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Food and craft vendors, Drexel musicians, take over Second Friday on Lancaster Ave. on Aug. 10

Second Friday on Lancaster Avenue continues its revitalization this week, with a variety of vendors, led by Little Baby's Ice Cream and Jimmies Cupcakes, a Drexel Music Showcase, and your last chance to experience Flying Kite's Transformation 19104 exhibit at its On the Ground headquarters at 4017 Lancaster Ave.

Little Baby's Ice Cream, fresh off its Fishtown storefront launch last week, and Jimmie's, a gourmet cupcake van that will be at Mt. Airy Night Market on Aug. 16, will be set up near the 3800-3900 block of Lancaster Ave. They'll be accompanied by a variety of arts and crafts vendors, selling jewelry, clothes, artwork and a variety of other products. 

The People's Emergency Center's Make Your Mark building at 3861 Lancaster Ave. will host the Drexel Music Showcase, which feature the rap stylings of Quags, IHateYourDad(PA) and other acts. Also, see the work of emerging visual artist Jasmine Roper. She will display works in pencil, acrylic paint, and oil paint. Her most recent show was on display at Wired Beans Café in Germantown.

Up and down Lancaster Ave., from the 3500 block through 4300 block, more than 30 businesses will be participating. Flying Kite will host Chinese musicians from the neighborhood, as well as more puppetry for children. Festvities run from 5-8 p.m., and here's a block-by-block look at some of what's planned:

3500 block
Community Education Center (3500): Garden Party Summer Series open mic, performances, displays, closing reception
Savas Brick Oven Pizza (3505): Outdoor dining
Ed's Buffalo Wings & Pizza (3513): Food & drink specials
Mad Greeks Restaurant (3517): Food & drink specials
Fencing Academy (3519): Demonstrations
Power Yoga Works (3527): Demonstrations
3600 block
LA Vista Hair Salon (3616): Walk-in specials and sidewalk sale
Redcap Games (3617): New game launch
Polish (3624): Student discounts and manicure/pedicure specials
Lemon Grass Thai (3630): Dinner specials
Coco Jazz Salon (3631): Discounts
Powelton Pizza (3635): $1 slices and bass clarinet player
Paratha Roll (3651): Outdoor dining and discounts
3700 block
Fresh Food Truck (area of 3700)
3800 block
Jollie's West (3800): Bar specials with DJ Corey “Baby DST”
Reed's Coffee and Tea House (3802): Open mic and art display
Art on the Avenue (3808): jazz music and art by Emil Baumann
A Part of Me (3834): Sidewalk sale, free refreshments and music by jazz artist Alfie Pollitt
La Pearl Beauty Emporium (3857): Discounts
People's Emergency Center's Make Your Mark Building (3861): Drexel Music Showcase - IHateMyDad(PA), Quags and art by Jasmine Roper.
3900 block
New Angle Lounge (3901): Bar specials
Resellers Central Market (3939): Sidewalk sale
Chic Afrique (3943): Extended hours

4000 block
Corner of 40th and Lancaster (4000/outside): Voter registration tent and a Condom Nation, a national condom giveaway program administered locally by Metropolitan Community Church.
Flying Kite On the Ground (4017): Second Friday HQ with Transformation 19104 art exhibit, new Budd St. photo exhibit celebration and live music
Villa (4034): Sidewalk sale, food drive, and in-store event with Thor Take Over Records
Miss Prissy (4058): Sidwalk sale

4100 block
Vintage Villa Antiques (4167): A sidewalk sale with several vendors also serves as a pre-opening event for Vintage Villa, which will be reopening this summer. The shop also features artist Will Conyers and his original, limited edition framed works.

4200 block
King's Grill: Food specials
Bottom of the Sea (4142): Food specials
4300 block
Wolf Cycle (4311): 10% off all items not already on sale from 5-8 p.m.
Dwight's Southern Bar-B-Que (4345): Food specials

Source: James Wright, People's Emergency Center
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Community driven preservation at work in Kensington

Thanks to community activists and the New Kensington CDC, the Kensington Soup Society, at 1036 Crease Street, is now listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The designation is the latest example of a successful bottom-up approach to preservation where community members have driven the process forward, completed the labor-intensive work and research, and submitted appropriate documentation to the Philadelphia Historical Commission

According to Ben Leech, Director of Advocacy with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, those involved with the nomination process asked for the Preservation Alliance's help to drive the process forward. "We ran a 'How to Nominate' workshop in Fishtown last year, and this was one of the buildings identified by the community as being a priority for designation," said Leech. "We then helped the New Kensington Community Development Corporation complete the nomination, which was reviewed and approved by the Historical Commission in March of this year."

