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A fight to save Jewelers Row

Toll Brothers is planning to demolish five properties on this historic commercial corridor. Can the city rally to save an essential piece of Philly's urban fabric? 

A day after city officials confirmed Toll's moves to clear five properties from Jewelers Row and replace them with an 80-unit tower, a pall of uncertainty has settled over the street.

Retailers and craftspeople who have operated on the row for years - if not decades - huddled on sidewalks sharing information, wondering how they'd been kept in the dark about Toll's plans.

"I'm so angry, it's unbelievable," said Frank G. Schaffer, proprietor of FGS Gems in one of the Jewelers Row buildings eyed for demolition. "You don't just uproot a business like this and move."

...The Sansom Street jewelers weren't the only ones distressed by Toll's plans.

An online petition posted late Thursday asking Philadelphia planning and development director Anne Fadullon to intervene against the development had attracted more than 1,000 signatures by late Friday afternoon.

Fadullon said in an statement that she welcomes the historic preservation community's input on the proposal and hopes the situation leads "to a broader conversation of how we can meet both our historic preservation responsibilities and our economic development needs."

Original source: Philly.com
Read the complete story here; to sign a petition to save the buildings, click here

A development with 'social impact' at 8th and Race?

One of the city's largest and most central vacant lots -- Race Street between 8th and 9th -- is the subject of an RFP from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. They are looking for an impact that goes beyond profit.

Later this month, PRA will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the lot. For the first time, the Authority will require developers to describe the “social impact” of their development proposals. The social impact component is open-ended, including anything from affordable housing and minority-business participation to healthy food access, job creation, or even simple cash donations to nonprofits or community groups. Greg Heller, the director of the PRA, says he’s just hoping to be convinced that a particular proposal will be the best one for the neighborhood and the city.

“PRA’s mission is to return publicly owned land to active use in a way that benefits people and communities,” Heller wrote in an email. “Scoring projects in part based on their social impact is a way of making sure that we are fulfilling that mission and our responsibility to the public.”

...The lot at 8th and Race has 80,000 square feet of buildable area, and PRA has been assembling it since the 1980s, according to Heller. It’s zoned for commercial use and doesn’t have many limits on the scale of development, so a developer could potentially put something very big on the site. The property is one of several, along with the Police Department’s “Roundhouse” and several federal buildings, that form a weird borderland between Chinatown and Old City.

Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete story here

Curtis Institute receives $55 million gift

The Center City music school gets a huge boost.

The Curtis Institute of Music, the prestigious conservatory in Philadelphia, announced on Thursday that it has been given a $55 million gift from the outgoing chairwoman of its board, Nina Baroness von Maltzahn. It is one of the largest gifts ever made to an American music school, and a statement from the conservatory described the gift as the largest single donation it had received since Mary Louise Curtis Bok established its tuition-free policy in 1928.

The statement said that the gift would be added to its endowment to help support a number of strategic initiatives — one of which is to remain tuition-free — as the conservatory prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2024.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

The New York Times lauds Philly's vegan dining scene

We can even forgive the lazy cheesesteak reference -- and the odd Passyunk fountain mention -- in this great rundown of Philly's vibrant vegan dining landscape.

What do you call a Philly cheese steak with no cheese and no steak?

It sounds like the setup to a punch line. But there’s nothing to laugh at when it comes to eating vegan in Philadelphia, which, in the last few years, has blossomed into a dynamic universe of vegan food, from old-school doughnuts to adventuresome tacos. Veganism is so hot that the city declared last Nov. 1 Philly Vegan Day.

“There’s a new energy here,” said Mike Barone, the owner of Grindcore House, a vegan coffee spot in South Philadelphia, famously an Italian neighborhood that’s undergone a restaurant renaissance near the grand Passyunk fountain. “You can go out to more places that are vegan. A lot of other places are accommodating, and that’s snowballing.”

