Sunday, December 28, 2008

Blatstein / Tower-Investments Hotel Update: Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association Still Hates Fun

blatstein poplar hotel rendering northern liberties philadelphiaPlan Philly has an update on the hotel project development that Bart Blatstein and his Tower Investments company is trying to build on the southwest corner of 2nd and Poplar in Northern Liberties.

Basically, NLNA is still objecting to the size of the project, now called the Poplar Hotel.

The building’s size/height? A massive very reasonable 12 stories with 85 units.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association was as unenthusiastic about plans for a 12-story hotel at 2nd and Poplar streets as it was a year ago when it first saw the proposal.

So unenthusiastic, in fact, that it plans to give the Zoning Board of Adjustment more or less the same recommendations it gave last year: reduce the overall size, reduce the height, and take the loading docks off Poplar Street.
Admittedly, in the models shown, the building can appear to be a little bulky. And Poplar is pretty narrow by the loading dock.

But that should be easy to remedy.

Some positives about the proposed design:

- upper floors are set back from street – good
- second floor roof garden wraps around building – very good
- underground parking – very good
- ground level restaurant – very good
- rooftop pool – great

Possibly of greater concern: this was originally supposed to be a boutique hotel. Now, they’re calling it an extended stay boutique hotel. Not sure what that’s about — probably either an insurance move by Blatstein (so he can easily/cheaply convert to condos later if hotel doesn’t work) or a concession to the neighborhood association.

To us, it's very clear that this project should be a designer boutique hotel, not some Hilton Homewood Suites, the extended stay brand that is going in University City.

Anything but a true boutique hotel would be a missed opportunity to add to and capitalize on the cachet of the neighborhood. As well as a total cop-out.

Poplar project hardly popular in NoLibs
[ Plan Philly ]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dept. Of Times Are Tough: Philly Mag DESPERATELY Trying To Sell Magazines

Philly Mag is sending out email blasts to hype the “big” story in their January issue.

The following are the contents of said email blasts:
EXCLUSIVE: Dawn Stensland Breaks Her Silence Over Her Husband and Alycia Lane ...

The Fox 29 anchor, wife of former CBS3 anchor Larry Mendte, shares her story in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine ...

Until now, Stensland has been silent about her private struggle coping with the recent arrest and conviction of her husband for breaking into the e-mail account of his former co-anchor, Alycia Lane. The January 2009 issue of Philadelphia magazine features an exclusive interview with Stensland by editor at large Vicki Glembocki in which the anchorwoman speaks for the first time about her husband’s relationship with Lane. Stensland reveals new details while speaking about the pain the Mendte family endures, her recent miscarriage, and why she has been able to forgive her husband, but can’t yet forgive herself.

Among the story's highlights:

• Stensland tells the magazine she believes Mendte when he says the relationship between him and Lane was inappropriately close, and included kissing, but the two did not have sex.

• Stensland says Mendte bought Lane a gift from Tiffany for “more than $1,000.”

• Glembocki writes: “On New Year’s Day 2005, Larry had asked Dawn to come up to his office.” There on his computer were “several e-mails in Larry’s inbox between him and Alycia, many with flirtatious subject lines that, Dawn says, ‘broke my heart.’”

• Stensland reveals that she suffered a miscarriage in October 2008.

• Asked to respond to these and other assertions made by Stensland in the article, Lane’s lawyer, Paul Rosen, calls Mendte a “lovesick, obsessed stalker” and advises Stensland to get a divorce.

Click here to read a preview and here for Alycia Lane’s response, and look for the issue on newsstands starting Monday, December 29th.
Note: The entire email is in bold.

That is all.

Philly Mag Preview of 'Dawn's Dark Days'
[ Philadelphia Magazine ]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Craig Laban Stands Up For Good/Local/Craft Beer, Challenges Pub & Kitchen To Do The Same

In his positive review of Pub & Kitchen this week, Craig Laban did find time to pointedly criticize the bar for having too many douchebag beers for its own good.
Co-owners Ed Hackett and Dan Clark, meanwhile, have already transformed the dour and dingy old Chaucer's into the vibrant neighborhood hangout that any good taproom should be. It's devilishly noisy, especially if you don't snag a church pew in the cozy nook that doglegs off the back dining room. But there's an undeniable pulse of energy to this bilevel space, with its welcoming new cafe windows, that draws all walks of locals to this outpost near upscale Rittenhouse and gentrifying Graduate Hospital. It's completely magnetic, despite some early flaws.

For one, the brew list is still too limited to measure up to the city's better bars. There have certainly been some stellar choices on tap, the Offshore IPA, Allgäuer doppelbock, and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale among them. I also loved the low-fizz licorice-root smack of a Yard's Washington Porter drained from a countertop keg at a Friday-night firkin event. But the presence on such a small list of so many commercial beers, from Miller Lite to Corona, is a glaring shortcoming in a city obsessed with craft beer.
True that.

Pub & Kitchen - Chef Jonathan McDonald turns his enthusiasm and talent on gastropub fare, leaving kitchen gimmickry behind [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Photo via ]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Urban Dispatch: How To Remedy The Cira Centre’s Wanting Lite-Brite Nighttime Lighting Schematic

agbar tower barcelona
Agbar Tower in Barcelona, via Flickr user alexdcardona

Some people like the Cira Centre’s uninspired lighting schematic. Most do not. We fall into this latter category.

Such a dramatic and modern addition to the skyline as the Cira Centre should have a similarly modern impact on the skyline by night. Its current lights do not, unfortunately, come close to doing so.

Until now, however, we never really had a better suggestion. The problem was we knew that a traditional skyscraper lighting scheme wouldn't do the Cira Centre justice at night, but we didn't know what would.

The Cira should be as breathtaking to behold at night as it is during the day.

Finally, thanks to the current issue of Metropolis, we came across a building in Barcelona with nighttime lighting that the Cira Centre could emulate in order to achieve that effect.

In our minds, a futuristic glowing orb is approximately 67 times better than Cira Centre’s current LED rendering capacity, which gives the impression that buildings in Philadelphia are built with technology from the 1800s.

Check it.

Agbar Tower in Barcelona, image via Metropolis

Photo via Flickr user notarivs
Agbar Tower, Barcelona, Spain, 2005

By day, the surface of this bullet-shaped tower, designed by Jean Nouvel, looks like a subtle mosaic of blue and red tiles with a whimsical pattern that is more or less visible depending on the angle of the sun and the weather conditions.

