Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urban Dispatch: It Is Probably Definitely Time To Convert Philadelphia's Entire Fleet Of Taxis To Hybrids

hybrid taxis all up in nyc, what about philly?Oh, New York — you really impress us sometimes. (Mostly in regard to everything about PLANYC.)

And this is one of those times.
Owners of hybrid cars from Boston to San Francisco like to boast about how their vehicles not only save them money at the gas pump, but help the environment, too.

Add to that list some of the toughest drivers around: New York City cabbies.

By 2012, all of New York’s approximately 13,000 taxis will have to get at least 30 miles a gallon on the city’s streets. Because hybrids are about the only vehicles able to meet that target, most of the gas-only cabs in the city’s fleet are expected to disappear during the next five years.
Zing. That is what we’re talking about.
Replacing the city’s 13,000 yellow cabs, more than 90 percent of which are Crown Victorias, with hybrid vehicles would have the same impact on air quality as removing 32,000 privately owned vehicles from the road, the mayor said.

Hybrids, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, emit less exhaust and are far more fuel-efficient; a hybrid Ford Escape, for instance, is rated at 34 miles per gallon in city driving.

Environmentalists have long complained about the poor gas mileage of the Crown Victoria, which gets 10 to 15 miles to the gallon in city traffic.
Zing. Zing.

New York has a fleet of 13,000 taxis. Philadelphia has a fleet of 1,600. So it wouldn't have as dramatic an impact here, but by our math, replacing the Philly fleet of 1,600 taxis will have the same impact on air quality as removing some 4,000 privately owned vehicles from the road. I.E. nothing to sneeze at.

Especially when you consider the all-important image factor. Hybrid taxis connote a progressive, modern and sustainable city. That is the exactly the type of image a city needs to cultivate if it’s going to compete and thrive in the 21st century. Which is probably something Philadelphia should be cognizant of.

Consider:

Who should Philadelphia be extra concerned with impressing while they’re in town? Visitors.

What do visitors use a lot when they’re here?? Taxis.

Why do we care about visitors' impressions of the city??? Because when they leave, after a positive experience, they go home and spread the news about Philadelphia via that magical and priceless method of natural marketing called “word-of-mouth.”

And so it begins…

But what about the taxi drivers, you ask?? They didn’t appreciate the GPS/Credit Card systems — are they going to resist driving hybrids?
Drivers of hybrid taxis interviewed recently said they were mostly pleased with their cars, particularly with how much money they saved on fuel.
[…]
For the last six months, Zulfiqar Aslam has driven a Ford Escape and spends about $10 a day on gas, $25 less than when he drove a Crown Victoria.
[…]
"The cabbie community is always looking for a cheaper way,” he said as he wove through traffic in Midtown. “When we meet at the airport, they ask me how much I spend on gas.”
Also:
The slightly higher cost of buying hybrid vehicles would be offset by the average $10,000 a year owners would save in fuel costs.
a hybrid ford escape taxi saves its driver $25 a day in gasTake note Mayor Nutter and Philadelphia Parking Authority: NYC offers discounts to incentivize medallions for hybrid taxis.
In previous auctions, the Taxi and Limousine Commission offered discounted medallions for hybrids to encourage drivers to try the vehicles. Two more of these medallions will be auctioned in May for a minimum $300,000 each, about 30 percent below the average $432,000 market price.

The taxi commission caps the lease rates that fleet operators can charge, but there is no rule against charging different rates for different models.

Drivers who own their hybrid taxis, though, can accumulate all the savings. Gerard Cherizol, who paid $31,000 for a Ford Escape Hybrid earlier this year, spends just $20 a day on gas, $25 less than when he drove a Crown Victoria.

He also says the Escape, a small sport utility vehicle, provides better visibility and has more luggage space in the back than the trunk of a Crown Victoria. The Escape also has surprisingly strong acceleration, he said.

"This one, I’m in love, especially since this is the first car I bought," said Mr. Cherizol, who has driven a taxi in New York for 25 years. "It’s so fast, I pass like a little bird on the highway."
Hear that? Like a little bird.

In May of 2006, New York had 27 hybrid taxis in its entire fleet. (Probably about 20 more than Philadelphia currently has…) Not even two years later, in April of 2008, New York has 1,020 hybrids in its 16,000-vehicle taxi fleet, having added 1,000 hybrids to its fleet in less than two years.

So, Nutts, you have 1,600 taxis to convert to hybrids. N. B. D. You could (and should) have that done by January 2010.

But don’t worry — we’ll check back in on you much sooner than that.


And we are DEAD serious about the green factor being pretty much paramount to Philadelphia's future (aside from public education, which will be a panacea for almost every other ill). America's two best cities, New York and Chicago, both have mayors that recognize the importance of becoming incredibly green and sustainable. And both Bloomberg and Daley are fervently pursuing sustainability as a result. And appropriately so.

Mayor Nutter, we expect you to help Philadelphia join them — not watch as the gap between New York / Chicago and Philadelphia widens.

We sincerely hope you're on board with as much.

Related:
The Greening of the Yellow Fleet [ New York Times ]
Mayor Plans An All-Hybrid Taxi Fleet [ New York Times ]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PLCB To Diminish Customer Service Even Further, Add Wine Automats To Their Repertoire

wine automats for the PLCB?Hmm.
The latest effort at modernization of alcohol sales in Pennsylvania may involve wine bottles dispensed by vending machines at supermarkets and other locations.

A spokesman for the Liquor Control Board declined to discuss details of the idea, instead pointing to a ''Request For Proposals'' on the agency’s website.

The RFP states that the LCB wants to establish “an automated, secure vending machine or similar-type kiosk capable of dispensing bottled wines to consumers”.
Ha. We have to admit that at least this is a signal that the PLCB is, at least, trying to think of ways to make wine more accessible to more people in this fine state. After all, wine for sale in a vending machine in a supermarket is a lot better than no wine at all for sale in that same supermarket.

