Monday, June 30, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: The Independent Is Now Open And, We Assume, Ghost-Free

(Because, for a while there, you know, it was vacant and … well, you want to be sure.)

Midtown Village has itself a new hotel — The Independent Hotel Philadelphia, which we told you about a little while ago, tips the scales with a whopping 24 rooms.

6ABC was there to for the grand opening, which you can watch right here.


Need a place to stay this weekend? Special Independence Day rates start at $139.

The Independent Hotel Blog [ Official Site ]

The Illadelph: 'The Independent' Continues Its Noticeably Accelerated Renovation Schedule, Sets Opening Date for June 20

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breaking: Septa Is, For Once, Actually Taking Proactive Measures To Improve The Experience of Its Riders

No, for real — it’s true:
To help ease overcrowding on Regional Rail lines, SEPTA plans to lease eight used railcars from NJ Transit.

The cars, to augment SEPTA's existing fleet of 348 cars until new Silverliner V cars begin arriving in 2009, are to be put into service next month if the $10,000-a-month lease is approved by the SEPTA board today.

As gasoline prices rise, SEPTA rail ridership is up 14 percent this year, and many rush-hour trains are packed with standing passengers, straining the system's capacity.
And the last thing Septa wants to do is annoy, disappoint or turn off these new riders. This is a veritable tipping point for Septa — a golden opportunity to show off how convenient for commuters transit can really be.
The leased cars, which are being retired by NJ Transit as new double-decker cars come on line, must be used with SEPTA locomotives because they are not self-propelled like most of SEPTA's fleet.

The NJ Transit cars will allow SEPTA to increase the length - and the capacity - of its seven locomotive-pulled trains, assistant general manager for operations Patrick Nowakowski said.
Don’t tell us those snotty assfaces from the Main Line are the only ones that will benefit from this. (The seven Septa locomotive trains only service the Main Line rail line, the R5 Paoli/Malvern/Thorndale.)
SEPTA will also "make some schedule adjustments to make these seven trains carry more people, and thus give us some flexibility to move the other equipment around to create more system-wide capacity," Nowakowski said.
Ok, good. We’re kinda impressed. That almost sounds smart even.

See, Septa needs to truly understand that it is at a very critical point. With gas prices forcing all these new riders onto transit it can either impress the new riders and make a huge breakthrough for regional transit (by being generally on time, clean, convenient and comfortable, e.g. having seats for all riders) OR it can blow it completely by turning them off and generally failing to demonstrate the awesome benefits/potential of transit.

We sincerely hope Septa’s new general manger, Joseph M. Casey, is working hard to instill a new sense of optimism and real purpose in the agency and its staff — a can-do attitude, an overall sense of pride and a sense of vital importance in what they’re doing — that motivates them to genuinely care about making Septa great and maximizing its positive impact on the region and the region's environment.

Because every day that gas prices force more people onto transit, that day is the new most important day of Septa’s existence. And the same is the case for each successive day. And Septa should be treating each and every day as such.

This is a Super Bowl-esque opportunity for Septa. The whole agency should be all hands on deck, trying to take as much advantage of the circumstances as possible.

And this sense of urgency and great opportunity needs to come from the very top. Joseph Casey, get to it.

SEPTA looking to lease railcars from NJ Transit [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
The Missing Links - Public transit ridership is up, but no one's talking about a better system [ Grist ]
Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit [ New York Times ]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Urban Dispatch: Speaking Of Bike Share, How About A Little Ikea Bike Share?

copenhagen ikea bike share
Straight Out of Copenhagen, Yo

To get the ball rolling.

Seriously. The more corporate and retail partners that Bike Share Philadelphia can get on board, the better off they’ll be. And businesses would be stupid not to get involved.
IKEA of Denmark is now starting a new concept at their Danish stores. They did a bit of market research and found that roughly 20% of their customers rode their bikes to the stores - even though most of them are located outside the cities in large commerical centres - some call them Big Box Districts - which are located outside the city centre.

IKEA has invested in Velorbis bikes, at a couple of their stores, that will pull trailers so that customers can ride home with the new purchases.
The Ikea on Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia would be perfect for bike sharing. It's only 2-3 miles from Center City and mostly via roads with dedicated bike lanes. Also, take into account the fact that South Philly is burgeoning with hipsters. AND that this Ikea was the first “urban” Ikea store in America when it opened.

So let's go Ikea — don't be an pratty bitch. It is time to go green. (Yes, even greener.)

Ikea Tests Bike-Share in Denmark. Why Not NYC? [ Streets Blog ]

Ikea bags plastic bags, reps reusable bags… and thereby becomes an official Illadelph crush

ikea bike share copenhage

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mike Klein Calls It — Comcast Center Plaza Cafe Is, Indeed, The Truth

comcast center plaza cafe philadelphia, table 31Not like he was going out on limb or anything… but we nevertheless have to give credit to where credit is due.

From Food and Drinq back in May:
I think the niftiest part of the project is outside on the JFK side of the Comcast Center: It'll be the Plaza Cafe, now shrouded behind an ugly chain-link fence.

