Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Riverfront Soccer Stadium Design Smartly Emphasizes Greenspace and River, Downplays Parking

The new riverfront stadium comes complete with a public park and a waterside recreational path

So Philly is getting an MLS team in a couple years and they’re building a new stadium for the team on the Chester waterfront.
The 18,500-seat stadium will be constructed at the foot of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester, just 13 miles from downtown Philadelphia and accessible by public transit and Interstate 95.

The multi-purpose stadium will feature an 11,000 square foot club, 30 suites, and a special 2,000 seat zone for the Sons of Ben supporters club. Additionally, the new structure will have a waterfront park and plaza used not only for stadium entry, but also for city sponsored events such as festivals.

The new stadium is the centerpiece of a $500 million entertainment, retail, residential and commercial development covering more than 100 acres along the historic Delaware River waterfront
.
Well done.

Comcast Spectacor and the Phillies should take note. Because neither of those organizations has the faintest idea of what to do with or how to properly develop the land surrounding their stadiums.

Related:
MLSPhilly2010 Receives Initial Stadium Design from Rossetti [ MLS Philly ]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pot Of Gold At The End Of The Unisys-Sign-Rainbow: The Zoning Board of Adjustments Is Finally Cronyism-Free

So Unisys’ bid for a sign on Liberty Two got nixed by the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

Amidst all the differing opinions on this one, we have to agree with Mayor Nutter that the best part of this outcome is its implications on the bigger picture of zoning's future in Philadelphia:
Is this decision on a sign - a sign not too different from other corporate signs on other city skyscrapers - going to deter business development? Will it look like just another city-sponsored hassle?

That is not the mayor's take.

True, he does not like the decision, Nutter said, but "the system is functioning the way it is supposed to, and we are restoring integrity to the zoning process."

Before, he said, it would look as though decisions were made before the cases even went before the board.

Now, he said, even though he appointed all five members of the board, including Susan Jaffe, the chairwoman, it is obvious they made their decision without "interference from the mayor's office."
True that.

The Zoning Board voted unanimously to reject the sign.

The first high profile decision of their tenure, and all five Nutter-appointed members of ZBA voted no on something Nutter had supported both strongly and publicly.

That’s a good, uh, sign for the future of zoning decisions in the city NOT being “influenced” by people who should not be able to influence them.

Like developers, real estate attorneys, politicians and the like.

That's called progress.

Related:
Refused its sign, Unisys reconsiders move to city [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Image via Changing Skyline ]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is Jose Garces Following The Stephen Starr Business Model?

You tell us.

Exhibit A: the recently formed Garces Restaurant Group. Note its predecessor, Stephen’s Starr’s restaurant, um, conglomeration: the Starr Restaurant Organization.

Exhibit B, if you will, is Distrito, which most definitely has some El Vez DNA in it. (Which is totally fair, by the way. After all, Jose helmed the kitchen at El Vez after schooling under D-Rod up the street at Alma de Cuba.) Not so much in the food, although probably subconsciously there as well. But definitely, without a doubt, in the design. The colors. The playfulness. The overall feel.

Is any of this a bad thing? Certainly not — we are simply pointing it out. Distrito is the jawn.

Learning from people that have come before you is a good thing. Improving on it and/or taking it to the next level, like, say, with a secret karaoke room or a Peruvian restaurant on Chestnut East…, well, that’s even better.

Oh, and Stephen Starr never did a cookbook. (But he does have an Iron chef.)

UPDATE: Apparently Jose was pretty much responsible for the original concept of El Vez, hence the similar aura at Distrito.
"I opened El Vez in 2003. It was a concept I actually brought to Stephen [Starr]. When I left, of course, I had to leave El Vez behind. This feels like I'm taking back something that was mine, very close to my heart." [ Philadelphia Daily News ]
Touché.

Related:
Garces Restaurant Group [ Official Site ]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breaking: Livable Streets Presentation/Discussion Coming To Philadelphia At Behest Of Newly Emboldened City Planning Commission

Holy Rowdy Roddy Piper.

If this symposium is a harbinger — even a little bit — of things to come from the Planning Commission under new head Alan Greenberger, then shit, we are going to be some happy ass sonsabitches.
Getting It Done | NYC's Street Design and Implementation Innovations

The City of Philadelphia's Office of Transportation is pleased to invite you to "Getting It Done | NYC's Street Design and Implementation Innovations" with Ryan Russo, Director of Pedestrian and Bicycle Programs for the New York City Department of Transportation.

