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Bella Vista / Italian Market : Development News

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Is a convenience store makeover in Bella Vista a missed opportunity?

On February 10, a large crowd gathered at the Palumbo Recreation Center for a Bella Vista Neighbors Association (BVNA) zoning meeting. On the docket: a potential make-over for the convenience store at Eighth and Bainbridge Streets. The "contemplated application," according to BVNA, would turn the current store into a "Foodery-style eat-in, sit-down restaurant with artisan beer, which would retain some of the current retail use.”

The potential developer didn’t respond to a request for comment, but BVNA Zoning Committee member Jason Lempieri, who was on hand for the meeting, spoke with Flying Kite about the plans, and their limitations.

In short, when he looks at the stone-and-siding mock-up of the new store and its proposed business plan -- which wouldn’t alter the existing one much except for the addition of "artisan beer" to the shelves -- "I yawn," he says. With a surfeit of nearby stores and restaurants where locals can grab a beer, "How are you competing? What makes you different?" he asks.

That might be the case, but the neighborhood does have a dearth of craft-centric bottle shops. Lempieri emphasizes that neighbors do appreciate the store’s current proprietor and the customer service he provides -- many came out to explicitly support the upgrade -- but argues that the surface-level parking lot (very convenient to the business-owner, who wants people to pull in easily for sandwiches and coffee) has been a hazard for a long time.

"Parents say, 'I’m walking my kids and the cars are backing up and it’s really unnerving,' and this is true," he explains. Without a raised curb and sidewalk between the street and the parking lot, "You can pull up wherever you want," and it’s not safe for pedestrians.

There’s no word on whether the proposed redevelopment would remedy this issue, but Lempieri has his own dream for the site, if the proprietor was willing to step a little further from the current business model.

The property is desirable because of that parking lot area, but "you can do more than just parking," he insists. In a perfect world, a new business offering artisan beers alongside the usual food and snack items could convert that space into a beer garden with relatively little up-front investment. That would really be something new for the neighborhood.

Lempieri wishes Philly businesses were in the habit of thinking bigger. Will the ultimate redevelopment of the store result in a new beer garden or something else unique and desirable for the neighborhood?

"I highly doubt it," he admits. "But the neighborhood should demand it."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jason Lempieri, Bella Vista Neighbors Association


Mighty Writers poised to open a new Italian Market space

Last year, when Flying Kite checked in with Philly’s Mighty Writers, a largely volunteer-powered group helmed by director Tim Whitaker, it had just nabbed a $75,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, which it planned to put toward opening a brand-new location in the heart of the Italian Market. That space will house a bilingual program called El Futuro.

Mighty Writers, now in its fifth year of serving youth ages 7 to 17, opened its original space at 15th and Christian Streets, and then a second one at 39th and Lancaster Avenue. Its programming includes mentoring, homework help, after-school sessions, writing classes and SAT prep.

According to Whitaker, former editor of Philadelphia Weekly, Mighty Writers launched a bilingual roster specifically geared toward Philly’s Mexican-American community about two years ago. Attendance at the 15th and Christian location has been enthusiastic and now Mighty Writers is on the cusp of opening a new space in the Italian Market, to better serve participants right in their own neighborhood.

Mighty Writers is hoping to close this week on a building two blocks north of Washington Avenue on 9th Street. The one-story space boasts about 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room for a variety of programming and new offices. After a few renovations, the group hopes to welcome youngsters there as soon as late February.

"There will be workshops for all, though focusing mostly on the Mexican community," says Whitaker. Workshop leaders will teach in both Spanish and English. Currently, Mighty Writers has five full-time employees, two part-timers and dozens of volunteers.

There will also be a daily after-school academy from 3 - 6 p.m., evening writing workshops and additional programming on the weekends.

Whitaker is particularly excited about the new location, flanked by fruit stands, a fish market and racially diverse businesses.   

