Thursday, May 29, 2008

Early Word On Goodburger: Burgers Are Promising, Egregiously Out Of Place Techno Soundtrack Not So Much

So Goodburger, the upscale burger chain out of New York City that recently opened its first Philadelphia location on Chestnut Street, does in fact make a pretty decent burger. Order it medium — or medium rare preferably — and you’ll enjoy a juicy and flavorful burger on a slightly toasted bun that won't easily disappoint.

One caveat: the techno trance blaring from Goodburger's sound-system no matter what time you visit — 10:30 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, 7 in the evening — all Manhattan-like, as if Marquee were right next door or something. But it's not. So it comes off as lame. And fairly annoying. [ Goodburger ]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chase Utley Leads All-Star Voting, Leads League In HRs, Named One Of “The 25 Fittest Guys in America”, And Saves Scores Of Puppies All In A Single Day

chase utley volunteers with youth in the community, philadelphia philliesHe may have also just cured cancer and fixed global warming. Not to mention fending off the President's advances.

So yea, big day for Chase Utley.

First it was announced that he leads the National League in All-Star voting. “Utley, a two-time All-Star, leads the National League with 537,788 votes, more than 100,000 votes higher than the next closest N.L. player.”

That was before the Phillies swept the Rockies with a 6-1 win on the strength of Utley’s league-leading 17th homerun. “Utley is [now] on pace to hit 50 homers, 18 more than his career-high in 2006. The record for second basemen is 42 held by Rogers Hornsby (1922) and Davey Johnson (1973).”

Then he found out that Men’s Fitness magazine named him one of the “25 Fittest Guys in America” in their June/July issue. “Some of his eclectic fellow fit Americans include Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, actor Amaury Nolasco ("Prison Break"), actor Will Smith, golfer Tiger Woods and country rock star Dierks Bentley.”

Omg, right?

A question from the mag profile:
[Q] You're a versatile hitter and player, but you've got impressive power as well. How do you work on building that kind of home-run power?

[A} I don't think I have impressive power. I think the guy next to me at first base has impressive power. My whole goal every year is to improve. Get stronger, quicker, and become a better player. Occasionally, I sneak a homer out of the park.
Dude — that is pretty much the definition of "impressive power."

And then, to top it all off, Chase will dedicate his off day on Thursday to hosting a fundraiser benefit for the Pennsylania SPCA to save a whole lot of animals. (Jesus — chicks must absolutely idolize this man…)

Chase and his wife Jennifer (except, probably, for that part) will be hosting their foundation’s All-Star Animals Casino Night and Silent Auction this Thursday evening at FUEL Gallery in Old City. And word on the street is that Chase, J-Roll, The Bat, RyHo, Cy Hamels, Shane, et al. will all be there.

(We probably should have accepted our invitation, but we were initially put off by the whole "charity" thing. And by helping puppies. So, yea — our bad, we guess.)

Keep on doing what you're doing, Chase. More of that chicken, water, fruit and veggies diet, ya hear?

Related:
Utley tops NL All-Star balloting [ MLB.com]
Utley's 17th HR powers Eaton to first win, Phillies to sweep [ ESPN ]
America's fittest men list includes Utley [MLB.com]
Utley's All-Star Animals Casino Night [ ChaseUtley.com ]
25 Fittest Guys in America [ Men’s Fitness ]
Chase Utley Is An American Hero [ Ladies… ]

Shadowy Phillies Owners Profiled In Philadelphia Magazine — Not Exactly The Feel-Good Read Of The Summer

Kudos to Philadelphia Magazine for the insightful article in their June issue about the phantom owners of the Philadelphia Phillies.

A few excerpts.
The conventional wisdom about the Phillies owners is wrong. The source of their continuing failure isn’t that the baseball team is run too much like a business — it’s the reverse.

In the Phillies boardroom, the mantra isn’t “You’re fired!” — it’s “We’ll get ’em next year, fellas.” “Play it safe” has replaced “Play ball!” as the rallying cry. The Phillies’ front office is a place where jobs last forever, everyone’s chummy, and no one is held accountable, starting with the owners themselves, who refuse to talk to the media or to accept responsibility for failing to bring home a single championship during their 26-year reign.

At best, they’re cowardly. What’s more, they’re violating the civic pact you make when you buy a professional baseball team, and the quasi-public trust you create when you ask the city and state for $260 million in funding to build your new ballpark.
One of Team President Dave Montgomery’s main responsibilities is to reflect criticism and blame away from the ownership group and to keep them safely in the shadows.
Asked if he's made a conscious decision to be less outspoken than [Bill] Giles, his predecessor, Montgomery says, “I just believe the organization needs an image that's not directly tied to wins and losses.”

Dave Montgomery is a mild-mannered guy, but it’s hard to imagine a more radical statement. After all, what we’re talking about here isn’t your kid’s tee-ball league or your niece’s Division III volleyball program. This is professional sports, where athletes are paid tens of millions of dollars to perform, and where loyal fans invest their time, money and passion in a team with one singular hope: to see them become champions. If this isn’t about wins and losses, then what exactly is it about?

That attitude — winning would be nice — has infected the Phillies organization for decades now. And it trickles down from the very top, from the owners themselves.
[…]
The front-office turnover rate is amazingly low, despite tales of incompetent employees who appear to get pass after pass. “It’s a very collegial, friendly culture, and sometimes you need a bit of the other kind of medicine,” says a source close to the team. “It’s not a place where a general manager has a bad four-year run and you know he’s going to get fired.”

That's a nod to Ed Wade, who may be Exhibit A when it comes to the organization’s lack of accountability.
These owners purchased the team in 1981 for $30 million. The franchise is now worth $481 million. That's a 1,600% return on their investment.

And then an excerpt contrasting the Phillies owners with those of the Red Sox.
But think of where the Phillies could be today if the owners treated it less like a hobby and more like a Fortune 500 company. The proof lies in Boston, where the Yawkey family spent 68 years running the Red Sox with the same lack of courage and vision that the Phillies’ owners possess.

