, does not indicate where they plan to knock through the wall to connect the two spaces.

- And speaking of expansion, we hear that the inimitable South Philly Tap Room is finally, actually, seriously ready to expand. Which is good considering the bar is already pretty terrific. More newbold spuds anyone?

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to go get our money right.

[ Photo via ]

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bukkake Alert: Jade McCarthy gets a celebratory one from the entire Phillies team

Jade McCarthy - HotThe girl's got gumption.

You have to respect that.

Anyway, a few more pics after the jump.

(Oh wait. We don't do that.)

PS - Jade, we apologize.

You're just so effing adorkable.

Jade McCarthy - Hot AgainAnd hot.

Jade McCarthy - Hot point threeGo Phils.

Phils Celebrate Division Title [NBC10]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sweet Fancy Moses — The Phillies Are The Fucking Truth

All we can say, really, is: Go Phils. Go Phils. Go Phils.
Somehow, it was the Phillies who had a chance to become one of those teams that people talk about for years, for decades, for centuries.

"I know that," said closer Brett Myers on Friday. "And it gives me chills to think about it. I mean, not to sound like a wimp or anything, but just seeing the fans and the way the town is lighting up, it makes you tear up, man, I mean with happiness. It's just really cool to see this happen."
"This is the best team I've been on. I know that," said Myers. "I know the past couple of years, we've come close. But -- and I mean no disrespect to the guys who used to play here -- it's just that now, as a unit, we're a better team. Our mentality, the way we go out there and attack the game, is: just have fun. There's no pressure. Nobody has to be a hero. We feel like you're going to be a hero if you go out and play relaxed.

"Hey, I know there's pressure, man. But we just take it as, let's just go out there and have fun, and see what we can make of this."

Huh? See what they can make of this? Heck, they can probably barely even comprehend what they have a chance to make of this.

They can make an indelible mark on baseball history, for one thing. But that's not all.

More important, at least for that town they play in, they can make a whole lot of ghosts disappear -- the ghosts of all those seasons that ended just the opposite of this one: The ghosts of 2003. And 2005. And 2006. And, especially, 1964.

In 1964, the Phillies were the team on the wrong end of the Greatest Collapse in History. Now, 43 years later, they could be just a win or two away from being the team on the right end of somebody else's Greatest Collapse in History.

In Philadelphia, life is not supposed to work like this. Everybody knows that. But apparently, this team never got that memo.
Word, broseph. Word.

Come on Phillies. J-Rock. Chase. RyHo. Patrick. Face. Gooch. The Natural. Los. Victorino. J-Dubbs. Cole. Brett. Flash. Cooler Pants. JC. Adam. Jamie. Et al.

Every single one of you.

Do it for your city, man. Do it for your goddamned city.


PS - We fucking LOVE you.

Phillies finally on the right side of history [ESPN]

[ Photo via Flickr user throwinrocks ]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Eagles Go Green for the Environment, give us a reason to write about them during a week when we care exclusively about baseball

Corn-based compostable cups by GreenWare at Lincoln Financial Field in PhiladelphiaSo here's one from the Department of We-Had-No-Fucking-Idea…

It turns out that the Philadelphia Eagles (yes, your Philadelphia Eagles) are the greenest team (in terms of environmental consciousness, not uniform color) in the entire National Football League and, quite possibly, all of professional sports.

Listen to some of the shit they do.

- The Eagles are the largest buyer of renewable energy in the state, when companies are measured by amount purchased per employee.

- The Eagles reimburse team employees who buy wind energy in their own homes up to $7.50 a month (PECO only lets you buy like $6 a month anyway) — something apparently not replicated by any other company in the country

- “Last summer, atop the Eagles' corporate headquarters, workers finished installing an array of solar panels that track the sun, producing 30 percent more power than a fixed system.”

- Tickets and programs are all printed on recycled paper — totaling more than 40 tons a year.