Although, then there's this, which clearly demonstrates just how ridiculously backwards and conservative the PCLB truly is:
The PLCB may place satellite wine stores in public settings, which may, from time to time, have a heavier population of minors than others. Therefore, the PLCB is seeking a solution that prevents the viewing of wines in the wine kiosks by minors.
Right, because when kids look at wine on the shelves of supermarkets in the other 40 states with normal liquor laws, i.e. the ones at which wine is sold at supermarkets, said kids all instantly become deviants, alchies, malfeasants and the like. Just by seeing that wine exists. Oh wait, no they don’t.

Way to take a decent idea and undermine it immediately by adding your requisite helping of crazy, PLCB. Well done.

Related:
Pa. Liquor Board Explores Wine Bottle Vending Machines [ KYW 1060 ]
Request For Proposals For PLCB Wine Kiosk System [ Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Official Site ]
Earlier:
PLCB Debuts Its New Face — Surprisingly Not A Neanderthal Likeness

[ Image via via ]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eating The Illadelph: Ralph’s Café Now Open On The 42nd and 43rd Floors Of The Comcast Center

ralph's cafe in the comcast center philadelphiaOpen. But not to you.

Ralph’s Café, the Comcast Center’s 400-seat, employee cafeteria, is now open for business. Partially modeled on the amazing Google Cafeteria, Ralph’s Café boasts one hell of a view.

The only way for you to enjoy it, however, is as a guest of a Comcast Employee.
[CEO Brian] Roberts' greatest excitement was reserved for Ralph's Cafe. For many, the word cafeteria conjures images of warmed-over pizza, stale french fries, and soup of the day simmering for hours in an institutional setting. Ralph's Cafe is more like subsidized fine dining.

Lunch choices range from macaroni salad and sandwich wraps to crispy-crust pizza with goat cheese. A sushi chef starts tomorrow on the second floor of Ralph's, which one employee compared to the city's glitzy Stephen Starr restaurants - except that this one is for only Comcast employees and their guests.
Really. Comparable to Starr, you say?? Who’s the executive chef, we wonder.
Partially inspired by Google Inc.'s cafeteria, along with one at the New York law firm where he has negotiated cable deals over long hours, the cafeteria is the most important space in the building, its heart and soul, Roberts said. It will bring employees from different floors and division together, he said.

brian roberts and ralph roberts in ralph's cafe in the comcast center philadelphiaHe named it after his father, Ralph, 88, the company cofounder and a board member. Ralph is a dapper and formal man, his son said. "He didn't really think this was the most gracious gesture. I had to say, 'Trust me, Dad.' "

In an e-mail Friday, Ralph Roberts said he thought his son had made a good choice. "I wasn't sure I wanted my name on the cafe," he wrote, "but now I am thrilled."
Heartwarming, we’re sure.

Philly.com has a decent video preview accompanying the article. Check it.

The place looks like it's definitely worth seeking out an invite from a friend working at Comcast, if only to have a chance to check out Philadelphia's best new pseudo observation deck.

Also, confidential to Philly.com — not to be nasty, but it has to be said: the functionality/display of the image "galleries" that accompany your articles online is, well, embarrassingly terrible. We basically have to squint to see what the pictures are, they're so small. Photography — or “art” as your print folk call it — makes content appealing. Your photographers are good. Stop hiding their work.

Want to see a slideshow? There. That’s a slideshow. (And so are these.) What you call “a gallery” is flat out absurd — it looks like a half-ass assortment of thumbnails.

The difference between a Philly.com gallery and NYT slideshow is remarkable. (Yes, this is an improvement, but loading time is an issue and even so, the format is used way too sparingly.)

A rule of thumb: when in doubt, emulate the website of the New York Times. They are light years ahead of you regarding all things a newspaper website can be. Light years.

(Seriously, this gallery thing is just one of many critical flaws that still blanket Philly.com, even after the trumpeted site redesign of last fall that was supposed to drastically improve Philly.com. But more on that later…)

Related:
Taking A Walk In The Clouds [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Taking A Walk In The Clouds Gallery [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

"Baby Mama" Set in Philadelphia, Just Not Shot Here

tina fey, amy poehler and dax in baby mamaThis weekend’s #1 movie at the box office — the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler flick “Baby Mama” — is set in Philadelphia.

Tina Fey is an executive at a Whole Foods-esque grocery company here who lives in “Rittenhouse Square” and hires a "South Philly" working girl to be a surrogate mother and carry her child.

Unfortunately, most of the film was shot in Brooklyn, not Philadelphia.
Baby Mama, set in Philadelphia, was filmed in Brooklyn with three days of location shooting. (Alas, it has some of the worst geographical verisimilitude since John Cusack's Money for Nothing, the Joey Coyle story where Pittsburgh proved an absurd, and mountainous, substitute.

Kate lives near a hilly Rittenhouse Square. When Poehler goes into labor in Philadelphia, the women rush across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to Camden to go to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Ugh.)
Those inaccuracies notwithstanding, the film does apparently put Philadelphia in a relatively good light, so at least our stand-in didn't completely screw us.

We have not seen the film, however, so we can not definitively comment on the overall effect.

Related:
Baby Mama(s): Fey & Poehler [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Eating The Illadelph: Rittenhouse Row Spring Fest - One Week From Today

The food aspect of the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival doesn’t really excite us like it once did, but the Fest is nonetheless a perfect excuse for some daytime drinking/picnicking in Rittenhouse Square. Just sayin’. Especially when the weather comes through with 75 degrees of gorgeous. [ Rittenhouse Row Official Site ]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eating The Illadelph: And Now A Special Sibling Rivalry Faceoff In Which The Grasso Brothers See Who Can Make The Better Steak(house)

david grasso and joe grassoPVA has another doozie over in the PBJ.
Center City will [soon] see the addition of two new, top-flight steak houses.

A Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House is planned for the Packard Grande, a condominium building at 111 S. 15th St. [corner of 15th and Chestnut], in space that was once going to be a House of Blues.

Across town, the Union Trust Steakhouse will take over another grand building, the former Union Trust Bank at 719 Chestnut Street.

Each restaurant will feature white tablecloths, top-notch service and extraordinary architecture, including 50-foot ceilings, echoing Philadelphia's rich history.
[…]
There will be another commonality, as well: each restaurant will be owned by one of the Grasso brothers, Joe and his younger brother David, both of whom are commercial developers in Philadelphia.

Rival brothers, rival steakhouses?
Aww. How cute. The Grasso boys still like to compete for attention.

David is bringing in Del Frisco’s to occupy the striking main lobby space at the Packard Grande — the same vacant space, anecdotally, that so impressed M. Night Shyamalan during a scouting visit in 2000 that he used it for his climatic train station scene in Unbreakable instead of 30th Street Station.

Meanwhile, David’s bro, Joe Grasso, is opening Union Trust a few blocks down the way, in an equally arresting space also located on Chestnut Street. It will be an independent, unique-to-Philadelphia, non-affiliated steakhouse instead of a chain like Del Frisco’s. And David Grasso is certainly playing up that angle.
We cut our teeth in corporate [steakhouses], we're not anti-corporate. But we're Philly guys and we wanted to open a steakhouse for Philadelphia, not to Philadelphia," said [Ed Doherty, former manager from Capital Grille], who also served as a consultant on the Fairmount Waterworks Restaurant.

They see this as an independent steakhouse in a city dominated by chain steak venues -- Morton's, Capital Grille, the Palm, Smith & Wollensky and so on.

"New York has Peter Luger. Chicago has Gibsons. Philadelphia doesn't have one like that. We have nothing but cookie-cutter chains," said White.
Word. (Although Philly can claim the original Starr “Prime” boutique steakhouse in the Barclay.)

Joe Grasso, the elder of the two brudders, is also the man behind the ambitious American Commerce Center.

And David Grasso is the dude behind “The Vine” aka 1601 Vine Street in Franklintown, which is trying to get off the ground this summer, with an Intercontinental Hotel, a massive new Whole Foods, a Best Buy and a REI.

Now, admittedly, this post might have been more of an excuse to opine on Unbreakable, a chronically underrated movie. Consider this: in an era of big budget movies where every comic book from Spiderman, Batman and the Hulk to Sin City, Iron Man and the Spirit get made with huge budgets and masses of hype, we’ve always thought Unbreakable was incredibly underrated — not to mention one of the best comic book/superhero movies we’ve ever seen. (And that’s not just because its peerless setting…) Seriously — give it another watch next time you have a chance.

Train Station sequence appended below.

Related:
Sibling Steakhouse Rivalry [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Go To Where People Are

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Drinking The Illadelph: Triumph Brewing Co. Owner Reflects On The State Of Brewpubs

From the Sunday New York Times:
Like-minded beer drinkers better known by their chosen brews than their full names can be found at any of New Jersey’s brew pubs, which are thriving after a shakeout in the industry that Adam Rechnitz, the owner of the 10,000-square-foot Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton [and Philadelphia], likened to the dot-com bust.

“There was this carnival atmosphere in the 90s,” he said. “People were making terrible beers and giving the industry a black eye. Eventually, they got handed their hats.

“The ones operating now are doing pretty good beer,” said Mr. Rechnitz, who opened Triumph in 1995 after working for the enactment of a 1993 law allowing brew pubs — distinct from microbreweries in New Jersey because they cannot sell their beer wholesale.
“It’s like with any business,” he said. “The people who are passionate about what they’re doing do well. People who are in it hoping to make a quick buck don’t.”

That may be especially true now.

While the latest strain of foodie — the locavores — scour farmers’ markets for just-picked ramps, and coffee connoisseurs stray ever farther from Folgers and Maxwell House, beer drinkers have also been busy refining their palates.

A study by the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., shows the market for handmade beers grew 12 percent in volume and 16 percent in dollar sales last year nationally. Major breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Coors have even gotten in on the action; Coors makes Blue Moon, a Belgian-style white beer, and Anheuser-Busch produces a variety of seasonal beers and specialty brews.

Accordingly, while Pale Ale Toms have become commonplace at New Jersey brew pubs, Budweiser Bobs may be on the wane.
And deservedly so.
Where there is curiosity, of course, there is a blog. And an expert. Jeff Linkous of Little Egg Harbor, a freelance writer and sometime home-brewer, started the Beer-Stained Letter (beerstainedletter.blogspot.com), devoted to dissecting beer brewed in New Jersey, a year ago.

“I got into beer when the beer craze first came this way, probably 1995,” said Mr. Linkous, who has observed that fellow New Jersey beer drinkers are, for the most part, more savvy now about what’s being poured. “The ones who are really into beer are more sophisticated, right down to being able to pick out the hops used in the beer. Still, Bud, Coors and Miller sell a lot of beer in New Jersey.”

In Mr. Linkous’s view, “Anyone who’s still drinking those beers just hasn’t discovered what they’re missing. It’s kind of like watching ‘Law & Order’ when you could have been watching ‘The Wire.
And how.

Related:
New Jersey Brew Pubs Enjoying Golden Days [ New York Times ]

[ Photo via Flickr user MANNAfests ]

Fuck Wawa. Seriously — FUCK Wawa.

wawa corporate is the worst person in the worldLooks like Wawa is pulling out of Center City entirely. Less than three months after Wawa closed its Rittenhouse Square Wawa at 20th and Locust, it is closing its psuedo-Rittenhouse Square Wawa at 20th and Chestnut.

