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You are cordially invited to a Funeral for a Home

Here's the unfortunate news: Every year in the city of Philadelphia, some 600 homes -- most of them ruined and crumbling beyond repair -- are demolished, never to be brought back to life. It's business as usual in the residential real estate industry.

But when Temple Contemporary started investigating Philadelphia's deteriorating housing stock, the galley's director, Robert Blackson, began thinking differently about the emotional weight carried by the destruction of surplus homes. The poignant memories of a family and its internal life were being bulldozed and turned into so much dust by a demolition crew.  
 
Blackson eventually discovered the work of local artist Jacob Hellman, who had participated in housing demolition work through Mayor John Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative. Hellman had held a memorial service of sorts for the era's destroyed homes.

"That led me to think about making [Hellman's memorial] into a larger occasion," explains Blackson.      
 
That "larger occasion" soon became Funeral for a Home. Both an acknowledgement of the local community and an art project, the project's intention is to "celebrate the life of a single Philadelphia row house as it is razed," according to a statement on the group's website.  
 
Beginning at 11 a.m. on May 31, a two-bedroom rowhouse at 3711 Melon Street in Mantua will be laid to rest. This "funeral" will feature speeches from community members, a street procession, a gospel choir and a family-style meal, while helping participants reflect on the challenges of a city overflowing with unused housing.

"I feel [this is] definitely a project that's indicative of our human nature," says Blackson. "To have a kinship with our shelter."
 
The funeral service is free and open to the public. For more on Funeral for a Home, check out this feature from last November.  
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Robert Blackson, Temple Contemporary

 

Ambitious Mural Arts project adds color to everyday Amtrak journeys

Philadelphia's extraordinary Mural Arts Program, currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, is known citywide for its colorful work. More than 3,600 murals have been produced since Mayor Wilson Goode hired artist Jane Golden to head the program in 1984.  
 
According to Golden, over the past five years the organization has become especially interested in "gateway projects" -- artworks situated at exit and entrance destinations, such as airports, interstates or major intersections.

"I just think it's so important that we think about what people see when they're leaving and entering Philadelphia," she explains.
 
It was that idea that led Golden and her staff to begin a three-year courtship with Katharina Grosse, the celebrated Berlin-based contemporary painter responsible for Mural Arts' latest large-scale gateway project, psychylustro, which was recently constructed along a stretch of Amtrak's Northeast Rail Corridor between 30th Street Station and North Philadelphia Station.     
 
Reminiscent of the grand outdoor projects that have turned artists like Christo and Jeanne-Claude into household names, psychylustro (pronounced psyche-LUSTRO) consists of a three-mile series of seven different color-drenched installations. There are warehouse walls, building façades and random stretches of green space, all meant to be viewed from the window of a moving train.
 
"We really want people to see what we see," says Golden, referring to the industrial, ruined, stunning sites that have been transformed by pops of Grosse's color. "We see the deterioration but we also see the beauty; we see the history; we see Philadelphia’s past."
 
Visit the Mural Arts website for a project map, details about viewing the works from various city bridges, and information about the mobile audio component that accompanies psychylustro.
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jane Golden, Mural Arts Project

 

Philadelphia Housing Authority seeks funding to renovate aging housing stock

Federal funding cuts are trickling down to Philadelphia -- notably in lack of maintenance for the city's affordable housing stock. To mitigrate the problem, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) has submitted an application to participate in the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. If approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), PHA will be able to raise funds to rehabilitate aging affordable housing. 

PHA spokesperson Nichole Tillman estimates that PHA now receives 82 cents for every dollar that it needs to operate and maintain public housing. She calls RAD "the Obama Administration's plan to address the defunding of public housing." 

Operating funds for RAD developments will come from the Housing Choice (Section 8) program, which has historically been more stable and less prone to dramatic funding cutbacks. Under RAD, PHA could borrow against its rental income and HUD subsidies, which would generate funding for capital improvements. This would give PHA more funds to rehab properties and expand public housing, while creating an estimated 400 construction jobs.

