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Pop city: PHS unveils pop-up retail for the holidays at the Comcast Center

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has already proven it knows how to pop with three po-pup gardens in Center City over the summer.

Now PHS is applying the concept to holiday shopping. On Monday, PHS launched its first Holiday Pop-Up Shop at the Comcast Center. The pop-up shop will be open from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily through Friday (Dec. 16).

The shop will have a heavy island influence, promoting the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show (March 4-11) and its theme, Hawaii: Islands of Aloha. The shop will feature tickets for the show and select PHS merchandise for purchase, like The Gift of a Tree and PHS memberships.

Also available will be "Dig It" t-shirts, PHS scarves and floral arranging cards. There are also daily drawings to win other prizes from stores at The Market & Shops at Comcast Center. Follow PHS on Facebook or use the #PHSPopUp hashtag on Twitter to play along.

Source: Stephanie Edwards, PHS
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Uptown Theater restoration aims to stretch Avenue of the Arts into North Philly

Decades ago, one venue brought Ray Charles, BB King, The Supremes, and Jackson Five to North Philadelphia. This was the Uptown Theater, which was a major Philadelphia attraction. The same cannot be said today, as the vacant theater languishes in the shadows of Temple University and poverty on North Broad Street, between Susquehanna and Dauphin. However, this is about to change, as the theater is in the midst of major renovations that will once again make it a place to be.

The Uptown Entertainment Development Corporation (UEDC) is leading the charge to restore the Uptown Theater.  Linda Richardson, the president of UEDC, says crews are currently working on the rehabilitation of the educational and entertainment tower at the old theater. This is where Richardson hopes to relocate the UEDC and provide office space for other tenants. She estimates that this renovation will be completed by March of next year. 

While UEDC works on the tower, they are also in the ongoing process of renovating the landmark façade of the theater. This is complicated because of the need to preserve the history of the building. "We're structured with color testing from the 1920's," says Richardson. This will lead to the installation of new tiles, which will maintain the historic character of the Uptown. The organization has been rewarded for its attention to vintage detail through a $10,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

While restoring the theater true to its mid-20th century roots has been a challenge, the biggest challenge has been to raise money for the rehab. The Uptown has been running a campaign called "Light up the Uptown," in which the UEDC solicits donations to turn its trademark marquee into an LED display. This has raised half of the needed $5,000 so far, as Richardson is still looking for $2,500 in pledges by the middle of December. Yet, the most expensive part of the renovations is to bring the auditorium and balcony back to glory. This will cost $7 million, an amount that UEDC is about halfway through raising.. 

A renovated Uptown Theater has the potential to be a tremendous spark to North Broad Street and North Philadelphia. "It's a continuation of the goal of the Avenue of the Arts North," emphasizes Richardson. She adds that the theater could serve as a hub for independent cultural organizations representing a wide range of races and cultures. The Uptown's facelift comes at an exciting time for North Broad, which has seen new development around the erstwhile Wilkie car dealership and anticipates new academic and dorm space at Temple University, as well as streetscape improvements. 

For the time being, the Uptown Entertainment Development Corporation is focusing on finding tenants to occupy the soon-to-be renovated educational and entertainment tower. Richardson narrows the field of possible tenants by saying that she's especially looking for young entrepreneurs in entertainment, arts, or social services. UEDC would also prefer any tenants be able to stay for two to five years. If Richardson and the UEDC get their way, tenants will soon have the distinction of working at the northern -- or uptown -- end of the Avenue of the Arts.    

Source: Linda Richardson, Uptown Entertainment Development Corporation
Writer: Andy Sharpe     

City's first pre-certified LEED platinum building gets anchor tenant, early 2012 groundbreaking

2.0 University Place, a new five-story office building is about to spring up at 41st and Filbert St, feeding off of the University City Science Center’s revitalization of Market St. The community won’t have to wait long, as the groundbreaking will likely come in January or February of next year. The real story behind University Place will be its impressive sustainability elements, which combine to make it Philadelphia’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum pre-certified building. Platinum is the highest status in the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program.