Scarduzio has installed a fully contained "outdoor" kitchen inside a glass building. By summer, there will be patio seating for lunch, dinner and drinkies beneath a trellis and beside a fountain. Among outdoor happy-hour spaces west of Broad Street, the debate of "which is best" will rage between this and the rooftop at Continental Mid-town.
He's right. This spot is great. A little pricey, sure, but that’s to be expected. (Hopefully, there will be some random, non-traditional happy hour specials added soon.)

And to M.Klein’s point, we’re willing to go ahead and say it’s already ten times better than the roofdeck at Continental Midtown. (After all, what percentage of the Midtown roofdeck is still actually uncovered?? Like 15%? Whatever. Not cool.)

The Plaza Cafe is just pretty. Definitely a great spot for lunch or an afternoon drink, however, it’s extra sexy come dusk when the fountain literally sparkles and the really tall building right next to you looks especially amazing.

So yeah, if you have the means, we highly recommend you check it out.

A First Look At Table 31 [ Food and Drinq ]

[ Photo via flickr user Chris in Philly '08 ]

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breaking: A Great Lawn At Penn’s Landing Just One Of Several Terrific Waterfront Plans Gift-Wrapped And Hand-Delivered To Mayor Nutter By Penn Praxis

Looks fricking fantastic right?

Penn Praxis, remember them?? — They’re that awesome "clinical" arm of the Penn School of Design who last year worked so tirelessly to come up with a logical, sustainable and comprehensive plan for the Central Delaware River Waterfront… Something no one had been able to do for decades… — Yes? Well they’re back and this Thursday they’re hosting a public unveiling about what Philadelphia should do next to accomplish said plan.

Titled “An Action Plan for the Central Delaware: 2008-2018," the presentation will be held this Thursday at the Independence Seaport Museum.

And what's really awesome is that it’s finally time for action. The Vision is great, and it had to come first, but now this action plan is taking that vision and giving it a practical road map … "ten steps over the next ten years to allow Philadelphia to realize a truly world-class riverfront."

Moreover, please recall that Penn's Landing has been messing with the minds of Philadelphia Mayors for decades. Thankfully Mayor Street finally realized that he had to defer to experts and he called upon Penn Praxis. We can only hope Mayor Nutter realizes how lucky he is to have all the work that Penn Praxis has done over the past two years sitting there waiting for him to act on. And that the Vision now has 'An Action Plan' to accompany it. Seriously, Nutts, what more could you ask for??

The 'Action Plan' will be presented to Mayor Nutter and his deputy mayor for planning and economic development, Andy Altman. (Hopefully, both will be in attendance on Thursday.)

Harris Steinberg, Mr. Penn Praxis himself, penned a good op-ed in the Inquirer this weekend with some more background.

Read it and remember:

Thursday, June 26
6:30 pm
Independence Seaport Museum
More info and RSVP here

So now really the only questions that remains is: what will Mayor Nutter do with all this good great amazing stuff?

Mr. Mayor, your move.

Don't disappoint.

Op-Ed: A Civic Vision - Mayor Nutter's new planning requirement for developments comes at a crucial time for the central Delaware riverfront [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
EVENT - An Action Plan for the Central Delaware: 2008-2018 - It's Our Riverfront. Let's Take it to the Next Level [ Plan Philly ]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Urban Outfitters Corporate The Best Place To Work In Philadelphia??

urban outfitters corporate headquarters, philadelphia, navy yardBefore answering, let's qualify that. Philadelphia Business Journal is currently taking nominations for its annual ‘Best Places To Work’ report.

And after reading this article from the Inquirer a few weeks back about Urban, we do have to admit: Urban Outfitters definitely looks pretty attractive.

At least when compared to your typical corporate suckfest. And to other darling local corporations like, say, Comcast or Advanta.
A sexy standout in the staid Philadelphia business scene, Urban Outfitters is the envy of the retail world - a company on the make in a city on the make. In five years its stock has outperformed the industry overall while sales have grown from $548 million to $1.5 billion last year.

Urban is on a hiring binge as others are firing, expanding while others are pulling back, enjoying architectural praise for a new headquarters at the Navy Yard, chasing Internet youth while others grieve for the olden days and ways.
Bully for them.

urban outfitters corporate headquarters, philadelphia, navy yard
[Founder Richard] Hayne, one of Philadelphia's self-made tycoons, has found the retail equivalent of the Fountain of Youth. The baby boomer has turned Generations X and Y into slavish shoppers by selling them "an experience" made by peers.

Hayne's philosophy: Young people are great customers. If you want them to like what you're selling, hire people just like them and give them power over what you sell.

Hayne and his executives believe youthful talent, unfettered creativity and business discipline - elements often at odds in corporate culture - can transform the business into a $10 billion behemoth.

"The model a lot of companies use is a very pyramidal model which sort of designates that all creativity, all wisdom flows from the top," said Hayne, who built Urban from a ragtag University City storefront he opened 38 years ago. "We think that's the absolute wrong model."