By night, the Barcelona landmark becomes a garish beacon, the colors of its glazed facade amplified by 4,500 LED devices that act as paint brushes, adding bright-orange, yellow, turquoise, and purple touches to the original canvas.

[Yann] Kersalé installed his specially designed lighting fixtures on the narrow gangway between the skyscraper’s colored exterior wall and its glass skin. “Because the entire system is programmed, I can play at will with the intensity of the illumination,” Kersalé says. “I can set the tower ablaze, or I can keep it just a pale glow.”

Another layer of serendipity is added by bright squares of white light coming from the building’s windows: workers staying late in their offices unwittingly put a finishing touch on this giant abstract composition.
Now, compare that with the Cira Centre.

Photo via Flickr user sokref1

Again, Agbar Tower…

Photo via Flickr user piriskoskis

Photo via Flickr user Hugo1980

Photo via Flickr user bili_bcn

Versus the Cira Centre…

Photo via Flickr user concep007

Oy vey.

Cira Centre really knocked it out of the ballpark with its highly sophisticated design consisting of rows and dots.

We're not saying Cira should straight up copy the Agbar design. Rather, we are saying that it'd be nice for the Cira Centre to aspire to a nighttime presence a little more progressive and inspirational than the design of a kids toy from the 1960s.

Reclaiming the Night - Yann Kersalé’s nocturnal illuminations have helped revitalize cities, parks, public spaces, and buildings all over Europe. [ Metropolis Magazine ]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

DC To The World Re Inauguration: We Realize This Is One Of The Biggest Things Ever; Our Bars Will Be Open All Night Long To Ensure Party Just As Big

barack obama rally crowdSo, DC is a little worried about how they’re going to be able to handle the 5 million or so people expected to converge on the city for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

Their solution? Keep 'em drunk.
Still, finding a floor remains feasible. The farther away from the District one looks for a hotel, the more options there are. Meanwhile, the online message board is crawling with locals looking to lend their empty futons, spare rooms, or entire homes to visitors. For those willing to brave the cold or who are rolling in on an RV, urban camping at Greenbelt or Prince William Forest parks is an option. (And no, camping on the Mall to snag a viewing spot for the swearing-in is not allowed).

For the truly desperate, the city passed an emergency law to allow bars, nightclubs, and restaurants to stay open all night long from January 17 through the 21st. They can serve alcohol until 4 a.m. but provide food round the clock.
Shit. At least their heart is in the right place.

DC passed a special law just so bars, clubs and restaurants can stay open 24/7 to let people celebrate the inauguration round the clock. For five straight days.

We're sorry, but that is FUCKING AWESOME.

Which brings us to a related matter in Philadelphia: keeping the bars open later than 2 o’clock in the morning. Because, let's face it, a 1:45 a.m. last call is child’s play.

Consider the following.

A.) Young people are critical to a successful city.
B.) Young people, typically in their 20s and 30s, like to blow off some steam at the bar from time to time. That includes being able to stay at the bar drinking legally after 2 a.m.
C.) By that math, young people will be more likely to live in a city that gives them the freedom to drink a few cocktails after 2 a.m. At the bar. Legally.

New York does exactly that and note that their city has not burned to the ground or turned into Sodom or Gomorrah.

Moreover, extending the hours in which licensed bars can sell booze will only create more commerce and tax revenue, so there’s really no downside.

We vote yes.

Not convinced? Listen to you conscience:
[ Click to watch the first minute or so this clip. ]


Washington faces enormous crowds for Barack Obama's inauguration
[ The Times Online ]
Tourist Tips for Washington, D.C. During Barack Obama's Inauguration [ US News & World Report ]

[ Photo via Flickr User Barack Obama ]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama To Take Inauguration Train From Philly; High-Speed Rail Blow Out To Follow?

The Train That Flies, via Portfolio

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama will arrive here for his inauguration by train from Philadelphia, making a journey with echoes of the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln.

Obama plans events in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore during the Jan. 17 trip, his inaugural committee announced Monday.
He’s taking a chartered Amtrak train.

Is this a good sign for high-speed rail? We fucking hope so.

Also, Obama has just pledged public works on vast scale.
President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy.
We can only hope he doesn't blow it on roads and more effing highways.

The Train That Flies [ Portfolio ]
Obama's inaugural train to start in Philly [ USA Today ]
Like Lincoln, Obama Will Ride the Rails To D.C. [ Washington Post ]
Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale [ New York Times ]
Obama’s Stimulus: Too Much Emphasis on Roads and Bridges? [ Streets Blog ]

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rendering Porn: Video Of The Proposed American Commerce Center

A City Council committee granted the American Commerce Center approval for re-zoning last week.

So why not take the time to check out this video the developers are using to promote the proposed skyscraper?

It's worth watching, although we probably would have selected intro music for the video that was a little less foreboding sounding... just sayin'.)

Looks good to us.

Especially the roof-deck.

God, we like roof decks.

Who'd be a tenant in new skyscraper? [ Philadelphia Daily News ]
American Commerce Center [ Official Site ]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Arlen Specter Stirs, Jumps On The High-Speed Rail Bandwagon

Last week, Specter and John Kerry teamed up to introduce The High-Speed Rail for America Act.
Today, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to create new jobs by updating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 would transform America’s outdated and underfunded passenger rail system into a world class system.

“At a time when our economy desperately needs a jumpstart, we need an effective national investment that puts Americans back to work,” said Sen. Kerry. “A first-rate rail system would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again. The High-Speed Rail for America Act will help fix our crumbling infrastructure system, expand our economy, and match high-tech rail systems across the globe.”

“We must continue to focus our energies on building and maintaining a strong national passenger rail system in order to ease congestion of air and highway corridors connecting high-growth markets, as well as to meet energy and environmental goals,” said Sen. Specter. “The High-Speed Rail for America Act is an investment in our nation’s infrastructure and has the potential to provide tremendous economic opportunities throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.”

But was does Fast Eddie think?
“This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Gov. Rendell, one of the founding co-chairs of the Building America’s Future coalition.

“Expanding our nation’s critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment.”
Hell, if Rendell is on board, you really can't lose.

And while the bill's allotted $24 billion is really only a drop in the bucket needed for a serious high-speed rail build out, at least it's a start.