Scott Mazo, a partner with the development firm University Place Associates, beams when he discusses his forthcoming building’s green technology. For one thing, all 96,135 square feet of tenant space will stay temperate with a "state of the art heating and air conditioning system called chilled-beam mechanical systems," says Mazo. Very few buildings currently use chilled-beam technology, although NASA and Harvard and Stamford Universities have experimented with it. These innovators found energy savings of 30-45% with a chilled-beam system. 

To complement the heating and air conditioning technology, 2.0 University Place will also feature other energy saving techniques. Mazo is proud that the building will be cloaked in energy efficient glass, which will block the sun’s radiant heat in the summer, but attract radiant heat in the winter. This will abate the need for heating and air conditioning. Mazo also reveals that the building will utilize environmentally intelligent elevators, which will capture and re-use energy.

Rainwater filtration and transportation are two other important sustainability components for University Place. The space will be accentuated with a garden on the roof, which will collect rainwater that will eventually be recycled as graywater for the building’s toilets. Mazo lauds the building’s location as a perk to workers who ride mass transit. This development is the "epitome of transit-oriented development," says Mazo. The building is convenient to the Market-Frankford Line’s 40th St. Station and SEPTA buses. The building should also contain shower facilities for bicyclists.

While University Place Associates bared their aspirations for the currently empty lot at 41st and Filbert Sts. a couple of years ago, the stagnant economy delayed any hope of construction. Yet, plans to break ground on 2.0 University Place jolted into motion a few weeks ago when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced they would relocate to the building. This gave Mazo the anchor tenant that he and his associates needed to proceed. "The USCIS was the catalyst that made groundbreaking possible," says the developer.

In terms of attracting other tenants, Mazo says his firm is in talks with two prospective companies. While he’s bound by confidentiality in discussing who’s interested in moving into University Place, he does say that he’s interested in drawing in technology and life science companies, along with socially responsible start-ups. They would fit right in with the expanding Science Center and universities nearby. 

Source: Scott Mazo, University Place Associates
Writer: Andy Sharpe

New pavilion at Franklin Square to help people weather elements, celebrate and learn

Have you ever been strolling one of Center City's five squares on a frigid winter's day or a sweltering summer's day and suddenly had an urge for air conditioning or heat? If so, the group in charge of Franklin Square may have heard you. Historic Philadelphia Incorporated (HPI), which maintains Franklin Square, just broke ground on a pavilion that will provide protection from the elements and offer heat and air conditioning. The pavilion could be open as soon as New Year's Eve, depending on -- what else -- the weather. 

Cari Feiler Bender, who has been responsible for communications for Franklin Square since 2004, says the pavilion will be relatively small at 36 ft. by 36 ft. It will serve a variety of purposes, many of which are connected to it being indoors. First of all, the building will serve as a respite from extreme temperatures, rain, snow, and sleet. It will also act as "a flexible event space," says Bender. This could include presentations from historical re-enactors dressed as Ben Franklin or Betsy Ross as part of "Once Upon a Nation." HPI will provide audio and light hook-up, along with tables and chairs. 

The pavilion will also likely be available for birthday parties, wedding receptions, and other fetes. Bender elaborates by saying Stephen Starr would be a likely candidate to cater events in the pavilion. Starr has run SquareBurger in the park since 2009, which is the only permanent eating establishment inside any of the city's original five squares. Recognizing that not every birthday or wedding will be celebrated on a sunny 70-degree day, Bender emphasizes that this pavilion will accommodate year-round occasions. 

The construction of the pavilion will entail minimal disruption to the square's flora. Bender says there are a few large trees in the vicinity of the building site. "None of them will be removed or altered," says Bender. She reminds people that, while HPI takes care of Franklin Square, the city's Department of Parks and Recreation owns Franklin Square. The last thing Parks and Recreation would want to do is hew any trees. 

This pavilion will likely serve to further set Franklin Square apart from its peer parks in Philadelphia. In addition to SquareBurger, it already lays claim to a carousel, miniature golf course, and a memorial to deceased police officers and firefighters. All this for a square that many thought was left for dead just a decade ago.