Though RAD approval would create jobs for small businesses, it does not equal privatization for affordable housing. 

"A for-profit corporation will not own public housing," explains Tillman. "Like current tax credit sites, RAD developments will remain heavily regulated, and tenants will have substantial protections similar to those of public housing residents. PHA is likely to establish affiliated nonprofits, just like those at its existing tax credit sites. A long-term use agreement will guarantee that development rents remain affordable." (RAD requires that rent be set at no more than 30 percent of adjusted household income.)

Tillman said that if PHA gets HUD approval for RAD, the agency will invest the money in rehabbing site infrastructure and major systems, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and heating and ventilation. Other quality of life improvements would include upgrades to units' interior layouts; updated kitchens and bathrooms; and greening all systems to make them more sustainable.

PHA should hear about approval from HUD by Spring, contingent upon legislative action.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Nichole Tillman, Philadelphia Housing Authority

On the Ground Redux: Newly-completed Camden trails add amenities, connect to larger system

A few weeks ago, leaders from all levels of New Jersey government held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Camden to celebrate the completion of three TIGER-funded trail projects. The paved segments are crucial to completing the long-envisioned regional system of interconnected greenways.
 
"They're essential projects," says Ian Leonard with Camden County's Department of Public Works. "They allow for the connection of 128 miles of already-completed trails."
 
That system, dubbed The Circuit, will include 750 miles of trails; more than 250 miles have already been built throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
 
Planners also hope that the three Camden County projects will boost economic development opportunities and quality of life for local residents.They include new bike lanes, lighting, signage, and extensive street and sidewalk improvements throughout downtown Camden. Located along Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pearl Street and Pine Street in Camden, the trails connect to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, making it easier for Philadelphians to bike or walk into Camden, and then on to Collingswood or Cherry Hill.

"The completion of these projects was a true partnership between federal, state and local leaders," says Leonard. "It's a perfect example of all levels of government working together and being engaged."

Future funding will support Camden's passage of a complete streets policy to promote walkable neighborhoods as well as ongoing efforts to complete The Circuit. 

Source:  Ian Leonard, Camden County
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Five local schools (plus one district) receive national sustainability award

Representatives from five Delaware Valley schools were in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to receive a 2013 Green Ribbon Schools award; one school district also received a District Sustainability Award.
 
Similar to the Blue Ribbon Awards for educational excellence, the U.S. Department of Education grants the Green Ribbon Awards to schools that work to reduce their environmental footprint; improve the health and wellness of students and faculty; and integrate sustainability education into the curriculum. The region's winners were among 78 schools and districts chosen nationwide.
 
Notably, all Delaware and Pennsylvania statewide nominees this year were from the Philadelphia region.

"It's clear that there is a lot of local energy and interest for promoting sustainability in our schools," says Lori Braunstein with the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, who helped administer the school's applications.

Each honoree was recognized for different reasons. From newer suburban schools with solar arrays to older city schools boasting unique partnerships with the City of Philadelphia, each worked hard to prove its worth as a leader on sustainablity initiatives. 
 
The winning local schools are Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School (Philadelphia School District); Broughal Middle School (Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County); Nazareth Area Middle School (Nazareth Area School District, Northampton County); and Westtown School (Chester County).
 
Lower Merion School District (Montgomery County) was awarded the first-ever District Sustainability Award.
 
"It's possible the schools can leverage the award to get additional funding or get to the front of the line for other sustainability initiatives," says Braunstein. "This can just be the beginning."

Source:  Lori Braunstein, Delaware Valley Green Building Council
WriterGreg Meckstroth

City Planning Commission hosts 'Visions for our Metropolitan Center'

On June 17 at the Center for Architecture, representatives from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) will be joined by the Citizens Planning Institute, local developers and public officials to discuss "Visions for our Metropolitan Center."
 
A large portion of the conversation will center on the recently completed Central and University Southwest District Plans, which cover the area between the Delaware River and 40th Street, and from Girard Avenue to Washington Avenue. With 335,000 jobs and 120,000 residents, it's the largest job center in the region and the third-largest residential downtown in the country.
 