The 20th and Chestnut Wawa will shutter on Saturday, May 2, 2008. For no reason whatsoever. The Wawa at 17th and Arch is also closing in May.

Wow, Wawa Corporate — you are some cold-hearted deceitful and downright deathly stupid bitches.

After all, what company doesn't strive to obtain an incredibly desirable and loyal customer base of 100,000 strong conveniently located in a compact 2.5-square-mile downtown… and then screw them entirely all at once???

Howard Stoeckel, Mr. Wawa CEO, pat yourself on the back. You sir have just raised the bar for corporate incompetence/douchebaggery to an entirely new level. Congratulations — you possess the vision and business acumen of a drunken sea otter.

Related:
Screw Wawa [ Johnny Goodtimes via ]

Previously:
Breaking: Rittenhouse Wawa Effs Loyal Customers, Set To Inexplicably Shut Its Doors Forever on February 29th, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Drinking The Illadelph: Bluecoat Gin Scores A Little Love In Today's NYT Sunday Styles

So just in time for the warm weather we enjoyed this weekend (and the inevitably even better weather destined for the weeks to come), we were happily reminded of the virtues of Philadelphia’s own Bluecoat Gin.
THINK globally, drink locally.

That’s the theory — somewhat, anyway — behind a spring cocktail that had its debut earlier this month at Bar 44, the reincarnation of the Round Bar in the lobby of the Royalton Hotel in Midtown. With its glass vestibule and expense-account feel, Bar 44 isn’t the venue one might expect to be proclaiming its crunchy cred by noting the down-on-the-farm origins of its cocktail ingredients.
[…]
Yet while the drink’s name and provenance may connote standard Manhattan hotel flashiness, its soul lies elsewhere.

Lee Turkey Farm in New Jersey, for instance. Or an organic microdistillery in northeast Philadelphia.

The former, a six-generation family farm in East Windsor, is where the hotel’s beverage director, Somer Perez, is procuring the cherries that color and sweeten her Couture Cooler. The latter is the source of Bluecoat gin, a dry, citrus-y gin, distilled in a hand-hammered copper pot still, that Ms. Perez is mixing with those cherries.

Forget farm to table. Farm to bar is much more fun.
Indeed.

Seriously. A gin-and-tonic is an undeniably delicious summer drink. So why not save the planet a little bit (and simultaneously support a local business) the next time you order one??

(Because when your gin comes from up the street rather than from across the Atlantic Ocean, you save the planet a teeny bit with each sip. *At least that's we tell ourselves…*)

To do so, simply resist the temptation to go with your traditional “Tanqueray and Tonic” next time you’re at the bar and, instead, order a "Bluecoat and tonic." (And for your next BBQ, how about making a nice cool pitcher of Bluecoat Derbies, yes??)

If you’re neighborhood local doesn’t carry it, again, ask them to.

Because they should.

After all, not only is Bluecoat local, but it's also actually very, very good.

Related:
Shaken And Stirred - Drinking Within the 100-Mile Radius [ New York Times ]
Bluecoat Gin – Philadelphia Distilling [ Official Site ]

[ Photo via Flickr user MANNAfests ]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Philly’s Second Kimpton Officially Announced, Expected To Be Equally As Dope As The First

kimpton hotel coming to the robert morris buildingWhat we first hinted at back in December has been officially announced: Kimpton will be doing their second hotel in Philadelphia in the Robert Morris building at 17th and Arch, directly behind the Comcast Center.

It’s another historic preservation and conversion project, rather than a new-build — a smart, contextual move on Kimpton’s part.
Named after a Philadelphia merchant who helped finance the American Revolution, the Robert Morris [building] stands as an excellent example of the European Gothic Revival style. It was constructed in 1914 by Rutherford Jennings, who owned the Hotel Wilmost on South Penn Square and built the Robert Morris [building] as a hotel atop of the headquarters of the Methodist Church of the Greater Delaware Valley. When it ceased operating as a hotel, it was later used by Philadelphia's College of The Bible for classrooms and dorms. [source]
So the Robert Morris will be returning to its roots and will once again become a hotel. And a very, very hot one at that.

The façade will be cleaned and repaired and a green roof will be added, which will be accessible to hotel guests. Heritage Consulting is assisting Kimpton with the project.

The developer is 806 Capital out of Old City and they’ve enlisted Agoos/Lovera Architects and Zeff Design.

The hotel should be ready in 2009, not too long after the opening of Kimpton's Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, just three short blocks down 17th Street.

Looking sharp, Kimpton. Looking real sharp.

Related:
Morris Building to be site of Kimpton's second city hotel [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
806 Capital – Robert Morris Building Conversion to Boutique Hotel [ Official Site ]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Action Alert: Help Philly Bike Share Become a Reality

Let City Council know who's boss.
Since [late 2007], Bike Share Philadelphia has been working to convince our city government to bring this program to Philadelphia.

On Wednesday April 30, 2008 at 2:00 PM, Philadelphia's City Council's Committee on Transportation and Utilities with the Committee on the Environment will hold a hearing on the creation of a Bicycle Sharing Program for Philadelphia.

We urge you to come show your support for Bike Sharing by attending the hearing in Council Chambers on the 4th floor of City Hall at 2:00 PM April 30th. Your presence will ensure that City Council realizes that Philadelphia citizens are serious in their need, want, and pursuit of Bike Sharing!
But even if you can’t attend the hearing, you can still support Philly Bike Share by filling out this quick form which will let The Nutts know he needs to support bike sharing too.
take a moment to […] send an email to Mayor Michael Nutter in support of Bike Sharing. It takes less than a minute to write at a letter at www.bikesharephilly.org/takeaction.

With your help, and the help of your friends and other supporters, we can move towards a brighter, more sustainable future for Philadelphia with Bike Sharing!
Bike Sharing is a no-brainer. We just think the program would be better off starting with a somewhat limited pilot area (consisting of Center City, University City, G-Ho, Bella Vista, Queen Village, East Passyunk, No-Libs, Fairmount, etc.) rather than trying to introduce it to the entire city all at once. As that is probably a tad bit overly aggressive.