Source: Cari Feiler Bender
Writer: Andy Sharpe

SEPTA's bus fleet to become more eco-friendly thanks to two grants

Despite a budget shortfall, SEPTA will be able to resume purchasing hybrid diesel-electric buses thanks to two grants from the US Department of Transportation. For the first time ever, SEPTA will purchase hybrid 60-foot accordion buses, which are the longest buses in the system. SEPTA’s current assortment of hybrid buses is about 30 percent more fuel efficient than equivalent clean diesel buses.

SEPTA is the beneficiary of $15 million in federal funds to cover the difference in cost between hybrid and clean diesel 60-foot buses. Luther Diggs, who’s in charge of operations at SEPTA, says it will stretch out the acquisition of these longer buses over four years, with the first year’s purchase entirely hybrid. Over the four years, SEPTA will be replacing 155 longer buses, with an option for 65 more. The percent of these that are hybrid will depend on how much more grant money becomes available. 

This opens the possibility that additional bus routes might see these longer buses. "We have some additional need for 60-foot buses," confirms Diggs. He suggests that the Route 47 bus, which was the subject of the failed skip-stop pilot and more successful attempts to speed it up, might end up seeing longer buses. Also, he hints that the extremely well-traveled Route 17 bus, which runs up and down 19th and 20th Sts. in South Philadelphia and across Center City, might be another new candidate for the 60-footers.

Shortly after the $15 million grant was announced, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced another grant of $5 million to pay for additional hybrid 40-foot buses, the most prevalent of SEPTA's fleet. This is welcome news for many local environmentalists, who earlier this year were dismayed to hear that funding difficulties meant SEPTA would cease acquiring standard-size hybrid buses. According to Diggs, SEPTA will resume purchasing these hybrid buses in 2013, and only purchase hybrid 40-foot buses in 2014. 

Diggs is convinced that hybrid buses represent the most financially sensible way for SEPTA to green its bus fleet. Diggs says SEPTA did examine running buses using compressed natural gas (CNG) in the mid-1990s. However, hybrid buses were ruled more effective than their CNG counterparts because of "infrastructure, residential neighborhoods, and cost," says Diggs. While some transit agencies in California and Texas use CNG, there are legitimate concerns about the cost of putting in CNG infrastructure and the health risks associated with natural gas.  

Source: Luther Diggs, SEPTA
Writer: Andy Sharpe 

Luxury apartments on forsaken block of Chestnut St. are filling up fast

After going on the market just four months ago, The Commonwealth luxury apartments at 12th and Chestnut Streets are rapidly being leased. In fact, three quarters of the apartments have now been signed for. This is despite its location on a stretch of Chestnut St that is known for abandoned storefronts, discount retail, and a constant feeling of being in the shadow of Walnut Street. Just a couple of weeks ago, a building smoldered at 12th and Chestnut.

Undeterred, SSH Realty is proud of what's been done with the old Commonwealth Title and Trust Building, which was built at the intersection of 12th St. in 1902. Carol Sano, the Senior Vice President of SSH's residential division, is in charge of the leasing push at the Commonwealth. She says the age of the building is a great thing for residents, since the "physical construction lends to what people call a quiet building." Sano says the building retains its old marble structure, which is useful to dull noise in an area that hears the din of ambulances heading to Jefferson Hospital.

One walk inside an apartment, and it's clear that luxury is not dead on Chestnut St. Apartments feature granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, capacious rooms, double paned windows, and hardwood floors. The lobby has an art deco theme, and denizens can use a state-of-the-art fitness facility. For the peace-of-mind of residents, there is a security guard stationed in the lobby 24 hours a day.

The Commonwealth is 15 stories tall, and features apartments that range in size from 524 to 1,065 feet. There are a mixture of one and two-bedroom and one and two-bathroom apartments. Despite what some people think about Chestnut St., Sano points to convenience and location as the Commonwealth's two greatest attributes. She boasts that the apartments are in close walking distance to Jefferson Hospital, universities, and SEPTA's Market East Station. In addition, Sano points to the Avenue of the Arts, bistros, and "funky boutiques" as also being within convenient ambling distance.