The history of Soup Societies is particularly pronounced in Philadelphia where, in 1805, a man by the name of James Ronaldson opened the Southwark Soup Society. It was the first charity of its kind that fed the "deserving poor" and became the model for modern soup kitchens. In time, soup societies became important community anchors in working-class neighborhoods across Philadelphia. The Kensington Soup Society, erected in 1870, was the city's longest-running soup house until it closed in 2008. It is one of the last surviving soup kitchen buildings left in the city, and was the only one not already listed on the Philadelphia Register.

According to Leech, the Kensington Soup Society building is now better equipped to celebrate its storied tradition and continue its role as a community anchor for years to come. "The building's inclusion on the Register will ensure that redevelopment will be sensitive to the historic character of the building's exterior features, and will not regulate use or interior alterations."

While Leech is currently unaware of any immediate redevelopment plans for the site, if future plans involve apartments or other income-generating uses, listing on the Register could help finance historically sensitive rehabilitations. But for now, residents can rest assured their architecturally and culturally significant Soup Society will not face the wrecking ball anytime soon.  

Source: Ben Leech, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

New Benjamin Franklin Parkway Action Plan aims to improve pedestrian experience, connectivity

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is one of Philadelphia’s most famous and beloved stretches of street.  And for good reason: aside from its name, which reminds us of one of Philly’s most admired citizens and America’s most important founders, the boulevard connects some of the most important arts and cultural institutions in the City.  
In an attempt to elevate its pedestrian experience and neighborhood amenities with its already high cultural offerings, the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation, in conjunction with Penn Praxis and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, is putting together an Action Plan to improve the Parkway's overall appeal.  
Between July 23-31, community meetings will be held to discuss improvements, programs, and projects that the public would like to see along the Parkway.  “Since we are just starting the planning process, we are very open to being informed by the process and by the public,” explained Patrick Morgan, Chief of Staff to Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis.  But with that said, Morgan notes than the Action Plan is being directed by a few guiding principles, placing emphasis on actionable items and projects that can be attained within the next few years.
And with Parks and Rec and Penn Praxis fueling this effort, expect real, tangible results to come from the process. “The great thing about this planning effort is that ideas that are generated out of it have a structure and core groups of leaders to help actually make them happen,” explains Morgan.    
According to Morgan, the Parks and Recreation Department has already been working on humanizing the pedestrian experience along the Parkway.  Improvements thus far have included better pedestrian crossings, new bike lanes, and new street trees.  Amenities, such as pop-up playspaces, new concessions, and bike rentals, have also recently been added.  And right smack-dab in the middle of the Parkway, Logan Square’s beautiful new Sister Cities Park offers a great model for what can be attained along the rest of the street. The Action Plan aims to compliment these successes, and take the Parkway’s pedestrian experience to new heights.  
The Action Plan will help bring definition to the Parkway’s main function, something that has been in a constant state of flux. Created in 1917, the Parkway is the City’s most prominent example of the City Beautiful Movement, an early 1900s urban planning idea that aimed to introduce open spaces, boulevards, and greenery into American cities, places seen as dingy, dirty, and crowded at the time.  The Parkway was originally modeled after the Champs d’Elysees but has instead become the center of some of Philly’s most important arts and cultural institutions.
This contrast explains why the Parkway has struggled to define itself.  Is it an open space first, an against-the-grain thoroughfare meant to get from Point A to B, a tourist mecca for art lovers, an active urban Parkway?  Pedestrian and connectivity improvements are a must in any urban environment; this is a given.  And its great the Action Plan aims to improve these features.  But what is the Parkway’s central function, and how flexible is it going to be to achieve that end?  This needs to be the first question answered during the Plan’s community outreach process so that any improvement or programmable amenity that is implemented goes towards an overarching purpose in defining the Parkway’s future.
To attend one of these meetings and make your opinions heard, RSVP to [email protected].  All meetings run from 6:30-8:30, with registration beginning at 6:00.  The first meeting was already held on Monday, July 23 at the Francisville Recreation Center.  But don’t fret, three additional meeting will be held over the next week.  For questions on the locations, contact Penn Project for Civic Engagement at 215-898-1112.       

Source: Mike DiBerardinis, Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

ANALSYIS: How new Eastern Tower Community Center can be a modern symbol of immigration in Philly

There’s no question about it, these days there are a lot of hot ‘hoods in Philly’s residential real estate market.  And over the past decade, none have been hotter or healthier than Center City’s Chinatown.  According to the 2010 Census results, the area more than doubled in population and added almost 1,000 market rate housing units.  And now, Chinatown is about to get vertical with its growth spurt as the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) plans to build the 23-story Eastern Tower Community Center.  
The Center, to be located in the northern reaches of Chinatown at 10th and Vine Streets, is an urban planner’s dream.  The building defines the meaning of mixed-use: retail and recreational space will be utilized on the first two floors, a two-story flexible community center, office space, a possible charter school, and 144 affordable housing units on floors six and up. To top it off, the tower will include a green roof, dwelling units will have operable windows, and silver LEED certification will be sought. Zoning is good to go, approvals have been met, and the PCDC plans to start construction early next year. 