Philadelphia’s vegan cheerleaders say what’s happening comes from living in a food-curious city where it’s cheap to explore new ground.

Much credit for the city’s vegan boom goes to Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, a husband and wife team whose “vegetable restaurant” Vedge opened in 2011 in a townhouse near the trendy 13th Street neighborhood. (Horizons, their previous restaurant, helped endear the city to vegan eating.) The menu emphasizes seasonal vegetables and hearty, savory proteins like tofu and seitan (wheat gluten).

“We are cooking good food,” Mr. Landau said. “I don’t think most of our clientele care that it’s vegan.” Last year Philadelphia magazine named Vedge and V Street among the best 50 restaurants in town, calling Vedge “our favorite place to send anyone looking for a true taste of Philly talent.”

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

Transformation at the Pennsylvania Ballet

The New York Times profiles Ángel Corella, the man who hopes to "reinvent" the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Mr. Corella, 40, seems to be having a very good time these days as he works to reinvent the Pennsylvania Ballet, where he has made top-to-bottom changes since becoming artistic director in 2014. He has brought on new artistic staff, new administrative leadership, new dancers from all over the world and a new approach to programming.

This month, he will return to New York, the site of his triumphs with Ballet Theater, to show off his revamped troupe at a run at the Joyce Theater (March 29 through April 3) featuring works made for its dancers.

“It feels like a whole new company,” Mr. Corella said the other day in his office here, which he explained had no desk because he still likes to do most of his work in the studio.

Mr. Corella came to Philadelphia after the collapse of a different kind of quixotic quest: trying to establish a dance company in his native Spain, first called the Corella Ballet Castilla y León and then Barcelona Ballet, during the country’s deep financial crisis.

The Pennsylvania Ballet was looking hard at what life after 50 should look like: At the end of its 2013-14 season, its 50th anniversary, its longtime artistic director, Roy Kaiser, stepped down. Mr. Corella signed on, and soon after his arrival he dismissed top artistic staff members who had decades of experience with the company and replaced them with his own team.

Now, Mr. Corella is throwing himself into all aspects of his new company, from leading company class twice a week to hiring dancers to bringing more contemporary choreographers on board to creating the new “Don Quixote,” which had its world premiere at the Academy of Music here on March 3.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

Inga Saffron lauds latest section of Schuylkill River Trail

The beloved greenway will extend to Southwest Philadelphia with the completion of the next section. Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron lauds the project, which started with just a short stretch of riverside concrete.

Any day now, the Schuylkill River Development Corp. will start formal construction on the fourth installment of the now wildly popular waterfront trail. Called Bartram's Mile, the $6 million addition is the first segment to make the leap across the river and extend the recreation path into the neighborhoods of Southwest Philadelphia. This time, it will be lushly landscaped, with groves of trees, gentle hills, and grassy meadows.

With the opening of Bartram's Mile expected in late fall, the dream of a continuous waterfront path stretching from the city's northwest corner to its southern tip is starting to look like a reality. Though there is still years of work ahead, the progress over the last decade suggests a steady, incremental approach is an effective way to reclaim our once-industrialized waterfronts for the public's enjoyment.

Bartram's Mile also represents another kind of leap. Bringing the park to the underserved Kingsessing neighborhood will demonstrate that waterfront trails aren't for just the city's elites. Surrounded by a tangle of rail lines and the Schuylkill Expressway, Southwest Philadelphia has felt cut off from Center City and the universities. The trail, which stretches from 58th Street to the Gray's Ferry Bridge, will eventually make it possible to bike downtown in under 20 minutes.

Original source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here

Financial Times spotlights Elixr Coffee Roasters in Center City

Financial Times shows some love for Elixr Coffee Roasters in its Business Travel section.

Stumbling in by accident is practically impossible, as the café is located on a side street with little foot traffic and has just a nondescript sign on the front door.

The lucky few who find the place are rewarded with a lively ambience and decor, premium low-roast coffee sourced from Central and South America and vegan doughnuts baked fresh each morning.