While the luxurious features and convenient location of The Commonwealth are two perks, Sano says the community within is what makes it such a nice place to live. Residents hail from across the country and throughout the world, and consist of medical students at Jefferson and young professionals who work in nearby office buildings. A recent trip to The Commonwealth found a nice camaraderie between residents, their dogs, building security, and management.

Source: Carol Sano, SSH Realty
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Ms. Tootsie’s restaurant is hub for new development at 13th and South

Keven Parker has big plans for South Street between 13th and Broad this week, as he’s upgrading his restaurant, Ms. Tootsie’s, and adding a home store and luxury boutique hotel right next door. More than anything else, Parker is looking to emphasize the connectivity of the restaurant, lodging, and store, as there will be ample indoor access between the hotel and Ms. Tootsie’s.

Parker’s ambition in creating the new complex is quite evident. "We are a reflection of what this city offers to the discerning dweller or visitor: a place to eat, sleep and shop, the ultimate experience," says Parker. The new store and suites and the refreshed Ms. Tootsie’s will debut tomorrow (Nov. 16).

The suites, called Luxury Suites, will be something different for South Street east of Broad, which is not used to hotels. It’s clear that Parker means luxury in every sense of the word. There will be three luxury suites, each with a marble bathroom, bedroom, sitting area, oven, stove, large refrigerator, and dinette. To further regale guests, one suite will contain a jacuzzi in the middle of the bedroom.

The store is named KDP Lifestyle, which makes use of Parker’s initials. Parker plans to sell an eclectic variety of home wares at KDP, such as couches, chairs, bedding supplies, and lamps. The store will be a potpourri of trendy and antique items, and will be located directly underneath the suites.

To complement the new suites and store, the entrepreneur will also unveil a newly renovated Ms. Tootsie’s, with an enhanced menu. According to Megan R. Smith, who's handling public relations for Parker, the restaurant will now feature a "Love Lounge" for couples romantically inclined. The lounge will be painted entirely white with wood trim, and will be illuminated by faint lighting. The restaurant will also contain an R&B room with walls decorated by pictures of singers and resounding hues of red and black.

Smith adds that Parker’s expansion has met with approval from the community. She says that some of the biggest fans of the new suites and store have been local businesses and residents of the neighboring 1352 Lofts. In fact, the complex’s opening reception will include many guests from the nearby businesses and lofts.

Source: Keven Parker, KDP Lifestyle
Writer: Andy Sharpe
Photo by Andrew Terrell

Welcome to the Porch at 30th St. Station, Philadelphia's newest public space

University City District and other groups unveiled a new public space outside of one of Philadelphia's busiest hubs, called the Porch at 30th St. Station, last week. It was quite a festive unveiling, featuring jugglers, humongous puppets from the Spiral Q Puppet Theater, acrobats, cake, and plenty of speakers representing community groups, city government, and business. The Porch is a 40-foot swath of sidewalk between the station and Market St. with tables, chairs, new vegetation, and the potential for so much more.

Prema Gupta, the Director of Planning and Development at the University City District (UCD), is excited about the possibilities that the Porch provides. She emphasizes that the area is currently in a testing phase, which is why it can look a tad barren. However, Gupta envisions farmers markets, performances, and even yoga on the Porch. While the winter might be a slow time for the new public space, there are a series of spring performances scheduled.

For anyone who has spent even a little bit of time around 30th St. Station, it is a supremely frenetic environment. UCD’s Executive Director, Matt Bergheiser, says that 1,800 pedestrians on average stroll along the sidewalk every hour on weekdays. In addition, the streets surrounding the station see seemingly ceaseless congestion from cars, trucks, and buses. Gupta sums up UCD’s goal in the face of all this activity, which is to "bring a sense of human scale to this space."

The District also hopes to narrow the gap between University and Center City. In a similar vein to the recently opened Penn Park, Bergheiser confirms that the Porch is "part of the connective tissue of the city." This means that Amtrak riders who cross the Schuylkill River between University and Center Cities now have a place to take a break, munch on lunch, be wowed by a performance, or maybe even partake in some outdoor yoga. As well, Center City residents, Penn and Drexel students, or anyone else walking between downtown and Left of Center can take advantage of the new public space.