To many, this building is seen as a culmination of the economic growth and overall progress made in Chinatown over the last decade. And it’s true; the Center will no doubt strengthen community values and bring people together in a facility not currently available in the neighborhood.  But on a broader level, Chinatown’s recent progress and the building of the Center is proof positive that ethnic enclaves and immigration are important assets to urban areas and prove to be economic boons for cities.    

Places like New York and San Francisco are intrinsically linked to their own Chinatowns, Italian Villages, and Koreatowns, and have long understood the relationship between them and how they promote economic growth.  Philadelphia, too, knows a thing or two about this phenomenon.  In South Philly, the famous Fabric Row along 4th Street was the commercial center of Philly’s early 20th- century Jewish community.  Originally known for its predominance of fabric and garment-related products, the area has diversified in use over the years yet remains a viable commercial corridor because of its ethnic roots, unique offerings, and associated sense of place characteristics.  

In the same era, a different wave of immigrants, this time Italian, formed an ethnic enclave of their own centered on nearby 9th Street.  Although this area wasn’t called The Italian Market until the 1970s, it earned its name from the start.  The street market featured Italian butchers, cheese shops, and other vendors that catered to the new Italian community in the area and offered niche products and experiences not found anywhere else.  Over the years, the district’s attitude towards immigrants has not changed and thus continued to thrive, more recently seeing an influx of Mexican, Vietnamese, Jewish, and Chinese vendors.    

Up in Chinatown, the same pattern seems to be occurring.  Spurred by the existence of a community banded together by their ethnic heritage, the area has done a bit of asset building and is diversifying.  According to Center City District, Chinatown has become significantly more economically diverse, showcased by a huge influx of ownership housing in an area known for its rental-tilt. 
While these successes showcase Philly’s historic and modern acceptance of immigrant populations and their unique cultural heritage, there is cause for concern that these attitudes are not prevailing.  Based on recent United States Office of Immigration statistics, Philly sits in the middle of the greatest immigrant destination in the United States: the Bos-Wash corridor.  And yet, Philly fails to crack the top 10 regions with the most naturalized citizens.  Meanwhile, New York, Boston, and Washington continue soaking up all the foreign awesomeness and associated economic growth. 

With their entrepreneurial spirit and zeal to succeed, immigrants have proven themselves to be economic initiators and jumpstarters for city economies.  Research has proven this trend time and time again and Philly has the historical examples to back it up.  And when the Eastern Tower Community Center is complete in 2015, a more modern, significantly taller, example of Philly’s history-in-the-making acceptance of immigrant populations will take shape.  Now if only the City can find a way to crack those top 10 lists and steal some of New York’s immigrant appeal, perhaps the tide will turn for other urban neighborhoods looking for a new niche all their own.        

Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Amid major renovation, Weavers Way Co-Op pops-up with summer of fun in Mt Airy

Attention Northwest Philly residents: Weavers Way Co-op’s Mt. Airy location at 559 Carpenter Lane is undergoing a significant renovation this summer. Here’s the good news: the space overhaul will bring an expanded pet supply store and a new wellness store at 608/610 Carpenter Lane.  Part of the renovation also involves a greatly expanded bulk section. Store operators believe it will be the biggest in the city with hundreds of bulk items – nuts, grains, snacks, and other dried goods, as well as oils and vinegars, and even cleaning supplies.  
And now for the even better news: for those loyal Weavers Way customers who rely on the store’s convenient location for their grocery needs, not to worry. This past week, Weavers Way moved operations from its main store to a pop-up shop in the Co-op’s community meeting room nearby at 555 Carpenter Lane. The shop will include a selection of groceries from every department and an outdoor produce market.  
“We decided that by opening the pop-up shop, with a big outdoor produce component, we could meet most shoppers’ everyday needs,” says Jonathan McGoran, communications director for the Weavers Way Co-op. “We are also providing a shoppers’ shuttle van between our Mt. Airy store and our Chestnut Hill store, so our shoppers who are used to walking to the Mt. Airy store to do their shopping can still do so.”
Convenience seems to be the Co-op’s main priority; the shuttle will run every 20 to 30 minutes, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2–7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to–1 p.m.  
But just in case the renovation deters otherwise loyal customers, Weavers Way has arranged a variety of events including music, crafts, food truck nights, kids’ events, and parties to keep foot traffic at healthy levels. “A big consideration was to minimize any negative impact on our neighboring businesses,” McGoran clarified. “The pop-up shop will help maintain some of our foot traffic that businesses like the Highpoint Café and Big Blue Marble Bookstore depend on.”
Billed as the Weavers Way Co-op’s Mt. Airy Summer of Fun, events officially began this past weekend on July 13 with a Kick-Off Event that featured live music, a large selection of dinners and desserts from popular Philly food trucks, and a beer and wine tasting that showcased the region’s best alcoholic beverages.  For a full list of planned events throughout the summer, visit www.weaversway.coop to learn more.    
On top of this, and to keep things popping, Weavers Way is sponsoring a Mt. Airy Village Loyalty card program, raffling $5 off Weavers Way purchases of $50 or more for every ten purchases of $5 or more at the Mt. Airy Village businesses.
During construction, hours for the Pop-Up will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Construction at the existing Weavers Way will began in full on July 16 and is anticipated to last until the end of August.  Once the renovated co-op space opens, the pop-up will close up shop for the time being.    
And as for any other pop-up shops for other Weavers Way sites throughout Philly, that has yet to be determined.  “Right now, there are no plans for other Pop-up shops, but I wouldn’t want to rule it out,” explained McGoran.  “But we frequently have outdoor events, both in Mt. Airy and in Chestnut Hill, and we will certainly continue to do so.”