Mr. Russo will speak about New York City's use of innovative practices to integrate pedestrian and bicycle uses into the urban street.
Hey-O.

Livable streets, people. Livable. Effing. Streets.

Seriously.This is progress. New York is a great place from which to take some lessons. They are literally rewriting the role of streets in cities and urban planning. (Well, rewriting their role in car-obsessed American metropolises, at least.) You know, that streets can actually be for pedestrians and bicyclists too, in addition to cars. Crazy, we know. But true.

Get into it.

Symposium deets:
Wednesday August 27th at 4 PM
Philadelphia City Planning Commission Hearing Room
Suite 18-029, One Parkway Building, 1515 Arch Street

Please RSVP to: Ariel.Ben-Amos@phila.gov. Seating may be limited.
Now to just make sure it isn't only talk…

Related:
Eyes on the Street: A Walk Down Broadway Boulevard [ StreetsBlog ]
Urban Design Expert Alan Greenberger to Head Phila. Planning Commission [ KYW 1060 ]
Sustainable Streets – New York Department of Transportation [ Official Site ]
Philadelphia City Planning Commission [ Official Site ]

[ Photo via Flickr user doddnyc via StreetsBlog ]

Two Out Of Three Two Polls Agree: The Unisys Sign Just Doesn’t Cut It

Both the Inquirer and the Business Journal are running online polls this week to gauge how the public feels about putting a big red Unisys sign/logo high up on Liberty Two.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents don’t care for it.

67% say “No” in the Inquirer poll; 55% say “No” over at PBJ.

What say you? Have at it.

Related:
Reader Poll: Should Unisys be allowed to post its sign? [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Reader Poll: Should Unisys be allowed to place its logo on Liberty Place? [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cuba Libre To Expand, Open Third Location In Orlando, Florida

The people behind Cuba Libre are taking the plunge and expanding well beyond their familiar territory of Philadelphia and Atlantic City. This fall, they’re opening their third Cuba Libre. It will be in Orlando, Florida.
A new restaurant reminiscent of Cuba in its 1950s golden era is expected to open at Pointe Orlando in the fall.

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar plans to open its third location in the United States at the International Drive lifestyle center. The 20,000-square-foot, 500-seat restaurant will feature both traditional and modern Cuban cuisine by award winning concept chef, Guillermo Pernot, along with indoor and outdoor bars, two dance floors and Latin floor shows in an Old Havana tropical atmosphere.
20,000 square feet is big, which will fit nicely with its location right down the street from the Orlando Convention Center. (Ah, love those conventioneers…)

Other than that, not much else to say.

Except that it looks like Barry Guten is getting closer to finally realizing his dream of creating the next Cheesecake Factory.

Aww.

Related:
Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar [ Official Site ]
Old Havana-themed restaurant comes to Pointe Orlando
[ Orlando Business Journal ]
Making the Chains - Could Philly be the birthplace of the next Cheesecake Factory? [ Philadelphia Magazine ]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Philadelphia Gets Its First Green Certified Restaurant

[ We missed this last month, so in honor of August being such a lazy slow news month, ahem, we’ll cover it now. ]

Philadelphia recently got its first green certified restaurant. The green certification comes from the Green Restaurant Association, a non-profit organization which "helps restaurants and its customers become more environmentally sustainable in ways that are convenient and cost-effective."

Pita Pit, at 16th and Sansom, was the winner. Hey-o.
[Pita Pit] Owners Adam Palmer and Adam Green saw how easy it was to go green and get their certification from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA).

They took simple steps like eliminating Styrofoam, instituting a recycling plan, and installing water aerators to reduce the amount of water used.

They've also switched silverware. The utensils might look plastic, but they're made out of corn, and they're 100% biodegradable.