The name of the public space was the result of a contest that saw over 500 entries. In addition to having their name grace the second busiest train station in the nation, the winner of the contest also won a $500 Amtrak gift certificate. The University City District also hopes to crowdsource future decisions about the park, including the type of performances. While the next few months might be relatively quiet for the city’s newest Porch, expect some new fun ways to relax come spring.

Sources: Matt Bergheiser and Prema Gupta, University City District
Writer: Andy Sharpe

City and SEPTA find it’s not so easy to speed up a South Philly bus route

Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) and SEPTA have completed a six-month pilot of skip-stop service on the Route 47 bus between South Philadelphia and Center City. They were hoping to speed buses up by having them stop for passengers every other block, instead of stopping at every block. However, supporters did not see the time savings they were hoping for, and in fact found some buses ran more slowly. As a result, they have re-established the bus stops that were taken away. 

Six months ago, the city and SEPTA were dreaming about allowing the Route 47 bus to run seven or more minutes faster, which would enable a bus to make an extra run. Fast forward to the pilot, and the reality was a bus that ran almost two minutes quicker at the most, according to Ariel Ben-Amos, a planner in the MOTU. This was on the northbound side, which saw more time savings than the southbound side. Unexpectedly, southbound service was 1 minute, 12 seconds slower during the afternoon rush hour with the skip-stop service, says Ben-Amos. At other times of the day, the removal of stops only sped the southbound bus up by about a minute.

The Office of Transportation and Utilities has a few explanations for why the service alteration didn't work as well as expected. The Route 47 traverses a "very dense neighborhood with lots of blocks we have to stop at because of stop signs," recognizes Ben-Amos. The planner also blames seemingly omnipresent utility work, which delayed the route by forcing buses to detour. Ben-Amos elaborates by saying there was a detour along the route at some time about every other day.

Another factor to the reversal on the Route 47 pilot was changing rider and community group reactions. Ben-Amos says that some riders noticed a faster trip on their bus, but others did not. This dampened rider support for the pilot. At the beginning of the pilot, there was weighty support from community groups along the bus route. However, at least one civic association expressed skepticism about the removal of a few stops later during the pilot.

Stop consolidation was a major part of the city and SEPTA’s test, but it wasn’'t the only change in service. They also decided to depart buses every six minutes from their terminus at Oregon Ave.'s Whitman Plaza, regardless of what time it was. This change is also being done away with. However, other elements of the pilot are being retained, such as the change in trash collection times to avoid delaying buses during rush hour, backdoor loading at 8th and Market Sts. during the afternoon rush period, and the moving of the 8th and Walnut Sts. stop to the far side of the intersection. 

Another component that will be retained is the newfound cooperation between the city and SEPTA. For decades, it looked like city transportation officials and SEPTA couldn’t get on the same page. Ben-Amos says he’s especially happy that this has changed. This cooperation will again be on display as the city and the Authority work on traffic signal priority for select bus and trolley routes.

Source: Ariel Ben-Amos, Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Greening of Spring Garden St. could mean a more transportation-friendly arterial

Spring Garden St. is one of Center City’s prime east-west arterials, connecting the art museum on one side with the Delaware River on the other. Yet, there is a pervasive feeling that the four-lane artery is not living up to its potential. Because of this feeling, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), in conjunction with Sam Schwartz Engineering and Interface Studios, held a public information session last week to discuss how to create a Spring Garden Street greenway that would better cater it to all forms of transportation.

Many attendees of the meeting represented bicycle interests, which PEC was well-positioned to address as a bicycle and pedestrian trail advocacy group. Speakers at the meeting representing PEC, Sam Schwartz, and Interface announced two options that would make conditions safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders. Doug Adams, a project manager at Sam Schwartz, revealed that consultants were looking into buffered bike lanes either in the center median of the street, or curbside.

Given this was the first public meeting for the greenway, there were very few absolutes. There were some areas where consultants were strongly leaning towards a course of action. For example, Adams said both alternatives recommended that the forward travel lanes on Spring Garden be reduced from 12 feet each to 10 feet each. Also, both alternatives call for buffered bike lanes, although it is still up for debate as to whether the buffer will be landscaping, like is being proposed for Market St. and JFK Blvd. in Center City, or a parking lane.

