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Philly's parks mapped via Google Street View

A new Google Street View initiative -- launched in collaboration with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy -- will make it possible to visualize 200 miles of trails and visit various sites within the country's largest urban park system.

Launched in in 2007, the Street View feature of Google Maps has done wonders for misty-eyed nostalgia and real estate voyeurism. That is, the technology has made it dually possible to remotely revisit your childhood cul-de-sac and place yourself squarely in front of that fixer-upper of a dream home across town that might, fingers crossed, come on the market sooner than later.

More recently, Google Street View has embraced armchair adventure tourism and gone off-road, so to speak, with the addition of dozens of far-flung — and a few not all that far-flung — destinations ranging from the Galapagos Islands to Grand Canyon and the Pyramids of Giza. Does the fact that you may never have the chance to visit the Citadel of Qaitbay, the Wieliczka Salt Mine or Finland’s one-and-only Santa Claus Village in your lifetime keep you up at night? Now, you can visit all three in a single evening through the magic of 360-degree panoramic imagery...Philadelphia, home to Fairmount Park, will be the first city to digitally document its entire park system on Google Street View as part of the tech giant’s Google Trekker program...

Equipped with a 15-lens camera apparatus that snaps panoramic images every three seconds, the 50-pound Google Trekker backpack is on loan — so Philadelphia better work fast to capture every nook and cranny of its park system within the allotted six-month time frame. From the sound of it, the city hired the right gents to perform the task. Both experienced hikers, Conor Michaud is a gym instructor and Gint Stirbys is a professional mover. On their feet from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m., the roving documentarians will alternate duties — one will don the super-hefty camera-backpack while the other will walk ahead to clear the parks’ trails by removing any obstacles or litter.


Original source: Mother Nature Network
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Suburban Chinatowns on the rise, including one in Exton

Chinese immigrants are increasingly gravitating towards suburban communities. This is both a result of urban core gentrification and shifting tastes. In the Philadelphia region, Exton has a booming Chinese population. 
 
Leong says Chinatowns on the East Coast are becoming a lot less Chinese. He and a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently studied the Chinatowns of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and found that gentrification and rising housing costs were making it hard for blue-collar immigrants to live there. Their study found that in 1990, Asian residents comprised 45 to 75 percent of the three Chinatown neighborhoods. Twenty years later, they made up 42 to 46 percent. During that time, the white population doubled in Philadelphia and Boston’s Chinatown neighborhoods...

America’s new Chinatowns are basically strip malls in the suburbs, says Leong. The town of  Exton, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia where the average home value is about $340,000, is a good example of one. During a recent visit, I noticed a handful of Chinese restaurants and grocery stores scattered among big-box retailers like Walmart and Toys “R” Us. In 2000, only six percent of Exton’s residents were Asian. Now, about 20 percent are. Many Indian and Chinese immigrants who live there work for big financial and pharmaceutical companies in the area.

Cheryl Wang, a risk analyst for a large U.S. bank, lives in Exton with her husband and their two children. She says about half of her neighbors are Asian and the other half are white. Wang, 42, is representative of many of the new Chinese immigrants: She has two master’s degrees, one in information sciences and the other in business administration, and has spent most of adult life in the Philadelphia suburbs. She avoids Chinatown at all costs. “Our backgrounds are very different—we speak different languages,” says Wang, who speaks Mandarin. “I really dislike [Chinatown]. It's not as clean as the suburbs and there are a lot of crowds.” Wang says she prefers the peacefulness of the suburbs, where, unlike in China, she doesn’t need connections to get her children into good schools.
 
Original source: The Atlantic
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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
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'PoliticalFest' to entertain Democrats in July

When the Democratic National Convention comes to Philly, there will be a host of entertainment options for politicos.

Interactive exhibits, displays, games and theater celebrating American political history will be offered across seven downtown locations from July 22 to 27 as part of "PoliticalFest."

The Oval Office set from the TV series "The West Wing" will be at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. At the National Constitution Center, the festival hub, actors who have played presidents on stage or on screen will take part in answer-and-question sessions.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, the host committee chairman, says the festival will help showcase Philadelphia.

Tickets on sale at www.phldnc.com will provide entry to all venues as well as bus transportation.


Original source: Associated Press
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Temple gifts 'baby boxes' to new moms to promote infant health

In a year-long project, Temple University Hospital will give free "baby boxes" to all moms who deliver there. This simple act could save lives.