- The 100,000 or so clear plastic cups that fans go through every game? They’re actually not plastic but Greenware, a corn-based plastic, which takes 50% less petroleum to make than a regular plastic cup. “And instead of taking a few centuries to break down, the cups biodegrade in as little as 50 days.”

- Meanwhile, on the jumbotron, an Eagles player reminds fans to Go Green: " ‘Hey, this is William James,’ he said. ‘Carpool with your friends or take public transportation when you're headed to the game. And fill up your gas tank at night to reduce harmful vapor emissions. Be a playmaker, and Go Green.’ " Ok, William, we'll listen to you expound the virtues of going green. But, come on, that name change thing didn’t fool anyone.

- "For the plastic water and soda bottles, the Eagles place recycling containers every 46 feet throughout the concourse. Experts who study such matters have determined that a typical person, not finding an appropriate receptacle within 23 feet, will just drop an item." For the mathematically challenged among you, that means that fans in the concourse are never further than 23 feet from a recycling bin.

workers separate trash from plastic to be recycled at lincoln financial field in philadelphia- For the things that do get dropped, the post-game debris pick-up is now geared to recover every piece of recyclable waste. “Jerome Belo of Philadelphia has been working Philadelphia stadiums for 27 years. They used to put all the refuse in one bag. Now they work in pairs, the first guy picking up the recyclables.”

- And perhaps best of all:
"Last week, the players drove to the game. Next month, they will fly about 1,000 miles to take on the Minnesota Vikings and release a lot more carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

So they've been planting trees, which consume carbon dioxide, to offset it.

A Tufts University study has pooh-poohed the idea for individuals who pay some company they don't know to plant trees in a location they will never see. Will the trees even live?

But the Eagles have picked public spots right here. Donating $125,000 to Philadelphia's TreeVitalize program, they planted 332 oaks, cherries, plums, ginkgos and more around 25 Philadelphia public elementary schools - 16 of which had no trees. More were planted at newly renovated Franklin Square."

We are literally dumbfounded.

We had no idea. Who would have thought?

We totally forgot that local corporations could actually choose to do things like this — voluntarily.

It’s enough to make you want to go out and don some old Kelly green Eagles gear out of sheer pride. (Oh wait, we’re already doing that.)

Regardless, Eagles, you fucking rock.

Please let the letter-writing campaign for similar actions to be taken at Citizens Bank Park commence. (And go Phils! Fuck the Mets. And the Padres.)

And thank you Christina Weiss Lurie — you have reaffirmed our faith in for-profit America, not to mention an Eagles organization, with which we were rapidly becoming disillusioned.

One Way The Eagles Can’t Lose [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Go Green - Philadelphia Eagles [Official Site]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

J-Press strikes back, gives Silk City the Boîte treatment in Sunday Styles

And deservedly so.

Ex Philly-Mag’er Jessica Pressler may have shipped off for alleged greener pastures, ahem,
in NYC, but there’s no doubt she still has love for the streets — in the P - ILL - E.

And we knew she did.
THE vibe here,” said Shawn Hennessey, “is the jawn.” The 27-year-old musician gestured at the neon sign for Silk City, a club-cum-restaurant housed in an old dining car in the gentrifying Northern Liberties neighborhood.

“The jawn is a Philly word,” said Brian Nadav, Mr. Hennessey’s friend and bandmate. “It means ‘a good thing.’ It can be a noun, like you can say, ‘Yo, pass me that jawn’ or ‘I’m the jawn.’ ”
Silk City was not always so enticing. After years of being, in Mr. Hennessey’s words, “a greasy, gritty diner” adjoined with a “dirty, awesome bar,” Silk City reopened in June after a face-lift and has been crowded ever since, especially on Thursday night for “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” a dance party featuring pop and hip-hop hits of the 1990s. Once, its late-night scene was made up of truckers, blue-collar workers and drunk 20-somethings being served omelets by cranky waitresses. Only the 20-somethings remain.
Read it. Love it. Share it.