Hayne surrounds himself with people who have passion, said retail analyst Brian Ford, who has known him since 1974 and worked for 15 years as a corporate accountant for Urban.

"They have very creative avant-garde thinkers," Ford said, "and allow them freedom."
Now that’s more impressive. Downright admirable even.

Almost attractive enough to make us overlook Hayne’s politickin'.

But probably not.

So to answer our original question: maybe.

Going from ragtag to riches - Philadelphia's Urban Outfitters defies trends, thriving on youthful talent [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Slideshow: Urban Outfitters - A niche grows in Philadelphia [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
A Stitch In Time [ Metropolis Magazine ]

[ Photos via Metropolis ]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beer Prices At Citizens Bank Park … Consider Yourselves Blessed

The many virtues of Citizens Bank Park have gotten play here before. And rightfully so.

That said, we are now even more appreciative of CBP, its dubious role in Chase Utley’s current 0-23 streak notwithstanding.

That's because not only is the beer selection at CBP stellar, but also because the beer prices are relatively fair, especially when compared to the rest of the league. (How long this will last, however, we do not know.)

As Philly Skyline recently related, in the Bronx a Miller Lite will set you back 10 bones.

In South Philly, not only can you get a pint of premium draft beer for $6.75, but also, that pint can be any of several delicious local craft brews like Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Troegs Sunshine Pils or Yards Philly Pale Ale.

That is really pretty great, especially when considering that you’ll pay around $6 for the same "pint" at many a douchey bars in Center City.

So before you complain about the cost of your beer at CBP, just think about how much poorer you’d be if you were at Fenway Park, Shea Stadium or Turner Field.

We will, however, take this opportunity to criticize the Phillies' new recycling containers for the ballpark, because the ones they’re using now look a lot more like condiment dispensers and/or a varitey of other things than they do recycling bins. Seriously guys, you have to spell it out in giant letters, i.e. make it blatantly, unmissably obvious, if you want people to recycle. And the bins you're using now are pretty much camouflaged so well as to be totally hidden. No one, we repeat, no one recognizes them as recycling containers. They need to be redesigned/repainted to be extremely basic and clear. They should be either very, very green or very, very blue.

Criticism #2: Where the fuck are the much-heralded biodegradable beer cups?? Sure, we've seen a few concessions using them. But why don't the various Brewerytowns, the beer-specific concessions, use them for their pints of beer instead of the regular plastic beer cups? It's now half-way through the season — no excuses about leftover supplies from last year. Use the fricking biodegradable beer cups for ALL draft beer sold please.

How Cheap Should A Beer Be? [ Sports Biz - CNBC ]
via CBP Serves Cheap Beer (And Not Just The Miller Lite) [ The 700 Level ]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Convention Center Expansion About As Green As, Well, Some Really, Really, REALLY Dark Shit — Think Crude-Oil/Tar-Black Dark

Inga, once again, preaching the good word.
In one corner of Center City, a private developer has just completed the tallest green building in America, the Comcast Center.

Three blocks east, the state is beginning work on an equally large project, the Convention Center expansion. Consider it the SUV of meeting halls.

But it's not too late to make the building more green, even if it becomes more expensive.
And this comes one day earlier than her normal Changing Skyline column, perhaps deliberately to get the issue front and center in time for this evening’s festivities — the forum with the Mayor’s new Director of Sustainability about, wait for it, greening Philadelphia’s infrastructure.

Seems like a good (and obvious) place to start would be the massive Convention Center expansion project just now getting underway.
Nutter says he would never approve the Convention Center design today without more green features. And Howard Neukrug, who promotes sustainability for the Water Department, vows that "it will be last non-sustainable government building to go up in Philadelphia."
Yeah, um, that’s totally not going to fly.
The Convention Center's lack of green design is no simple oversight. In 2005, while then-Councilman Michael Nutter served as chairman, the authority briefly considered making the venue fully sustainable. It rejected the idea as costly and unnecessary.

A year later, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Delaware Valley Green Building Council begged the authority to reconsider, even if the only Earth-friendly change was a green roof.

They were sent packing. The authority argued that green technology would only add more upfront charges to a project that was already having trouble staying within budget.
Totally un-fucking-acceptable.

Seriously, Mayor Nutter and Sustainable Czar Allen Hughes, this would be an excellent fucking place to start.

Whaddaya say boys?

Convention Center should be growing far more green [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is Your Local Bar Figging You When It Comes To Serving An Honest Pint??

Because that would be downright un-American.
Beer prices at bars and restaurants have risen over the past few months, as prices of hops and barley have skyrocketed and retail business has slowed alongside the economy.

Some restaurants have replaced 16-ounce pint glasses with 14 ouncers -- a type of glassware one bartender called a "falsie."

And customers are complaining that bartenders are increasingly putting less than 16 ounces of beer in a pint glass, filling up the extra space with foam.
Goddamn assholes.
Dedicated beer drinkers are fighting back, with extra vigilance about exactly how much beer they get for their buck. They are protesting "cheater pints" and "profit pours" by outing alleged offenders on Web discussion boards and plugging bars that maintain 16-ounce pints, in hopes peer pressure will prevail. And they are spreading the word about how to spot the smaller glass (the bottom is thicker).