With 18 district plans in some stage of development as part of the Philadelphia 2035 comprehensive planning process, planners were looking for a chance to highlight their latest ideas. 

"The [district plan roll-out] process can get a bit repetitive," says Laura Spina, Center City Planner for PCPC. "For the Central and University Southwest District plans, we wanted to make the presentation a little more lively."

The program also includes a talk by Pearl Properties’ Jim Pearlstein and the graduation of another class of Citizens Planning Institute students, the education and outreach entity of the PCPC.
 
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.; the program begins at 6 p.m. Click here to secure your ticket.

Source:  Laura Spina, Center City Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Community-centric Valley Green Bank comes to South Philly

Valley Green Bank is expanding its regional reach by opening a new branch at Broad and Tasker Streets in South Philly. It will be the bank's first official foray into the area and its third location overall.

The bank opened its first location in Mt. Airy in November 2005, and quickly became known as an alternative to national banks for small businesses and developers looking for loans. For Valley Green Bank, being a "community bank" means small asset holdings, remaining locally owned and operated, retaining an ability to lend to smaller clients and conducting most of its business in Philadelphia. 
 
The bank is not entirely new to South Philly -- since 2010, a lending team led by Robert Marino has been operating here, leading to a strong collection of small business clients.
 
"In South Philly, it's apparent that businesses care about community and vise versa," explains Leslie Seitchik, director of marketing for the Valley Green Bank. "We want to be a part of it." 
 
Community banks also work to have a physical presence in the neighborhoods they serve. Thanks to that established portfolio of South Philly clients, the Broad and Tasker location is the perfect fit. (Valley Green also has commercial loan centers in Center City and Radnor.)
 
Valley Green promises to hold true to its original business model at the new location. "What has made us successful over the years has been our ability to lend when larger banks haven’t been able to," says Seitchik. "Because we’re small and nimble, we’ve been able to support the small business community."
 
Valley Green sees a lot of potential to expand its real estate client base in South Philly, along with the retail side of their business. "We want community members to come bank with us, to open up anything from a checking account to money market accounts," says Seitchik.

In keeping with the bank's vision, the design of the new branch opens up the building to the both streets with large windows, welcoming in the neighborhood. Designed by local firm Metcalfe Architecture and Design, the renovation is expected to be complete this June. 

Source:  Leslie Seitchik, Director of Marketing, Valley Green Bank
WriterGreg Meckstroth

City Planning Commission recognized as national leader

In some cities, land use planning and zoning are the last places you’d look for news on cutting edge innovations. Here in Philly, we know better. This April, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) will receive a Best Practice Award from the American Planning Association (APA) for their innovative efforts integrating planning and zoning processes.

PCPC recently coordinated three distinct planning efforts simultaneously: the Citizens Planning Institute, Philadelphia 2035, and a zoning code and map revision.  

"I’m not aware of any other comparable city doing such a comprehensive planning treatment in such a brief period of time," says CPC Executive Director Gary Jastrzab.

Jastrzab and his staff began tackling these projects nearly four years ago. "The last comprehensive plan or major zoning revision was in the 1960s, so it was time for a modernization," he explains.

Four years and countless public meetings, hearings, drafts and re-drafts later, Philadelphia now has a regulatory environment featuring those three profound tools. The Citizens Planning Institute, PCPC’s education and outreach entity, encourages leadership and participation among residents, educating them on urban planning in their communities. Philadelphia 2035, the city’s first comprehensive plan in over 50 years, includes 18 specific district plans either completed, underway or about to get started. Lastly, the city’s zoning reform included both a rewrite of the city’s 50-year-old code and multiple zoning map revisions as recommended in the ongoing Philadelphia 2035 district plans.

"In any city -- let alone one as large and politically complex as Philadelphia -- undertaking either a comprehensive plan, zoning code rewrite, or citizen planner leadership program, would have been a major accomplishment," explains APA Pennsylvania Awards Committee chairman Dennis Puko in a press release. "Philadelphia through 2011 to 2012 did all three, and integrated them to achieve the most positive outcomes."