Kerry and Specter push for more high-speed rail [ Los Angeles Times ]
For stronger cities, build better connections [ Gristmill ]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Concept Of “I” Magazine OK (In Theory At Least); Timing Not So Much

Philebrity touched on the debut of the Inquirer’s I Magazine last week, but yesterday the New York Times published a very timely article addressing the current challenges of such a venture.
High-end advertising was one of the few strong advertising categories earlier in the year. Luxury ad spending in categories measured by Nielsen Monitor-Plus actually rose 6.7 percent through August of this year over last year, even as almost all other areas slashed their spending.

Publishers did not miss that trend. In September, Dow Jones & Company introduced WSJ., a glossy magazine, to attract luxury advertisers, and The Washington Post introduced FW, a fashion magazine.

The New York Times Company has said its style magazines are big revenue sources for the company, and magazine publishers like Hearst, Condé Nast and Niche Media have also bet that high-end consumption and advertisements would continue.
So while Philadelphia Media Holdings (PMH) was a solid four years behind the debut of the Times’ “T” Style magazines, at least PMH recognized the trend at all and then acted on it.

Unfortunately, by the time “I” magazine debuted last week, luxury advertisers were not exactly bursting to be included:
[The recent drop-off in luxury advertising] means more bad news for magazines and newspapers in the United States that had grown increasingly dependent on luxury advertising.

Ad pages at the top luxury magazines fell 22 percent year over year for the December issues, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Vogue, for example, dropped from 284 pages last December, to 221 pages this December, while Food & Wine went from 160 pages to 126, according to the newsletter.

For Luxury Brands, Less Money to Spend on Ads [ New York Times ]
Confidential To The Inky: Don’t You Guys Know That Philly Style Is In The Shitter Too? [ Philebrity ]

Monday, November 17, 2008

That Was Quick; Phillies Hike Ticket Prices For 09 Before Fans Can Even Take A Championship-Induced Crap

ryan howard phillies world series championsNot at all unexpected, but still, not exactly welcome either.
Fresh from the glow of their World Series win, the Phillies are raising some ticket prices for 2009.

The Phillies parade confetti is barely swept away. But team officials say the prices of most tickets are going up by $2 or $3 next season. The biggest increase is in the 100-level infield seats. They're going up $6 to $50. Phils ticket manager John Weber:

"The season ticket prices went up a couple of dollars in certain areas, like I said, the $44s went to $50s. The outfield went from $24 to $27. There were certain areas that went up. There were other areas that stayed the same."

Weber says the Phils took the economy into account when deciding on ticket prices for next year.
Really? The economy told you to raise ticket prices?? Fascinating.

Phillies Plan to Raise Ticket Prices For Next Season [ KYW 1060 ]
Phillies Seating and Pricing [ ]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

With Gas Prices Bottoming Out, The Time Is Now To Rock The Always Sunny Gas Plan

From Friday’s Inquirer:
Pump prices continued moving downward overnight, with the five-county Philadelphia area seeing a 2-cent decrease, to $2.31, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The area hit is pump-price high of $4.16 on June 20
This is like a drug dealer offering a detoxing junkie one last fix on the house in a desperate attempt to get the addict hooked all over again.

Too bad gas prices aren’t going to stay low. Cheap gas is history.

Knowing as much, it appears that Mac, Dennis and Charlie were really onto something here…
[ Click to watch short clip.]


Gas and oil prices continue decline [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
The End of Cheap Oil [ National Geographic ]
The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis [ Hulu ]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

YUM-O! Rachel Ray To Headline Philadelphia's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

According to the 6ABC website, Rachel Ray will be headlining the celebrity guests for this year's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Good for 6ABC. Rachel Ray could use some QT in Philadelphia.

Now, as to whether she'll actually show up this time…, well that is anybody's guess.

2008 6ABC/IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade [ 6ABC ]

[ Photo via Grub Street ]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Andy Reid Is Batshit Stupid

The best part of the Eagles game last night?

This commercial. Seriously.

Andy Reid is a fucking embarrassment. Clock management. Terrible. Play calling. Tragic.

And using the offense's best player (Westbrook) as an extra pass blocker in the backfield for three quarters of the game (right up until they went down by 12) — rather than as a receiver/diversion out of the backfield — totally, mindlessly in-fucking-excusable.

Hope you enjoy unemployment, Andy. You'll probably be there for a while.

* We don't even own an Xbox.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Keith McNally Says No To $100M Offer To Chain Balthazar, Takes Parting Shot At Stephen Starr And Other “Sell-Out” Restaurateurs

balthazar in new yorkThe famed New York City restaurateur Keith McNally recently turned down a $100 million offer for his restaurant empire including the right to open copies of the restaurants (Pastis, Balthazar, Morandi, etc.) all over the world.
“If I duplicated Balthazar or Pastis, I'd be ripping the soul out of the original,” [McNally] says.
"I'm not the kind of person who goes to Nobu in Moscow because I like the Nobu in New York. Quite the opposite — I'd never go to another Nobu again anywhere!"

Contrast McNally’s philosophy with that of Stephen Starr, who continues to churn out Buddakan after Morimoto after Prime after Buddakan.

Guess that’s the thing about selling out — it basically boils down to money vs (artistic) integrity.

Keith McNally Resists $100M Bid For Manhattan Dining Empire
[ Page Six – New York Post ]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Philadelphia's Trump Tower Indefinitely Postponed, Trump Development Team Receives Unsolicted Pwning From Allan Domb

trump tower philadelphia
A new development one day, a new victim the next.
Developer Donald J. Trump has postponed construction of his $300 million Trump Tower Philadelphia project because of tightening market conditions.
"With the current market conditions as they are, we have decided to continue construction in a more favorable environment," said Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is executive vice president of development and acquisitions for The Trump Organization in New York, which handles Trump's real estate ventures.

Trump had originally projected Trump Tower Philadelphia to be completed by the middle of this year. He spent more than a year acquiring permits and building rights from the city. Then the real estate market tanked.

This follows Trump's building problems in other major cities where he has similar luxury condo hotel towers going up, including Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas.
Ivanka Trump declined to say when construction would proceed on the Philadelphia project, but she said today: "We are committed to this project, want to build the best one possible, and will continue construction when the market allows us to do so."
In Center City, Trump is competing against a slew of other high-end residential projects, including 1706 Rittenhouse, where 31 units start at $4 million.

Real estate broker and developer Allan Domb, the so-called "Condo King of Philadelphia," said Trump's waterfront location was not a slam dunk.

"I've always thought a Trump Tower property should be located in and around Rittenhouse Square," he said today.