Jason Alstrom, who founded the magazine BeerAdvocate last year, calls it the "Less for More" phenomenon. "It's happening everywhere," he says. He is urging readers and users of his Web site,, to "raise a fist and refuse to pay" when served a skimpy pint.
Is right.

Seriously, we’ve come across plenty of these less-than-pint glasses in our day. (And well before this alleged “recession” or increase in the price of hops and barley, we might add.)

So suffice it to say, we do not appreciate the practice. At all.
Beer activists are talking about developing stickers to adhere to the windows of bars and restaurants where pints live up to the name. Oregon legislator Brian Clem is taking up the issue for the state's 2009 budget, hoping to fund monitoring of beer portions by the state's agriculture department.

In the U.K., the Imperial Pint (equivalent to 19.2 U.S. ounces) has been a government-regulated standard for several centuries. The standard requires use of official pint glasses -- with the word "Pint" and the European "CE" marking -- etched onto each glass. The glasses actually hold more than an Imperial Pint, so there's room for the foam.
Sounds like a good idea to us.

Seriously, you deserve a full pint. Make sure you get it.
Beer drinkers feeling shortchanged can take immediate action: They can ask for a "top-off" after the foam on the profit pour settles. That's what George Collentine did when he was served a beer with almost two inches of foam at an Italian restaurant this month. "I just waited," says the 38-year-old chemical-company manager from Danbury, Conn. The bartender gave it to him.
Brewers, however, do get our sympathy. Here's a video from MarketWatch about the rising cost of hops and barley.

A Pint-Size Problem - Beer lovers nurse a grudge as some bars switch to smaller glasses [ Wall Street Journal ]
Beer Costs Force Barkeeps to Become Budweiser Misers [ Grub Street ]

"Omar" Makes Another Philly Cameo, This One At Germantown High

Hanging with the Mayor wasn’t enough for Michael Kenneth Williams, aka Omar on The Wire.
Students at Germantown High School got a pep talk on Tuesday from an actor who doesn't want them to emulate his most famous character.

As Omar on HBO series "The Wire," Michael Kenneth Williams (at left in top photo) cut a menacing figure as a robber and killer:

"Man, money ain't got no owners, only spenders."
God, we miss The Wire.

Anyway, he was there at the behest of Jerry Mondesire.
Jerry Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP, arranged the visit because he knew Williams' character resonated with teens:

"A young man saw him outside and the first words out of his mouth were, 'Omar's here!' I've been around for ten or twelve years running the NAACP, nobody ever says, 'Jerry's here!' "
Hmm. Maybe it's the boots?

Actor From TV's ''The Wire'' Visits Germantown High School [ KYW 1060 ]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Renovates, Wisely Includes A Big Upgrade To Their Main Restaurant Spaces

So unlike the Embassy Suites, the Marriott Convention Center hotel correctly assessed that its recent renovations should include its lobby restaurants. As they were definitely tired. The main one was called Allie’s American Grill and was a forgettable casual endeavor; the smaller one was called JW’s and was similarly unremarkable.

Marriott switched it up with the renovations, going with two relatively contemporary spots.

The larger one, the main restaurant, is now called 13. It boasts a large area of shaded sidewalk seating on 12th Street just north of Market— a very smart move on the Marriott’s part — and an updated American-inspired menu.

And then there’s Circ, also off the lobby, with a “chic Contemporary setting offering signature cocktails and a menu of light snacks and appetizers.”

Overall, the $6.3 million worth of renovations were focused on the lobby and the adjacent restaurant spaces.
The lobby combines public space with the latest technology -- the better to plug in laptops, PDAs, cell phones and other devices.

"The layout and design of our new lobby allowed us to transform our under-utilized public space into differentiated experiences and comfortable zones where guests want to linger for working, socializing or relaxing. We have three zones: social, individual, and 'at your service,'" said Bill Walsh, general manager of the Marriott.

Amenities are designed to make business travelers more comfortable in the lobby, allowing them to switch gears between social and business meetings. For instance, food-and-beverage menus, as well as music and lighting, change throughout the day, encouraging patrons to linger.
Commendable job, Marriott. Seriously. It is good to see you freshening up.

Hotels redouble sales efforts to stay hot through summer [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
Philadelphia Marriott Downtown [ Official Site ]

Center City Embassy Suites Completes $10 Million Renovation, Forgets To Include TGI Friday’s Amazing Rooftop Space In Said Upgrade

Monday, June 16, 2008

Breaking: Two HUGE Forums On Philadelphia’s Future (Planning and Sustainability) Taking Place This Week

And both of them are at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

The first is a Tuesday evening address by Mayor Nutter about restoring the role of city planning in Philadelphia’s ongoing growth and development.
You are invited to hear Mayor Michael A. Nutter discuss his vision for restoring Philadelphia as the national leader in city planning.
(More info here.)