The Best Practice award for Philadelphia’s Integrated Planning and Zoning Process will be presented at APA’s National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16.
 
Source: Gary Jastrzab, Executive Director, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Three Down, 15 to go for Philadelphia 2035 as Lower Northeast District Plan adopted

Last week, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission adopted the Lower Northeast District Plan as part of the city’s Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan.  The Lower Northeast joins West Park and Lower South as having finished and adopted plans, leaving 15 more districts still to come over the coming years.   

The Lower Northeast covers the ever-evolving neighborhoods of Frankford, Lawncrest, Oxford Circle and Northwood and was particularly impactful because of the unique problems the area faces.  A number of these issues culminated in the plan’s focus areas, which include the Frankford Transportation Center, Frankford Gateway and Castor Avenue. 

The Plan indicates that nearly 1 in 5 Lower Northeast residents do not have health insurance and that wait times at health centers across the city are increasingly long.  To remediate this issue, the Plan calls for the creation of three health centers in the neighborhood, with one adjacent to the Frankford Transportation Center. 

This does two things, says Jennifer Barr with the City Planning Commission -- it increases the amount of needed health centers in the immediate area and substantially increases access for residents across the region. 

“Some 680,000 Philadelphians can reach the Frankford Transportation Center without a connection,” says Barr, “this is the ideal place to create a destination for health services because access is so high but also because a large amount of people are already passing through the Center on a daily basis.”   

The Frankford Center focus area was not particularly controversial.  Other areas weren’t so lucky.  The Castor Avenue focus area recommendations caused a bit of controversy, as they call for an upzone of the corridor into a mixed-use, higher density district.  This means allowing buildings to reach heights of 55 feet and encouraging residential uses above storefronts – something that doesn’t exist now.

Barr indicates that despite a small group of citizens who opposed the idea, this provision was actually supported by most of the community, likely because it makes perfect sense from a planning perspective. 

“There is a lot of demand for housing in the area with little room to expand,” says Barr.  “With Castor Avenue struggling as a commercial corridor, encouraging residential density can rejuvenate the corridor while increasing residential housing options.”

The plan’s third focus area is Frankford Gateway along Frankford Avenue, an area full of underutilized industrial buildings but full of potential.  “With the success of nearby Globe Dye Works into a thriving artist community, we have a prime example of utilizing old industrial buildings for modern day needs,” says Barr, “these buildings are an important part of Frankford’s heritage so we want to protect them and encourage their reuse.” 

To this end, the plan recommends changing the zoning along the Avenue from ICMX to a new classification – IRMX - which allows for live/work spaces geared towards these large industrial structures.

With these issues dealt with in meaningful ways and the Plan officially adopted, attention has moved on to the Center City plan, which is currently underway and the University City plan, which will begin shortly.  These districts, too, face a series of unique issues that will be fleshed out and addressed over the coming months.  Center City’s next public meeting will be held on Oct. 22 and University City’s plan is set to begin Nov. 13. 

Source: Jennifer Barr, City Planning Commission
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Soak It Up! Philadelphia Water Department's design initiative to create next wave of green projects

The Philadelphia Water Department is once again raising the bar with their green infrastructure/sustainability initiatives, this time partnering with the US Environmental Protection Agency and Community Design Collaborative with the launch of Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!—a design initiative to increase awareness on how green stormwater infrastructure can revitalize urban areas.

Green stormwater infrastructure has been receiving a lot of attention in Philly in recent years – it is the key strategy behind Green City, Clean Waters, the city's nationally renowned and environmentally sustainable plan to improve the region’s waterways.

“As we evolve Philadelphia into America's most sustainable and green city, the opportunities ahead will be limited only by the confines of our imaginations and the extent of our determination,” says Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department.