"It’s really right in the middle of everything, which adds a lot for the kids to write about, a lot for them to see," he says. "It just feels like it’s the right place."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tim Whitaker, Mighty Writers

A facelift could be in the works for Queen Village's historic Fabric Row

Michael Harris has been executive director of the South Street Headhouse District -- the city's second-oldest business improvement district -- for two years now. One of the first things that struck him about the historic stretch of South Fourth Street known as Fabric Row -- which runs between South and Catherine Streets -- was the dated and run-down feel of the strip.

"There are certain basic streetscape elements that are lacking down there," says Harris. "Like trash cans, pedestrian lighting, and places to sit."
Harris was also struck by the fact that many of the new businesses and contemporary boutiques moving into the area are investing in their own properties. Meanwhile, the public elements of Fabric Row, he says, "don't really reflect all the good things that are going on."

And so, along with the Community Design Collaborative, Headhouse District put together a conceptual design for Fabric Row that includes streetscape improvements -- park benches, planters and pedestrian-level lighting, for example. The plan also calls for building façade renovations, an aspect of the project Harris hopes to have funded via the Department of Commerce's Storefront Improvement Program.   
Because construction funds for the proposed improvements haven't yet been raised, there's no official timeline for the plan. At the moment, Headhouse District is still rolling it out to the street's stakeholders and attempting to gauge interest.

"There's a tremendous energy going on along Fourth Street right now," says Harris, adding that Fabric Row today has an amazing mix of businesses both brand-new and generations old. "What we're trying to do is to draw that identity out, and make it more apparent."

Source: Michael Harris, South Street Headhouse District
Writer: Dan Eldridge

The Planning Commission preps new Washington Avenue roadway configuration

Washington Avenue, long a snarl of trucks, pedestrians, vendors and cars heading to I-95, is getting a makeover. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) is halfway through a study of the bustling corridor and plan to reveal a new roadway configuration after the new year. 

In late October, PCPC held their first public meeting to discuss the plan. 

"We had great turnout at the meeting," says PCPC South Philadelphia and transportation planner Jeannette Brugger. "People are very passionate about what happens on Washington Avenue -- it's a very complicated project because there's so much going on on the avenue."

People reserved their strongest input for the section around the Italian Market. It's a stretch of Washington with high foot traffic, and also an area where the bike lane briefly stops (before reappearing at 7th Street). One bicyclist or pedestrian is injured every three weeks due to a crash. Making the bike lane continuous is definitely going to happen, but there are multiple options for how to integrate loading, parking and traffic (you can view all the possibilities here).

"You can't fit everything in," explains Brugger. "If you fit a buffered bike lane in, you might not be able to fit the parking and loading that's needed for the success of the businesses. And that's something we definitely want to promote as well. Another thing I was surprised about, in a good way, was that a lot of folks said the street should be made safer for pedestrians, and that the road should narrowed. Safety is one of our goals in the study."

With all the exciting developments on the waterfront -- including Washington Avenue Green (formerly Pier 53) -- the eastern stretch of Washington should see more foot and bike traffic in the coming years. Though PCPC has to work within the current curb lines, there are still options for making the streetscape more inviting for those visitors. Following a second public meeting, the plans should move forward quickly.

"The goal is to put together striping plans for the Streets Department in the next year-or-two," says Brugger. "Enforcement is what's going to make this new roadway configuration actually work. That's up to Licenses & Inspections, the Parking Authority, the Police Department, the council offices. We can put new alignments down, but if business happens as usual, it won't be as successful as it should be."

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: Jeannette Brugger, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Affordable Italian Market senior housing project puts design first

Just blocks from the Italian Market, Cedars Village, a 64-unit affordable housing development for seniors, is rising in what used to be a surface parking lot. Developed by the St. Maron's CDC and designed by Haley Donovan Architecture, the project offers a case study for delivering affordable housing with modern materials in a historic section of the city.
The project "has been welcomed by the neighborhood for it’s modern, yet contextual response," says Jim Haley, principal at Haley Donovan. "It is one of the few design-heavy affordable housing projects in Philadelphia."
"As with most urban projects, we had to make use of every square foot to make the project work," says Mike Donovan, another principal with the firm.