In 2002, three successful businessmen with baseball-ownership experience bought the team, and in just five years, they’ve become a dynasty — and not just on the field. Owning 80 percent of Boston’s regional sports network helped, but so did an aggressive marketing plan that made Red Sox Nation a global brand (did anyone even use that phrase before 2002?), as did investing in the real estate surrounding Fenway Park.

What did the Phillies do in that time? In exchange for public aid for Citizens Bank Park, they let themselves get bullied into the safest, most economically limited location for it, at the deserted tip of South Philadelphia.
The Phillies do good by their community, but do not prioritize winning.
By contrast, the Phillies are best known as the team that every charity, local business and City Hall wants to work with. Each week, it seems, the team sponsors another civic good deed, from green initiatives backed by Michael Nutter to Wiffle ball games for underprivileged kids. Chummy chamber of commerce parties and friendships with the Mayor and the MLB commissioner don’t lead to championships, though.

Since the Phillies moved into Citizens Bank Park, their payroll is finally competitive, but in baseball, the only major sport without a salary cap, that only looks good in comparison to decades of woeful under-spending.

When you buy a team in Philadelphia, there’s a pact that comes with the perks — especially when you’re handed more than a quarter-billion in city and state assistance to build your new home, complete with an owners’ box high above the third-base line, where losses are much easier to handle. Montgomery and his decades-long friends in the front office and the Phantom Five are playing with some serious house money. It belongs to the tax-paying, seat-buying, jersey-wearing fans. Accountability to them is long overdue.
Which is then followed by a fairly disheartening close.
The Phillies were selling NL East Championship hats and tees as fast as they could make them last fall, but months later, they rewarded All Star Cole Hamels with a paltry $100,000 raise, and strong-armed Ryan Howard into arbitration that they lost. In an eyeblink, fan optimism gave way to portentous nightmares of Howard jacking home runs in a Red Sox jersey and Hamels no-hitting for the Yankees in the next few years. Who will be held accountable if this team is a shell of itself by 2012?

The answer is, no one. If you stop buying tickets, they’ll simply lower the payroll. If the Phillies fall into the MLB cellar, the league’s revenue-sharing plan will keep them afloat. If a newspaper columnist or sports-radio provocateur leads a campaign against them, Gentleman Dave will take the heat, smiling all along, while the owners he protects stay silent, hoping everyone will focus on something besides wins and losses and a 1,600 percent increase in the value of the team since they bought it. That’s the way the business of baseball is done in this town.

Dare to dream of the day when change will come, Phillies fans. But as always, don’t get your hopes up.
Note: Dave Montgomery is alright. He is not the problem. After all, it's admirable for the franchise to aspire to contribute to the city and the region in ways other than simply winning games. But being a good and responsible corporate citizen certainly should not preclude the team from winning. In fact, the two should go hand in hand, rather than one or the other.

The owners on the other hand, aside from John Middleton and Bill Giles, appear to be completely and utterly worthless.

And evidently there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.

Just one more example of why owning a professional sports team is the best racket anyone could ever ask for.

Related:
The Phantom Five - The Phillies' (very) silent owners [ Philadelphia Magazine ]
Phillies might not want to play as players' salaries escalate [ Philadelphia Daily News ]
Ed Snider will leave when Ed Snider says [ Philadelphia Daily News ]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Renaissance (Marriott) and Westin (Starwood) Vie To Be Drexel’s Big Man Hotel On Campus

a marriott renaissance proposed for drexel university, market street in philadelphiaDrexel’s wants to add a new hotel and conference center to the eastern edge of its campus. The University is currently evaluating two proposals from competing national brands, a Renaissance by Marriott (above) and a Westin by Starwood (below).

The hotel is to be sited on the lot directly to the west of 30th Street Station, between 30th and 31st Streets, on what is currently a parking lot.
A Drexel hotel and conference center between One Drexel Plaza and 30th Street Station went from rumor to reality for many students at the luncheon when Francis presented designs from two competing hotel chains.

One design for the hotel was submitted by Marriott International Inc. as a Marriott Renaissance hotel, and the other was submitted by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. as a Westin hotel.

Drexel will not be constructing the hotels; rather, a ground-lease agreement will be signed between Drexel and the winning hotel chain. The agreement will provide the chain with a 50 to 90-year lease in exchange for constructing the hotel on Drexel property. The hotel is currently projected to be constructed by fall 2011.

Without knowing very many details, i.e. on the surface, this is a very smart development.

In the immediate future, 30th Street Station is only going to become more and more heavily used. Amtrak ridership is up 15% nationwide this year and more than 20% on the Northeast Corridor specifically.

And with forthcoming developments like the American Commerce Center and Cira Centre South in addition to the just-completed Comcast Center, the amount of people taking Amtrak to Philadelphia is going to skyrocket. (Not to mention SEPTA regional rail.)

Moreover, just consider that the airport has, like, 25 hotels. Obviously, 30th Street Station should have at least one immediately adjacent hotel property.

That said, Drexel needs to scrutinize the details of both designs very closely. The development should be as urban-friendly as possible and extremely transit-oriented, considering its location.

Hopefully, neither proposal calls for an inordinate amount of parking, as Cira II does. (A 2,400-car garage? Right next to 30th Street Station?? Dumbest. Fucking. Development. EVER. Seriously. The Real Estate Devel team at Penn have to be fucking brain dead for their involvement with this one. Hopefully Professor Vuchic can sort them out.)

Everything built around 30th Street Station should be built for pedestrians first, not automobiles. The area surrounding 30th Street Station should not feel like a highway on- and off-ramp — as it currently feels — but rather like a pleasant, pedestrian-oriented connection between Center City and University City.

With Cira Centre to the north, Cira 2 to the south, and this hotel to the west, 30th Street station is finally getting the adjacent development was predicted to happen some eight decades ago.