Source: Jonathan McGoran, Weavers Way Co-op
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

New Hawthorne Park builds on Philly�s open space legacy

Mayor Nutter cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially signify the opening of Hawthorne Park at 12th and Catharine Streets last Thursday (June 5). The park is the final phase to a neighborhood transformation plan that saw the demolition of the Martin Luther King Plaza housing projects in the early 1990s and the construction of a more physically connected, contextually sensitive mixed-income housing development.  The park was a critical part of the initial plan and is expected to become a vibrant social hub for the neighborhood, integrating the new housing development with the surrounding built environment.

The $2.1 million park adds almost an acre of greenspace to South Philadelphia's Hawthorne section and features high quality plantings, public art, and quality materials that ultimately makes it a welcomed addition to the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation system.  

The Park’s opening is newsworthy for a number of reasons.  First, it represents a key milestone in the Mayor’s Greenworks and Green2015 initiatives, demonstrating the city’s commitment to improving the health of residents and the vibrancy of neighborhoods.  But also, it puts money and policy prioritization towards principles in which the City was founded on.  In Philadelphia, parks and open space has always been seen as critical parts to urban neighborhoods, an ideal best showcased in the city’s storied public spaces like Rittenhouse and Washington Square.  But as the city grew and spread outward the planning and implementation of open spaces did not always follow suit, leaving large swaths of Philadelphia without equitable access to open space.  

The opening of Hawthorne Park signifies the city’s willingness to take this issue on.  Eventually, the City plans to implement vital public spaces in all Philly neighborhoods so that every resident in every neighborhood has walkable access to park space.  For a city with such a significant and storied public space legacy, nothing less should be expected.    

Writer: Greg Meckstroth

ON THE GROUND: Come out and play on Lancaster Ave. Second Friday, a tradition revived

When Flying Kite launched its On the Ground initiative, one of the hopes was to help contribute to the transformation it's uncovering in Mantua and surrounding neighborhoods of West Philadelphia. 

That contribution will be on parade in a big way this week for Lancaster Avenue Second Friday, a collaborative effort including Flying Kite, Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association, People's Emergency Center (PEC) and Drexel University. Second Friday's return to the avenue is important for several reasons:
- organizing and strengthening a wide range of businesses and better connecting them to local residents;
- the collaborative effort of key players in neighborhood transformation;
- and the challenge of bringing both locals and visitors out onto sections of a major thoroughfare that has faced more than its fair share of blight.

"We want to introduce people to experiencing Lancaster Ave. for themselves," says George Stevens, president of Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association. "Each month, Second Friday will let people see that together we can make Lancaster Avenue a safe, festive and vibrant place for residents, students and professionals to come grab something to eat, or sit down and relax with friends over a cup of coffee, or check out some of the galleries, artwork, poetry and jazz on the Avenue.
"Our goal is to make sure Lancaster Avenue is a welcoming place for everybody and celebrate the rich arts, history and strong sense of community it has to offer."
Second Friday will be held from 5-8 p.m. (and later at some sites) and include nearly 30 businesses and other participants between the 3500 and 4300 blocks of Lancaster Ave., stretching from Community Education Center (which will host an open mic, visual art performers and vendors) at 3500 to Dwight's Southern Bar-B-Cue (food specials) at 4345. By all accounts, that number is encouraging, and an indication that there is forward movement -- even if just a baby step -- along the corridor.

"We are anticipating this to be one of the biggest Second Friday celebrations we've seen in a long time," says James Wright, the commercial corridor manager for PEC. "The energy and excitement among the businesses and residents are palpable."

Also integral to Second Friday's revival is Drexel student Aashima Gandhi, who is working on a co-op project to draw more students to Lancaster Ave. and patronize businesses there.