"The waterfront area has still not developed the amenities that luxury condo dwellers seek, such as the ability to walk to restaurants, supermarkets, coffee shops," Domb said. "That location is not a walkable location unless you're a marathoner."

Oh snap, Ivanka. Allan Domb's dropping real estate knowledge bombs all over the place. Pretty sure he's saying you don't know diddly about how to develop in Philadelphia, aka his fiefdom.

And while we don't know about all of that, we do agree about the importance of the walkability aspect. That shit is paramount.

Trump postpones Philadelphia development [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Trump Tower Philadelphia [ Official Site ]

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day PSA - Vote YES On The Parks Reform Ballot Question

FYI, while you're out there Barack'ing the Vote:
On November 4th voters will be asked to consider the following Ballot Question (Bill # 080169):

Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to merge the powers and duties of the Fairmount Park Commission and the Department of Recreation into a newly created Department of Parks and Recreation, to establish a new Commission on Parks and Recreation and to provide for its powers and duties?

Why Vote "YES" on the Charter Change Referendum On Parks November 4?

1. To Protect Park Land: A newly established "Parks and Recreation Commission" will for the first-time ever establish guidelines for the acquisition, lease, sale and development of land and resources, including a process for community input. Currently land deals are dealt with on an ad hoc basis often to the exclusion of or with limited public input.

2. Create an Open and Transparent Process to Appoint Park Commissioners: The Board of Judges will no longer appoint commissioners in private. Again, for the first time, there will be an open process with public hearings to nominate qualified candidates, with related expertise. The Mayor will make final appointments.

3. Improve Park and Recreation System: A unified system will create new opportunities to revitalize and invest in one of Philadelphia's most precious, but neglected assets - its watershed and neighborhood parks, recreation facilities, and historic treasures. Most cities in America, including those with similar assets, have a combined Parks and Recreation department.

In this merger, the two departments will have the opportunity to build on their unique and shared strengths, find new areas of synergy, and coordinate efforts to maximize the intersection of health, recreation, ecology, public safety, historic preservation, youth development, education, and neighborhood revitalization.

4. Expand Funding: As part of an overall reform package, Mayor Nutter and City Council have just approved the largest increase in park funding in decades - a significant first step toward full funding. With increased mayoral accountability and leadership, new and diverse funding sources will be developed.

Philadelphia Parks Alliance urges you to Vote YES on this ballot question!

Vote YES for PARKS!
It's true.

Philadelphia Parks Alliance [ Official Site ]

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Waldorf Astoria Headed To Philadelphia, To Bring City’s Grand Total Of 5-Star Hotels To, Um, Four

This just announced hotel/condo development is planned for the other half of the old Meridian Plaza site, the half not occupied by the brand new Residences at the Ritz Carlton.

Currently a surface parking lot, this southern parcel is owned by Mariner Properties, who already previously tried to do some high end condos there.

This time, they're adding a hotel to the mix. They’ve lined up the luxury Waldorf Astoria brand to anchor a $420 million, 58-story mixed-use development.
Standing at 670 feet tall, the 58-story Waldorf=Astoria Hotel and Residences Philadelphia will be the city's sixth-tallest building as well as its tallest mixed-use hotel and residential project. The classically contemporary granite and glass tower is to be designed by Cope Linder Architects of Philadelphia.

As a newly constructed property, the hotel will have a variety of opportunities to support a sustainable footprint.

A small sample of the many sustainable practices designed to be utilized in the project include: vegetative roof systems; one of the first U.S. hotel installations of an active chilled beam HVAC system; and an unprecedented degree of building automation through a unique venture with Johnson Controls, Inc., the world's leader in building automation technologies and building system integration.
The developers profess that sustainability is key to the project.
To ensure that the Waldorf=Astoria project meets the developers' high benchmark for sustainability while enhancing the luxury experience for residents and guests, the Mariner/Gatehouse development team retained Re:Vision Architects of Philadelphia, one of the leading LEED consultants in the country.

"We're convinced that being sustainable can enhance the guest experience and, surprisingly, we've found no shortage of extremely high-quality and innovative building products to use in this project from some of the most prominent and respected names in the industry," said Mahoney.
More like paying lip service to sustainability concerns. The project comes with a “350-car valet garage […] located on floors 2 through 8."

350 above-ground parking spaces? At 15th and Chestnut?? Effing ridiculous.

Especially because "residents will also have complimentary access to a small fleet of hybrid or electric vehicles for personal use."

So if that's the case, why all the additional parking?? Totally unnecessary.

Parking spots for the hotel and residences should be minimized. Including 300+ parking spots is fucking brain dead from an urban design/livable streets/sustainability perspective.

Meanwhile, the scene at street-level?
Retail space is planned for a 7,000-square-foot fine dining restaurant on Chestnut Street and a 2,140-square-foot retail boutique on the corner of 15th & Chestnut streets.
The hotel portion of the project will boast 175 rooms between floors 16-27, while there will be 136 residences starting at a cool $1 million on floors 28-58.

Overall, getting the Waldorf=Astoria here in Philadelphia would be great. We just wish the developer, Mariner, wasn't so strangely attached to always including terrible excessive parking.

Due to open in 2012.

Initial probability of that happening — 70%.

A Waldorf is planned for Center City [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
One of the First Grand Hotels Meets One of the Country's First Cities [ Press Release via Hotel Chatter ]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

U.S. Colleges Jumping On The Bike-Share Bandwagon, Penn And Temple Yet To See The Light

[Across America, many] colleges are setting up free bike sharing or rental programs, and some universities are partnering with bike shops to offer discounts on purchases.

The goal, college and university officials said, is to ease critical shortages of parking and to change the car culture that clogs campus roadways and erodes the community feel that comes with walking or biking around campus.

“We’re seeing an explosion in bike activity,” said Julian Dautremont-Smith, associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a nonprofit association of colleges and universities. “It seems like every week we hear about a new bike sharing or bike rental program.”
College campuses are perfect areas for implementing bike share pilots. (Even more so when there’s a viable theft deterrent.) It’d be nice to see Penn and Temple, the city’s biggest universities, institute bike share programs as part of their professed desires to be more sustainable.

While it’s not like many of their students are driving across campus to get to class, it would nevertheless be another amenity that the schools could offer their students.

With Free Bikes, Challenging Car Culture on Campus [ New York Times ]
Sustainability office to help Temple campus go green [ Temple News ]
Penn Green Campus Partnership [ University of Pennsylvania ]

[ Photo via bikesharephiladelphia ]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is Vince Fumo Going To Pull A Clay Davis??