(Well done, Ms. Pressler. Good looking out.)

The Bar Car is Rocking [New York Times]
When Sunday Styles pieces write themselves, for realsies

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plastic Bags in Philly to go the way of trans fats; city’s awesome factor to reach unprecedented levels

fuck plastic bagsCity Council… we gotta say it… just when we thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!

Because, let’s face it, plastic bags are god-awful.

We’ve talked about this previously (and we’d like to think we had some influence on the Dicicco brain trust, but lets not get carried away…), and we are even more sure of the rationale of a plastic bag ban now than we were before.

The idea, as with any ban, is that a simple tax on the banned object is not enough to obtain the desired change in public behavior. And that’s what this comes down — changing public behavior for the better.

San Fran has led the way, and we should definitely be following their lead.
Paper or plastic? It is a question that has long dogged grocery shoppers. But the debate may soon be settled for [Anapolis], where a bill aimed at protecting marine life would ban plastic bags from all retail stores.

San Francisco enacted a ban in April, but it applies just to larger groceries and drugstores. Similar measures are being considered in Boston; Baltimore; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Santa Monica, Calif.; and Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Add Philadelphia to that list.

But what’s even more awesome about this ban is that it gives Philadelphia a great opportunity to get a head start on the about-to-begin, radly progressive, uber-industrious Nutter era, in which Philadelphia makes the leap from the international perception of “whatever” to one of “holy shit, Philadelphia is the new San Francisco, a totally legit and authentic city, with all the best traits of Chicago, New York, Paris et al.” We kid you not.

We are feeling really, really good about Philadelphia these days. Tom Ferrick’s column this week was dead on. Philadelphia is at a crossroads and just needs a few good men (and women) to lead us to the promised land.

Baby steps have already been made (read PhillyCarShare, the in-the-works PhillyBikeShare, RecycleBank — which we hope to god Nutter contracts to serve the entire city and replace the Streets Department operation, Food Trust, Green Plan Philadelphia, PlanPhilly, etc.), which is good, but now it is definitely time to raise the stakes and go all out.

We’re talking about making it illegal for delivery trucks to let their engines idle in Center City (a completely archaic practice that needlessly ruins air quality locally not to mention environmental warming globally); blanket Center City and the burgeoning neighborhoods surrounding it with recycling bins next to every trash can; convert the city’s entire fleet of taxis to hybrids; devote unprecedented funds to greening public spaces and streets (e.g. as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s amazing PLANYC, New York plans to plant a tree in "every single place where it is possible to plant a street tree" by 2017, totaling more than 1 million trees); revive the potentially unbelievable reading viaduct dream; completely overhaul SEPTA, getting it the expanded dedicated funding it needs and converting its entire fleet of buses to hybrids; … and everything else on the Next Great City’s acutely intelligent 10-Action Plan.

we heart reusable bagsSo yea, plastic bags… they suck. We don’t need them. Philadelphia already kicks ass in regards to one BYOB trend (what up Melograno, Zento, Clementine’s — we fucking love you all); let’s rock out another: Bring Your Own Bag.

(Reusable bags are so fucking hip, they’re infinitely cool almost in spite of themselves.)

Because Philadelphians are that smart. Because Philadelphians do care that much. And because Philadelphians are finally prepared to expect the absolute best from their city and to do whatever it takes to ensure its leaders deliver exactly that.


(Meanwhile, who knew Frank Dicicco was such a detractor of Kevin Spacey films / American Beauty?

Frank, we hear ya.)