"It's something that every restaurant, nine out of ten restaurants can do," said Palmer. "We'd like to lead the charge, and help create a more sustainable environment for everybody else in Philadelphia."
Shucks. We liked you before, Pita Pit, but now it's getting serious.
Owner Adam Palmer said, "We saw how much waste we were producing, and we see how much take-out restaurants produce waste. With the Green Restaurant Association, they take what you're doing in your store, and they make it better."
[…]
To stay certified, Pita Pit will continue to take four proactive steps each year, but they're not waiting. They've already installed energy-efficient lighting and switched to non-toxic cleaning supplies.
Some of the tactics in play:
  • Biodegradable Greenware cups
  • Biodegradable faux-plastic utensils
  • Biodegradable faux-plastic takeout bags
  • Water aerators for faucets to save water
  • Abundant recycling containers
  • Locally grown food options
  • Environmentally responsible cleaning supplies
As the owners allude to in the interview, this shit is kinda child's play. And as such, its a little embarrassing that more restaurants are not doing all this stuff already.

Related:
Green Scene: Philadelphia's 1st Green Restaurant and video [ CBS3 ]
Pita Pit Philadelphia [ Official Site ]
Green Restaurant Association [ Official Site ]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pittsburgh Hires First Ever Bike Czar; Mayor Nutter Now Looking More Lethargic Than Ever

Mayor Nutter and Rina Cutler are dragging serious ass. Months ago, they said they wanted to have a bike czar hired by July 1. Well that date has come and gone without the slightest sign of a bicycle and pedestrian czar coming in to right the ship of the Streets Department.

Meanwhile, word comes today that Pittsburgh has gone ahead and rocked some Livable Streets action itself.
Cyclists today lauded a pledge by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Councilman Patrick Dowd to make the city more friendly to bicyclists and walkers, and they urged officials to get moving on adding more bike lanes, improving links to public transportation and encouraging motorists to respect their two-wheeled fellow travelers.
[…]
The first agenda item -- hiring a coordinator to handle cycling and pedestrian efforts -- was completed a week ago with the hiring of Stephen Patchen, 32 and of the South Side Flats, to the $45,000 position.

"We are the first city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to ever have a full-time bicycle/pedestrian coordinator," said Mr. Ravenstahl.
Oh snap. Pittsburgh’s teenage mayor just straight up owned Mayor Nutter.

Nice work there, Nutts. At this rate, we can expect to see Philadelphia’s bicycle/pedestrian czar when?

Related:
Officials pledge better city for cyclists, walkers
[ Pittsburgh Post Gazette ]

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Parking Authority Adds Bike Racks To Garages In Center City, Softens Ties To The Dark Side

bike share philadelphia bicycleThe Philadelphia Parking Authority recently added bike racks to a number of the garages it controls in Center City.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) is installing bicycle parking racks at garages and a lot it operates, to help ease Center City congestion.

The bike racks are in garages at 2nd and Sansom, 10th and Ludlow, the Market Street East Gallery, and the 15th and Arch surface lot. Each of the racks accommodates around a dozen bikes.
A nice gesture, but certainly A LOT more is needed.

So the Bicycle Coalition wants to build on it as a step in the right direction.
Sarah Clark Stuart is with the bicycle coalition of greater Philadelphia:

“Philadelphia needs thousands of more racks, if it's going to be a sustainable and green city, and we hope that others, including agencies and private property owners will follow the authority's example.”
[…]
The bicycle coalition would like to see property managers install bike parking facilities across the city. It also wants the zoning code to be amended to require new residence and office buildings to set aside bike parking space.
You’d think they’d have an ally in City Hall by now to help them accomplish this, right?

Yea, we thought so too.

Mayor Nutter? Deputy Mayor Cutler? Supposed-to-be-appointed bike-czar? Hello?? Anybody home?

Related:
Parking Authority Adds Bike Racks Across Center City
[ KYW 1060 ]
Park your bike for free at a Parking Authority garage [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
New Bike Racks at Parking Authority Garages [ Philadelphia Bicycle News ]
Bike commuters having a two-wheel revolution [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]

[ Photo via Flickr user Fußgänger ]

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

James Locasio Tapped To Healm Starr’s Forthcoming Butcher and Singer; Is The Supper Club Concept Locasio’s As Well?

Stephen Starr’s New York PR Agency, Bullfrog and Baum, relates that Starr has selected James Locasio, presently the head chef at Barclay Prime, to be the exec chef at Butcher and Singer. Which, as you know, is what the now shuttered Striped Bass will become after a re-tooling.

The concept of Butcher and Singer? A “40s-supper-club-style steakhouse.” Interesting, yes?

Check out this quote from an interview of Locasio back in ’07:
Q. What’s it like to be a chef in the Philadelphia restaurant scene right now?