The second is equally important and will feature Mayor Nutter’s new Sustainability Czar, Mark Allen Hughes, talking about Greening Philadelphia’s Infrastructure. It will take place Thursday evening at the Academy.
Urban sustainability must begin at a city's basic infrastructure. For Philadelphia, infrastructure means the systems of land use planning, energy, water management and transportation on which the city depends. This months Urban Sustainability Forum will consider the implications of applying "green" principles to these basic elements of city life.

We are honored to have, as our keynote speaker, Philadelphia's new Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes. Making one of his first public appearances since being appointed to the position, Dr. Hughes will discuss his goal for Philadelphia to "move the sustainability agenda further and faster than any city in the U.S."

In addition, we are pleased to welcome Melissa Wright, from the New York City Mayor's Office, as well as a panel of distinguished experts who will be reviewing the results of the technical workshop "Greening the City's Infrastructure." The workshop, to be held earlier in the day, will bring experts together to develop ways of measuring the city's movement toward sustainability.

Please join us to learn about the ideas and actions that can make Philadelphia "the greenest, most livable city in America.
(More info here.)

We'd like to take this to mean Mayor Nutter is ready to get down to business.

So we're hoping there's a big turnout to show him we've been ready.

See you out there.

** Note: Both forums request attendees rsvp, which you can do by following the links above or below.

Philadelphia City Planning Commission [ Official Site ]
Town Square Forums at the Academy of Natural Sciences [ Official Site ]

Friday, June 13, 2008

Dept. of Raw Deals: East Passyunk Loses The Refreshingly Awesome Clementine’s, Gets Instead Another Traditional Italian Restaurant

rip clementine's bistro in philadelphiaSeriously. East Passyunk (at Tasker) loses Clementine’s, which was pretty frickin' terrific, and gets another run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant? And it’s called Da Vinci??

Wow. Best of luck to Da Vinci and all, but shit, there clearly is no justice in this world. Or at least in South Philadelphia. [ Food and Drinq ]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'The Independent' Continues Its Noticeably Accelerated Renovation Schedule, Sets Opening Date for June 20

the independent philadelphia hotel, midtown villageRemember, it was literally only a month ago that we first learned they’d be restoring the former Inn on Locust, that was shuttered more than four years prior.

(And no, Christopher Walken will not be there.)
The Independent is an upscale 24-room boutique hotel opening at 1234 Locust Street in Center City, Philadelphia on June 20, 2008. The property, formerly owned and operated as The Inn at Locust, has undergone extensive renovations, unveiling a new and fully restored Georgian-Revival style building. The Independent is listed on the National Register for Historic Places.
"We are delighted to enter Philadelphia in the highly underserved boutique hotel market. The performing arts, restaurants, and retail within a two-block radius rival those of gateway cities around the world," says Neil H. Shah, President and COO of Hersha Hospitality, "As a Center City, Philadelphia resident, it is tremendously satisfying to restore an added element of positive energy to such a great and creative neighborhood. We saw a diamond in the rough in this building, which we now invite business travelers and discerning tourists alike to rediscover as The Independent."
Well said, Mr. Shah. (Seriously — quality quote. Thank your PR team.)
The Independent's design reflects a charming sophistication that is consistent with the building's architecture and the local area of Midtown Village. Interior Designer, Robert Moskowitz of Rittenhouse Interior Design Group, has redefined the four-story building's interior, bringing a chic-refined aesthetic to the warm and inviting hotel.

The hotel's lobby is accented by a crystal chandelier and features a 30-foot by 8-foot, hand-painted work of art created by local muralist, Kim Senior. Senior is an accomplished Philadelphia artist whose mural and screen paintings can be seen around the city in both classical and contemporary styles.

For The Independent, she has created a vibrant image of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, which spans three stories, rising from the hotel's lobby. Moskowitz's design paired with Senior's vivid piece de resistance offers guests a tailored, soothing feel amidst a rich color palette.
Sounds delightful.

And the rooms?
Oversized guest rooms range in size up to 470 square feet and are divided into ten standard rooms, twelve deluxe rooms, a gracious suite, and a residential duplex suite. Guest rooms feature hardwood floors with New Zealand Wool area rugs, custom window treatments, Robert Allen custom bedding, and the finest pillow-top mattresses available -- Serta Presidential. Each room enjoys a variety of unique features such as fireplaces, exposed brick walls, cathedral ceilings, French windows, or loft bedrooms.

While each room is wonderfully distinct, all rooms are appointed with a 32" flat panel HDTV, microwave oven, and refrigerator. The hotel provides guests with the convenience of complimentary wireless Internet, a business center equipped with two computers, a printer, scanner, and fax machine.

Lifestyle, hospitality, and pristine service are paramount in defining The Independent. A complimentary European breakfast is planned to be served daily in the hotel's fireside lounge. Moreover, The Independent plans to invite guests to enjoy a weekly complimentary happy hour with fine wines and cheeses.
Complimentary wifi AND complimentary happy hours?? Sign us up.

