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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
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The New York Times relishes Colonial history in Philadelphia

Looking for Colonial history? You can't do better than Philadelphia, where a new museum and a treasure trove of sites beckon.

When walking the streets of the Old City area in Philadelphia, it’s easy to imagine being back in the late 18th century. A small 8-by-10-block section was where so many of the famous names of the period — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross, John and Samuel Adams, Dolley and James Madison and, nearly everywhere, it seems, Ben Franklin — lived and socialized.

Many buildings they passed by remain, the city having long ago taken to preservation. Philadelphia is a place where ideas, agreements, arguments, animosities and friendships were clearly part of the fabric.

“Philadelphia owns this story,” said Michael C. Quinn, president and chief executive of the Museum of the American Revolution, a $119 million edifice scheduled to open in April 2017, two short blocks east of Independence Hall. “It is an incredibly compelling story, and it created some of the most inspiring and lofty ideals the world has known. We have to keep telling it in as many ways as possible...”

“This is not Disneyland, but a real place,” said Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive of Visit Philadelphia, the city’s main nonprofit tourism promotion agency. “This is where America began. I don’t think you can have too much of that. The population keeps expanding, so there are always more people to attract, and from what we know, those people want more, better and newer.”


Original source: The New York Times
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Statewide Spotlight: Pittsburgh's food scene hits the big time

The New York Times continues its love affair with Steel City, this time highlighting the symbiosis between the Pittsburgh food scene and its growing population of young people.

Everybody seems so young. And everybody’s talking about restaurants. If there are scholars who hope to study how a vibrant food culture can help radically transform an American city, the time to do that is right now, in real time, in the place that gave us Heinz ketchup.

In December, Zagat named Pittsburgh the No. 1 food city in America. Vogue just went live with a piece that proclaimed, “Pittsburgh is not just a happening place to visit — increasingly, people, especially New Yorkers, are toying with the idea of moving here.”

For decades, Pittsburgh was hardly seen as a beacon of innovative cuisine or a magnet for the young. It was the once-glorious metropolis that young people fled from after the shuttering of the steel mills in the early 1980s led to a mass exodus and a stark decline.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s mayor.

And they have. Over the last decade or so, the city has been the beneficiary of several overlapping booms. Cheap rent and a voracious appetite for culture have attracted artists. Cheap rent and Carnegie Mellon University have attracted companies like Google, Facebook and Uber, seeking to tap local tech talent. And cheap rent alone has inspired chefs to pursue deeply personal projects that might have a hard time surviving in the Darwinian real estate microclimates of New York and San Francisco.

No one can pinpoint whether it was the artists or techies or chefs who got the revitalization rolling. But there’s no denying that restaurants play a starring role in the story Pittsburgh now tells about itself. The allure of inhabiting a Hot New Food Town — be it Nashville or Richmond, Va., or Portland (Oregon or Maine) — helps persuade young people to visit, to move in and to stay.


Original source: The New York Times
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Better Bike Share Conference comes to Philadelphia

A major national conference focused on the growing Bike Share industry is coming to the City of Brotherly Love.

People For Bikes, a biking coalition based in Boulder, Colo., has teamed with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Association of City Transportation Officials and Philadelphia to hold the Better Bike Share Conference from June 22-24.

These parties have worked together before. In 2014, they teamed up to award grants to cities to build more bike share systems. To date, they've handed out $375,000.

"The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems is committed to ensuring equitable access to our Indego bike share system and all modes of transportation," said Clarena Tolson, Philadelphia's deputy managing director of transportation and infrastructure.

According to its event page, the conference is appealing to "city officials, bike share operators, community-based organizations and nonprofits working at the intersection of transportation and equity."


Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
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Drexel selects developer for huge swath between campus and 30th Street Station

Drexel has taken the next step in its grand plans to transform the blocks between its University City campus and 30th Street Station.

Drexel University has selected Brandywine Realty Trust to develop an expanse of mostly school-owned property...into an enclave of offices, academic buildings, homes, shops and parks.

The 125-year-old university and Philadelphia's biggest office landlord plan to build about 8 million square feet of floor space - equal to about six-and-a half Comcast Center towers - over the next several decades, beginning with the redevelopment of a strip of parking lots and industrial buildings north of Market Street.

Drexel President John Fry and Brandywine's chief executive officer, Jerry Sweeney, were set to formally announce their plans for what will be known as Schuylkill Yards together at a Wednesday afternoon event.

"Drexel has always believed there's a superior use for this unique location - essentially the 50-yard-line of the Eastern Seaboard - as a neighborhood built around collaboration and innovation," Fry said in a statement ahead of the formal announcement. "The time is right to put this vision into action."


Original source: Philadelphia Inquirer
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Flights from Philadelphia to Cuba?

As airlines start flying to Cuba, there's a race to add routes. Frontier is looking to fly from Philadelphia to Varadero.