The planning team also expressed a desire to improve conditions for pedestrians and transit riders. Adams said that brighter lighting would likely be included for pedestrians, especially along blocks that can currently feel a little intimidating to walk along. Spencer Finch, PEC’s director for sustainable infrastructure, also previewed some potential conveniences for transit riders. “A connection to the (Broad-Ridge) spur subway might be created at Ridge and Spring Garden,” says Finch.

Consultants are also discussing better stormwater management along the street. Adams mentions bioswales, rain gardens, and porous pavement as techniques that the consulting team is analyzing. One of the more controversial ideas being batted around is the option of eliminating vehicular left-turn lanes, which would force motorists to make three right turns instead. This would be helpful if the public and the consultants decide they prefer the median bike lanes.

This meeting was the first public input session of many to be held. It will be a fairly long process, as speakers said the earliest possible completion date for the greenway will be 2014 or 2015. Finch did re-assure the crowd that there was support for making Spring Garden St. more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly from all city council members who represent the area, as well as from various relevant city agencies. With that in mind, just about every part of the greenway is still up for debate. It’s now up to the people who live, commute, work, and/or shop along the corridor to provide the debate.  

Sources: Spencer Finch, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Doug Adams, Sam Schwartz Engineering
Author: Andy Sharpe

Greater Philadelphia on pace to shatter record for multifamily building sales

While the stagnant economy is hurting sales in many industries, it is likely contributing to a bonanza in multifamily building sales in the Philadelphia area this year. In fact, hopeful landlords seem to be gobbling up buildings to rent them as apartments or sell them as condominiums. This is evident both in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

According to Christine Espenshade, senior vice president for capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle Realty, 2011 multifamily sales have already set a record in the Delaware Valley, with a couple of months left in the year. Espenshade reports that sales have already hit $410 million. Yet, with two months remaining in the year, she predicts sales will touch $500 million. Compared to these figures, the $150 million in multifamily sales in 2010 seems downright paltry.

There are a number of explanations for this explosion in multifamily sales. Espenshade cites a durable growth of rent in the Philadelphia-area, a glut of new supply of apartments and condos, and an educated buyer’s market. Additionally, “With the availability of financing to purchase assets through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, investors can borrow sufficient capital for good, long term investments,” says the senior vice president. Finally, one of the more sobering explanations is that more Philadelphians are renting because they can no longer afford to own a house.

Philadelphia’s recent uptick in population bodes well for multifamily sales in the city. Espenshade confirms that a growing number of people are looking to rent apartments or purchase condos in the city because of its retail scene, colleges and universities, and varied employment market. However, this exponential growth isn’t limited to the city. Interestingly, Jones Lang LaSalle says there have more multifamily purchases in the suburbs. A possible reason for this is the sheer size of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Camden and Wilmington.

The forecast for multifamily sales remains strong for 2012. Espenshade says rents will continue to rise next year, which should make multifamily investing more profitable. She also sees both private and institutional entities rushing to become involved in the multifamily market next year, which would be a repeat of this year. Most importantly, without any strong signs of economic improvement next year, more and more people likely won’t be able to afford to buy their own home.

Source: Christine Espenshade, Jones Lang LaSalle
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Common Threads mural re-sewn after years of fading at Broad and Spring Garden

In the shadows of the Community College of Philadelphia and the state office building at Spring Garden St., community youth watch over Broad St. 24 hours a day. At least they do in Meg Saligman’s “Common Threads” mural, which features depictions of local adolescents overlooking the busy Broad St and equally busy Spring Garden subway stop. The mural was re-dedicated this past week, as it underwent about a year of re-glazing and re-painting.

“Common Threads” was originally completed in 1997, and was one of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s largest and most expensive murals at the time. The mural is a melange of portraits of Ben Franklin and Creative and Performing Arts High School students and figurines owned by artist Meg Saligman’s grandmother. Another notable aspect to the artwork was it was the first time Photoshop was used on a Philadelphia mural.