It might seem a little strange to put your newborn baby in a cardboard box. But one hospital is teaching moms that it's the safest thing possible for their little bundles of joy...The idea is to decrease the rate of "co-sleeping," the practice of parents sleeping in the same bed as their babies. Done incorrectly, co-sleeping is associated with a higher risk of infant mortality. According to Philly.com, many local parents co-sleep with their kids because it's part of their culture, or their parents co-slept with them. Others do so because they can't afford a crib, or lack the space for one. 

The boxes are functioning bassinets and come with a sheet and a firm mattress, which help keep the baby sleeping on his or her back and away from toys and stuffed animals. They also contain essential items for the baby, like onesies and baby books. The boxes, manufactured by The Baby Box Company, are worth around $80 to $100 each...

Baby boxes are popular elsewhere in the world, and parents in the U.S. are just now taking notice. In Finland, the government gives them out to every new mom, and the practice dramatically dropped the country's infant mortality rates.


Original source: Good Housekeeping
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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
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The Associated Press shines a light on Philly's new attractions in advance of DNC

The AP lists off "New Ways to See Philly From Up High and Down Low," in advance of the Democratic National Convention in July.

With classic rowhouse architecture, brick sidewalks and narrow streets, some charming neighborhoods in Philadelphia can almost make you forget about cheesesteaks, Rocky and that whole American Revolution thing.
Almost.

It will be hard to escape the Cradle of Liberty references this summer as the city hosts the Democratic National Convention. But Philly has plenty to offer even the most non-political visitor.

Things have been really hoppy, er hoppin', during the warm months thanks to an influx of beer gardens and revamped civic spaces where you can socialize, people-watch and Instagram your heart out.

New vantage points from up high and at the water's edge will give you a whole new way to look at The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.


Original source: Associated Press via The New York Times
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PHA looks beyond housing in Sharswood, incorporating commercial and educational uses

The New York Times takes a look at PHA's grand design for revitalizing the Sharswood neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

Seeking to do more than provide basic homes for its residents, this city’s public housing agency is taking a new approach to neighborhood revitalization. In its latest project, it is adding commercial and educational development to its main role of home building, aiming to address the underlying causes of urban distress.

In the northern part of the city, the Philadelphia Housing Authority is razing part of the Norman Blumberg Apartments in the Sharswood neighborhood, which has had especially high rates of poverty, crime and urban blight. The agency plans to bring in shops, offices and schools, along with housing, in an ambitious program to breathe new life into a struggling community.

The $500 million project, just two and a half miles from downtown Philadelphia, aims to recreate a middle-class community that never recovered after being ravaged by rioting in the 1960s, agency officials say...

Central to the new vision will be the creation of a new commercial corridor along Ridge Avenue, the neighborhood’s main street, which lost businesses as the local economy declined.

In all, the plan projects 400,000 square feet of commercial space. The agency said it was close to making a deal for a drugstore and a supermarket...The housing authority plans to move its headquarters to the street from downtown, bringing around 1,100 employees, who will bolster demand for businesses.


Original source: The New York Times
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Could Philadelphia become a mecca for vertical farming?

This sustainable agriculture model might just bloom in the City of Brotherly Love.

With its muggy summers and freezing winters, Philadelphia isn’t exactly known as an agricultural hotspot. But a resolution passed Thursday by Philadelphia City Council could put the City of Brotherly Love on the map as the next international green hub.

Local lawmakers are aiming to expand vertical and urban farming in the bustling metropolis, Philly.com reported.

“The most noble thing a human being can do is produce food for others,” Councilman Al Taubenberger, who introduced the resolution, said at a news conference held at Metropolis Farms in South Philly. “Vertical farming is something very special indeed, and fits like a glove in Philadelphia.”

As EcoWatch reported, Metropolis Farms is not only the first indoor hydroponic vertical farm in Philadelphia, it’s the first vegan-certified farm in the nation and the only known vertical farm to operate on the second floor of a building. By growing food locally, the farm slashes the distance food needs to travel to get to local kitchens, grocery stores and restaurants.


Original source: Alternet
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Brightening up Boathouse Row for the DNC

All 10,000 bulbs are being replaced for the first time since the site went LED in 2005.

"We have every intention to get it done before the Democratic National Convention," Barry Bessler, chief of staff of the parks and facilities division of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, told the Philadelphia Business Journal.

"That's a tremendous Philadelphia icon, and we want it to look its best with all these people coming to town," Bessler said.
The Fairmount Park Conservancy is supplying the money for the endeavor. Bessler said "it's going to be a significant investment," but he could not confirm the total financial cost. Reliable sources, however, place it at an estimated $500,000...

The intensity of the LED lights will be significantly brighter than it is now, Bessler said, without using more wattage.