The architects had to find a balance -- they had to meet certain unit denisty requirements while avoiding designing a generic monolith.
"Our answer was to progressively step the street facing facades up as they moved back, carve out large chunks at the ground level and pay homage to the traditional Philly rowhome," explains Haley. "It allowed us to respect the history of the area, while still providing a solution that was dense enough for our client."
That was just the first of many design solutions the team came up with.
The site plan concessions called for 100 percent stormwater retention on site, something not easily done on an urban parcel. The designers used a building step back to create a private green roof. This helped them reach that 100 percent mark while also providing an added amenity for residents.
The project -- which was resurrected after years of dormancy through collaboration between developers, architects and community leaders -- is aiming for a spring completion date.
Source:  Mike Donovan and Jim Haley, Principals, Jeffrey Pastva, Architect, Haley Donovan Architecture
WriterGreg Meckstroth

City still encouraging homeowners to apply for proposed Homestead Exemption tax break

The City of Philadelphia's Actual Value Initiative (AVI) might be on hold until next fiscal year, but it is still banking on real estate tax relief in the form of proposed Homestead Exemption legislation. Homeowners must apply by July 31, 2012, and the only requirement for acceptance into the program is that the you must own your home and live in it. It's actually a very simple process. On July 1, says Marisa Waxman, Office of Property Assessment, Philadelphia homeowners will receive a pre-printed application, so there's no need to take action until then.

"It's a tax relief program that already exists in every other county in the Commonwealth," says Waxman, who points out that other efforts both statewide and nationwide are often far more complicated.

Age, income and length of homeownership do not figure into eligibility. Here's how it works: you will pay taxes on the value of your home minus $30,000.  For example, if a home is assessed at a value of $100,000 and there is a $30,000 Homestead Exemption,  a homeowner would only pay taxes based on $70,000 compared with the actual value of $100,000.

"The City is currently undertaking a reassessment which will value properties at their market value. For residential properties, the comparable sales method is utilized in most cases. For commercial properties, the income/expense method is utilized in most," explains Waxman. 

It does not matter if your home is worth $1 million or $80,000. You still get that flat $30,000 discount. Waxman says the greatest benefit will be for those with lower value homes. "It's the simplest program on the planet once we get it up and running."

The homestead real estate tax exclusion will be available for properties located within the City of Philadelphia when legislation is passed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a City of Philadelphia ordinance also has to go into effect. But city officials are encouraging residents to apply now, as it can help reduce the taxable assessed value used for calculation of a tax bill by a proposed $30,000. 
Even if part of a primary residence is used as a home office or a rental property, a property owner may still be eligible to benefit from the Homestead Exemption for the percentage of the property that functions as the primary residence. 
Following approval, there's no need to reapply unless the deed to the home changes.

Applications received after the deadline for this year will be considered for tax year 2014. Those who are approved in this initial round will be notified in the fall of 2012, pending passage of AVI.

Source: Marisa Waxman, Office of Property Assessment, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Local group lobbying to cultivate Triangle Park between Queen Village and Bella Vista

About a month ago, Flying Kite told you about a pocket park in Pennsport that was made possible through the charity of a developer. Just a few miles north and west of that is another potential community park, Triangle Park, which straddles Queen Village and Bella Vista. However, it is a decidedly different story with this park, as the Friends of Triangle Park have been unsuccessfully trying to wrestle control away from a private owner for some time. In the process, they have generated considerable political and neighborhood support for community green space.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) has extended an offer to purchase the park, but has not heard back from the owner, says Joel Palmer, head of the Friends of Triangle Park (FOTP). The main problem with the site is that it likely will need some remediation, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). "The only fly in the ointment is what are the requirements to satisfy DEP and who is gonna (sic) foot the bill," says Palmer. The Friends have no idea how much the bill is, but know it's enough for the owner to not want to pay.