A little light being shed on the Fumo defense strategy…
After years of near silence, State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo finally laid out his defense last week to the federal government's sprawling corruption indictment.

In the most striking defense argument, Fumo acknowledged that he had received freebies - power tools, consumer goods and much more - from a South Philadelphia neighborhood-improvement charity.

But the defense said Fumo had deserved the gifts from Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods as thanks for having raised millions for the organization.

We can't give him a gold Rolex watch for $25,000 because he has a watch," said lawyer Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., who represents former Citizens' Alliance head Ruth Arnao, a Fumo codefendant, at the start of the trial Wednesday.
Right, because that logic makes perfect sense. If you're playing by Clay Davis standards…

Arguments on both sides of Fumo trial [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Took - Episode 7, Season 5 of The Wire [ Wikipedia ]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Valet Bike Parking Comes To Philadelphia

There's a shortage of places to park your bike in Philadelphia. With more people than ever biking around the city, those precious few places at which to lock up your one speed have become even more scarce.

Obviously, the city will need a lot more bike racks, not to mention indoor bike parking in office buildings.

But that’s going to take some time.

In the meantime, how about valet bike parking?
Bike valet parking has been around in [New York City] for at least a decade, but mostly as an occasional volunteer service provided at public events like film screenings, “Summers Streets” events and the recent Lower East Side pickle festival by Transportation Alternatives, the pro-bike lobby.

But it’s gone upscale. Even a recent Fashion Week event at Bergdorf Goodman offered bike valet parking. It’s something that is also offered across the country, in cities like San Francisco and Chicago.

“People worry about locking up the bike,” said Hillary Nanney, 24, who was one of dozens of bikers who used the free bike valet service at International Pickle Day. “This is a great service.”

Yes, the city is already making efforts to ease bike parking: increasing bike facilities for city employees, building bike shelters, encouraging buildings to incorporate indoor bike parking and installing nifty bike racks, some of which are spectacularly designed.

But it’s not going to be nearly enough. For one thing, the proposed Bicycle Parking Text Amendment would require buildings to offer bike parking — but only new ones.
A valet service would give people piece of mind. It could make economic sense too. Right now, most bike valet parking is free. But many people would be willing to pay at the least the equivalent of a roundtrip subway fare or thereabouts — $3-4 a day or $80 a month. So with just 25-30 bikes in a day, someone could earn around $100 to cover wages and overhead, which isn’t much (which would be minimal).

You can pack in bicycles a lot more densely when you valet park (it works that way for cars, too). A parking space for a car can fit 20 bikes.

It’s also quite labor efficient. Instead of one valet driver per car at any instance, a bike valet could ostensibly move two bikes at a time — one for each arm.

And what’s great about bike valet parking (as opposed to car valets) is that it’s friendly to our labor market. First, you deal with sticky issue of driver’s licenses. Second, you don’t need to speak great English to park and unpark bike. As with a coat check, you only have to match numbers. So this could help with the city’s unemployment rate, which seems to be inching upward.
The city (or perhaps a third party like Transportation Alternatives) should license the valets so people would be be confident that their valet isn’t a fly-by-night bike thief. The city has already used its licensing power to increase the availability of fruit and vegetable vendors in poorer neighborhoods, why not use it to increase parking valets?
Sounds like a terrific idea to us.

Nieghborhood Bike Works provided valet bike parking at last week's opening night of A Clean Break on Broad and at Sunday's Biketoberfest at Dock Street Brewery in the UC as well.

Very cool to see.

It be even cooler if it was standard procedure.

How Much Do You Tip The Bike Valet [ City Room – New York Times ]
The city needs to get creative on bike parking [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
A Clean Break [ Official Site ]
12 Reasons to Get To Biketoberfest on Sunday [ Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia ]
Neighborhood Bike Works [ Official Site ]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Westin Center City Hotel Reportedly Playing Host To The Dodgers, Just As It Did For The Mets And The Brewers Before Them

According to our sources, the Los Angeles Dodgers are staying at the Westin Hotel in Center City. *

We find this to be newsworthy because a) the Milwaukee Brewers stayed at the Westin last week and then proceeded to lose both games to the Phillies in quick succession. And b), prior to that, the Mets stayed at the Westin all season when they were in town, and look what happened to them.

So, as far as we’re concerned, good choice by the Dodgers. The Phillies own teams that stay at the Westin.

And that’s not to knock the Westin — it’s a fine place to stay. In fact, teams' struggles may have something to do with their Heavenly beds being just a little too heavenly.

Regardless, feel free to swing by, have a drink in the lobby bar (or at City Grange), and see if you spot Manny being Manny.

Or stop by just to egg their bus.

To each their own.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

With All Due Respect To Breast Cancer Awareness, Shouldn’t These Buildings Be Lit Bright Phillies’ Red Right Now?

philadelphia skyline pink for breast cancer awareness
After all, it’s been 15 frickin’ years since the Phillies have been playing for the NL pennant… They deserve it. [ Photo via PhillySkyline ]

In what can be viewed as unfortunate timing for the Phillies, their march through the playoffs has run into Breast Cancer Awareness Month, during which the Susan G. Komen Foundation organized some 40+ buildings in Center City to light their buildings pink at night.

Which would normally be great, except the timing is unfortunate for the Phillies because if these buildings hadn’t already agreed to go pink for breast cancer awareness, they would undoubtedly be going red for the Phillies. (As is customary with these things, a la Eagles playoff games, Pat Burrell going for the all star game, even Eagles on Monday Night Football…)

After all, it’s like Cole Hamels said of his team’s playoff success. “Hopefully it will turn the city red a little bit more than it is green.”

Indeed. And it should start with the skyline.

Now don’t get us wrong. Breast Cancer Awareness is awesome and we’re all for supporting it, and all for lighting the skyline pink as a way of doing so. We just wish it wouldn’t take precedent over the opportunity to dramatically throw the city’s support behind the Phillies, who are in a playoff series for the National League pennant for the first time in 15 years.

That’s it, really. The elusiveness and rareness of the feat, alone, should justify making the switch.

The Philadelphia skyline can go pink for the cure in November. And December. Hell, throw in January and February if you want.

But, honestly, right now it would be really, really great if the city we’re able to both literally and figuratively show its support for the Fightin’ Phils. And there's really no better way to do that than by lighting the skyline in their team color. The Phillies deserve it. And getting this town a little fired up with some good ol' Phillies team spirit would be a very positive thing.