"That's a nice feature of the upgrade in technology," he said. "We will get a much brighter appearance without any more electricity."

Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
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Britain's Mirror spends 48 hours in Philadelphia

The British publication sent their travel editor to Philadelphia -- he came back with "eight essential experiences."

If you’ve only got 48 hours in the city with famous links to Monopoly, the first thing you should do is go directly to jail.

Philadelphia was where legend says businessman Charles Darrow dreamed up the iconic board game in 1933 (he didn’t, he patented it – it was invented in 1903 by Elizabeth Magie of Washington DC, but that’s another story).

However, on a short visit to the splendid City of Brotherly Love, I cannot recommend highly enough a trip to the Eastern State Penitentiary. Here are eight unmissable things to see and do on a short break to Philly – much of which is walkable.


Original source: Mirror
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'South Philly, West of Broad' named one of the country's best beer 'hoods

DRAFT Magazine names a segment of Philadelphia one of American's great beer neighborhoods.

This isn’t the name of a ’hood, but more the western quadrant of the city made up of several neighborhoods. They’re culturally diverse, working-class neighborhoods that are experiencing significant gentrification with businesses (and beer) following suit. Overall, there’s not tons of stuff yet, but it’s ready to explode given the recent additions.” –Jared Littman, founder of Philly Tap Finder

The original: South Philadelphia Tap Room has been a beloved mainstay since 2003, featuring 14 taps (including cask and nitro lines) and food until 1 a.m.

The newbie: New arrival Brewery ARS shoots for a spring opening in West Passyunk, brewing American-style saisons (expect dialed-up hops) with a small cafe attached.

Also visit: Taproom on 19th bar, American Sardine BarBrew bottle shop


Original source: DRAFT Magazine
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Philly restaurants invade Washington, D.C.

Watch out Washington, D.C.: Philly restauranteurs are coming to town. The Washington Post looks at this growing trend.

What's next, the Liberty Bell?

Philadelphia may be home to its own excellent food scene, but more and more chefs and restaurateurs from the city are making the 123-mile trek south, bringing both tried-and-true and new concepts to Washington.

There's Pizzeria Vetri, from the acclaimed Vetri Family Italian restaurant group; HipCityVeg, a vegan fast-casual chain; and Honeygrow, a fast-casual stir-fry chain. All three have plans this spring or summer to join a scene that already includes Philadelphia imports such as restaurateur Stephen Starr (Le Diplomate), coffee roaster and cafe La Colombe and chef Jose Garces (Rural Society), whose Village Whiskey bourbon and burger bar is in development here as well. 

"I always felt Washington was a cool market," said Starr, whose runaway success at Le Diplomate, the 14th Street NW brasserie that opened in 2013, sold more than a few Philadelphia chefs on the prospect of opening in the nation's capital. He began scouting the city in the late '90s but only pulled the trigger when he found the perfect location -- an old dry cleaner in a free-standing, one-story building with plenty of sidewalk space. He said he's also "close" to two more deals here.


Original source: The Washington Post
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Donkeys take over Philadelphia in advance of DNC

To get the city into the Democratic (Party) spirit, fiberglass donkeys will be placed around the city in advance of the Democratic National Convention.

Fifty-seven fiberglass donkeys will be displayed at various sites and attractions starting July 1. The symbol of the Democratic Party will represent each U.S. state, each territory, Washington, D.C., and Democrats abroad.

The donkeys will be painted with iconic images from each location, chosen by each state's delegates. The ideas were given to Philadelphia artists to create.

"Donkeys Around Town" is an effort to get residents in the convention spirit and encourage delegates and other visitors to explore the city. It's the brainchild of former Gov. Ed Rendell, who's the host committee chairman.

Rendell said he was inspired by a similar program in Erie a few years back that seemed to get tourists and locals excited to explore the city and the artworks.

"I think it's going to be great for the delegates and great for the residents," Rendell said.


Original source: Associated Press
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Kenney cancels city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi

In response to anti-LGBT laws passed in those southern states, the mayor will halt official visits.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has issued a ban on all publicly funded and non-essential travel for city employees to Mississippi and North Carolina. A spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office confirmed with NBC10 the travel ban is in response to controversial laws from the two states which limit anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

The North Carolina law directs transgender people to use public toilets corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. The law also excludes LGBT people from state anti-discrimination protections, blocks local governments from expanding LGBT protections, and bars all types of workplace discrimination lawsuits from state courts. In Mississippi, legislation taking effect this summer will allow certain workers, including some in private businesses, to cite religious beliefs in denying services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.


Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
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