U.S. airlines are looking to serve Cuba primarily from their large hub cities, with Havana being the most popular destination.
At least eight carriers submitted applications to the U.S. Department of Transportation Wednesday outlining what routes they would like to fly. The government will spend the next few months reviewing the requests and is expected to award the contested Havana routes this summer. Flights to smaller cities — if uncontested and lacking any contentious issues — could be approved much sooner...

U.S. tourists still won't legally be allowed to visit Cuba but the start of commercial flights will make it much easier for those who fall into one of the authorized travel categories. Charter flights are expensive, frequently chaotic and lack many of the traditional supports of commercial aviation such as online booking and 24-hour customer service.

Nearly 160,000 U.S. leisure travelers flew to Cuba last year, along with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family. Tourism is still barred, but the number of legal reasons to go to Cuba — from organizing professional meetings to distributing information to Cubans — has grown so large and is so loosely enforced that the distinction from tourism has blurred significantly...

Frontier Airlines applied for one daily flight between Denver and Havana, three daily flights between Miami and Havana, one daily flight between Miami and Santiago, four weekly flights between Miami and Camaguey, three weekly flights between Miami and Santa Clara, one weekly flight between Chicago and Varadero and one weekly flight between Philadelphia and Varadero.


Original source: The New York Times
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Could a soda tax work in Philadelphia?

Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed a tax on sugary beverages. It would be one of the most ambitious such plans in the country.

The first skirmishes in a new soda-tax battle occurred on Tuesday. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, will seek a 3-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Kenney, who took office in January, will put the tax in front of the city council on Thursday as part of his 2016 budget recommendations. If passed, the tariff would be three-times higher than the soda tax that residents of Berkeley, California, passed by ballot measure in 2014.

With 1.5 million people—far larger than both Berkeley and San Francisco, where a soda-tax ballot measure was narrowly defeated in 2014—Philadelphia looks significantly different than recent soda-tax battlegrounds...

While prior soda-tax battles have focused squarely on public-health issues, obesity doesn’t appear to be Mayor Kenney’s top concern. He needs more revenue to fund universal prekindergarten in the city, and the administration believes that the projected $400 million the special tax would raise over five years could go a long way toward making that campaign promise a reality. According to The Wall Street Journal, the mayor’s office would flag $256 million for pre-K, $39 million to help finance the opening of 25 community schools, and additional revenue to be funneled into Philadelphia’s pension and parks funds.

Original source: takepart

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The Atlantic spotlights Philly's criminal justice revolution

A story in The Atlantic focuses on the Kenney administration's efforts to revolutionize criminal justice in the city -- and undo decades of harm.

But Philadelphia may have reached a tipping point. The city is in the midst of what could be a pivotal phase of reform, now helmed by newly-minted mayor Jim Kenney. The magazine Philadelphia has called Kenney, “Mr. Criminal Justice Reform,” citing his record as councilman, which included championing the decriminalization of marijuana in Philadelphia, which he called a civil-rights issue, and campaign promises to eliminate cash bail for some low-level defendants and to give convicted felons a second chance. Kenney’s candidacy was compared to that of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: Both are white, but ran on a populist platform preaching racial, economic, and criminal justice reform. On his first night as mayor in January, rather than celebrate with an inaugural ball, Kenney took the festivities to the streets with a block party. He aims to be a mayor of the people, addressing issues that have plagued the city for decades, including overcrowded jails and tense relations between police and residents...

Before even being sworn into office, Kenney promised to reduce the city’s jail population by one third in the next three years...

The city has a grant application for up to $4 million pending with the MacArthur Foundation. Elected officials have been tight lipped about the proposal’s specifics, but have indicated that it generally focuses on decreasing reliance on cash bail, bolstering diversion programs to decrease pretrial detainment, and enhancing mental-health services for defendants awaiting trial. The grant recipients are expected to be announced mid-March. Regardless of whether the money is granted, both Kenney and Clarke agree that the reforms are necessary and will continue—though perhaps on a slower timeline. “It’s all about priorities,” Clarke said. “If these are the things that we need to change, we’re going to change them.”


Original source: The Atlantic
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Toronto Star asks, Is Philly cooler than New York? (Yes!)

The Canadian paper reassesses the City of Brotherly Love, and likes what they see.
 
When you think of the city of Philadelphia, what pops into your head?

My impression used to be a mishmash of gooey meat-and-cheese sandwiches, Rocky Balboa running up some stone steps, a cracked bronze bell, and the intro song to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But then I went to Philly for a few days, and that all changed.

What I discovered is an understated, historically rich city quietly going through a youth-driven cultural revolution that could propel it to the top of hip, urban U.S.-destination lists. Yes, I’m going to say it: Philadelphia might just turn out to be cooler than New York City...

Original source: Toronto Star
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Will patience pay off for the Phillies?

The New York Times takes a look at our upstart squad -- and makes the argument for some tentative hope after an abysmal 2015 season.

The Philadelphia Phillies hold the first overall pick in the draft this June. The last time they had it, in 1998, they chose outfielder Pat Burrell. Ten years later, Burrell doubled to start the go-ahead rally on the night the Phillies won the World Series.