Let’s make sure we get the design right so the next eighty years of the Station's existence aren’t started off with ass-backwards planning.

Related:
Development Plans Revealed At Luncheon [ Drexel Triangle ]
Getting On Board With Amtrak’s Needs [ Boston Globe ]
Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit [ New York Times ]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Breaking: Penn Reaches An NCAA Final Game For The First Time Since, Um, Uh, Ever

penn women's lacrosseThe Penn’s Women Lacrosse Team faces #1 ranked Northwestern this evening in the 2008 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship Game.

And just to make it all the more momentous, this is actually the first time a Penn team in ANY SPORT has EVER reached an NCAA-sanctioned final.
NCAA Final History: Sunday’s appearance in the NCAA final game will not only be the first in Penn women’s lacrosse history; it will be the first by any Penn team in any program. By our count, the following programs advanced to semifinal games over the years but never further: men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, field hockey, and of course men’s basketball.
(Yea, well, at least Quakers can take solace in their school’s perennial housing of 99% of all other universities in the national rankings for 'kick-ass-ness'.)

So tonight, the women’s lacrosse team can finally bring home a national title for Penn.

But it won’t be easy.

Their opponent? Top-seeded Northwestern. "The Wildcats — winners of the last three national titles — have lost only once in their last 42 games, and that came April 27 against these Quakers, 11-7."

Oh snap — comeuppance time.
NCAA Title History: Penn has won four NCAA team championships before, all in fencing. The men’s fencing team won NCAA titles in 1953, 1969 and 1981, and most recently the women’s fencing team won the crown in 1986. It should be noted that Penn has won national titles in other sports that are not NCAA-sanctioned, most recently in 2000 when women’s squash won the Howe Cup (that sport’s national championship event).
Yea Penn Squash.

penn women's lacrossePenn. What.

Related:
THE DAY AFTER: Penn 9, Duke 8 (OT) [ Penn Athletics ]
Women's Lacrosse Advances to NCAA Final [ Penn Athletics ]
W. Lax tops Blue Devils in OT, plays for NCAA title tonight [ Daily Pennsylvanian ]
Lone Stumbling Block Stands in Front of Northwestern’s 4th Title [ New York Times ]
Quakers, Wildcats face off: Northwestern comes in with 20-1 record, but Penn was the one [ Baltimore Sun ]
Penn Edges Duke in OT to Advance [ Baltimore Sun ]

Penn women's lacrosse

Philadelphia’s Holdings Of Historic College Hoops Arenas To Double As Drexel Converts Armory to 5,000-Seat Lil' Palestra

drexel armory philadelphia basketballHot shit coming at you from UCity.
[Last month] Drexel president Dr. Constantine Papadakis and Major General Jessica L. Wright, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, co-signed an agreement stating that the university and the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs (DMVA) will develop a long-term plan to renovate the Armory into a convocation center and basketball arena for the Dragons.
[…]
All told, the project is 10 years in the making. Drexel and the National Guard began discussions in 1998 about the university using the Armory. The talks resulted in the two forming a working team named "Operation Partnership" that ultimately finalized the details of the transition agreement.

As one of the oldest armories in Pennsylvania, the approximately 21,000 square-foot building was first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

"We're standing in the midst of United States history," Papadakis said. "A place with such an illustrious history deserves an equally brighter future."
drexel university armory philadelphia basketballThe Armory, which was designed in 1916 and constructed in 1920, was previously the home court of the Dragon's from 1969 to 1975. This time around, however, should be a lot sexier.
According to Drexel athletic director Dr. Eric Zillmer, in order to make that future a reality, the Armory will undergo a major renovation that will last upwards of four to five years. Over the next 12 to 18 months, engineers will design a plan to completely refurbish the building and dig down about 20 feet underneath the building. The result will be an arena where visitors enter the building in a middle concourse and walk down into a bowl or upward to rows of seats climbing up two sides of the building.

Zillmer said the cost to refurbish the Armory is still very much up in the air, at least until engineers study the building. He suggested that, because the building is located in the heart of bustling University City, it could cost anywhere from around $30 million to upwards of $80 million.

Going by artists' renderings, Drexel basketball's new home could resemble a mini-version of the Palestra. The building seems to be filled with antique air. Windowed walls will allow plenty of natural light in, and a high-arcing ceiling will allow noise to travel, but the brick structure will keep it tightly in place.

Overall, Drexel's vision of the Armory seems to be a building with a vintage feel, but also complete with all the modern amenities.
Good for Drexel. Seriously. This sounds like it's going to be awesome for decades to come.

And, who knows… maybe it will convince the Big 5 to to formally include the Dragons once and for all.

the drexel dragons basketballBut probably not. Hopefully, the Dragons can at least use the news as motivation to run shit next season, finally start dominating the Colonial Athletic League, and, in so doing, show the Big 5 why they belong via the court.

Related:
Philadelphia Armory Will Be Drexel's Next Hoops Home [ The Philadelphia Bulletin ]
Drexel Clears Way For New Arena [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Drexel takes over Armory [ The Drexel Triangle ]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Eating The Illadelph: A Quick Status Check With Stephen Starr

stephen starr wants youA few updates on some of the projects Stephen and his Starr Restaurant Organization have in the works:

- Parc, on Rittenhouse Square, is scheduled to open the last week of June. And as M.Klein reported earlier this week, Dominic Filoni will be exec chef.

- The Chelsea Hotel project in Atlantic City is officially scheduled to open at the end of July. Look for Starr’s contribution's, Chelsea Prime on the fifth floor and Teplitzky’s on the first, to both be up and running at that time.

- The gastro-pub project w/ Taavo Somer that Starr has planned for the former Angelina/Blue Angel space on Chestnut, however, is still way out. Which we think also means that the “micro hotel” dreamt-up for the same address is similarly far from fruition.

- PhillyBurbs writer Collin Keefe thinks Starr might next be pursuing the former Deux Cheminees space because Starr “confirmed that he was looking at a property that was formerly a restaurant but was originally a home and was located on the East side of Broad Street in Center City.”