The Independent [ Official Site ]
The Independent is the newest hotel to be launched as part of Hersha's Independent Hotel Collection [ PR Newswire ]

Hotel Hotwire: The Long-Shuttered Inn On Locust To Reopen As Upscale Boutique Hotel, Further Unite Midtown Village Hipsters And Gayborhood Gays

Monday, June 09, 2008

Inquirer Editorial Board Endorses Bike Sharing For Philadelphia As The No-Brainer It Is

A bicycle-friendly city has always been a good idea. It makes even more sense in an era of $4 gasoline.

Momentum is building for a bike-sharing network in Philadelphia to be used by thousands of commuters daily. It would reduce congestion, save money for workers, and contribute to a healthier city.
As bike ridership increases, auto congestion would lessen. The city would need to add more bike lanes on streets.
The time to get to work on this idea is now, not when gas hits $6 per gallon.
Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation, has said the city's yet-to-be-hired pedestrian and bicycle coordinator will develop a plan with cycling advocates. Some Council members are being cautious. But bike sharing could become an integral part of Nutter's vision for a "sustainable" city.
Bike sharing is great, but if you expect people to actually use the system, it has to be A LOT safer and A LOT easier for bicyclists to ride in city streets without fear of being run off the road by asshole motorists.

And for how to accomplish that, we need to look to New York. Stat.

Editorial: Bike Sharing – Pedal Power [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
N.Y. Hopes to Ensure Smooth Pedaling for Bike Commuters [ Washington Post ]
New York bicycle commuters face an uphill climb [ Los Angeles Times ]

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Times Does A Ballpark Food Tour, Can’t Help But Love The Offerings At Citizens Bank Park

cheesesteaks at rick's at the citizens bank park, philadelphia phillies, ashburn alleyFormer “$25 And Under” columnist Peter Meehan hits up the New York Times Travel section with a solid piece on ballpark eats.

And Philadelphia deservedly shines.
But the prize for vernacular food probably goes to Citizens Bank Park, the four-year-old home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Most of the action takes place in Ashburn Alley (named for the Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn), a brick promenade behind center field where fans can practically hang over the visitors’ bullpen or dine under the giant Liberty Bell sign that lights up and rocks back and forth when the Phillies hit a home run.

Ashburn Alley is home to hoagies, Chickie & Pete’s crab fries (French fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning) and two of the city’s respected cheese steak purveyors, Rick’s Steaks and Tony Luke’s. Tony Luke’s had the better cheese steak of the two (though their other locations are notably superior). Even better is Tony Luke’s juicy roasted pork and provolone sandwich, dressed with tender broccoli rabe, as good a meat sandwich as there is in the majors.
Seriously. (Phillies, you can pat yourself on the back for recruiting a distinguished crop of local food vendors.)

Meehan was also a big fan of the Schmitter.
Also not to be missed is the Schmitter sandwich from McNally’s, an outpost of an 87-year-old Germantown tavern at the end of Ashburn Alley. It’s not named for the Phillies legend Mike Schmidt, but rather, I was told, after a long-gone McNally’s customer who always ordered it with Schmidt’s Beer, the now-defunct Pennsylvania brand.

The Schmitter packs, from top to bottom: melted cheese, a generous squirt of a “special sauce,” griddled salami, more cheese, sliced tomato, fried onions, griddled steak and another slice of cheese, just to help keep the beef in place. It was the unhealthiest thing I encountered on my cholesterol-gathering trip, an unholy alliance of meats, cheese and mayonnaise tucked into a Kaiser roll. It was also impossible to stop eating after the first bite.
cheesesteaks at citizens bank park, philadelphia philliesIn the interactive features accompanying the article, he had this to say about Tony Luke’s.
The cheese stakes [sic] at Citizens Bank Park may be popular, but they pale in comparison to Tony Luke's juicy roasted pork and provolone sandwich, dressed with tender broccoli rabe.
It’s true.

Buy Me Some Sushi and Baby Back Ribs [ New York Times ]
Finding the Hits, Avoiding the Errors - A culinary scorecard for all 30 major league baseball stadiums [ New York Times ]

Friday, June 06, 2008

Back-Story Behind The Naming Of Table 31 Revealed, Chris Scarduzio's Future To Be In Diplomacy

It had already been reported that Table 31, the brand new anchor restaurant at the Comcast Center, was named after the best table at Brasserie Perrier, another restaurant Georges Perrier and Chris Scarduzio own. But here’s the cute back-story of the idea to name it such.
The name Table 31 comes from the best table at Brasserie Perrier, at 1619 Walnut St. At Brasserie, the table is, Scarduzio said, "in the middle of the runway. It's a see-and-be-seen table."

"One night, two big VIPs -- two affluent, well-known Philadelphians who I will not name -- both had reservations for the table," Scarduzio said.

The first VIP's stay ran into the second VIP's reservation time. Each was there with a spouse. After a war of words over the coveted table, Scarduzio met with both couples.

"I got them together and said, 'One day I'm going to open a restaurant and call it Table 31. You'll each have a table," he said.
Aww. And he kept his word.

Doesn't that just make you feel all warm inside?

Yeah. Heartwarming stuff. Those “VIPs” must be totally psyched.