As a wise man once said — baby steps.

Related:
Bike Share Philadelphia: Let Mayor Nutter Know You Support the Campaign [ Official Site ]

Monday, April 14, 2008

Intercontinental Hotels Throws Hat In Ring, Wants A Piece Of Philly’s Sexy Too

So the 1601 Vine development has finally secured itself a hotel — it's going to be “the region's first for the Intercontinental chain, a division of Atlanta-based Intercontinental Hotel Group that is better-known abroad than in this country.”

The Philadelphia Intercontinental will occupy 16 stories of the 1601 Vine development’s 40-story tower (the first 16, above the two podium floors that will hold Whole Foods, Best Buy and lots of parking), with approximately 250 rooms and five floors of public spaces.

The development's second tower will be all-residential. Expect to break ground by June 1. [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Hotel Hotwire: Philly’s Hotel Scene So Ripe, Even Camden Is Getting In On The Action

the site of a proposed hilton hotel in camden new jerseyNo shit.
A Philadelphia developer will seek approval next month from the [Camden] city planning board to build a $28 million Hilton Garden Inn on the waterfront between the new Ferry Terminal office building and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

It is believed to be the first new hotel in the city since the Plaza Club Hotel was built in the 1930s. Still standing at 5th and Cooper streets, the Plaza has been vacant since 1985.
[…]
Construction could begin at the end of this year with a projected spring 2010 opening.

If all goes according to plan, visiting professors to Rutgers-Camden, engineers to L-C Communications, executives to Campbell Soup Co. and medical experts to Cooper University Hospital will no longer have to stay overnight in Cherry Hill, Marlton or Mount Laurel to conduct business in Camden.

With a new hotel, Camden will also be poised to handle overflow guests headed to the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia.
Get some, Camden. Get some.

Related:
Camden may get Hilton hotel [ Courier Post ]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jimmy Rollins Front and Center In The Sunday New York Times

jimmy rollins congratulates his teammatesGreat piece on J-Roll and his mom in the Sunday Times.
Anyone wondering where he got his charisma, confidence and mouth need look no further than Gigi Rollins of Alameda, Calif., middle infielder for the Allen Temple Baptist Church women’s fast-pitch softball team, now retired. She dazzled with the glove. Burned around the bases. It was at her spiked feet that young Jimmy learned both the game and the verve with which he plays it; baseball might cherish the image of fathers playing catch with sons, but Rollins owes everything to his mother.

As far as she’s concerned.

“I was a five-tool player,” Gigi Rollins said during a phone interview last week. “It’s the truth; I did it all.” As for her reluctant admission of Jimmy’s superiority, she added this codicil, “If we were in the same era, and I was still playing, then I would give him a run for his money.”

Rollins has plenty of that these days, having established himself as one of the most talented and exciting players in baseball — and the itching powder in Mets fans’ pajamas. He was the primary cause of the Mets’ demoralizing collapse last year, when he hit and ran and yapped the Phillies to seven straight stretch-drive victories over the Mets. As if to reassert his importance for 2008, Rollins led the Phillies to a comeback win Tuesday in the Mets’ home opener, before missing most of the next two games with a sprained ankle. The Mets won those games, but remain fully aware that they have not beaten a healthy Rollins since last June.

Although he could probably fit in one David Ortiz pants leg, Rollins has become the National League’s Little Papi, a fantastic clutch performer who remains likable even to those he irks. Rollins talks without trashing, and pops without popping off. Ever since his rookie year of 2001 he has honed and showcased what he has long dubbed “the Jimmy style,” a sublime mix of electricity and undulating cool.
Word, Jimmy. But let's get you back in the starting lineup, like, stat.

Related:
For Philadelphia’s Rollins, a Game of Maternal Instinct [ New York Times ]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Philly’s Upscale Cuban Spots Get Some Love From The Wall Street Journal

the lounge at alma de cuba in philadelphia"Philadelphia's restaurant renaissance was born in the late 1990s, and it shows little sign of slowing down. One of the charms of the city's foodie scene is the number of upscale ethnic restaurants, including a small village's worth of Cuban and Latin eateries, which tend to be less stuffy than their power-dining counterparts."

The bar and lounge at Alma de Cuba is, indeed, “like a verandah in perpetual summer dusk.” And that’s a good thing. [ Wall Street Journal ]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Is Kimpton Putting a Rooftop Bar On Its Palomar Philadelphia? Good God, We Hope So.

groovedeck rooftop bar in new york city, via the new york timesSo B. Maule has the intel over at Philly Skyline about Kimpton removing the old communications tower from the top of the Architects Building. (And sure enough, there it is being dismantled right in front of our very eyes.)

Sidebar: for those of you who haven’t been following along, Kimpton Hotels is converting the Architects Building at 17th and Sansom into one of their Palomar Hotels — it’s going to be hot.

Brad also wonders whether Kimpton will be using the roof as a terrace for their guests, even eliciting a “we don’t know at this time” response from the Kimptom PR folks.

What we will say is this: putting a rooftop bar, lounge and terrace up there would be a super, duper, fantastically amazing idea on the part of Kimpton.

Let’s review the facts: rooftop bars are awesome pretty much wherever you put them. On a one-story storefront in a formerly unkempt part of town, or thirty floors up, looking out on the city.

(Speaking of which, the neighbors of Continental Midtown who complained about “noise” and forced Starr to enclose most of that rooftop bar should all be taken out back and shot.)

Moreover, the location of Philadelphia's Hotel Palomar is particularly appropriate for a rooftop bar. Why? Because right next door to the Architects Building you have Davio’s and Club Quarters in a historic, 12-story bank building. Nothing too remarkable on the surface, right?