Friends of Triangle Park currently aren't sure if the developer, Stuart Schlaffman who owns Condom Kingdom and The Mood on South St., wants to try to put a building on the parcel or is willing to hand the property over to the PRA. Schlaffman was initially happy to let the Friends clean up the park. However, he has recently encapsulated the park with a security fence to keep people out. In Palmer's opinion, the owner of the property has "a better chance to catch polio" than be able to sell the property, thanks to all of the DEP's regulations.   

Palmer says there is massive support for maintaining Triangle Park as green space. He says state senator Larry Farnese, district councilman Mark Squilla, and incoming state representative Brian Sims have all vowed support for Triangle Park. In addition, countless neighbors support the community park. Palmer would know, as he's the former president of the Bella Vista Town Watch

The park is at 601 Christian St, and is named for its triangle shape between the intersection of Passyunk Ave., 6th St., and Christian St. It's on a popular block, as a new residence is being constructed across the street at 606 Christian and the popular Shot Tower Coffeehouse opened at 542 Christian a little over a year ago. The triangle used to house a gas station, hence the need for environmental remediation.  

Source: Joel Palmer, Friends of Triangle Park
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Photo courtesy of Friends of Triangle Park   

With success on the ground, Center City looks up for more office jobs, high-rise renovations

There are some richly exciting things happening with Center City residential, commercial, and transportation development, but there are also areas that beg for improvement. This was one of the takeaways from last week's panel, "The Next Cycle of Downtown Development," held by the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC).  The program was moderated by CPDC and Center City District executive director Paul Levy, and featured executives at Liberty Property Trust, Brandywine Realty Trust, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), and the Parkway Corporation.

Levy delivered opening remarks that ought to have provoked optimism. These remarks served to preface the release of the Center City District's "State of Center City Report," which is expected this week. Levy defines the "Center City core" as being the neighborhoods between Vine and Pine St., while he ambitiously defines "Center City extended" as being the communities between Girard Ave. and Tasker St. Levy reports that residential prices in the "extended" Center City zone are quite healthy, with the average value being $310,446. 

The opening remarks contained more points of pride for those who live, work, take classes, shop, or play in the extended downtown. Levy saysthis area is second to only New York City in terms of the number of "cultural institutions." He adds that the hospitality sector is performing strongly in Center City, as job growth in this field "is outpacing the suburbs." Finally, Levy is ecstatic that sustainable transportation is becoming a more and more appealing alternative to driving for downtown inhabitants, as 74% of Center City "core" residents commute to work without a car.  

While the executive director's remarks accentuated the positives in both the core and extended parts of Center City, they also drew attention to the area's bleeding of high-rise office jobs. Levy says that 39% of private sector jobs in Center City are in office buildings, which is the highest percent of private sector employment. Even with population growth in Philadelphia and its suburbs, these Center City offices continue to lose jobs, even while offices in Radnor, Great Valley, and elsewhere are gaining positions.

After Levy wrapped up his report, the executives on the panel began discussing how the city can draw more office jobs. John Gattuso, the senior VP and regional director at Liberty Property Trust, hinted at a new office high-rise to be proposed within the next couple of years. He also mentioned that Three Franklin Plaza, which currently houses GlaxoSmithKline, will be undergoing a "significant" $30 million renovation, with the installation of new bathrooms and elevators, for when Glaxo moves out. This anticipates the building at 18th and Race "will be coming to market in 2014," says Gattuso.   

Joseph Coradino, president of PREIT, also imparted some nuggets of hope on the audience. While he spent considerable time talking about PREIT's suburban development, such as at the Cherry Hill Mall, he also said good things were in store for PREIT's Gallery at Market East. He said Philadelphia Media Network's move to 8th and Market coupled with the new digital sign allowance for Market East could signal a rebirth for the beleaguered strip. He expressed a desire to "activate The Gallery at the street level," which would mean opening sidewalk cafes at the mall. 