- Starr was interviewed by New York Times writer Florence Fabricant at a function at the Residences at Two Liberty Place the other night. So you can expect a forthcoming article or profile in the Times about Steve-o’s latest labors to keep you looking good.

He’s definitely Bobby Bigwheelin’ it.

Related:
Eight things you probably didn’t know about Stephen Starr [ Philly Burbs ]
Beatrice’s Terrace Opens in Atlantic City July 25; L.A. and Vegas May Be Next [ Grub Street ]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eating The Illadelph, Nostalgia Edition: The $100 Cheesesteak At Barclay Prime And, Uh, Miss Pennsylvania

the $100 cheesesteak at barclay prime in philadelphiaAfter a recent string of incredibly disappointing cheesesteaks — seriously, the one we had this past weekend at Tony Luke's very well could have been dog meat — it might be time to go haute for a change.

Like the $100 cheeser at Barclay Prime. Remember her?

In case you’ve forgot, CBS3 recently did a web segment on the sandwich and you can watch Chef James Locascio prepare the monster sandwich with Kobe beef, butter poached lobster, vidalia onions, shaved summer truffles ($900 a pound), and melted Tallegio cheese. (Lobster was substituted in for foie gras after Starr folded decided not to serve the foie in his restaurants.)

(Note: CBS3 apparently takes their internets lessons with the Philly.com team as neither understands the value of making their videos embeddable.)

Oh, yeah — it’s also an excuse to check out CBS3's new web reporter, Melissa Brewer, who was Miss Pennsylvania in 2005. Yea — just sayin'.

Actually, we’re thinking about heading over to Rae to try the Venison Cheesesteak a la D.Stern. For $18, we’re thinking it's a lot less pretense (not to mention investment) for a delicious upscale cheesesteak. Right? Although, upon further investigation, it might not be on the menu anymore… Eff.

Any other ideas of places to go for a high-end cheesesteak? Toss ‘em in the comments. No cheesesteak springrolls, though, thank you very much — we like our sandwiches with bread.

(Not that we don’t love us some Jim’s and, ugh, as much as it pains us to admit it, Geno's too — we just need a high-quality cheeser right now to remind us of how delicious this sandwich is supposed to be.)

Related:
Philly's $100 Cheesesteak: A Look At Philly's Most Expensive Sandwich [ CBS3 and video ]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Breaking: Philadelphia International Airport Ranked #1 In Something Other Than Delays


Actually, they were rated the top North American airport for customer satisfaction in the 2008 J.D. Power And Associates Airport Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Go figure. [ Philadelphia Business Journal and Los Angeles Times ]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Royal Tavern Crew Headed To NoLibs? To Two-Step With Standard Tap?? Yes Please.

azure in northern liberties to become cantina dos - philadelphiaThe distinguished team behind South Philly stalwarts Royal Tavern and Cantina Los Caballitos might be heading north.

M. Klein over at Food and Drinq alludes that “a royally well-known pub team” — aka Steven Simon and Dave Frank — could be taking over the space that was Azure up until this past weekend. Azure closed; the owner retired and now wishes to lease the space.

After coyly hinting that the new tenant could be team Royal/Cantina, Klein also suggests they might do a Mexican theme with the space, a la Cantina. MK finds that interesting since Owen Kamihira (of Bar Ferdinand) will have already opened another Mexican bar in the space that was formerly Deuce, which is only a few hundred feet up the street from Azure, before team Royal even gets started on the Azure spot.

We find it interesting because it would put the South Philly-honed Royal Tavern team just a few doors down from the Standard Tap team, William Reed and Paul Kimport, smack in the middle of the Tap's hood.

And because the Standard Tap has always been the gastro-pub of record on the north side of Center City, while Royal Tavern has always been been its esteemed counterpart on the south side. With a nice big buffer in between the two.

So for these two shops to tango on a single block along N. 2nd Street in Northern Liberties would definitely be big time. Not to mention flat out awesome for patrons.

North 2nd Street just keeps getting sexier.

We can only hope that it will be another ten years before Mad River and its kin ever hear as much.

Related:
Azure Closes [ Food and Drinq ]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Eating The Illadelph: Is The New Independence Mall Cafe The Best New Architecture The Mall’s Seen Since The Revolution?

independence mall cafe philadelphiaThat might be pushing it (after all, the National Constitution Center is pretty fine), but the new glass-fronted café sure looks like an immediate star in its freshly spruced-up spot on the east side of the Mall between Market and Arch Streets.

Not only is the Independence Mall landscaping finally complete, the Mall is also finally approaching being used as the awesome public green space it was intended to be. (For both residents and visitors, no less.)

And now they have this very cool-looking alfresco café to add even more vibrancy and character to the Mall. (And, perhaps, to even make it a destination for people other than tourists, e.g. nearby office workers looking for a casual alfresco lunch.)

Independence Al Fresco, as the café is officially called by the welcoming folks at the IVC, is a simple, one-story structure with a folding glass-window façade. In the photo above, the windows are closed. In the photo below, they’re open.

independence mall cafe philadelphiaThe frame’s building material can almost make it look like a modern wood cabin, but the material is actually distressed metal with an apparently deliberate rust finish.

The result is an unobtrusively modern design that not only looks very good, but also works with the surrounding historic architecture.

Honestly, we’re fairly surprised the Park Service didn’t go with a mini-version of the IVC, red brick and all.

Especially when compared to the much more traditional design of the Center City District "Cret Café" currently under construction at 16th and the Parkway (rendering below - bottom). Not knocking it — just sayin' Philadelphia has a well-documented propensity to build things for the last century rather than the current one. The CCD Cret Café will be a good addition to the Parkway, but its design is clearly a throwback. So it's all the more cool to see a modern café design go up on Independence Mall (of all places) and to actually work contextually with its environs.

independence mall cafe philadelphiaWell done, IVC and National Park Service. Franklin Square and Once Upon A Nation, please take note.