A. Philadelphia is an up-and-coming town, a culinary-driven city, and it’s now a very nice place to shop. We used to be a meat and potatoes city, but now we’re able to do new and interesting things, especially at Barclay Prime, where we use unique fish and meats. Sometimes we do venison racks and wild boar racks, and we have seven fish on the menu. For a concept restaurant, we’ve been able to broaden our horizons to become refined within those concepts. We’re able to do a little bit of everything.

We do have a lot more to do, though. We could use a good dinner or supper club. We’re missing brasseries and bistros. Philadelphia is ready for more high-end dining to let cooks and chefs do what they do best.
Supper club, you say? Touché.

Did James plant the idea in Stephen's head or vice versa?

Related:
Bullfrog & Baum 2008 Fall Preview: National Restaurant Openings and News [ Press Release ]
BREAKING: Striped Bass to be reconceptualized [ Food and Drinq ]
Featured Location: Philadelphia [ Intermezzo Ireland ]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Eric Ripert Does Hotel Restaurants (Read 10 Arts) Because They Come With Less Heartburn

And wisely so.

Interesting article in the Washington Post over the weekend about hotel restaurants looking toward celebrity chefs these days.

And Eric Ripert of 10 Arts figures prominently.
Big hotel chains have long tried to emulate developments in popular culture, and recently they have turned their attention to the celebrity chef culture that has invaded American cities, making near rock stars out of Ripert and Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio, the head judge on the popular TV show "Top Chef."

"They are trying to go back to the days when hotels were destination dining," said Michael Costa, an editor at Hotel F&B magazine. "One of the hardest things to do in the restaurant business is get someone to walk through the door. Having a celebrity chef is a way to get them there."

In most of the recent hotel deals, the celebrity chefs license their names for hefty fees, design the menu and the concept, oversee operations with regular visits and install proteges as the everyday operators.
In May, Ripert opened 10 Arts in the Philadelphia Ritz Carlton and installed protégé Jennifer Carroll as chef. About six months earlier he opened another hotel restaurant with another protege, this one in the Washington D.C. Ritz Carlton.

So what’s in it for Eric?
The hotel companies have lured the star chefs into the corporate lodging world by offering them a way to extend their brand while having to do few of things that give them heartburn -- begging investors for money and running the daily business.

"I don't have to go out and raise money; and every night when I go to bed I don't have the stress of worrying if I am profitable that week," Ripert said. "If we lose a manager, I know the hotel is going to take care of it. I can focus on what I should be focusing on: Is the team performing properly and is the food being prepared correctly?"

When Ripert is in town on one of his regular visits, he said he "eats a lot of food," hovers around the kitchen, mingles with guests -- "I talked to Eric Ripert!" -- and scrutinizes the service.
Yay.

And how is 10 Arts doing so far? Well, the chef, Jennifer Carroll has already been named best new chef by Philly Mag. And…
10 Arts has been open only a couple of months, but the revenue has doubled over the previous restaurant. At that rate, the hotel's overall profit margin could jump by 3 percent.
Sue-pair.

Related:
Reviving Ho-Hum Hotel Fare [ Washington Post ]

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Breaking: Philadelphia Get Its First Green Certified Hotel

Unfortunately, said hotel is also located at the airport so, to us, it’s kinda like a Catch 22.
The Philadelphia Airport Marriott hotel has been Green Certified by Green Seal, an organization recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection […] This Marriott hotel near the Philly airport is the only property in Philadelphia to have this green certification.
It’s true. The Green Seal certification is legit.

While the better known LEED certification (which is not associated with Green Seal) primarily rates the design and construction of the building (in this case a hotel), the Green Seal certification rates the sustainability of the day-to-day operations (again, of the hotel, in this instance).
This green certified Marriott hotel in Philadelphia, had to undergo an inspection and meet a checklist of criteria which included procedures like environmental compliance, waste minimization and recycling, bulk product purchasing, use of energy efficient equipment, utilization of compact fluorescent bulbs, indoor air quality measurements, use of water conservation fixtures, use of organic insecticides, non-toxic paints used throughout, etc.
Kudos, Philadelphia Airport Marriott. Commendable shit.

For reals.

Related:
The Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel is Awarded the First Environmental, Green Certification
[ Press Release ]
Grean Seal Lodging Certification [ Official Site ]
Philadelphia Airport Marriott [ Official Site ]