One subject in the mural is a boy who went on to become a noted tap dancer. He was on-hand at the dedication to thrill and set off car alarms with his resounding taps of the foot. A girl in the mural became a presidential scholar under the Clinton administration for outstanding achievement in high school. Ironically, Saligman gets calls from other people who swear they’re in the mural, but actually aren’t. She takes these e-mails as a sign of how famous her mural has become.   

Saligman laments that the mural began to fade over time, as it was painted on the western-facing side of the building, which gets considerable sunlight. “It was so sad that ‘Common Threads’ had lost its pop and was fading so fast,” mourns Saligman. Thus, she knew something had to be done to freshen up her mural, as it was continuing to decay. In 2009, the Mural Arts Program and the Saligman Charitable Foundation received money to rehabilitate it. Work began in autumn, 2010 on the top half of the mural, while the bottom half got attention starting in Spring of the next year.

The re-painting and re-glazing of “Common Threads” was a labor of love. It consisted of Saligman, a couple of people from Saligman’s firm MLS Studios, and some interns. All in all, the re-painting cost $20,000, along with donated lifts from United Rentals and hours upon hours of volunteerism. It took a while for the muralist to become truly satisfied with the work. “The mural was missing zing until the very end of renovations,” says Saligman.

With all this in mind, there’s no guarantee the mural will last, and it has nothing to do with sunlight. There have been a number of proposals to alter the building that the mural graces, some of which do not include the mural. As the re-dedication made clear, the mural likely won’t be removed without a quarrel. At least for now, local students will continue to stand guard on North Broad St, as their now grown up models reflect on the power of art, and dance.

Source: Meg Saligman
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Get your donuts and fried chicken in Pennsport, while you can

Federal Donuts opened last week to a frenzied following in the Pennsport neighborhood of South Philadelphia. It's an eclectic restaurant that specializes in donuts, fried chicken, and coffee. That is, if you can get in early enough to get your hands on their food and drink.

The opening week was an important lesson in just how hungry Pennsport denizens, Philadelphians, and even suburbanites are for fried chicken and donuts. Astonishingly, Federal Donuts ran out of chicken by 12:55 p.m. every day during their first week, even though they originally planned to be open until 8 p.m. each day. The donuts also proved ultra popular, as both the hot sugared and filled donuts sold out before noon most days last week.

The new restaurant generally sells the hot sugared donuts between 7 and 10 a.m. Monday through Sunday, if they don't run out. Flavors include Indian cinnamon and vanilla-lavender. They sell the filled, or "fancy," donuts all day, until they run out. These flavors are comprised of key lime, nutella-pomegranate, and chocolate-raspberry, to name a few. They start selling fried chicken around noon, which includes Korean-style glazed chicken and crispy chicken. The chicken is prepared by renowned chef Michael Solomonov.

According to Bob Logue, one of the owners of Federal Donuts and Bodhi Coffee, the restaurant fills a void in Pennsport and the city. "The neighborhood was dying for something great," explains Logue. He adds that an establishment combining donuts, fried chicken, and coffee in the city was "elusive" before his shop opened. Logue justifies the crazed popularity of Federal during its first week by saying that it appeals to long-time Pennsport residents, yuppies, and people all across the city and even suburbs.

So far, it seems like things have calmed down to some degree this week. On Monday, fried chicken was still being offered until 1 p.m., which gave famished customers a little more time. Also, donuts lasted a little longer on Monday. "We're still selling out, but at a nicer pace," says a less frenetic Logue. Absent were the long lines of the previous week, although a steady stream of new and returning customers enlivened the shop.

Given the enormous success of Federal Donuts so far, Logue has dreams of expanding. "Federal Donuts is dedicated to the growth of a new industry in Philadelphia," he asserts. Logue says he would like to expand, although it will take some time. He's especially hopeful to add some fryers, since that's currently the biggest limitation to making more donuts and chicken. The fact that talk of expansion has come up so quickly is a great sign for the shop. In just a week, Federal Donuts has become a hit in Pennsport and Philadelphia.        