Seeing Philly as an early adopter of green stormwater infrastructure programs on large scales, the EPA decided to partner with the Water Department on Soak It Up! to encourage and assist the City in their ongoing efforts to improve water quality and sustainability.    

Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! is an offshoot of Infill Philadelphia, a program created by the Community Design Collaborative to help urban areas re-envision their neighborhoods and address specific concerns unique to urban places.   

Soak It Up! feeds off that program, and will host exhibitions, talks, design charrettes and a national competition to explore the vast potential of green infrastructure tools—rain gardens, green roofs, rain barrels and more—and figure out how they can enhance Philly's built, economic and social environment.

Currently, an exhibition of over 40 projects from Philadelphia and other cities including Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh is on display through Oct. 19 at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, at 1218 Arch Street.  The exhibition provides a sampling of smart, innovative green stormwater project ideas, ranging from simple and small to visionary and large.  The exhibition is open to the public from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon – 5 p.m. on Sundays.   

The exhibition and the other programs currently ongoing are cumulatively aiming to bring together city leaders, designers and community stakeholders and give them the platform to discuss how they can put green infrastructure best practices to work locally.  

“In our work, we’ve already seen how designing with green stormwater infrastructure can transform a park, a block, or even an entire neighborhood,” says Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative. “Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! will help produce greater awareness, advocacy, and collaboration around green tools—and the next wave of green projects in the city.”

Source: Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department; Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Center City’s effort to increase visibility and access of regional transit nears completion

Branding your city, whether through logos, trademarks or historical importance, helps convey a place’s cultural values, but is also essential in competing for desirable tourism and investment dollars.  When communicating this brand, the details matter, right down to the signage systems employed at neighborhood levels.  Philadelphia already has high quality, unified walking and vehicular wayfinding signage systems that were long ago established.  More recently, the Central Philadelphia Transportation Management Association (CPTMA), in partnership with regional transit service providers, set to increase visibility of and access to Philly’s multi-modal, regional transit system as well, and visually link it to the City’s existing wayfinding systems. 

CPTMA’s goal was simple: create a single brand of Philly’s transit systems by highlighting and unifying access to underground transit in Center City.  The ‘highlighting’ part has come in the form of visually intriguing, green back-lit “lollipop” signs that mark entrances to Philly’s 3.5 mile underground concourse system that links together the subway, trolley lines and regional rail.  The ‘unifying’ part has come in the form of the “lollipop” signs, but also information at the surface as to which train lines users can access at each stop; information about the Walk! Philadelphia and Direction Philadelphia sign systems that can be followed by pedestrians and cars; and below the surface, maps of the 3.5 mile underground concourse as well as attractions found above ground around each stop.  By the end of September, after years of implementation efforts, the signage system will officially be complete.

Selling the brand wasn’t always easy, according to Paul Levy, President and CEO of Center City District (CCD).  When CCD originally approached SEPTA and PATCO about creating a unified signage system to be shared by the two transit authorities, all parties were on board.  But, as Levy describes, neither party wanted to erase their individual identity.  Through a series of negotiations and back and forth conversations, the transit authorities and CCD eventually reached a compromise to retain each transit providers brand, but on unified physical signs.  Thus the green “lollipop” and associated directional signage came to be.  All parties: pleased; a unified brand: defined.    

Today, with nearly 90 percent of signs installed, Levy owes a great deal of thanks to a number of property owners and their “willingness to share the cost of installing the system adjacent to their buildings,” likely because they understood the benefit of the unified system.  And he hopes more potential partners will come on board in the future.  “We’ve shared the system with Temple, Drexel, Penn and the University City District and have encouraged them to extend it.” 

Source: Paul Levy, President and CEO of Center City District
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Philly hotels seeing record occupancy numbers in 2012

The Philadelphia hospitality sector is having a big year – a really, really big year.  During the first six months of 2012, Center City hotels reveled in a state of 75% occupancy – the highest clip of any year dating back to 2000 when data became available.  And with new hotels opening up seemingly every few months, additional arrivals in the pipeline and record daily rates being met, outside investors are taking a second look at the City of Brotherly Love, something local boosters welcome with open arms. 