Now if only Independence Al Fresco had a mean milkshake machine…

Note: No word on the architect. A request for comment to the IVC has to date been unanswered.

UPDATE: Architect is Erdy McHenry Architecture — they are good.

Related:
Independence Al Fresco [ Independence Visitor Center - Official Site ]

[ Top Photo via Flickr user saturdave ]

center city district cafe on benjamin franklin parkway philadelphia

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mayor Nutter Finds His Balls, Appoints Mark Alan Hughes As Philadelphia’s First Ever Director of Sustainability

If Philadelphia is going to go truly green, Mayor Nutter has to make it a major priority for his administration. Hopefully, the hiring of Mark Alan Hughes as Philadelphia’s first ever Green Czar is the beginning of a full-on assault on making Philadelphia exhaustively sustainable.

When we say “exhaustively sustainable” we’re not talking about a few one-off policies like banning the purchase of bottled water from city offices or mandating waterless urinals with redundant plumbing in new high rises — although those individual policy changes can be commendable (minus the redundant plumbing, that is). Even putting together a larger string of admirable policy changes that make Philadelphia incrementally more sustainable is not enough.

Philadelphia NEEDS a long-term and comprehensive approach to making the city truly and exhaustively sustainable.

Basically, we’re talking about what New York City is doing with PlaNYC. (There’s nothing wrong with emulating the country’s most forward-thinking and progressive metropolis, and adapting the great amounts of research and planning they’ve already done to work for us in Philadelphia.)
PlaNYC [is] the most extensive plan to strengthen [the] urban environment ever undertaken by an American city. Unveiled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in April, 2007, the 127-point plan is designed to create the first environmentally sustainable 21st century city. PlaNYC focuses on every facet of New York’s physical environment-its transportation network, housing stock, land and park system, energy network, water supply and air quality-and sets a course to achieve 10 aggressive goals to create a more sustainable New York by the year 2030.
Philadelphia needs a plan like that of its own. The 10 Actions of the Next Great City are a good start. So are all the other piecemeal activities we have going on, from Bike Share Philadelphia and Single Stream Recycling to the Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green and Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

However, Philadelphia needs a thorough plan for achieving real sustainability. One that integrates and leverages everything that’s happened to date and sets a collaborative path forward for how to make Philadelphia truly sustainable by 2025, for example. And that’s where Mark Alan Hughes and Mayor Nutter come in.

Mayor Nutter is in an extremely favorable position — he basically is in the first year of an eight-year term as mayor — meaning he has an amazing opportunity to not only develop and introduce a plan, but also to see most, if not all, of the plan's recommendations actually implemented.

Consider this anecdote about Mayor Bloomberg implementing PlaNYC:
PlaNYC initially called for converting the [taxi] fleet within 10 years. But Mr. Bloomberg said City Councilman David Yassky, a longtime advocate of a greener taxi fleet, had persuaded him to cut that time in half.

The faster schedule, however, also reflects the mayor’s desire to get as much of his PlaNYC carried out before he leaves office at the end of 2009, especially those elements that do not require state approval or financing.

"I’ve never liked to plan something and then have somebody else have the responsibility of doing it or paying for it," the mayor said yesterday.
So don’t slow-track a sustainability plan, Nutts. Fast-track it. Get it off the ground as soon as you can. (And don't dumb it down just because not everyone recognizes how important sustainability is to Philadelphia's economic wellbeing both immediately and for the next 50 years. Be a visionary.)

Mark Alan Hughes is a good choice; the man has the right stuff.* (And now we know who Hughes was talking about here, as if it wasn’t already blatantly obvious.)

And what do you know?? Hughes likes the idea of a visionary sustainability plan too:
Third, Chicago takes itself seriously enough to have a plan.

It's called Chicago 2020 and it sets the table for the next 15 years. It's full of vision and how to get there, like 140,000 new residents in downtown and even more parks in a city that's already parkland Nirvana.

But forget the specifics. Chicago considers itself worthy of having a vision for itself. A plan is a statement of a city's self-esteem, which is probably why we don't have one.

Chicago has a great new sculpture it has dubbed the Bean. It's a mirrored gateway to the fantastic new Millennium Park, reflecting the city all around it in a grand gesture of self-confidence.

Will we ever be able to look in the mirror?
That was from a column of his from 2005. To which we'd like to respond: soon Professor. Thanks to you.

Alright. So Nutts, you got all this? The more assertiveness you demonstrate on making Philadelphia truly sustainable, the more you are going to be rewarded with approval ratings in the 90% range. (Education and crime are still paramount, but sustainability is the next most important long-term objective for the city's economic health and prosperity.)

Related:
Meet the City’s New “Mr. Green” [Philadelphia Daily News ]
Philadelphia Going Green [ Phila.gov ]
PlanNYC [ NYC.gov ]
Green Scene: Philly's Green Czar [ CBS3 ]
WHAT CHICAGO HAS THAT WE NEED [ Philadelphia Daily News ]

* A few greatest hits from Mark Alan Hughes column for the Philadelphia Daily News — note they are ALL worth reading (and they are all quick reads):

GETTING A FIX ON THE UNFIXABLE, October 2007
PRIVATE PLANNING NOT A PUBLIC GOOD, 2007
OUR ZONING DELI: JUST TAKE A NUMBER, August 2006
BEATING THE POST-OIL DRUM, May 2006
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION, May 2006
Twilight Zoning, May, 2006
TOUGH PARKING, TASTIER CENTER CITY, November 2005
WHAT CHICAGO HAS THAT WE NEED, September 2005
THE END OF GRASS AS WE KNOW IT, August 2005
AT SPORTS VENUES, A PAINFUL LAST MILE, July 2005
SEPTA'S BRILLIANT/DUMB STRATEGY, July 2003
THE PEDESTRIAN PRESERVATION ACT, June 2003
PHILADELPHIA'S VALUABLE FOOT FETISH, May 2003
'Smart growth' right in our own backyard, May 2003
HOW A REC CENTER CAN ENHANCE CIVILIZATION, March 2003

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Breaking: City Hall Farmers' Market To Open This Wednesday, Immediately Startle Unsuspecting Passersby

rendering of public park at dilworth plaza, philadelphia city hallThe first step of Mayor Nutter's ambiguous plan to animate City Hall will be visible tomorrow at noon, when the City Hall Farmers’ Market opens in City Hall’s center courtyard.
Nutter's staff invited the group Farm to City to organize a weekly produce market in the courtyard. The first five vendors make their debut Wednesday, from noon to 6 p.m. As the growing season progresses, the market will expand to 10 tables.
Hopefully, Nutts has a lot more in store for making City Hall the civic place it could (and should) be.

