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 The High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 would transform America’s outdated and underfunded passenger rail system into a world class system.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 ]