A number of factors are contributing to Philly’s record numbers, all of which seem to have serendipitously come together at once.  “Philadelphia is an overnight sensation,” explains Meryl Levitz, president & CEO, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), who believes a lot of public and private investment in the leisure and hospitality market are finally paying off.  “People began believing in hospitality as they saw its effects. Now we have partnerships with universities, law firms and other corporations who see it as an advantage to promote Philadelphia to their audiences.”

Since then, Philadelphia has been reaping the benefits, seeing record visitation (38 million domestic visitors in 2011), increased marketing efforts nationally and internationally, and better restaurants, museums, attractions and activity. 

The cause-and-effect relationship at work here is simple, explains Levitz.  “With more attractions, more marketing and more conventions comes more hotels -- and they bring national advertising and national reservation systems. The same holds true with airlines.  Virgin America and Alaska Airlines are the latest to start bringing business into PHL.” 

To keep with momentum, Center City hotels have, at once, all seemed to improve themselves as well.  Notable examples of this include the landmark Latham Hotel which reopened after a total renovation of all 139 guestrooms and lobby, the rebranding of the Crowne Plaza into the Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia, and the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel’s full overhaul, all completed within the past few months.

What does this all mean in terms of economic development for Center City and the region?  According to Levitz, there are billions of answers to this question.  “In 2011, the Greater Philadelphia tourism industry generated $9.34 billion in economic impact, an increase of 7.5% from 2010,” adds Levitz “this equates to visitors generating an economic impact of $26 million a day.”   Plus, all of this spending supports 86,498 jobs, with a total paycheck of $2.85 billion.  

That’s big numbers for Philly and GPTMC, who hopes to keep the hospitality market humming.  Levitz believes to do so is imperative for a higher quality of life in Philly.  “The success of the hospitality market touches so many aspects of life that residents care about—culture, transportation, dining.  It boosts the intangibles, like the city’s image, and optimism about the future.”

With the addition of the boutique Hotel Monaco Philadelphia in October and Home2 Suites Philadelphia next year, it seems the future has never looked better.   

Source: Meryl Levitz, GPTMC
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Brewerytown, Fairmount, Francisville, Strawberry Mansion band together for Night Out

Acts of solidarity and partnership took the form of loud beating drums last night in Francisville as local school marching bands led groups of community members and civic leaders on a walk through city streets for Lower North/Central North Philadelphia’s National Night Out Stroll.

In its 29th year of existence, the National Night Out campaign involves citizens, law enforcement officials, civic groups, and other stakeholders from over 15,000 communities in all 50 states who band together and heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, as well as generate support for, and participate in, local anti-crime programs.  In Philly’s Francisville, Fairmount, Strawberry Mansion, and Greater Brewerytown neighborhoods, neighbors and partners showed their solidarity by leaving their porch lights on and strolling the streets together, beginning at the Arts Garage in Francisville and ending at Mander Recreation Center in Strawberry Mansion. 

But this year, Philly’s stroll brings an extra oomph of significance, showcasing the area's ability to work together for common goals. The following organizations joined forces for Night Out: Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation, Fairmount Communty Development Corporation, Greater Brewerytown Community Development Corporation, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, West Girard Community Council, Project H.O.M.E., and the Arts Garage.

According to Naomi Robertson with the Fairmount Community Development Corporation, this collaboration is what sets their event apart from similar events across the city and nationwide. 

“The fact that we were able to get so many community organizations together makes our event very unique.  All of the organizations serve as community beacons, so it was extremely important to have them involved, as they would be the ones to garner support from their respective communities.”  

Event organizers believe the collaboration between neighborhoods will go a long way towards many positive outcomes, including making residents feel safer and more connected to their neighbors.  “While Philadelphia is called ‘the city of neighborhoods’ there are times when those distinctions can make it seem like every neighborhood is an island of its own,” says Robertson, “and we wanted to show that that's not the case.  It’s a way for us all to celebrate together, to walk with each other, have our children talk to each other, and break down some of the barriers we've placed up.” 