Thankfully, both Inga and P.Levy are on the case. (And, as you know, they’re both wicked smart.)

Check this video of what the Center City District wants to do with the public spaces in and around City Hall.
Rendering of Plans for Dilworth Plaza

This concept for Dilworth Plaza was produced by the Olin Partnership and GeoSim Systems for the CCD. The large transparent glass structure in the center is a gateway to the regional transit system with "real-time" information about train schedules and a screen on which movies, live cultural and sports presentations can occur.


Then read this article, in which Inga Saffron drops some serious know-how on what to make of it.
Levy's proposal could be a smaller version of the wildly successful Millennium Park in Chicago, which includes diverse spaces and postcard-ready public art. That project cost almost half a billion dollars. But much of it came from private sources, and the investment jump-started $6 billion in real estate development nearby, its director, Edward K. Uhlir, boasted during in a recent talk to the Fairmount Park Art Association.

Whether Levy's ideas move further than earlier visions for City Hall's outdoor spaces depends on the Nutter administration's commitment. Unlike earlier proposals, this one could succeed because SEPTA is about to renovate City Hall station - a massive, technologically challenging project. The city could fold the plaza improvements into the budget. But it needs to start seeking federal and private funding now.
You heard her, Nutts. You better be getting on it. Like now.

Related:
Time to transform City Hall into Philadelphia's civic meeting place [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Center City District Publications / Videos [ Official Site ]
Farm to City [ Official Site ]
The City Hall Farmer's Market? Maybe. [ Philadelphia Menupages Blog ]
Under Nutter, City Hall May Become More Visitor Friendly [ KYW 1060 ]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Eating/Drinking The Illadelph Alert: Alfa’s New Brunch Works It With Flights Of Bloody Marys

flight of bloody marys at alfa bar, philadelphiaYou know, in case you too recognize that Sundays are for drinking.
“[Six] different flavors of Bloody Marys in double shot glasses […] each deliciously different! One was Tai with curry & coconut milk, one was Cajun & super-spicy, one had carrot juice in it, another was made of tomatillos… I hear the full-size even come with andoulle sausage & shrimp cocktail as garnish.

I shit you not when I tell you I thought about those damn bloody marys for hours, months… DAYS! Of course the bacon-wrapped filet with a blue-cheese & red wine reduction and two eggs over-easy was nothing to shake a stick at either…”
Gimmicky? Perhaps. But we are admittedly intrigued.

Probably time for some first-hand reconnaissance.

Related:
God Must Be Paying Attention [ Rachel's Guide ]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

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

the old inn on locust, to become The Independent, philadelphia boutique hotelThe Inn on Locust, a small hotel at 13th and Locust that closed its doors back in March of ’04 and was since slated to become condos, will instead see new life as a hotel once more: in the form of "The Independent."
AFC Realty Capital Inc. of New York bought the four-story, 20,000-square-foot property at 1234 Locust St. in 2005 out of a bankruptcy and planned to spend about $10 million converting it into 15 condos.
[…]
Plans [now] call for turning the Georgian Revival [building] into a 24-room upscale hotel that will be renamed the Independent.
The location is definitely great, especially for a high-end boutique hotel. As you all know by now, Midtown Village is rad. (And it keeps getting radder — Apothecary, Time, The Waverly, Les Bons, Minar Palace, Tria, etc.) And 13th and Locust is essentially just 1.5 blocks south from its nexus at 13th and Sansom.

Moreover, this property will have a head start on the other hotels trying to penetrate the nabe — The Independent will (allegedly) be open for business this summer.
AFC Realty has teamed up with Hersha Hospitality Management, a private affiliate of Hersha Hotels, to reposition the property back into a hotel. The joint venture has AFC retaining ownership, putting up the bulk of the $1 million renovating the interior from "top to bottom, " and having Hersha Hospitality take an equity interest in the property as well as manage it. It's scheduled to reopen this summer.
Hersha currently operates nine properties in the Philadelphia area, all of which are chains and none of which are very fancy (read Hampton Inn Center City, Holiday Inn Express King of Prussia, etc.).

So it remains to be seen just how upscale-boutique The Independent gets, but it should be noted that The Independent will, in fact, be an independent, non-affiliated boutique hotel.

And with such a great location, we’re confident AFC and Hersha know what to do — meaning we fully expect The Independent to be a solid boutique hotel addition to Philly's inventory.

No word on whether this will affect Bump, which we believe is the only current tenant of the building.

Related:
Inn on Locust planning to re-sprout as downtown boutique hotel [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
The Inn on Locust, a shutdown hotel, will become condos [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Monday, May 05, 2008

On Philly.com, Advertising Eats Pieces Of Shit Like Editorial For Breakfast. Spits. Repeats.

God. Bless. Philly.com.

Our favorite part? The revised "dot":

Zoinks.

(Y Felíz Cinco de Mayo!)