Sources: Paul Levy, Central Philadelphia Development Corporation; John Gattuso, Liberty Property Trust; Joseph Coradino, PREIT
Writer: Andy Sharpe

New pedestrian advocacy group's agenda includes improving intersections

When it comes to sustainable transportation around Philadelphia, pedestrians have been without an active group speaking on their behalf since PhillyWalks ended about a decade ago. While bicyclists have enjoyed advocacy from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and mass transit riders have been represented by the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, pedestrians have not found a similar voice recently. That is, until now. The Clean Air Council has just formed a pedestrian advocacy group, and is in the process of creating an agenda for those who travel with two feet on the pavement.

This new group, dubbed the "Pedestrian Advocacy Project," has met twice so far and has crowdsourced its agenda through the hundreds of people who are on its listserv, according to Dennis Winters, a trails associate at the Council who is leading the project. Winters says e-mail participants indicated the biggest problem facing pedestrians is that "red-green lights (are) not synced right." In other words, traffic lights around the Philadelphia area often favor motorists over pedestrians.

At the project’s second meeting, the 10 or so attendees largely agreed with the e-mail survey. They discussed intersections in Philadelphia, such as 20th and JFK Blvd., that are not as pedestrian-friendly as they believe they should be. Attendees arrived at the conclusion that pedestrian countdown signals and corresponding traffic lights should be re-timed to equalize the playing field between drivers and walkers. By the end of the evening, a committee had formed to study pedestrian countdown signals, and how they could be improved.

One prevailing question for the nascent advocacy group is whether pedestrian countdown signals themselves are to blame for diminishing the pedestrian experience, or whether bad behavior on the part of motorists is to blame. Deborah Schaaf, an employee of the City Planning Commission and a walker herself, says that police enforcement of aggressive driving had to be cut short due to lack of funds. In fact, police overtime money that was supposed to go to the "Give respect, get respect" campaign targeting vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian infractions instead went to Occupy Philly coverage.

The Pedestrian Advocacy Project’s online members also indicated that the presence of outdoor seating and other obstructions blocking sidewalks, traffic laws not being adequately enforced, and aggressive drivers turning left were other impediments for pedestrians. Most members of the listserv attended the Academy of Natural Sciences forum "Walkability: Philadelphia Strides into the Future," which was where the pedestrian advocacy group was unveiled. Given that just about everyone in Philadelphia walks, even if it is just to get to their car or train, this group could help a lot of people.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dennis Winters

Proposed townhouses could relieve pain point at 12th and Lombard

While the residential neighborhood around it has taken off, the intersection of 12th and Lombard has found itself caught in the chokehold of The Pain Center.  The Pain Center was a medical facility recently shut down after a grand jury investigation revealed the doctors had been defrauding insurance companies out of $5 million. Yet, a local developer seems to have some non-painful news for the area, as he hopes to convert the facility into six townhouses. 

The community seems intrigued by developer Virgil Procaccino’s preliminary plans to tear down The Pain Center and build single-family units, says David Fante, VP for planning and development at the Washington Square West Civic Association (WSWCA).  Fante reports that Procaccino went in front of the civic association’s Zoning and Governmental Affairs committee in early March with some plans. The committee seems impressed. The "townhouses are well-designed, attractive, and in keeping with the residential scale of the neighborhood," says Fante.

While WSWCA’s committee was generally excited about Procaccino’s plans, they did have a few recommendations. Fante says they felt as though the developer should reduce the building’s height in accordance with the city’s new zoning code and offer a gate to provide access to the complex’s proposed parking lot. Fante is happy to say that the developer seems ready to accept the recommendations. 

Fante and other members of the civic association are breathing a sigh of relief that something will be done with The Pain Center. Fante complains about the drug-dealing and prostitution that have moved to 12th and Lombard in the wake of the building’s closure.  Also, he sees litter and a lack of activity in front of the building as problems. Fante adds that new residential would lead to enhanced street lighting and increase the neighborhood’s density, which he sees as a good thing. 