Flying Kite will serve as the unofficial Second Friday headquarters at its On the Ground location at 4017 Lancaster with a big lineup of art and fun for folks of all ages.for its Transformation 19104 exhibition. Read about photographer Mike Arrison's work on Lancaster Ave., highlighted with an opening reception, here.  Also included is food provided generously by Chestnut Street Caterers. Flying Kite will also host:

- Local members of Philadelphia's newest puppetry and performance troupe ZigZag Handmade doing face painting
and pop-up puppet theater (also performing at Puppet Manualfesto Puppet Slam on 7/21).
- Yarnbombing from Melissa Haims, a key member of West Philadelphia-rooted Fiber Philadelphia
Certain Circuits, which will screen multimedia, cross-genre and poetic films from several local artists
- Jamie Campbell's mixed-media sculptures using found objects, another addition to the Transformation 19104 exhibit
Here's a block-by-block look at Second Friday's offerings:
3500 block
Community Education Center (3500): Garden Party Summer Series open mic, visual art performances and vendors
3600 block
Powelton Pizza (3635): Sidewalk sale and saxophonist
3700 block
Fresh Food Truck (area of 3700)
3800 block
Jollie's West (3800): Bar specials

Reed's Coffee and Tea House (3802): Open mic and art display

National Hot Dog Month (between 38th and Baring): That's right, celebrate the frankfurter with the Second Friday hot dog vendor and check out a collection of t-shirts from Philly hot dog restaurants.

A Part of Me (3834): Sidewalk sale
People's Emergency Center's Make Your Mark Building (3861): PEC hosts an art display by Brian Bazemore.
3900 block
New Angle Lounge (3901): Bar specials

Resellers Central Market (3939): Sidewalk sale

Chic Afrique (3943): Extended hours

St. James Soul Saving Holiness Church (3951): Sidewalk sale (hot dogs, sausages, chips, soda, water)
4000 block
Corner of 40th and Lancaster (4000/outside): Voter registration tent and a Condom Nation, a national condom giveaway program administered locally by Metropolitan Community Church.

Flying Kite On the Ground (4017): Lancaster Ave. First Friday HQ features its ongoing Transformation 19104 art exhibition featuring works by artists who live or work in West Philadelphia. Friday marks the opening reception for photographer Mike Arrison's Lancaster Ave. project. Flying Kite will also feature a jewelry vendor, face painting for children and a pop-up puppet performance from ZigZag Handmade, yarnbombing from Melissa Haims and food from Chestnut Street Catering.
Villa (4034): Sneaker/sportswear retailer hosts DJ FM and a live performance from Theodore Grams, a 22 year-old rapper, producer and lead of Germantown-based music group The PHRATTEAM best known for his song We Shall Not Be Moved.
Miss Prissy (4058): Sidwalk sale
4100 block
Vintage Villa Antiques (4167): A sidewalk sale with several vendors also serves as a pre-opening event for Vintage Villa, which will be reopening this summer. The shop also features artist Will Conyers and his original, limited edition framed works.
4200 block
King's Grill: Food specials
Bottom of the Sea (4142): Food specials
4300 block
Wolf Cycle (4311): Sidewalk sale
Dwight's Southern Bar-B-Que (4345): Food specials

Sources: George Stevens, Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association; James Wright, People's Emergency Center
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Second Friday flyer (Aashima Ghandi)
Certain Circuits
Ellen Bonett, ZigZag Handmade
Cordelia, mixed media sculpture by Jamie Campbell

ThinkBike Workshop enlists Dutch experts to reimagine bicycling around Temple University

There's been a steady and significant increase in the number of cyclists in Philadelphia, which has been ranked first among the 10 largest American cities for bicycle commuters, according to The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey.
The area around Temple University lags behind other neighborhoods. Last week, Temple hosted ThinkBike, a cycling workshop in collaboration with the Dutch Cycling Embassy, which promotes innovation worldwide.
The Royal Netherlands Embassy, in cooperation with Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, Temple University, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia Streets Department and the Dutch Cycling Embassy held the two-day ThinkBike Workshops last week.
At the closing session, Bradley Flamm, PhD, Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning at Temple  University, said, "There's a lot of potential to increase safety, comfort and convenience for the people of this city." At Temple, only 8% of students, faculty and staff regularly cycle to and from campus. the majority now drive alone. 
The ThinkBike team picked key routes: Broad Street, 12th and 13th Streets, Berks, Spring Garden and Fairmount Avenue, making recommendations based on street width and international precedent. One suggestion was to create a bike lane on the other side of parked cars, adjacent to the sidewalk. This setup is now in place in Holland, and it changes the dynamic considerably, allowing cyclists to traverse streets without fear of being sideswiped or flipping over car doors that open unexpectedly. The team looked into landscaping that would add green space between the bike lane and parked cars.
North 13th Street was viewed as a major opportunity for north-south commuters, given the huge amount of vehicular traffic already on Broad Street. An estimated 32,000 vehicles travel on the city's main north-south arterial daily. The team's suggestion was to create a two-way bike lane system. Another suggestion that would dramaticlly alter the cityscape is to cordon off an entire lane around City Hall for bikes only, and extend lanes on 15th, 16th, and create a two way cycle track on JFK Boulevard.
If undertaken as a pilot program, no new legislation would need to be enacted to make the cyclist friendly changes, according to the team. ThinkBike Workshops move on to Washington, DC, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Source: Bradley Flamm, Temple University
Writer: Sue Spolan