Unless, that is, you have had the opportunity to visit Davio’s penthouse-level banquet space on the building’s top floor, where two outdoor rooftop decks literally put you in the middle of the skyline. You can almost touch Two Liberty Place. The shit will make your dookie twinkle. No lie. (Seriously, we once fell in love up there.)

And that’s just a private party space.

Imagine a rooftop bar and lounge like that open to you, open all the time. You really don’t have to imagine it, though, as they’re all over the place in Manhattan and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, a lot of them are at hotels. (But if you haven’t been — take our word for it: they definitely have their purpose.)

And the Architects Building is taller than the Davio’s building, so it would have an amazing, unobstructed view of Liberty Place, Two Liberty Place, the Comcast Center and more.

So…

We’d like to take this opportunity to formally petition Kimpton’s development team to indeed add a rooftop bar, lounge and terrace (shit, and restaurant too, if there’s room) to the forthcoming Philadelphia Palomar at 17th and Sansom.

For serious, yall. We’d love you that much more.

Related:
7 April 08: Tearing Down The Tower [ Philly Skyline ]
Previously:
Hotel Hotwire on The Illadelph

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rouge Wants To Take Its Act On The Road, Open Up Rouge Deux In DC

PVA profiles the Wassermans — “Maggie and Rob Wasserman, husband and wife owners of Rouge […] Maggie is the daughter of Neil Stein” — in this week’s Business Journal.

Overall, a nice puff piece chronicling the Wasserman’s efforts to make the restaurant profitable again and to distance the new Rouge from Maggie’s dad — “or at least from his financial history.” (Regarding said profit-making: apparently, there’s been a lot of cost cutting in the kitchen, which we hope does not mean less quality beef in the burger… And last we had, it had not.)

Also, there this:
They want to make it clear, this wasn't some hand-me-down or act of nepotism.

"It was a perfect storm: the lease was coming up [for renewal], the market was red hot and a lot of people wanted to buy the restaurant," said Rob Wasserman. "We bid just like everybody else. Our bid was the one chosen."
Right…

Dudes, not a big deal. Even if your bid won because you’re Neil Stein’s daughter and son-in-law, there’s no need to be ashamed. It doesn’t mean you're not legit, or you can’t run it well or make it more successful than he could.

And what does it matter to us, really, as long as you pay your taxes and don’t screw your employees? Wasting breath trying to fight that perception just seems a little silly (and futile) to us.

Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? You’ve got expansion on the mind.
Looking ahead, Wasserman is hoping to take the Rouge concept to other cities, starting with Washington.

"It has a lot of energy, and there's definitely demand for the bistro concept and fine dining," said Wasserman.

Miami is also a possibility, he said.
Awww.

Related:
Wassermans subtract the red, add pipe dreams to the equation at Rouge [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Inga to Hillary and Obama: Regarding Cities (I.E. What Should Be Your Forte), You Guys Are Toothless And Your Rhetoric Is Total Bollocks

andy singer cartoon - no exitInga weighed in on the presidential campaign last week and, not surprisingly, she nailed it.

It's a must-read:
There are three times as many urbanites in America as country folk, yet you wouldn't know it listening to the three main presidential candidates, or perusing their Web sites. Instead, you might come away thinking the United States is a collection of Norman Rockwell small towns surrounded by picture-book farms.

For Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the plight of rural farm families ranks among the urgent crises facing America. Republican John McCain frets about veterans, the unborn, outer space.

But you won't hear much about aging cities on Earth fighting to keep their downtowns alive and their overcrowded commuter buses on the road. Cities just don't figure in the political imagination anymore.
[…]
But if there were ever a moment to roll out a bold vision for making cities healthier and more competitive, this is it.

In the next few years, we're likely to hear a lot more about weaning ourselves off imported energy, dealing with greenhouse gases, and retaining economic parity with fast-rising Asian nations. Coming to grips with that triple threat means buffing up our energy-efficient creativity incubators, otherwise known as cities.

So, though the candidates' proposals for ridding America of incandescent bulbs and gas-guzzling vehicles are nice little ideas, the fast lane to energy independence requires significant federal infusions for mass transit, basic infrastructure, and making cities more livable for families. Consider the money an investment in national security.

two andy singer transit cartoonsSupposedly, the reason that candidates are loathe to mention the C-word is that the Suburban Nation of grill-obsessed dads and van-driving moms dominates the electorate.

Since it's assumed that cities will vote Democratic no matter how badly they're treated, there's no percentage for either party to talk up things like pocket parks, waterfront development, or - can you imagine? - wasteful sprawl. Besides, the discussion will only alienate voters who still associate an urban platform with cities in flames.

That assumes "inner cities" are the same basket cases they were 40 years ago. Partly thanks to the Sex and the City effect, cities have been re-glamorized. Over the last 15 years, crime went down and condos went up, notes Governing magazine's Alan Ehrenhalt. Because so many Americans now spend their pre- and post-parenting years in cities, as carefree twentysomethings and again as empty-nesters, we're all urbanites.

Suburbs themselves are more like cities. They're sprouting high-rises and lively commercial nodes. They also struggle now with what were once dubbed urban ills: crime, drugs and poverty.

That's one reason that Bruce Katz, who specializes in metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institute, argues that "what we should really be talking about is metropolitan policy."

So, what do metro areas want? First and foremost, he says, more mass transit.
[…]
The Bush administration took America's habitual underinvestment in the public sphere to new levels, preferring tax cuts and individual wealth. So while Amtrak shriveled and funding for affordable housing disappeared, the super-rich collected private jets and Aspen retreats. But just like any big corporation that expects to survive, America needs to upgrade its technology to compete in a Euro-charged world. Let's declare an infrastructure race.

We're probably two decades behind the Europeans, not just in the level of our infrastructure investment, but in how chaotically we do it," says Katz. "The Europeans build high-speed rail. We build bridges to nowhere."