So we say go pink next month. In our minds, this month the skyline should be lit a brilliant Phillies' red. GO PHILS!

(We’d be willing to accept a compromise — nights with Phillies games, skyline in red; nights without Phillies games; skyline in pink.)

CBS 3, Susan G. Komen Light Up The Tri-State - More than 100 buildings and landmarks go pink [ CBS3 via PhillySkyline ]
Philadelphia turns from football town to baseball town [ Philadelphia Daily News ]

Apparently, the skyline can go Eagles' green pretty much whenever…

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tiger Woods' Tourney Could (And Should) Be Headed To Philadelphia

Tiger Wood’s own PGA tournament, the AT&T National Tournament, wants to come to Philadelphia for two years, 2010 and 2011, to play at the Donald Ross designed Aronimink Golf Club, if the club will be so kind as to have him.
Woods's Event Set to Shift to Suburban Philadelphia for '10-11

Aronimink Golf Club in the Philadelphia suburbs will be the temporary home for the AT&T National golf tournament in 2010 and 2011 if a majority of the club's membership approves a proposal to host Tiger Woods's signature event on the PGA Tour.
Aronimink, in Newtown Square, Pa., was the site for the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship won by John Jacobs. The course was designed by renowned architect Donald Ross and opened for play in 1928. It is annually listed among the top 100 golf courses in the United States, playing at 7,206 yards to a par of 70.

"We have made a proposal to Aronimink to host our event in 2010 and 2011," said Greg McLaughlin, the tournament chairman and executive director of the Tiger Woods Foundation, which runs the event and is the main charitable beneficiary. "The members still have to approve it, but we're excited about the possibility of going there. We felt it was the best place to take the championship. It's a historic course, Philadelphia is a wonderful market and they haven't had PGA Tour golf there in quite a while."
We agree. This is a win-win for Philadelphia. Even if it’s only for two years — we’ll take it. A PGA tournament is good for the local economy. A prestigious tournament hosted by Tiger Woods… that’s great for Philadelphia. And one more way to get Philadelphia some very positive national visibility on July 4th weekend.

We can only hope the Aronimink members don’t blow it, via a small-minded, self-interested vote. Aronimink — please throw Philadelphia a frickin’ bone.
McLaughlin had scouted a number of courses in the Washington area as well as venues in other markets, including Baltimore and St. Louis, before settling on Aronimink for 2010 and 2011. He said he wanted to keep the tournament at the same site for two years because "if you look at doing an event on a one-year basis, it's just very difficult from an operational standpoint. Aronimink offered us the best alternative for 2010 and 2011."
Dick Naumann, Aronimink's general manager, said last night that his club has a long history of hosting important tournaments, including the 1977 U.S. Amateur, and that most of the members he has spoken with "have been very positive about the idea of having the event at our club.

The member vote is supposed to be held later this month with the outcome to be announced in early November.

Aronimink: please make us proud.

AT&T National Tournament Finds a Temporary Home in Philadelphia
[ Washington Post ]
Aronimink Golf Club [ Wikipedia ]
The AT&T National Tournament [ Official Site ]

Monday, October 06, 2008

Breaking: Mayor Nutter Saves Christmas, Finally Hires City's First Pedestrian And Bicycle Coordinator

Popped collar and scooter notwithstanding, the new bike and pedestrian enhancements in Manhattan have been tremendous successes

Praise Jesus.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is proud to announce that Mayor Nutter’s Office of Transportation and Utilities hired Charles Carmalt for the position of Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator. Thank you Mayor Nutter for fulfilling this campaign promise and filling this position.

Carmalt joined the Office with 35 years of transportation planning experience. His career included both private and public sector work. For the last nine years, he ran his own consulting firm where his projects placed special emphasis on the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.

His role at the City will be to coordinate all activities that impact the quality of the urban environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. His responsibilities will range from assisting on the Planning Commission’s forthcoming Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan to helping build relationships with outside agencies like the Philadelphia Parking Authority in order to expand and improve our bicycle parking options.
July 1, huh? Almost made it.

We hope that in addition to “coordinating,” Carmalt will also be doing plenty of advising and implementing. We also look forward to Philadelphia’s streets quickly becoming significantly more livable and complete, with the accommodation and safety of pedestrians and bicycles becoming a much bigger priority for the Streets Department and the city overall.

Philadelphia Hires Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator
[ Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia ]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Breaking: Photographic Evidence That Ed Snider Hates Logic, Reason, Intellect And The Capacity For Sound Judgment

Sarah and Ed chumming it up pre-debate Friday night at the godforsaken Irish Pub of all places

Not at all surprising coming from the worst owner in the history of Philadelphia sports.

That is all.

Palin Grabs a Seat at the Bar [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Confidential To Septa: It’s Time To Partner With Google Transit Already

A demonstration of Google’s new transit mapping feature in Grand Central Terminal (via NY Times)

Google Transit, the wonderful online mapping application that allows people to easily plan a trip via public transportation in cities across the world, has just launched in New York City.

And just listen to what public officials, transit officials, and Google directors had to say:
“Google Maps for Transit is a truly innovative marriage of information and infrastructure. It is a perfect example of how the public and private sectors can partner together to benefit us all – and it didn’t cost New York taxpayers a penny,” said Governor Paterson. “I applaud my colleagues at the MTA and Port Authority for making this a priority, and our friends at Google for continuing to make the world an easier place to navigate.”
Key points: No cost to taxpayers. Will make transit easier to use.
MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said: “At a time when the MTA is facing mounting fiscal challenges, we are thrilled to be able to offer this service to our customers at no cost to taxpayers. Google Transit will encourage ridership and underscores the importance of the MTA to the region’s economy and environment.”
Will encourage ridership. Saves MTA (web) resources to focus on other initiatives.
MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander said: “The MTA is delighted to partner with Google to provide our customers with this cutting-edge tool for getting around our 5,000 square-mile territory. Customer service is a top priority, and this is just the latest example of how the MTA is pursuing innovative ideas to serve our riders.”
Innovative form of customer service.
New York City Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler said: “[…] One of the keys to increasing mass transit usage is making it easier for people to understand how to use the system. This partnership between Google and the MTA does exactly that. It harnesses the power of Google’s innovative search technologies to allow residents and visitors to more easily understand how mass transit will get them to where they need to go.”
Will make transit more accessible to new users, both residents and visitors.
John Hanke, Director of Google Maps & Earth, said: “We are extremely pleased to join forces with the MTA to provide information about their vast transit system in Google Maps. By being able to access station and schedule data for the largest public transit system in the United States via Google Maps, users are exposed to the availability and convenience of public transportation and are better equipped to take advantage of all that the New York metropolitan region has to offer.”
Expands reach of transit options to HUGE auxiliary audience outside of transit agency’s own website.
At no cost to the MTA, Google and the MTA collaborated on the development of Google Transit for the New York region, joining other major public transit providers who had launched similar services with Google, such as Chicago Transit Authority ( CTA ), NJ Transit, San Francisco ( BART ), Atlanta ( MARTA ), and internationally, Moscow and Tokyo.