Placemakers: Chinatown North, The Porch at 30th St., Race Street Pier will get even better

Three high-profile, transformational areas of the city received significant funding this week through ArtPlace, a new national collaboration of 11 major foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks and eight federal agencies (like the National Endowment for the Arts) that aims to accelerate creative placemaking.
In Philadelphia, there is an abundance of creative placemaking taking shape across the city.

The Asian Arts Initiative received $450,000 for the Chinatown North Social Practice Lab. The University City District took in $375,000 for The Porch at 30th Street Station. The City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy earned $200,000 for the Numen/For Use Public Art Project at Race Street Pier.

The Porch, a reclaimed parking between the nation’s second busiest train station and the site of the former U.S. Post Office building that opened late last fall, will use the funding for urban design upgrades and art installations for the half-acre public space. 

“The Porch has unparalleled potential as one of Philadelphia’s great public spaces,” says University City District’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Prema Katari Gupta in a news release. “Our early efforts to animate this space have been succeeding beyond our very high initial expectations.”

The Social Practice Lab aims to position Chinatown North as a “dynamic neighborhood site” for local and national visual and performing artists. The goal will be to create alliances that promote neighborhood development and strengthens community bonds.

The Numen/For Use Public Art Project is among the many ongoing efforts to activate the Delaware River Waterfront. Croatian-Austrian design collective Numen/For Use’s first U.S. project involves creating a large-scale interactive installation at Race Street Pier Park.

“The Philadelphia projects receiving ArtPlace funding exemplify the best in creative placemaking,” says Carol Coletta of ArtPlace, which awarded more than $15 million to 47 projects. “They demonstrate a deep understanding of how smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people.”

Source: University City District
Writer: Joe Petrucci

ON THE GROUND: Chic Afrique moves natural cosmetics store west to expanded shop on Lancaster Ave.

Chic Afrique has moved to a location that's double in size, but what customers see is only the tip of the company's business. "Ninety percent of our sales are online," reports Victoria Onwuchekwa, founder/chief cook and bottle filler at the natural cosmetics store now located at 3943 Lancaster Avenue.
Now offering over 30 products in its cosmetics line, Chic Afrique began as a kiosk at the Echelon Mall nearly three decades ago. Onwuchekwa had just completed her Master's degree in pharmacology at Long Island University, where she became fascinated by the chemistry of cosmetics. While in search of a dissertation topic, Onwuchekwa's mother, who is a pharmacist, suggested she pick a topic near home, and Onwuchekwa embarked on a study of shea butter, a common ointment in Africa that's been growing in popularity here in the US.

"Science, chemistry and pharmacology came easy to me," says Onwuchekwa. "I decided to do something extra on the side." Combining art and science, she developed simple emulsions that are still the basis for an extensive offering that includes body butter, souffle, lotion, soap, hair oil and butter, shampoo, conditioner and even candles.
Onwuchekwa's philosophy in developing products comes from the life cycle. Watoto has ingredients gentle enough for a baby; Karite is meant for a growing child's scrapes and rashes; Okuma is for a young girl who wants to smell nice; Saronia has a potent scent meant to attract suitors, and Ife, which means love, contains turai, a Senegalese aphrodisiac. Onwuchekwa counts all ethnicities among her loyal patrons, and also offers custom labeling for business to business sales locally, nationally and internationally.
Chic Afrique moved from the Echelon Mall to The Gallery at Market East, first in a kiosk and then in a retail shop. Onwuchekwa then expanded to 7th and Walnut streets for a decade; after a brief period doing only wholesale, she opened up another retail spot at 3874 Lancaster just last year. 
Less than two months ago, Onwuchekwa's landlord called to offer the much more spacious storefront a block west. It allows shoppers a peek into Onwuchekwa's open kitchen/laboratory, which occupies the entire back half of the expansive space. The business also has three employees.
The building was previously occupied by Grace Church and Community Center, as evidenced by the sign that still hangs above the door. Business hours are Monday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.