If you have an opinion on The Pain Center re-development, make sure to attend a future WSWCA meeting.  The Zoning and Governmental Affairs Committee meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at Jefferson University, while the overall Board meets the second Tuesday of every month in the same location.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: David Fante, Washington Square West Civic Association

Philly has 2,500 acres for urban farming, crop value of $10M-plus, says Green Space Alliance study

The Pennsylvania Convention Center Annex was filled with the redolent scents of artisanal cheese, creamy gelato, freshly-baked bread and biscotti, and premium steeped tea last Sunday. These scents formed the aromatic calling card for the Philly Farm and Food Fest, which was co-organized by Fair Food and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). One of the highlights of the convention was a panel discussion on the Green Space Alliance’s recent study “Transforming open space to sustainable farm enterprises.”

The panel discussion started with an outline of Green Space Alliance’s (GSA’s) findings, which include recommendations on public outreach, zoning and planning, and urban areas. One of the chief findings is that GSA should extend an arm to local governments, land trusts, and conservancies to generate knowledge about sustainable farming. Under zoning, the study concludes that specific ordinance definitions should be drafted, says Justin Keller, an architect with Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, which prepared the study for GSA. 

Finally, the study advises that incentives be created for urban farms that bolster stormwater management through the elimination of impervious surfaces. It specifically pinpoints urban farms as sources of sorely-needed nourishment in food deserts and job creators in neighborhoods with rampant unemployment. GSA found that the city of Philadelphia has nearly 2,500 acres that can be used for farming, which could yield a crop value between $6.4 and $10.8 million, says Peter Simone, also an architect with Simone Collins.

After Simone Collins presented the study, three panelists offered conference-goers some feedback. Nic Esposito, who farms at East Kensington’s Emerald St. Urban Farm, is interested in the study’s examination of municipal land, as his farm is owned by three different city agencies. While the study looks at both CSAs and farms that donate food, Esposito makes sure to mention that Emerald St. donates all the food it generates from chickens and bees. He also adds that Councilwoman Sanchez and Councilman Green’s land bank resolution in City Council would be an asset for urban farming on vacant land.

Another panelist was Joan Blaustein, chair of the Philadelphia Food Policy Council and a director in the city’s department of Parks and Recreation. Blaustein, who grows food in her own backyard garden, emphasizes the practical nature of urban gardening. Urban gardens “should satisfy the social needs of people in the city,” says Blaustein. She proceeds to give the city a pat on the back for emphasizing urban farms in its Greenworks plan and mentioning it in its new zoning code

The third panelist was Fred DeLong, a project director at the Willistown Conservation Trust and Rushton Farm in Chester County. DeLong differs from the other panelists in that his farm certainly isn’t urban. Nonetheless, he has a similar goal to the study and his fellow panelists. “Willistown Conservation Trust wants to connect people to the land,” says DeLong. He adds that within the trust is the Rushton Farm, which is a natural community-supported agriculture (CSA) within an 80-acre nature preserve.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Justin Keller, Peter Simone, Nic Esposito, Joan Blaustein, and Fred DeLong, panelists at Philly Farm and Food Fest

Illustration courtesy of Philly Farm and Food Fest   

Liberty Bike Share builds support, strategy to introduce long-awaited bike sharing program

What do New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, Spartanburg SC, and Hollywood FL all have in common? Hopefully you’ll have an answer by the time I’m finished with this sentence. If you don’t, these are all East Coast cities that offer bike sharing. Notice that Philadelphia is not in there. With this in mind, a team from the University of Pennsylvania is looking to put our city on par with the likes of Spartanburg by establishing Liberty Bike Share, which aims to bring bike sharing to Center City, University City, South Philly, and the Temple University-area.

Liberty Bike Share is the product of three Masters degree candidates at UPenn who closely analyzed the 2010 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) “Philadelphia Bike Share Concept Study,” says Dylan Hayden, who’s helping to organize the bike share concept. Hayden says Liberty is hoping to make 2,500-2,700 bicycles available to be shared at a cost of abougt $15 million. He adds that Liberty has the support of the Center City District and certain members of City Council. At this point, his group is waiting for the city’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) to issue an RFP. 

As is usually the case, the cost of setting up operations is one of the biggest challenges Liberty faces. Hayden emphasizes that his team is looking to solicit pledges from local hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and other private sector entities willing to chip in. He does admit that securing financial contributions in the Philadelphia-area can be “like squeezing a turnip.” On this note, MOTU has identified the up-front costs of bike sharing as one of its biggest worries. 