The project involved consolidating and reworking disparate MTA schedule and station location data into a format that would enable the service for the New York region. This information will be made available to other developers to enable development of new customer-focused services in the future.

Google Transit complements existing MTA trip planning services, including Trip Planner and Trips 123, by providing another way for riders to discover the wealth of services that the MTA offers.
A true no-brainer in every sense of the word.

Not for nothing, it was two years ago next week that we first suggested Septa get on board with Google Transit when Google Transit launched in Pittsburgh in October 2006.

It is now, today, still as good an idea as it was then and Septa should be straight-up pilloried until they get over their reactionary fear of change/progress and bring Google Transit to Philadelphia.

Governor Patterson Announces Partnership Between MTA and Google To Help Customers Navigate Transit System [ Newswire ]
Google Transit Expands to New York [ City Room - New York Times ]
Google Says Its New Program May Boost Transit Ridership [ New York Sun ]

Google Transit To Solve Pennsylvania Public Transit Woes

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Breaking: City Agrees To Much Improved Design For The South Street Bridge

Remember the situation regarding the critically flawed, auto-centric design of the new South Street Bridge? Well, the work of the South Street Bridge Coalition over the past several years seems to have paid off. They have achieved a significant victory in securing a much more pedestrian-, bike- and city-friendly design for the new bridge.

The city recently agreed to amend the bid package that was sent out to prospective contractors — they’ve now included an addendum of design changes to the bridge that will significantly improve the bridge ability to smartly fit into the seamless urban context of a more livable Philadelphia.

Here’s the statement from the Coalition:
We are pleased to inform you that the City of Philadelphia is releasing an addendum to the bid package for the South Street Bridge Reconstruction Project. This addendum includes many of the changes that were agreed upon by the City of Philadelphia and the South Street Bridge Coalition:
  • Vehicle Lane Design – A four-lane traffic design will replace the five-lane design.
  • Crosswalk at Schuylkill River Park – An additional crosswalk with a pedestrian activated traffic signal will be added at the ramp and stair from the Bridge down to the Schuylkill River Park. The traffic signal will be portal mounted above the roadway. The curb ramps at this crosswalk will be widened to 6-ft. on both sides of the Bridge to allow multiple bicyclists to simultaneously cross and access the bicycle lanes.
  • Speed Limit – The posted speed limit for the entire Bridge and viaduct will be reduced to 25 MPH.
  • Bicycle Lanes – Bicycle lanes have been widened as a result of the reduction in the number of vehicle lanes.
  • Advanced Bicycle Stop Bars – Bicycle stop bars will be advanced to allow bicyclists to get ahead of motorists for greater visibility and safety.
  • Lighting – Pedestrian style lights will be installed. The majority of the bridge lighting will be sidewalk mounted at the curb. All light standards will include mounting brackets for future banner placement.
  • Signal Timings – Traffic signal timings have been optimized for pedestrian movements and safety.
  • Reflective Pavement Markers – Reflective pavement markers will be installed at the curve on the east side to improve roadway visibility.
  • Sidewalk Surface – The sidewalks will be scored and tinted to resemble grey slate pavers.
  • Roadway Surface – The roadway will be tinted to resemble asphalt.
  • Guiderail – Decorative vertical elements will be added to the sidewalk side so that the railing appearance is more pedestrian friendly.
In addition to the above agreed upon changes, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has received funding from PennDOT to undertake a traffic study to determine how traffic is dispersed during the Bridge closure.
Center City Residents Association President Vivian Seltzer called the news “a wonderful and optimistic message that projects which are initially misinformed can be transformed — with the proper leadership and spirit.”

We’d like to agree with her.

Well done to all those involved.

South Street Bridge Reconstruction Project [ ]

Confidential To Mayor Nutter: Support The Modified + Improved South Street Bridge Design
The South Street Bridge Is Not Completely Lost Yet

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Philadelphia Streets Department Continues Troubling (And Asinine) Trend Of Complete Disregard For Pedestrian Safety

Uh, don't mind the 20-ton bus barreling down behind you…

The sidewalk on the western side of 17th Street between Walnut and Sansom has recently been annexed by a construction crew, leaving pedestrians defenseless against vehicle traffic as they try to walk up and down 17th Street (above), or worse, as they wait IN THE STREET for public transportation (below).

Initially, there was a temporary sidewalk that jutted into 17th Street providing a barrior between pedestrians and vehicular traffic. However, the Streets Department made the contractor get rid of it, as it jutted into a lane of the street, causing vehicle traffic to move more slowly down 17th street. (Gasp. The horror — cars driving slowly down one of Center City’s most heavily walked streets…)

So the Streets Department forced the construction crew to remove the temporary sidewalk, restoring a second lane of vehicular traffic to 17th Street at the cost of the safety of thousands of pedestrians each day.

This is egregiously absurd. 17th Street between Walnut and Market Streets is one of the most highly trafficked pedestrian areas in the city. And the Streets Department just moronically erased an entire sidewalk without so much as a single concern for the safety of pedestrians.

The takeaway from this is clear: the Philadelphia Streets Department is still very out of touch with 21st Century urban planning. They are still prioritizing cars far more than people — exactly the opposite of how conditions in vibrant, successful, sustainable, and highly livable 21st century cities will be.

dangerous pedestrian conditions at 17th and walnut in philadelphia
If the Streets Department had their druthers, sidewalks would be for extra parking…

Local architect and Design Advocacy Group member, George Claflen, has already documented the problem over at Plan Philly and sent a memo to the Streets Department.
The best solution to this would be restoration of the temporary pedestrian protected zone which is also consistent with how this type of situation is handled in other cities -- but whatever you do the present condition is not safe.

Additionally wouldn't it be a good idea to have the Streets Department personnel who issue permits for this type of work receive some basic training and supervision on safety, pedestrian issues, and public transportation? And isn't it appropriate to require a higher standard of traffic and pedestrian management on our most densely used streets?
You would think that, wouldn’t you?