Source: Victoria Onwuchekwa, Chic Afrique
Writer: Sue Spolan

City still encouraging homeowners to apply for proposed Homestead Exemption tax break

The City of Philadelphia's Actual Value Initiative (AVI) might be on hold until next fiscal year, but it is still banking on real estate tax relief in the form of proposed Homestead Exemption legislation. Homeowners must apply by July 31, 2012, and the only requirement for acceptance into the program is that the you must own your home and live in it. It's actually a very simple process. On July 1, says Marisa Waxman, Office of Property Assessment, Philadelphia homeowners will receive a pre-printed application, so there's no need to take action until then.

"It's a tax relief program that already exists in every other county in the Commonwealth," says Waxman, who points out that other efforts both statewide and nationwide are often far more complicated.

Age, income and length of homeownership do not figure into eligibility. Here's how it works: you will pay taxes on the value of your home minus $30,000.  For example, if a home is assessed at a value of $100,000 and there is a $30,000 Homestead Exemption,  a homeowner would only pay taxes based on $70,000 compared with the actual value of $100,000.

"The City is currently undertaking a reassessment which will value properties at their market value. For residential properties, the comparable sales method is utilized in most cases. For commercial properties, the income/expense method is utilized in most," explains Waxman. 

It does not matter if your home is worth $1 million or $80,000. You still get that flat $30,000 discount. Waxman says the greatest benefit will be for those with lower value homes. "It's the simplest program on the planet once we get it up and running."

The homestead real estate tax exclusion will be available for properties located within the City of Philadelphia when legislation is passed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a City of Philadelphia ordinance also has to go into effect. But city officials are encouraging residents to apply now, as it can help reduce the taxable assessed value used for calculation of a tax bill by a proposed $30,000. 
Even if part of a primary residence is used as a home office or a rental property, a property owner may still be eligible to benefit from the Homestead Exemption for the percentage of the property that functions as the primary residence. 
Following approval, there's no need to reapply unless the deed to the home changes.

Applications received after the deadline for this year will be considered for tax year 2014. Those who are approved in this initial round will be notified in the fall of 2012, pending passage of AVI.

Source: Marisa Waxman, Office of Property Assessment, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

AIA PHILADELPHIA YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM: A different kind of affordable housing in North Camden

Editor's note: This is presented as part of a content partnership with the American Institute of Architects-Philadelphia's Young Architects Forum.

Name: Jeff Pastva
Age: 29
Firm / Title: Haley Donovan / Project Architect
Education: B. Arch '06 Syracuse University
Project: The Meadows at Pyne Point (441 Erie St., Camden, NJ), an $8 million affordable housing complex with sweeping views of the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge.

Why is your project important to the neighborhood or the city at large?
This project is a part of the North Camden Neighborhood Plan, a 2009 NJHMFA Smart Growth award winner, and becomes the first delivered component. Since the neighborhood has seen severely depressed economic activity and crippling blight, the building serves as a source of hope for many who haven’t witnessed this level of investment in decades.

What was the biggest obstacle in completing this project?
From a total project perspective, funding is always an issue in the state of the economy, but this particular project saw the requirements change during the design. In addition, other external factors led the project to scale back in size, so the original concept that was designed completely changed.

Did you have any key partners or collaborators in making this project a reality?
As architects, we acted as the point during design and construction, but couldn't have pulled this off without our client Ingerman and BCM Affordable Housing, the support of their non-profit partner Respond Inc., the community activists at Save Our Waterfront, and the City of Camden.

How do you feel like your personal stamp, or that of your firm, is placed on this project?
From our firm's perspective, we believe in rebuilding the underserved urban areas in the Northeast. From southern Maryland through northern New Jersey, central PA to Atlantic City, we’ve been fortunate enough to execute many of our designs. This is one of our truly transformative projects though, because it brings a highly designed building with modern amenities to an area of the Greater Philadelphia region in true need of affordable housing.

What is the most innovative or distinctive part of this project?
The ability to provide an energy efficiency and quality design on an extreme budget is always a distinctive part, but you can’t overlook the social benefits. It provides much needed affordable housing for the neighborhood’s elderly and special needs housing for the chronically homeless.

As the first built project of the North Camden Neighborhood Plan, it also provides hope and a rallying point for future development. Due to the successful completion of this project, Phase II is currently being designed.
AIA PHILADELPHIA was founded in 1869 and is among the oldest and most distinguished of AIA Chapters, with a long history of service to members and the public. AIA Philadelphia organizes architects in the region for the purpose of advancing their influence in shaping the built environment, and their ability to effectively practice architecture in an ever-changing society and competitive marketplace. The YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM provides a place for young architects to network and communicate with one another, the College of Fellows, and Associate Members regarding mentorship, leadership, and fellowship.

Want to write about Development News for Flying Kite?

Flying Kite, a weekly online magazine covering growth and what's next in Greater Philadelphia, is looking for a Development News editor to cover commercial and residential real estate development, community development, infrastructure and transportation, public art and open/public space projects.
The Development News editor will write several short news items per week and regularly contribute feature stories. 

Send some clips and background to Managing Editor Joe Petrucci.