Despite the minimal branding, Elixr has become a popular haunt in the Center City district -- for business people, students, entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to collaborate or share ideas. Private and communal seating is plentiful, with two-seater tables as well as a lounge area and community tables.

Original source: Financial Times
Read the complete story here

Reading Terminal named one of the country's great public spaces

Reading Terminal Market has been named one of the "Great Public Spaces" in the nation by the American Planning Association.

World-renowned as an enclosed public market, Reading Terminal Market is conveniently located in downtown Philadelphia. The market is situated in a complex of buildings formally known as the Reading Terminal Train Station, occupying the basement and ground floor of the building underneath the old train shed. The market is organized in grid system spanning 78,000 square feet (1.7 acres) and is home to 76 independent small merchants. All of the merchants are locally based, selling fresh foods, groceries, prepared meals, and merchandise. The market is easily accessible to residents and tourists via public transit facilities, including nearby rail stations, seven subway and trolley lines, bus stops, a Greyhound bus terminal, and over 50 bike racks on the perimeter sidewalks...

Over 6 million people visit the market each year, generating upwards of $50 million in annual sales. Because the vendor businesses are 100 percent locally owned, the market's revenues are recycled within the Philadelphia region. The majority of patrons live in the Philadelphia region, and tourists make up about one-quarter of the shoppers.

Original source: American Planning Association
Read the complete list here.

Market East to become 'Jefferson Station'

The naming rights for Market East station have been sold to Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals will pay $4 million for a five-year deal to put the Jefferson name on SEPTA's Market East commuter rail station in Center City.

For an extra $3.4 million, Jefferson can keep the naming rights for an additional four years - a decision it will make at the end of its initial term.

SEPTA will get 85 percent of the money, and its New York-based advertising agency, Titan Worldwide, will get 15 percent, officials said.

The new Jefferson Station name was unveiled in ceremonies Thursday morning at the 30-year-old subterranean rail hub...

SEPTA will use the Jefferson money to make customer improvements at the station, including upgrading entrances and restrooms, SEPTA assistant general manager Fran Kelly said.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

Diner en Blanc lures 3,500 diners to Broad Street

The pop-up dinner, a global phenomenon, was a big hit last week in Philly.

An estimated 3,500 people attended this year’s Dîner en Blanc on Thursday, gathering en masse (and en blanc) on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts.

After a year of planning, anticipation and speculation (and a little help from Project Runway winner Dom Streater), the secret location of the pop-up soiree was finally revealed: Broad Street between Chestnut and Pine streets.

Since the event has a French theme, the Avenue of the Arts was a natural choice, given its Parisian-inspired architecture, from City Hall to the lampposts on Avenue of the Arts...

“Philadelphia isn’t that big of a city, but we’re so busy that we tend not to stray outside of our own neighborhoods or where we work,” Philly native Streater said. “It’s nice to have that surprise, and just not even knowing where it’s going to be — you show up and experience new surroundings and see a part of the city you never saw before, which is helpful.”

Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
Read the complete story and check out video here.

RJ Metrics moves into larger space, extolls lean startup principles in New York Times

Robert J. Moore, founder and CEO of RJ Metrics, wrote about his company's move to a bigger office on the New York Times' 'You're the Boss' blog, reflecting on lean startup principles. 

We had learned years ago that company culture isn’t about perks. Ping-Pong tables, funny posters, and free lunches are outputs of culture, not inputs to it. If any of our team members ever say they work at RJMetrics because of the chairs, I should be fired.
I admire those bigger companies that have been true to their lean roots during periods of extreme growth. Amazon famously provided employees with desks made of old doors, even as its headcount grew into the hundreds. To this day, Wal-Mart has its traveling executives sleep two to a room at budget hotels.

Just like the perks, however, these lean-minded policies are only healthy if they are the outputs of culture, not inputs meant to shape it. A team that is aligned on a core mission and values will wear them as a badge of honor. A team that isn’t will go work somewhere else.