Any thoughts as to the identities of said bigwigs? Clues are: 1) both have (or had) spouses and 2) both would assumingly have a table named-after/pertually-reserved-for them at Table 31.

Our best/worst guess: David Cohen and Ed Snider.

"Power tables"? More like "tables for ants."

Anyway, Happy Opening Day Comcast Center! You have fun now.

2 elite chefs are setting up Table 31 [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
Table 31 [ Official Site ]

[ Photo via Philly Skyline ]

Breaking: Pennsylvania Wegmans Are Now Selling Beer. We Repeat: A Pennsylvania Supermarket Is Now Selling Beer.

wegmans beer in pennsylvania storesIt’s no secret that around these here parts, you won't find much love for the ‘burbs.

That said, every once in a while, we do indulge in a Philly Car Share-fueled excursion up to far North Broad Street (aka Route 611) in Warrington to visit our “local” Wegmans, which — as some of you may know — is the best grocery store chain in the world.

And just to remind us all of that, look at what we received in our inbox the other day (and, yes, we subscribe to Wegmans emails — the store is that good):
Local and International Beers NOW available in our Market Cafe Restaurant!

Enjoy your favorite beers two ways now from our Market Café Restaurant — dine in or take out. We're now offering flavorful beers from nearby Pennsylvania microbreweries, classic brews, and exciting international varieties. Enjoy a cold, refreshing beer with your next delicious Market Café Restaurant meal!

Please note: Take-out quantities limited to two 6-packs or the equivalent (192 oz).
Shut up. Just shut up. You had at us at hello.

Seriously, people — this is good fricking news.

We first told you about Wegmans trying to sell you beer back in October. Well, they've been fighting to do so ever since. And they recently got six licenses for stores upstate in the Lehigh Valley and near Scranton.

The Warrington location is still awaiting a ruling on its license. However, this doesn’t so much matter to us — it’s not like we’ll be buying a lot of beer there or anything — rather, it is simply very comforting to see that Pennsylvania is slowly, nay, incredibly slowly coming out of the alcohol-sales dark ages.

And that Wegmans is helping lead the way.

Wegmans [ Official Site ]
Two More Wegmans Selling Six Packs of Beer [ Allentown Morning Call ]

[ Photo via Flickr user tamara danforth ]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

$4/Gallon Gas Prices Exacerbate Immediate Citywide Need For More Bike Lanes And New Bike Share Program

From an April email from the Mayor himself:
Mayor Nutter: “I appreciate that you and many of your fellow citizens believe that a bike sharing program in Philadelphia would contribute to improving public health, ease transportation problems and promote sustainability in the City.
Rina Cutler, the Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities is creating a position in her office that is solely focused on making the City more bicycle-friendly.”
Ok. How’s that coming along?
Cutler has worked with [Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia] to create a full-time Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position in City Hall.

BCGP Executive Director Alex Doty began pushing for this before she had even taken office and was the first person to meet with her once she opened her doors. According to Doty, Philadelphia is the last major city to create such a position.

"We hope to have someone on board by the first of July," Cutler says.
July 1 you say? Tick, tock. Tick. Tock.

We’re already well behind New York and Chicago. Stop stalling.

Cycling surges in Mass., fueled by high gas prices [ Boston Herald ]
Chains of Love [ City Paper Clog ]

[ Cartoon via ]

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Center City Embassy Suites Completes $10 Million Renovation, Forgets To Include TGI Friday’s Amazing Rooftop Space In Said Upgrade

embassy suites tgi friday's pbiladelphia parkwayBecause it’s not like there’s potential for the entire TGI Friday’s space to be overhauled into an amazing bar/restaurant or anything. *Sigh*.
The Embassy Suites Philadelphia Center City today announced the completion of a $10 million renovation. The project included upgrades to all guestrooms, public areas and meeting space.

"The entire property experience has been enhanced, from our spacious suites to our inviting lobby," said Bob Krol, general manager. "With our prime Center City location, our guests can experience panoramic views of the city from the comfort of their completely refreshed guestrooms, featuring the latest designs from the leading all-suite brand in the world."
NB to hoteliers: rooftop bars/restaurants/lounges are always a good idea. ALWAYS.

Cases a) b) c) and d) in point.

If you invest in them (or allow others to invest in them), you will be rewarded generously with profits and popularity.

The Embassy Suites is on the 1700 block of the Parkway. Not only does the rooftop deck of TGI Friday’s overlook the Parkway but it also provides a pretty good view of the skyline. All in all, it's kinda a great place to have a drink. Except for the fact that it's a TGI Friday's.

We know we could turn it into a non-tourist trap, destination restaurant with our eyes closed.

A la...

empire hotel rooftop bar manhattan
The Empire Hotel

We just wish the Embassy Suites would let us.

Embassy Suites Philadelphia Completes $10 Million Renovation [ Press Release ]

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Contrarian Makes An Inky Cameo, Attempts To Drop Boatloads Of Common Sense-Like Knowledge On Parking Authority Drones

Everyone’s favorite contrarian, Noel Weyrich of Philadelphia Magazine, drops in on the Opinion section of the Sunday Inquirer with a noticeably intelligent and acutely worded critique of the pricing structure and rates of Philadelphia’s parking garages.