Source: Bob Logue
Writer: Andy Sharpe


Market St. and JFK Blvd. slim down as city removes a vehicular lane for bicyclists, pedestrians

This week the City of Philadelphia is wrapping up a pilot to see what impact removing a lane of vehicular traffic on Market St. and John F. Kennedy Blvd. between 15th and 20th Sts. has on traffic flow. The pilot, which began on Oct. 9, has shifted both streets into three-lane arteries by taking out the left-side lane. The city's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) is working with the Center City District on this as part of a continuing campaign to make streets kinder to bicyclists and pedestrians.

So far, the city has not noticed too much change to traffic flow caused by the lane closures on the well-traveled streets, reports Aaron Ritz, the Active Transportation Coordinator in the Office of Transportation and Utilities.  "We've gotten just a scattering of emails and phone calls," says Ritz. "Our initial observations are that there has been little impact to traffic flow." In fact, the most noticeable impact to traffic flow has likely been how much easier it is for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate the streets, as they now have a lane of traffic for themselves. 

This is true even in the face of the Occupy Philly protests that have been transpiring during the same period of time, sometimes resulting in traffic disruptions. In fact, both the timing and location of Occupy Philly have been unfavorable to this pilot, as protest-related closures of 15th and Market Sts. at and around City Hall have wrought traffic headaches on both of the skinnier streets. Thus, it's somewhat surprising that MOTU says so few people have complained about the temporarily defunct lanes. Ritz does assure everyone that Occupy Philly gridlock won't doom this pilot.

While Ritz's observations hint that the effort will be successful, the jury remains out as there's still a week left. If the pilot proves fruitful, the city and the Center City District have a dream of creating a buffered bike lane with verdant landscaping separating the bike lane from the other lanes. This would improve the aesthetics of both streets, as well as provide more effective stormwater management. 

If the city decides to go through with the protected bike lane, the major challenge will be procuring funds. Ritz assures that the city and the Center City District will chase any source of funding through PennDOT or the US Department of Transportation. The District does have experience in securing grants for green space, as they were the recipients of a large federal payout for the Dilworth Plaza renovations

This experiment is just the latest in an attempt to foster Complete Streets in Philadelphia, which means improving streets so bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and motorists are treated equally. Ritz evokes the Spruce and Pine St. bicycle lanes and the South St. Bridge overhaul as other examples of the city's commitment to Complete Streets. A joint goal is to improve Center City west of Broad Street. "If completed, the JFK and Market street projects will be an integral part of remaking (the) west (part of) Center City into a vibrant place for visitors, residents and workers," idealizes Ritz.   

Source: Aaron Ritz, Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Art gallery and store purchase the former downtown location of the Please Touch Museum

The I. Brewster and Company art gallery and store will be moving from its current location at 2200 Market St. into the former site of the Please Touch Museum on the 200 block of N. 21st St. This will put the gallery and store close to the museum district on the Ben Franklin Parkway. When they do move shop, the store expects to be an interesting addition to the neighborhood.

The listing agents for the erstwhile Please Touch Museum site were Joe Muldoon and Chris Lange of Binswanger. Muldoon says the gallery and store will be fitting in its new location. "The use is similar to other Museums on and around the Parkway," praises Muldoon. He adds that the gallery will be much smaller than the Parkway museums. The realtor fully expects the neighborhood to appreciate the new use of the property.

I. Brewster is notable for its gargantuan inventory of Louis Icart paintings. Icart is a famed fashion sketcher who drew during the French Art Deco period. I. Brewster’s owner, Nathan Isen, actually wrote a book about Icart, which is now in its fourth printing. The gallery and store also features work from Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Jasper Johns, and a host of other artists. Altogether, I. Brewster contains over 40,000 works of art.

Muldoon says that the owners of the Please Touch Museum were a pleasure to work with. Even through a tough economy, which resulted in far less interest in the property, the museum remained helpful and supportive. Museum leadership was also cognizant that certain uses would be rejected by neighborhood groups, which made it even more difficult to sell the space.

The bottom line is I. Brewster’s move has the realtor and the museum upbeat. "This is one of those situations where everyone involved appears to have won," says Muldoon.  No word yet on when they will open, although they already have "moving" signs in the windows at their current outlet. What’s clear is that it is likely only a short matter of time before the Parkway area sees some more art.

Source: Joe Muldoon, Binswanger Real Estate
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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