As we grow, the balancing act of “lean success” will only get more complex. After all, being lean is not the same as being cheap, and separating these two can be hard when you’re in uncharted territory. We will invest heavily in building an inspired and empowered team – but we will check our egos at the door. Easier said than done? Definitely.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

T Magazine shines a light on food halls, including the legendary Reading Terminal Market

Food halls -- like the wildly-popular Eataly in New York -- are a growing trend. Philadelphia's own Reading Terminal is undergoing a renaissance.

After a $3.6 million renovation to this historic indoor market in a former train station last year, its longtime merchants, including Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, have returned. The 80 vendors include 34 restaurants. Post-renovation newcomers include Wursthaus Schmitz, a German grocery and sausage stand that serves sandwiches ($9-11); the Head Nut, which offers spices, teas, nuts and candy; and the Tubby Olive, a gourmet olive oil ($16-31 a bottle) and vinegar shop.?

Original source: T Magazine
Read the complete story here.

NYC's beloved Big Gay Ice Cream coming to Philadelphia

This New York institution is opening up a location on Broad Street. Oh, happy day!

Last night Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff announced that they were bringing their beloved NYC ice cream shop Big Gay Ice Cream to Philadelphia....

As reported by Philly.com, Quint and Petroff will be opening at the SouthStar Lofts. They liked this location for the fact that it made them part of a "culinary neighborhood." "Something that we always try to do when we choose locations is make sure that we're amongst good company ... [In Philadelphia], we'll be in walking distance to Marc Vetri's restaurants, Kevin Sbraga's, and Jose Garces' restaurants." They've been working on securing the lease for the Philadelphia shop since the beginning of the year.

With an August or September opening, the Philadelphia location will be opening around the same time as the upcoming Los Angeles location. Petroff says that project got delayed due to some trouble with the city, but that construction will soon be underway. Petroff, who moved to Los Angeles recently, will be overseeing the LA build out while Quint works on getting the Philadelphia shop open.

Original source: Eater
Read the complete story here.

New tools for detecting cancer come out of Thomas Jefferson

New blood tests -- or "liquid biopsies" -- are making the cancer detection process more painless.

Telltale traces of a tumor are often present in the blood. These traces -- either intact cancer cells or fragments of tumor DNA -- are present in minuscule amounts, but numerous companies are now coming to market with sophisticated tests that can detect and analyze them.

While the usefulness of the tests still needs to be proved, proponents say that because liquid biopsies are not invasive, they can be easier to repeat periodically, potentially tracking the disease as it evolves and allowing treatments to be adjusted accordingly...

"You will have a chance to identify a treatment sometimes and sometimes not," said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, director of the breast care center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who is treating Ms. Lewis and is a leading expert on liquid biopsies. Still, he said, "you are certainly much more advanced than going blindly." 

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

The New York Times visits Midtown Village's Little Nonna's

The New York Times' travel section visited Philadelphia's thriving Midtown Village neighborhood, checking in on Little Nonna's, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran's latest.

The menu is packed with classic dishes as they might be prepared by a modern-day nonna — Italian for grandmother — using ingredients from local farmers: an antipasto board of roasted veggies, parmigiana with Japanese eggplant and Thai-basil pesto, Concord grape water ice.

But on a chilly evening in November, I couldn’t resist the Sunday gravy. A heaping portion of “gravy” (marinara made with San Marzano tomatoes) and paccheri (the macaroni of the day) arrived on one platter, and on another were assorted meats — pork braciole, spicy fennel sausage, meatballs stuffed with fontina. Other memorable dishes deviated from the traditional tried and true, like bruschetta with roasted figs, Gorgonzola dolce, celery hearts and crunchy hazelnuts. And a standout pasta dish featured braised duck, pecorino and turnips atop chestnut ravioli stuffed with roasted heirloom squash.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
156 Center City Articles | Page: | Show All
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