[ Official Site ]

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stephen Starr's NYC Morimoto Again Nominated For Best Design By James Beard Foundation

Morimoto is striking, no doubt.
When the James Beard Foundation Awards are announced in early June, New York is guaranteed to be a winner — at least in the Outstanding Restaurant Design category, where, for the second straight year, the nominees are all Manhattan-based establishments.
[…]
The dominance of the city in this category is so emphatic, in fact, that the foundation, through a quirk in its nominating process — designs are eligible for the nomination for three years after they make their debut — has allowed Morimoto to be nominated in both 2007 and 2008.
[…]
Perhaps no movement in dining design is more evident to the average New York diner than the rise of the mega-restaurant, epitomized by the gargantuan spaces found on Tenth Avenue, including restaurateur Stephen Starr's Morimoto — named for chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Glass walls that begin upstairs in Morimoto appear to continue on the basement level. Bathroom stalls are equipped with mirrors tricked out to show infinite reflections of suspended flowers. An undulating canvas ceiling in the dining room is meant to evoke the rakings in a Japanese Zen sandbox. Even Morimoto's designer Tadao Ando — a vaunted Japanese architect — is a big deal.

Morimoto also signifies restaurant design's current willingness to play with light and technology. The space's most famous aspect is arguably a room-dividing wall of 15,000 clear plastic Ty Nant water bottles, backlit in shades of pale blue and green by hundreds of LED lights.
But such extravagance does not come without a cost.
One development not seen in this year's roster of nominees — downsizing — may be the hallmark of the category in years to come. After all, a troubled economy and opulent décor do not mix. "It's becoming more and more difficult to spend money on design, because things are costing too much," Mr. Starr of Morimoto said, noting that his future restaurant projects will incorporate simpler schemes. "I could not do this restaurant again today."
Really? Hmm. You know what they say Stephen — can't be afraid to spend.

So don't skimp on design. Especially not on any of your Philly projects. (Although, Parc, the Sofitel and the Chestnut Street Gastropub designs shouldn't even approach Morimoto-level opulence.) Capiche?

Related:
New York's James Beard Design Nominees [ New York Sun via ]

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ed Rendell’s Astounding Stubbornness Regarding Casino Locations Now Bordering On Outright Psychotic Pitiful Stupidity

rendering of the delaware river waterfront
Ed Rendell is behaving like a whiny, spoiled, pre-pubescent bully. And his act is incredibly, incredibly tired.

The situation is this: everyone — and we literally mean EVERYONE — with a brain recognizes that putting two big-windowless-box casinos on the Delaware River waterfront just outside of Center City, bordering extremely residential neighborhoods, would be the biggest urban planning fuck-up anywhere in the United States in the last 50 years.

Except, that is, our proud and incomprehensibly obstinate governor who refuses to acknowledge the possibility of flaws in his pet casino legislation, and has now resorted to simply bullying anyone who disagrees with his unfathomable ignorance. How very mature.

It’s extra embarrassing because these folks aren’t even telling Rendell the casinos should be repealed outright, (for which there certainly could be an argument…). All they want is for them to be placed in a much, MUCH more appropriate location, one better suited for two shit-tastic slot barns and two equally shit-tastic giant parking garages.

And that location is at the Philadelphia Airport.
In September, [two Philadelphia state representatives, Michael O'Brien and William Keller] introduced a genius bit of legislation, House Bill 1840, that offers an honorable compromise for everyone with a stake in Philadelphia's gaming experiment - the operators, neighborhood residents, Philadelphia politicians, and Gov. Rendell.
[…]
Their draft provides the first practical solution for getting the casinos off the riverfront and out of the neighborhoods, while still guaranteeing the state a stream of gambling revenue.

O'Brien and Keller want to eliminate the stipulation that Philadelphia's casinos must be located 10 miles from the two others on Pennsylvania's eastern flank, Harrah's in Chester and Philadelphia Park in Bensalem. Once you get rid of the 10-mile rule, you open up all kinds of less intrusive sites. The bill doesn't specify a favorite, but for O'Brien it's Philadelphia International Airport.

The airport location is the equivalent of hitting three cherries on an old slot machine. It has it all: great roads, plentiful parking, nice hotels, and, best of all, no neighbors - plus a SEPTA train connection and a continuous cycle of shuttle buses.

The airport landscape, once an environmentally rich marsh, is already carpeted in asphalt and concrete. The city has sizable real estate holdings there, making it possible to swap land with Foxwoods and SugarHouse. [Chance To Save Riverfront]

On Thursday, May 1, there was a City Council hearing about the Foxwoods location and this proposed legislation, first conceived in 2007, came up again as it’s now garnering a lot of support.

Inga first wrote about the genius legislation back in January. (But apparently Anna Verna doesn’t read the Inquirer’s most important city columnist: “’Explain it to me because this is the first I'm hearing of it,’ Verna told O'Brien and Keller [on Thursday], who were at the hearing to testify.” Confidential to Anna: way to stay on top of things important to your constituency. Also, you should be reading Inga every week, without fail.)

What’s critical here is that the new legislation is obviously ismart. It “would require the Gaming Control Board to hold a series of public hearings about the casino locations and then issue a report within four months on alternative locations. If the casinos didn't agree to new locations the board could revoke their state gaming licenses. [And the legislation] would "end the standoff" between the casinos and the city on where to build.”

Seems like a fantastic fucking idea to us.

To Rendell? Not so much.

Ed Rendell’s very thoughtful, diplomatic and visionary dogmatic reactionary response: that “he would veto such legislation ‘in two seconds.’ […] "The bottom line is those two casinos are going to be built in those two locations."

Hmm. Actually, Eddie, we disagree. Strongly, we might add. And it appears that you are rather shockingly and alarmingly out of touch. WE are pretty confident that these casinos will NOT get built where they’re currently planned. (And you can quote us on that.)

Because, collectively, Philadelphia is getting A LOT smarter about planning. And it’s transparently obvious that putting the casinos, as-designed, in these locations would irreparably ruin the Delaware River Waterfront for the next 50 years.