But it's not only about piling on more steel and concrete. Brookings' new study advocates investment in "quality places" along with transit and infrastructure. For Philadelphia, that obviously supports a push to turn Penn Praxis' Delaware riverfront plan into reality.
Apologies for the huge excerpt. It’s just so spot on.

Go read it in its entirety.

In a nutshell, it basically expresses our frustrations with national politics. (Them being a total fucking sham and all.) Sure, Obama is virtually impossible not to love — but unfortunately being "electable" to the Democratic Party apparently means talking about shit in a vacuum.

Related:
Changing Skyline: Presidential candidates ignoring urban issues [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Cartoons via Andy Singer ]

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Confidential To Mayor Nutter: Support The Modified + Improved South Street Bridge Design Or Become More Dead To Us Than Our Dead Mother

revised south street bridge design is less terrible for pedestriansInga has an update on the South Street Bridge.

And it's good. All we need now is for Mayor Nutter to step up and wield some political muscle.

See, resulting from the bridge design charettes of last month, the South Street Bridge Coalition and the urban design firm of Wallace Roberts and Todd have produced a report (which you can download here [PDF]) suggesting numerous simple modifications to make the bridge design more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
The coalition commissioned the report last month after learning that construction on the long-delayed $54 million project would begin in the summer.

Center City residents have demanded changes in the design since at least 2001, but made no headway with city engineers during the Street administration. Their hope is that Nutter and his cabinet will take a fresh look at the bridge, which is an important neighborhood link and a dramatic gateway to Center City from I-76.
Yes, Mayor Nutter — a fresh look.
An administration official said Nutter was willing to consider changes, but first wanted a briefing on the WRT report. After receiving such a briefing Friday, City Council President Anna Verna, whose district includes the bridge, agreed to support the redesign, a spokesman said.
That’s probably because you’d have to be a total idiot not to support the redesign.

The design tweaks are nothing crazy and would not delay the bridge from being built on-time. They're simply necessary.
Though the coalition no longer holds out much hope that the new bridge will be as architecturally rich, the group wants to ensure that the surface feels like a continuation of a city street rather than an interstate overpass, Campbell said.

According to the WRT report, the best way to soften that highway character would be to widen the sidewalks, upgrade the decorative railings and lights, and add amenities like crosswalks and bus stops.
[…]
"Good grief, how can we have a regional rail station that goes to the airport and not provide a bus stop?" Campbell asked. "We need a 21st-century bridge, with connections to recreation and transportation, not an SUV bridge."

The Schuylkill, which is about the same width as the Seine in Paris, was once spanned by pedestrian-scale, architecturally distinctive crossings. But as the old masonry bridges at Spring Garden, Chestnut and Walnut Streets came up for repair, they were replaced with standard girder-bridges that resemble highway overpasses, down to their industrial green undercarriages.
For shame, PennDOT. For shame.

So Nutts — you have to make this happen. This is an easy one. No excuses, k?

Related:
A Redraw for the South Street Bridge [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Report: Design Recommendations For The South Street Bridge [ South Street Bridge Coalition, PDF ]
Last Hope For Forging Gracious Link Across River [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
South Street Bridge: Philadelphia Deserves Better [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
A bridge too far - Designed for vehicles, not pedestrians, a rebuilt South Street Bridge could widen the psychological divide between West Philadelphia and Center City [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

Earlier:
Action Alert: The New South Street Bridge Is Not Completely Lost Yet

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Urban Dispatch: How To Make The Mini-Golf At Franklin Square Even Better? Add A Bar.

The Green at Grant Park in downtown Chicago, golf + food and beer[ From time to time, we’ll post a dispatch from another city that could serve as an example of how Philadelphia might accomplish something similarly smart. ]

Admittedly, Franklin Square has already come a long way and the Mini-Golf at Franklin Square is already fairly fantastic. But there’s one key area for improvement — and that's food and beverage service.

During a somewhat-recent visit to Chicago, one of the most surprisingly fun things we did was take in an afternoon round of mini-golf at The Green at Grant Park (above). The 18-hole, par-42 course is, literally, located right around the corner from the city’s shiny, new and super-popular Millenium Park, yet thankfully it never has the crowds that Millenium Park does.

The course is also awesome because the “course design features all aspects of true-golf-on-the-green, complete with varying contours on each hole, dramatic elevation changes, sand-traps and a challenge to par.”

Seriously, it was, without doubt, the best mini-golf course we’ve ever played.

And we haven’t even got to the best part.

See, The Green at Grant Park also has a full-service restaurant and bar with all-outdoor seating. And from said bar, you can buy beers to savor while playing your round of golf. Trust us loyal readers, the best way to enjoy a gorgeous afternoon round of golf — regular or mini — is with a few beers.

The Green at Grant Park in Chicago, golf + food and beer(Not to mention The Green’s restaurant, which puts out some very tasty sandwiches, salads and other light fare.)

So that’s what Franklin Square needs: a full-service restaurant and bar to really draw the attention it deserves and make the experience that much better. And again, we’re not talking about cafeteria food or funnel cake. We mean a Shake Shack-quality outfit, complete with amazing burgers and delicious local beers on draft.

It would be the shit.

If it happens, we know we’d spend at least one afternoon a week there during the season, inevitably having our requisite order of a bloody mary, a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich, which we basically try to have whenever eating in a psuedo country-club setting.

We say “if” because there's a decent chance it will, in fact, happen. We have it on good authority that the folks behind Franklin Square — what up Once Upon A Nation, you crazy kids, you — want to have a permanent restaurant installed in the park by the 2009 summer season. And they are already on board with wanting it to be awesome, i.e. Shake Shack-style.