There's no doubt that the modus operandi of parking garages in Center City is completely fucked. Short term rates are high and long term rates are low — exactly the opposite of how pricing should be structured to minimize congestion and optimize the amount of “beneficial” (i.e. retail-inclined) car traffic downtown. The idea: commuters should be taking transit, while other shorter, more spontaneous, retail-oriented downtown trips (shopping, dining, etc.) should be able to find relatively inexpensive off-street parking.

Mr. Weyrich states that short term rates in garages should be legislated to be “capped at 125 percent of the price for parking at the nearest on-street meter." That way, there would much less of an incentive for people to “meter cruise”, i.e. when motorists drive around in circles looking for cheap, metered parking, instead of pulling into a garage for an hour or so, because short term rates are so high.

Well, he's right.

And guess what? Garage operators stand to make even more money by doing it this way.
Would this bring financial ruin to the private parking companies? Hardly.
In Portland, Ore., where publicly owned garages already set downtown parking rates this way ($1.25 per hour, $12 to $15 all day), officials say that their garages make more money than those of private competitors with higher short-term rates and lower all-day rates.
Contrast that with how the Philadelphia Parking Authority idiotically operates its lots:
The Parking Authority runs an 850-space garage at 10th and Filbert Streets that seems hell-bent on making traffic congestion worse. One hour of parking in this garage costs $9 (a powerful incentive for drivers to go meter-cruising), but the all-day early-bird special is just $11 - cheaper than a round-trip regional-rail ticket to Levittown, Yardley or Langhorne.

This garage even offers a "Crazy Eights" special - $8 if you're in before 8 a.m. and out before 8 p.m. Crazy is right. The Parking Authority is bribing drivers to bring their cars downtown, while a few blocks to the north, the Port Authority plans to spend $660,000 studying just why congestion is so bad around the Ben Franklin Bridge off-ramps.
No, it’s true. They really are. As if it weren't blatantly obvious.

Seriously though — the future economic health of Philadelphia depends on its ability to make itself (and, therein, its streets) truly livable — and its willingness to not make more and more concessions to the automobiles and the dummies who drive them. (Sorry, if you’re one of them, but it has to be said — if you commute for work into Center City via auto because you don’t “want” to take Septa, you are flat out stupid. Hella-stupid. Like, straight up Larry Mendte-dumb.)

However, as can be plainly seen by the very unfortunate end to Mayor Bloomberg’s praise-worthy congestion pricing proposal for Manhattan, any effort to get Americans to drive less, especially into city centers, is an incredibly uphill battle.

But one that has to be fought. Or our cities are going to die. A horribly sucktastic death.

The good news? Weyrich correctly asserts that this is something that Mayor Nutter and his people — specifically, Nina Cutler, the deputy mayor for transportation, and Mark Allen Hughes, the new director of sustainability — both can and should tackle immediately.

Legislation could quickly and simply rectify the problem.

Portland started it. San Francisco followed suit. Now even Chicago and DC are getting on board.

So Nutts, you going to let Philadelphia get shown up again?? We really, really hope not.

It's time to shift parking rates [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
How the politics of parking can defile a city [ Toronto Star ]
Hell's Parking Lot [ Streets Blog ]
DC to Devote Parking Fees To Livable Streets [ Streets Blog ]
San Francisco Launches Ambitious Parking Reform Program [ Streets Blog ]

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Times Travel Section Anoints Philadelphia As One Of The 31 Places To Visit This Summer

philadelphia, benjamin franklin parkway, logan circle, city hallThe Sunday Travel Section of the New York Times, (arguably one of the best sections of any paper in the world — talkin' all sections, not just travel sections), just featured 31 suggested places for “great summer vacations that don’t require the terrifying conversion of dollars into euros” — think Telluride, Paso Robles California, Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, etc.

And Philadelphia. Which came in at #4.

There are enough history excursions in the City of Brotherly Love to fill an entire summer, including big landmarks like the National Constitution Center, with its interactive displays in which kids can be sworn in as president or cast their ballots in authentic voting booths. But there’s also plenty to do off the history track — much of it affordable for a family weekend.

For starters: the new $20 million Big Cat Falls exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo, where lions, tigers, baby pumas and snow leopards are on view. A quick trolley ride from Center City can take you to one of the nation’s oldest — and most lovely — botanical gardens, Bartram’s Garden. For local flavor, it’s worth a lunch visit to John’s Roast Pork, where the made-to-order cheese steaks are legendary (the James Beard Foundation declared John’s one of “America’s Classics”).
Other cities on the list: San Fran, Quebec City, Portland, Montreal and Vegas. Not too shabby.

Eat it Boston.

31 Places to Go This Summer - From rafting in Oregon to biking in the White Mountains, a listing of great summer vacations that don’t require the terrifying conversion of dollars into euros. [ New York Times ]

[ Photo via Philly Skyline ]