And we doubt Philadelphia is simply going to give in to your invectives and diatribes just because you USED to be mayor here. Precisely because Philadelphia is not “gutless.” Philadelphia is in a better place than it’s been in about 50 years. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s "a new day and a new way” here, conveniently leaving zero room for cronyism.

The city now has the 'guts' to stand up to terrible legislation dictated to it by a shitty state government. And Philadelphia is not about to have its riverfront ruined just to accommodate your back-room bullying and temper tantrums.

You did well by us in the 90s and we appreciate it. But if you don’t start curbing your pride on these casinos — like fucking immediately — Philadelphia is going to have ample reason to disown you altogether. (Your non-stop panhandling for Hillary over the last two months was pretty much reason enough...)

We’ll again refer you to exhibit A, Penn Praxis’ brilliant and inspiring vision for the Delaware River, produced in 2007 by doing the exact opposite of what your exclusionary Gaming Review Board did — actually engage the community and ask the residents of Philadelphia what THEY want for THEIR riverfront. And guess what they DON’T want? Surprise — casinos.

Have the decency and the balls to admit when a better idea/solution surfaces. It’s not the end of the world. You should be used to it. (And stop calling people names as we can do it right back. Obviously, it’s you who needs to learn how to move on. )

Furthermore, the casino legislation has always been inherently flawed — because 1) most of the revenue should have been dedicated to improving public education, not property and/or wage tax relief and 2) slot-barns are not casinos; boutique casinos with table games and Borgata-like non-gaming entertainment should have been chosen if you’re going to legalize gambling at all; who the fuck wants to go to a slot-barn?!?

So consider yourself lucky that these egregiously shitty slot-barns are going to be operating anywhere in the city at all.

Bottom line: don’t be so arrogant as to think you still know what’s best for Philadelphia. You clearly don’t. And Philadelphia is very close to not wanting anything at all to do with you anymore/ever again.

Related:
Chance to save riverfront [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Philadelphia lawmakers take another stab at casino relocation [ Philadelphia Daily News ]
Bill to challenge casinos' locations [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Lawmakers eye airport area for controversial casinos [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
To Mayor Elect: Look Toward The River Plan [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
A Civic Vision for the Central Delaware [ Plan Philly ]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Breaking (Green Alert): Phillies Get The Message, Go Truly Green For Their City

phillies go greenColor us impressed.

Seriously, well done, Phils. Very. Well. Done. Indeed.
In order to offset the carbon footprint created by the club's utility power usage at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have purchased 20 million kilowatt hours of Green-e Energy Certified Renewable Certificates (RECs).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is the largest single purchase of 100 percent renewable energy in professional sports and is equivalent to the planting of 100,000 trees.

The Phillies are the first Major League Baseball team to join the EPA's Green Power Partnership program, which is a voluntary program encouraging organizations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with purchased electricity use.

The EPA pointed out that the Phillies are now the third-largest Green Power Partner in Philadelphia and the seventh-largest Green Power Partner in Pennsylvania.
Hot damn.

Too bad the green hats didn’t deliver a win.

Seriously, people — this is some effing good looking out on the part of the Phillies. Private organizations, institutions and companies with high profiles (like Comcast, UPenn, the Eagles and the Phillies) truly have to take a leadership role in the effort to make Philadelphia thoroughly sustainable.

With the Phils making this purchase and the accompanying green practices they're implementing, it’s a big step in the right direction.

They are now also recycling glass and plastic beer bottles, water bottles and the like that are consumed during the game — not just during preparation, as was the case at the start of the season.
- Food-Related: The recycling of frying oil to be used as bio-diesel fuel; recycling glass, plastic and cardboard generated from game day preparation and sales; using carry-out trays that are 100 percent post-consumer fiber; providing bio-degradable serviceware and cups; utilizing plastics that are easier to recycle; using compostable products; reducing amount of condiment packaging waste by providing dispensers instead of individual packets; and using locally grown produce and organic foods.

- Building-Related: The recycling of cardboard, paper, fluorescent lamps, lighting ballasts, plastic, aluminum and glass bottles; utilizing environmental-friendly cleaning products as well as a "bio-enzyme" which eats grease trapped in kitchen drain pipes; utilizing energy conservation using the Building Management System and Light Control System; universal waste recycling; converting to LED lighting (which uses 80% less power and lasts years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs); right-sizing trashcan liners; and re-using rain run-off water for landscaping and field irrigation.

- Recyclable Containers: 35 oversized, 80-gallon recyclable containers will be placed throughout the ballpark for fans to utilize and aid in recycling efforts.

- "Red Goes Green Cards" for Phillies Employees: All full-time Phillies employees, including players and coaches, will receive a one-year credit to secure clean, renewable energy for their home consumption, compliments of the Phillies and WindStreet Energy.
Again, well done. Very fucking well done.

Fast Eddie opined:
"This is such an important initiative and will benefit everyone involved," Rendell said. "It's so vital to preserve our environment and make it stronger. Think about all the ketchup and mustard packets, for instance, that people use and throw away into the containers every night. We're going to replace those packets with dispensers.”
He continued: “When I think about those ketchup and mustard packets, I immediately get my assistant to run and get me 8-12 hatfield philly franks with the quickness. In fact, I’m already eating them right now in my head…”

Oh Eddie, your appetite is simply voracious.

We tease. Good to see Eddie, Nutts the NRDC and the EPA all on board. More stuff like this, kids, and you can actually justifiably claim that you’re advancing regional sustainability with progressive policies.

‘Til then, you all still have a lot of work to do.

A LOT.

Related:
Phillies to Lead the Way in Clean Energy Movement at Professional Sports Venues [ Press Release, Phillies.com ]
Phillies Red Goes Green – How to go green with them [ Official Site, Phillies.com ]
Phils to lead clean energy movement - Club purchases 20 million kilowatt hours of resuable energy [ MLB.com ]
Phils unveil new strategy: Green power [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Earlier:
Breaking (Green Alert): This Phillies Season at Citizens Bank Park, Your Beer Cups To Biodegrade Along With Your Liver