University City District will be encouraging neighborhood composting through The Dirt Factory

Composting in University City is catching on. In just a couple weeks, the University City District (UCD) will be opening The Dirt Factory composting facility at 43rd and Market, a partnership between UCD and the Pedal Coop, a bicycle-powered disposal service that serves West (like Plotland at 44th and Locust) and South Philly (like Mercy Edible Park) and Center City.

The Dirt Factory represents the most permanent composting facility the Pedal Coop’s ever had, according to Seth Budick, the manager of policy and research at UCD, who says the cooperative is currently forced to compost at community gardens and other short-lived sites, which quickly hit capacity, forcing the disposers to find other sites. The facility will also have limited hours when other University City residents can use it.

"Our hope is that this facility will have sufficient capacity to allow (Pedal Coop) to expand their collection, increasing the number of residents and businesses that are able to compost," says Budick. This will enable Pedal Coop to handle large university functions at UPenn, Drexel, USciences, and other institutions.

West Philly businesses seem excited about the large-scale local composting option, whether or not they contract to the Pedal Coop. Budick says that Pedal Coop clients Metropolitan and Four Worlds Bakeries, both of which serve bread in West Philly, are especially thrilled about The Dirt Factory. Along with that, he adds that an increasing number of local businesses, affiliated and unaffiliated with the Coop, are asking how they can compost at 43rd and Market. 

The Dirt Factory will also have limited hours when University City businesses, non-profits, and residents can compost.

"We hope to begin by opening the site once a week for drop-offs of small quantities of compostables," says Budick. Eventually, the space could open to the public more if the need exists.

The UCD is also planning compost, food, and sustainability workshops for the summer months to be held on-site, says Budick, who promises more details will be announced soon.  Also, the site will have smaller composting classrooms where members of the community can learn techniques for composting at home. Additionally, the Walnut Hill Farm recently planted fruits and vegetables at The Factory using neighborhood compost. 

Other partners in the composting effort include the owners of the property at 4308 Market St. who offered up the parcel, and the University of Pennsylvania, which sold its used "Earth Tub" composting machines at a greatly reduced rate. The public grand opening for the Dirt Factory will be on June 20, and will feature complimentary refreshments by Four Worlds, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, and Dock St. Brewing Company.  

Source: Seth Budick, University City District
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Like the Pike: Lower Gwynedd launches campaign to attract attention to Bethlehem Pike

It’s a sleepy stretch of Bethlehem Pike that winds through Spring House, a small Montgomery County suburb between Ambler and Montgomeryville. A great deal of through traffic forsakes Bethlehem Pike to use the far faster Route 309 bypass, while too few people who do drive the Pike get out of their vehicles. With this in mind, Lower Gwynedd Township has embarked on a new campaign called “I like the Pike” to draw attention to Bethlehem Pike’s potential for redevelopment and build a sense of community among existing businesses.

One goal of “I like the Pike” is to highlight the recent streetscape improvements that are designed to make the Bethlehem Pike-corridor more walkable and green. So far, sidewalks and enhanced lighting have been installed on roughly half of the corridor, as part of a $1.5 million project, says Kathleen Hunsicker, the chairwoman of the Lower Gwynedd Board of Supervisors. Also, “walking paths have been built to connect adjacent residential neighborhoods to the Pike so residents can walk to eat and shop,” says Hunsicker.

Lower Gwynedd is also looking to make the community more sustainable by expanding Veterans Memorial Park, which can be found at the intersection of Bethlehem and Penllyn Pikes. As of now, a stone wall has been constructed that will include a sign welcoming drivers to Lower Gwynedd. Hunsicker adds that benches, a water fountain, flagpoles, and a rain garden will make the park a much more appealing place for those strolling along the Pike. It is expected to be completed by autumn of this year.

While walkability and parkland are important components to improving the corridor, attracting businesses is paramount. The Supervisors are most hopeful that restaurants and service businesses will be interested in moving into Spring House. As it always does, zoning plays an enormous role in the ability to lure commercial facilities. “The Township understands that developers might need some flexibility with zoning to brings projects to life,” says Hunsicker. In support of this idea, an ordinance is currently in front of the township planning commission that would provide some leeway in zoning.

“I like the Pike” also seeks to retain existing businesses that dot Bethlehem Pike, and create a semblance of community among them. Hunsicker says she hopes that a Lower Gwynedd Business Association will be formed as a result of the campaign. The campaign also looks to impel locals and visitors to frequent the businesses, such as Spring House Tavern, The Flower Shop of Spring House, and Born to Run shoes, along the corridor through the website. In other words, the campaign is intended to create “a buzz in the community” that lets everyone know “we are open for business,” Hunsicker says. 

Source: Kathleen Hunsicker, Lower Gwynedd Twp. Supervisors  
Writer: Andy Sharpe

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