They want a established local restaurateur to do it too. Like Starr, Garces, Stern, or Scarduzio/Perrier. While those guys are good, we think the Royal/Cantina team, the Brenda’s/Standard team, the Silk/N.3rd team or the Grace Tavern team could be even better. (Maybe even Bruno Pouget… as Apothecary is looking ever more awesome every day.)

Make it happen, Franklin Square. Make it happen.

Just be sure the café also gets a license to sell beer and booze. And that you can drink said beer while playing putt-putt.

Ok? Perfect.

Related:
Franklin Square [ Official Site ]

The Green at Grant Park [ Official Site via Google Cache ]

[ Second "The Green" photo via Flickr user Fran Mason ]

Mini Golf at Franklin Square via

mini golf at Franklin Square in Philadelphia
and Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, Manhattan via

shake shack in new york city, madison square park

Friday, April 04, 2008

Breaking: Reading Terminal Gets With The Program, Finally Offers 'Reading Terminal Market'-Branded REUSABLE Shopping Bags For Sale To Its Customers

Reading Terminal Market and reusable bags[ In an effort to have more timely and more frequent posts, we’re going to try to do a few micro-posts each week, this being the first one… ]

Yes we did, in fact, call out the Terminal more than a year ago on the need to have Terminal-branded reusable bags for sale throughout its space.

And then again in January of this year, we gave them some more tough love about the same bags (or lack thereof).

Well, it would appear someone was listening.*
Now Available: Re-Usable Shopping Bags

Help reduce the use of disposable plastic bags by picking up an attractive Reading Terminal Market re-usable shopping bag, now available at many Market vendors while supplies last. Made from durable woven polypropylene, these bags are large enough to fit plenty of produce, meats, seafood, baked goods, flowers and more.
Well done, Reading Terminal. Very, Very boss.

Next up: charge people who use regular plastic bags (a la Ikea). For serious.

* Note: While we’d love to take credit for this innovation, in reality we’re not that naïve.

Related:
Reading Terminal Market [ Official Site ]
Previously:
Reading Terminal and Plastic Bags on The Illadelph

[ Photo via ]

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Is Starwood Bringing Aloft To Center City? Is The Starwood Real Estate Group Not As Dim As First Presumed... Or Are They Even Dumber??

aloft hotel on chestnut street in philadelphiaIt would appear that Starwood — the same Starwood that infamously decided to locate one of their very first urban-hipster-Aloft-brand hotels in an amazingly un-hip and un-urban location next to the Philadelphia Airport — has, in fact, recently been trying to develop not one but two Aloft hotels in — wait for it — Center City.

‘No shit’ is right.

We were pretty surprised to hear this because, while it surely makes perfect business sense for Starwood to open an Aloft (or two) in Center City, at this point we have pretty much zero confidence in the Starwood Real Estate Group to do anything remotely approaching wise or prudent when it comes to selecting locations for their company's hotel projects in Philadelphia.

But anyway.

Where are/were the two Alofts slated to be built?

One was to be on the 700 block of Chestnut Street (above), and the other at 15th and Locust.

We’re assuming the one on the 700 block of Chestnut Steet would be a new-build on the surface parking lot between 707 and Morimoto. This project was mentioned in this week’s Business Journal as one of several hotel projects in Philadelphia that have been delayed or kiboshed altogether on account of the credit crunch, of course without specifying which.

Intriguing because if it's been canned entirely, then Starwood is, in fact, dumber than rocks. If it's been tabled, then Starwood still has some credibility (albeit waning). Because it is definitely a smart location. The 700 block of Chestnut Street is currently Chestnut’s best block between 3rd and 13th, really. You have Jones, Morimoto, 707, Aqua, and Stephen Starr’s to-be-named gastropub and micro-hotel.

And Aloft would be a pretty shrewd addition. The hotel would be located within short walking distance of both Old City (2nd and Chestnut is 5 blocks away) and Midtown Village (13th and Sansom is 6 blocks away), both very vibrant and young nighttime destinations, not to mention being a block away from one of the most visited historic attraction areas in the country.

( Note: Unknot’s location is still way better, or more appropriate, for the GHM property. )

As for the location at 15th and Locust, we don’t really know anything about it. Our best guess is they’re targeting either the small lot next to Misconduct or part of the Lewis Tower building on the northeast corner that has been under renovation recently.

However, Alofts are supposed to be new-builds (i.e. new construction hotels) so the Lewis Tower option doesn’t exactly fit their model.

(Anyone care to enlighten us?)

UPDATE: Someone just did. It looks like they're targeting the property on the northwest corner of 15th and Locust, 1501 Locust to be exact — wanting to demolish the building currently there and construct a new 20-story Aloft hotel in its place. New-build indeed.

Now obviously, the thing to keep in mind about both of these projects is that neither is a definite — rather, it’s more likely that both have been put into a holding pattern by Starwood, while they decide whether or not to remove their diapers/panties and invest in a sure-thing.

We certainly hope — for Starwood’s sake — that the Starwood Real Estate Group doesn’t repeat the same mistake they made in 2006 and miss out on another golden opportunity by deciding again not to open an Aloft in Center City Philadelphia.

Because their Aloft Philadelphia Airport is slated to open in October of this year and they’re already accepting reservations online. About which, we'd like to assure them of one thing: if this first Aloft was located at either 15th and Locust or 7th and Chestnut, there would be a helluva lot more buzz around its opening and a helluva lot more people clamoring to make reservations (already) than there are about their lame pseudo-airport location. We guarantee it.

So Starwood, hate to sound all brash and/or condescending about it, but shit, you don’t exactly deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Hopefully, you don’t screw the pooch again and not build an Aloft downtown again, because that would just be, like, thirty-two times more stupid than not building one downtown the first go-around.

But were definitely not going to put it past you.

Oh, it’s true, brosef.

Related:
An Iffy Prognosis For Hotel Projects [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
Previously:
Hotel Hotwire on The Illadelph