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 ]