Dump the Plastic [Philadelphia Daily News]
Greening Up By Cutting Down on Plastic Bags [New York Times]
Pressure Builds to Ban Plastic Bags in Stores [New York Times]
Move Philly Forward Via Optimism [Philadelphia Inquirer]
US Retailers push reusable bags to save money and the environment [International Herald Tribune]
PLANYC 2030 [Official Site]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

PhillyCarShare, Say Hello to Your New (and Arguably Doper) Baby Brother, PhillyBikeShare

Vélib Bike-sharing in ParisIt’s time people. Enough dicking around. Philly needs to get off its ass and become mad bike-friendly. In fact — what the hell — let’s become the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

Why? Why the eff not? Oh and also because a more bicycle-friendly city is a more livable city, a healthier city, a more economically viable city, a more business- and visitor-friendly, a cleaner city, etc.

Earlier this summer Paris introduced a bike-sharing program that is already, in two short months, the envy of progressive municipalities around the world.
The program, Vélib (for “vélo,” bicycle, and “liberté,” freedom), is the latest in a string of European efforts to reduce the number of cars in city centers and give people incentives to choose more eco-friendly modes of transport.

This is about revolutionizing urban culture,” said Pierre Aidenbaum, mayor of Paris’s trendy third district, which opened 15 docking stations on Sunday. “For a long time cars were associated with freedom of movement and flexibility. What we want to show people is that in many ways bicycles fulfill this role much more today.”
Hot damn. And there’s more. It’s cheap as hell and makes so much sense that it just blew your mind.
10,600 bikes (scaling up to 20,600 by the end of the year) available at 750 “docking stations” situated every 1,000 feet. With a swipe of a credit card and a modest fee, Parisians (and tourists) can now pick up or drop off a bike in any neighborhood in the city.

Riders no longer need to worry about storing their bikes in tiny apartments. The program’s high-tech stations make theft virtually impossible. And with about twice as many bike stations as Métro stops, a free bike is pretty much always within reach.

Users can rent a bike online or at any of the stations, using a credit or debit card and leave them at any other station. A one-day pass costs 1 euro ($1.38), a weekly pass 5 euros ($6.90) and a yearly subscription 29 euros ($40), with no additional charges as long as each bike ride does not exceed 30 minutes. (Beyond that, there is an incremental surcharge, to make sure that as many bikes as possible stay in the rotation.)

The outdoor advertising company J. C. Decaux is paying for the bicycles, docking stations and maintenance in return for exclusive use of 1,628 urban billboards owned by the city. The city receives the rental income, and city officials say they are hoping the program will bring in millions of euros.
Imagine something similar in Philadelphia. Oh wait — the New York Times has already taken the liberty… albeit for Manhattan.
Once the Paris program demonstrates that bike-sharing can get people out of their cars and off the transit grid, Mr. Bloomberg should grab a page from the Parisian playbook and transform New York into the most bike-friendly metropolis in America.

Take Manhattan south of 86th Street (the exact parameters of the proposed congestion pricing zone). Imagine introducing 10,000 bikes, with stations at every avenue and every four streets. Now imagine taking a bike, at virtually no cost, from the Metropolitan Museum to the Metropolitan Opera, from Union Square to Chelsea Piers, from the Upper East Side to Wall Street, or from Times Square to Battery Park City.

Even a program as extensive as this would be much less expensive than any other transportation alternative on the table. One industry expert suggests that the cost to manufacture, install and maintain a program for 10 years comes to about $8,000 a bike. The program described above would cost New York about $8 million a year (which could be reduced depending on whether the city would be willing to allow advertising on the bicycles). In perspective: that’s a minuscule fraction of the estimated $2.1 billion cost of the 7 line subway extension now under way.
Vélib Bike-sharing in ParisSounds like a no-brainer. Perhaps that’s why Mayor “I Literally Kick Ass for Green Causes” Daley of Chicago is so smitten with the idea that this very weekend he’s meeting up with the popular Parisian Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to discuss the program to see how he can bring it to the Windy City.
Vélib is the brainchild of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, a Socialist and longtime green campaigner who has set a target for the city to reduce car traffic by 40 percent by 2020. Since he took office in 2001, his administration has added about 125 miles of bicycle paths, at the expense of lanes for cars, prompting accusations from drivers that it has aggravated congestion in the city.”
See Daley is rocking out a Bike 2015 plan because he wants to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

We think Philly should beat him to it.