However, Claflen's memo was sent two weeks ago and still nothing has been done. The Streets Department should be taken out back and shot.

Obviously, this stems from the problems caused by poor construction laws related to sidewalk closures, chronicled by Ms. Saffron earlier in the year. But until those regulations are fixed, the Streets Department can't simply wash their hands of pedestrian safety. They are mandated with providing both efficient traffic flow for vehicles AND safe pedestrians pathways for people.
There are close to 1.5 million people living in Philadelphia, and every one of them is a pedestrian at one time or another. Yet City Hall sometimes seems surprised to learn that people travel on two feet.

Pity Philadelphia's walking majority. Its precious sidewalks are increasingly being taken in brazen landgrabs by the city's powerful construction industry, which erects flimsy chain-link fences to mark turf, sometimes for the sole purpose of allowing contractors to park for free.
Twenty years ago, when Center City was deadsville, perhaps those lapses didn't matter as much. But since then, downtown has evolved into an archipelago of churning construction sites.

To avoid crashing into all the ad-hoc construction barriers, pedestrians now zigzag from one side of the block to the other. Unarmed and unprepared, they have no choice but to dive into the perilous stream of fast-moving vehicles before regaining the protected shore of a sidewalk. That dip into traffic defeats the point of construction barriers, which are to keep pedestrians safe.
With all those obstructions, Philadelphia's boast of having the most walkable downtown in America is going to be a harder sell. It's time, [Councilmen] Kenney argues, to make good on the claim by taking back the sidewalks for everyone who lives — and walks — in Philadelphia.
If the Streets Department continues to so heinously neglect pedestrian safety, eventually no one is ever going to drive downtown anymore because there won't be any pedestrians left.

Sidewalk at 17th and Sansom annexed by construction crews for free parking

They'll all be somewhere else, like in New York.
James F. Kenney, an at-large city councilman, had always assumed this was the way it worked in all big cities. Then he took his family on a trip to New York and discovered that not once was his trajectory interrupted on Manhattan's crowded streets, even though it has at least five times as many high-rise construction projects as Philadelphia.

Instead of battered chain link, Kenney found an orderly arrangement of sidewalk sheds that guarantee New York's sidewalks are always open for business. The structures usually involve a sturdy wooden roof held up by an allée of metal poles. If it's impossible to build over the sidewalk, contractors must carve a safe passage in the street.

The sheds do more than keep the way clear for pedestrians. They enable merchants to continue serving their customers - and stay in business - during lengthy projects. They also provide safe storage and staging room for construction crews, and help shield everyone from falling debris. Contractors must illuminate the underside of the covered walkways with a string of bulbs so they're safe at night.
Seems extremely complicated not at all difficult.

Dangerous conditions at 17th and Walnut [ Plan Philly ]
Changing Skyline: The city has lost control of its sidewalks [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Video: Councilman Jim Kenney tells the Inquirer about lost sidewalks [ ]

[ Top two photos via Plan Philly; third photo via ]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Breaking: Septa To Offer Free Train Rides This Weekend To Promote New Late Night Regional Rail Service

Septa is slowly but surely coming around. New General Manager Joseph Casey is already proving to be infinitely better than his predecessor, Faye Moore.

The latest example — not only expanding service, but also doing things to promote said service to potential new riders.
SEPTA will offer free rides to passengers on all trains scheduled to arrive and depart Center City after 6:30pm, September 19-20

In an effort to introduce their new late night regional rail service on Routes R5 Paoli/Thorndale, R6 Norristown and R7 Trenton Lines, SEPTA will offer free rides to passengers on all trains scheduled to arrive and depart Center City after 6:30pm, September 19-20.

The free ride promotion is valid for trains scheduled to arrive or depart Center City after 6:30pm ONLY. Normal fare collection procedures are in effect for all other trains arriving prior to 6:30pm.
You know, for kids.

Well done Septa. Now, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about a bar car …

New Schedules Feature the Debut of Additional Late-Night Weekend Service [ SEPTA Official Site ]
Editorial: Septa's Expansion - Keep on Rolling [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Septa (Re-)Announces Additional Service [ SEPTA Watch ]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Market Street Office Corridor To Get Infusion Of Much Needed Pedestrian-Scaled Retail Development

The Comcast Center Effect, already paying dividends on 16th Street…

Good news out of Philadelphia’s Central Business District, i.e. the Market Street office corridor west of City Hall.
APF Properties, a New York real estate investor that owns 1601 Market St., has fashioned a plan that has the potential to alter the retail scene in the heart of the Central Business District.

APF has plans to build a two-story glass structure around a portion of 1601 Market, a 36-story, 600,000-square-foot office building, that will add 50,000 square feet of new retail space facing Market and 16th streets. Outdoor eateries and other spaces would also be created.
They’re looking at implementing the development in two phases, with the first phase to be complete by early 2010.
The plan goes to the heart of special services organization Center City District’s stated desire to see more retail and outdoor dining establishments along the West Market Street office corridor.

The organization believes those additions would help to create a better pedestrian experience and extend activity along Market Street beyond office hours, turning it into a nighttime destination.
Make no mistake about it — this is called "progress." And Comcast Center, located just around the corner from 1601, definitely led the way, having first given people a reason to make the trek north of Chestnut Street after 5 p.m with Table 31's Plaza Cafe.
The project aims to create an environment akin to the Avenue of the Americas in New York where a mix of office towers and retailer and pedestrian plazas meet.

The new space at 1601 Market will look to lure highest-end retailers and restaurants, said Larry Steinberg, a retail broker at Michael Salove Co. who is marketing the space.

“We’re looking to make a major retail impact on Market Street,” Steinberg said. For example, he’s in discussions with a restaurateur on a unique concept that would be an attraction like the ESPN Zone in New York. He also envisions stores in the vein of a Thomas Pink, a tony men’s clothing shop, and a cutting edge health club to be attracted to the space.

The Central Business District, which mostly has coffee and sandwich shops along with staid bank branches dotting the lower levels of office buildings, is ripe for this type of retail development, Steinberg said.
Good to see at least one existing Center City office property upgrading its offerings — "the other two parts of upgrading the [1601] property includes enhancing office tenant services used and pushing them to a top-rate level and making the building as environmentally friendly as possible" — instead of the knee-jerk complaining reaction that comes standard from most office property owners every time a new office building is proposed. Dicks.

Plan adds stores, restaurants to West Market [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]