For Lower North/Central North Philadelphia, crime prevention and awareness won't stop here.  Robertson and other civic leaders hope the collaboration continues at unprecedented levels, starting with assigning responsibility and disseminating information among residents.  “A big piece of National Night Out is developing and supporting Block Watch and Block Captain initiatives, and we believe empowering block captains is the most effective way to engage the rest of the community.”    

Writer: Greg Meckstroth
Source: Naomi Robertson, Fairmount Community Development Corporation

Rhodes-USGE collaboration indicative of EEB Hub's potential in energy efficiency, job creation

If the Philadelphia region undertakes efforts to improve energy efficiency in buildings, $618 million in local spending would be spurred and 23,500 jobs would be created.   This according to Christine Knapp of the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub in the Navy Yard, who believes the strategies and programs they are currently conducting could have a transformative effect on Greater Philadelphia's economy. 

The EEB Hub was established in Philadelphia by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with a $129 million grant as an Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster in early 2011 with a mission of improving energy efficiency in buildings and promoting regional economic growth.  According to Knapp, the creation of the government-led Hub was necessary because the building systems market simply has not been improving in efficiency standards on its own.  And considering the building sector accounts for 40% of total U.S. prime energy expended and 70% of all U.S. electric energy used, improving building efficiency standards is seen as a must by the DOE.
     
But landing the Hub was not an easy task and took numerous stakeholders and a lot of coordination to put together the winning proposal.  “A consortium of academic institutions, industry partners and economic development groups, led by Penn State, submitted a proposal to house the Hub at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, which was ultimately the winning proposal,” explains Knapp.  She also believes locating the Hub at the Navy Yard was a key factor to the proposal’s success, since the land is seen as one of the nation’s largest and most dynamic retrofit and redevelopment opportunities.    

The Hub is made up of research teams who are a rather ambitious bunch.  According to Knapp, their main, and seemingly lofty goal is to reduce energy use in the Greater Philadelphia commercial building sector by 20 percent by 2020, an undertaking that will create thousands of jobs for Philly. 

The Hub is already leading by example with two demonstration projects.  Building 101 in the Navy Yard serves as a testing site for energy research, where data is collected and assessments are made of the impact of building energy technologies and systems on energy use.  Then there’s the advanced energy retrofit living laboratory in Building 661 of the Navy Yard. Once renovated, the building will host EEB’s headquarters and serve as an example for future advanced energy retrofit projects in the region.

There is already evidence that EEB’s efforts are already yielding real jobs.  Relationships made between EEB and a local manufacturing business, Rhoads Industries, and their desire to retrofit the company’s Navy Yard buildings caught the attention of US Green Energy (USGE), a Virginia-based startup company that is manufacturing new types of solar roofs. 

Through a series of meetings about Rhoads' roof needs, USGE eventually agreed to open manufacturing space of their own in the Navy Yard, bringing an estimated 20 new jobs to the region.  USGE has since indicated that they have contracted for further technical work on their product and are actively pursuing research funding for more work.

With benchmarked results in tow, EEB plans an all-out assault on the local building industry to promote what they are doing to get the word out about building efficiency.  According to Knapp, this has started with identifying the necessary parties involved to move the conversation forward.  “The EEB Hub is engaging key stakeholders- from building owners, to retrofit suppliers to workforce trainers and policy makers- in the retrofit decision process to serve as an informational, motivational, and practical resource for the various constituencies that will help carry our vision forward.”

Already well underway, expect a variety of workshops, seminars, presentations, and webinars to continue for the next few years.  From these efforts, the EEB Hub can successfully develop market-ready technologies, information, and people needed in the marketplace to drive energy retrofits forward, create demand, and deliver on energy savings.  And if the success behind the Rhoads-USGE collaboration is any indication, expect EEB's efforts to more than deliver on job creation over the next 10-20 years.    

Source: Christine Knapp, EEB Hub
Writer; Greg Meckstroth

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
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