So stay tuned. This is an idea we’re going to continue to push and support until we figure out just exactly how to bring it to fruition.

Councilman Nutter — we expect you to get on board. And to get on board QUICK.

A New French Revolution’s Creed: Let Them Ride Bikes [New York Times]
The Path of Least Congestion [New York Times]
You'll Look Sweet Upon the Seat of a Rental Bike [Chicagoist]
Bike 2015 Chicago [Official Site]

[ Photos via Flick users Comment vous dire? and t.o.l.i ]

Friday, September 07, 2007

The search for Philadelphia’s first LEED-certified restaurant

So Philadelphia’s a fairly big city — the fifth/sixth largest city in country — so it should probably have at least one LEED-certified restaurant by now. (“The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.”)

Unfortunately, to the best of our knowledge (and, please, do correct us if we’re misinformed…), there are currently zero LEED-certified restaurants in the city of Philadelphia. And this is supposed to be a liberal, progressive, east coast city, right? It's time our restaurateurs get on board and lead via example.

Now obviously Judy Wicks is doing an amazing job at the White Dog Café and its eponymous foundation… but that can’t single-handedly make up for the fact that there is not a single LEED-certified restaurant in the entire city, it being almost 2008.

In a recent New York Times piece about restaurants going green, restaurants in Manhattan, San Francisco and Los Angeles were discussed as examples. None from Philadelphia.

Zagat Buzz, Zagat’s new national blog/enewsletter mashup, had a post last week about a variety of ways restaurants across the country are becoming more environmentally friendly, and what do you know? Restaurants in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and London, among others, were all cited for their efforts at making their restaurants more green (including rooftop gardens, eliminating bottled water, wind energy, etc.) — and again no Philadelphia restaurants were mentioned.

If Philadelphia truly wants to be a world class city and to completely and permanently shed the second-tier status, then it needs to be mentioned in the same breath / thought of in the same vein as these first-tier cities much more consistently.

And to do that, Philadelphians simply need to hold the city up to a higher standard across the board. There’s nothing wrong with constantly expecting the best from the city in which you live.

Like, if green restaurants are good PR for the city (not to mention its overall sustainability), then let’s get on the ball. If restaurateurs are hesitant to do it on their own, maybe it’s time for Mr. Nutter to step in and pass a tax abatement. Seriously.

But short of that happening, who will open Philadelphia’s first LEED-certified restaurant? And when?

What about Table 31, set to open next year in the to-be-LEED-certified Comcast Center. Sorry folks, the boys behind Table 31 allegedly didn’t think becoming LEED-certified was worth it and subsequently decided against it. Swell guys, thanks.

What about Stephen Starr’s new restaurant due to open on Rittenhouse Square next year, Parc — surely such a location abutting one of Philadelphia’s most prized public parks would be an ideal candidate? Alas, a LEED-certification is not on Mr. Starr’s list of priorities for Parc.

We hear Judy Wicks wants to get certified but is waiting on various energy efficiency upgrades, so we have no idea when the White Dog may achieve LEED certification.

Actually, we hear the first restaurant in the Philadelphia area to obtain a LEED certification will be an upscale organic pizza chain from Florida, called Pizza Fusion. Expected to debut in early 2008, it won’t even be in the city but in Ardmore instead.

Bummer, right? We love Philadelphia's restaurants and most of its restaurateurs
— we just wish more of them were willing to make bold progressive statements with their establishments.

It's kind of bollocks that they're not.

Somebody please prove us wrong.

It Takes More Than Veggies to Make a Restaurant Green [New York Times]
Five Paths to a Greener Restaurant [Zagat Buzz]
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) [Official Site]

[ Photo via Picnic ]