Success in baseball is rarely so orderly. Today’s losing does not guarantee tomorrow’s parade. But as the Phillies rebuild a roster that staggered to 99 losses last season, they believe an upswing is inevitable.

“The teams that get themselves in the most trouble are the ones that try something for two years, it doesn’t work, so let’s try something different,” said Andy MacPhail, who will begin his first full season as the Phillies’ president for baseball operations.

If ever there was a time to ask for patience in Philadelphia, this is it. The city has been bruised by the failures of its professional sports teams, but smart fans accept that the Phillies’ previous strategy — clinging to highly paid, fading veterans — was failing. A full-scale renovation is underway, run by MacPhail — who has helped turn around the Minnesota Twins, the Chicago Cubs and the Orioles — and the new general manager, Matt Klentak.

“To understand where we want to end up, we need to understand where we are today and build the foundation appropriately,” Klentak said. “But a lot of pieces of the foundation are already here.”


Original source: The New York Times
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Travel + Leisure offers film-centric guide to touring Philly

With all the attention around Creed, this national travel mag tells tourists how to enjoy Philly like a movie star.

Yo Adrian! The city memorialized in the Rocky series and now the award-winning Creed has been home to a wide variety of movie plots and filming locations, including Philadelphia (which opens with a montage of famous sites), Mannequin, Trading Places, Twelve Monkeys, and In Her Shoes. Remember, “I see dead people”? The Sixth Sense was set and filmed in the City of Brotherly Love. The scene in Silver Linings Playbook where Pat and Tiffany kiss in the street under twinkling holiday lights? That’s Jewelers’ Row. Just in time for the Academy Awards, here is our guide to visiting Philadelphia like a movie star. 

Original source: Travel + Leisure
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Shark Tank sends PiperWai sales soaring

This Philly startup got a big boost from their appearance on the ABC hit. You might remember PiperWai from this story in Flying Kite detailing the development of their all-natural deodorant.

Sales of a Philadelphia company's all-natural deodorant skyrocketed since the co-founders appeared on ABC's Shark Tank in December, a reality TV boost that caused the entrepreneurs to wake up in a cold sweat as they quickly scaled up and worked to fill tens of thousands of orders.

"We'd wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worrying about a millimeter difference on a corrugated box," said Jess Edelstein, who created PiperWai with business partner and childhood friend, Sarah Ribner.

The pair will return to Shark Tank this Friday to give an update on their business. The co-founders pitted two "Sharks" against each other during their initial mid-December appearance on the show, eventually securing a $50,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran in PiperWai...

"Nobody could have predicted the demand we received," said Edelstein. "We were the third fastest company in Shark Tank history to reach a million dollars and our product is only $12."

Hitting the million dollar mark 10 days after the original show aired, PiperWai had more than $1.3 million in sales in the two months that followed their reality TV debut, the co-founders said.

"Before we went on Shark Tank, our lifetime sales were $130,000," Edelstein added.
 
Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
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International Pop comes to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

An exciting new exhibition exploring Pop art has opened in Philly. 

At the new exhibit on International Pop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, visitors are invited to kneel at a shrine to Roberto Carlos, the massively popular Brazilian musician.

"Adoração: Altar de Roberto Carlos" (Adoration: Altar for Roberto Carlos) by Nelson Leirner is a curtained niche, housing a neon bust of Carlos surrounded by illuminated religious icons.

Inside the darkened shrine, Carlos is blinding. The series of weakly lit sacred icons is completely overwhelmed by the flashing pop singer. Pop art, it seems to say, will have an irreverent ego.

"International Pop," opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Wednesday, includes works by many of the touchstone artists of that midcentury art movement: Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. The main thrust are the dozens of lesser-known artists from around the world who added their light to the movement...

In some countries, Pop art was one of the only ways artists could comment on violence and censorship. While recovering from World War II or navigating military dictatorships, artists could still make cut-out collages from pictures in American magazines when they had few other resources.


Original source: Newsworks
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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
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Statewide Spotlight: Philly company invests in huge Downtown Pittsburgh reuse project

A 12-story landmark building and former Macy's location in Downtown Pittsburgh will be transformed into a high-end mixed use project, signaling continued confidence in that city's rebirth.

Core Realty, based in Philadelphia, in July paid $15 million for the property just months before Macy’s closed. The building, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street, dates to the late 1800s and for years was the flagship of the Kaufmann’s department store chain. It went through several expansions and renovations, including a heralded Art Deco interior makeover of the first floor in 1930.

Randy Mineo, executive vice president of Core Realty and a Pittsburgh native, envisions a mix of retailers, restaurants and entertainment spots to complement a 155-room Even Hotel and 312 luxury apartments. Named the Grand at Fifth Avenue, the estimated $100 million project will feature an open-air atrium beginning on the fifth floor and 600 parking spaces, a sparse commodity downtown.

“I’ve always looked at Pittsburgh as a hidden gem; it’s a city that has been kind of ignored,” said Mr. Mineo, who with the owner of Core Realty, Michael Samschick, began hunting for properties in the city three years ago. “But you could tell that underneath the surface, Pittsburgh was bubbling...”


Original source: The New York Times
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