Hayden says his team hopes to implement Liberty Bike Share in two phases, with the first concentrating on Center and University Cities and the second extending the program up to Temple. Liberty has two companies in mind, Alta and B-Cycle, to operate the bike share. Alta operates the bike sharing programs in New York City, D.C., and Boston, while B-Cycle is responsible for bike sharing in Spartanburg, Chicago, Denver, and elsewhere. Hayden envisions charging members an annual fee of anywhere between $75 and $90.

The UPenn team hopes Liberty Bike Share will complement mass transit in Philadelphia. “We’re looking to deal with last-mile issues,” says Hayden, who’s talking about the distance between a transit or rail stop and someone’s final destination. Indeed, the Penn senior envisions a future where someone can (as an example) take a train to Market East Station and share a bike to get to their final destination. Hayden hopes to work with SEPTA to incorporate bike sharing in with their upcoming New Payment Technology.

Locally, only one borough offers bike sharing. That would be Pottstown, a borough with around 22,000 people in Western Montgomery County. Bike Pottstown, Pottstown's bike sharing program, is run by Zagster, which launched its bike sharing consultancy in Philadelphia under the name CityRyde before moving to Cambridge, Mass last year. Bike Pottstown is a free bike share, which has filled the streets of the borough with 15 eye-snatching yellow bicycles. 

Hayden is unequivocal about the benefits of bike sharing. “Bike sharing is a policy Swiss army knife,” he says. By this, he means it ameliorates a host of policy issues, including healthcare, sustainability, and mobility. He also says that the city already has much of the infrastructure in place to support bike sharing, including the 215 miles of bike lanes he cites. Bike sharing would provide Philadelphia an opportunity to catch up to other American cities, large and small.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dylan Hayden, Liberty Bike Share

Olive Townhomes will offer a taste of LEED next to the Italian Market

If you’ve savored some French cuisine at Bibou, inhaled some hot chocolate at Rim Café, or purchased a wedge of cheese from DiBruno Brothers, you know that South Philly’s Italian Market is a delicious neighborhood.

How would you like to live next to the Italian Market? In fact, you might be able to find a sustainable townhouse in the Italian Market neighborhood later this year, as CITYSPACE Realty is selling four soon-to-be-built sustainable townhomes.

Rachel Reilly, a listing agent for CITYSPACE, anticipates construction to begin on the Olive Townhomes in four to six weeks. As has been the trend with some new residential construction in Philadelphia, the townhomes will be built using modular construction. “Since these homes are modular instead of stick-built, the first phase of construction begins in a controlled warehouse setting, and then the boxes are delivered and stacked on site,” explains Reilly. She says that the construction period will last for four months, with construction of the final three units hinging on how quickly they go off the market.

One of the most notable features of Olive Townhomes will be its minimal footprint on the environment. Reilly makes it clear that she expects the townhomes to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold, which is the second highest LEED certification possible. According to the agent, the development will be the first LEED Gold multi-unit complex in Bella Vista. The environmentally friendly features that are planned include Energy Star appliances, bamboo flooring, low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, and roofs that can accommodate solar panels. 

Reilly adds that the location itself, on the 800-block of Carpenter St., is sustainable because of its walkability and access to mass transit. “It's steps to a slew of great restaurants (many of the BYOs), the Italian Market, great coffee shops, boutiques, and public transportation,” she exclaims. In addition it’s a manageable walk to and from Passyunk Avenue shops. Nearby mass transit options include the Routes 23, 47, and 47M buses, along with the Broad Street Subway. 

The three biggest townhomes will be 2,690 square feet apiece, each containing 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths. Each townhome will include four stories, with an outdoor patio, large windows, and the option of adding a fireplace. The fourth townhome will be 2,540 sq. ft., with a basement, deck, and fireplace. The four townhomes will surround a lush outdoor courtyard. Single-car parking will be on-site for two of the residences, while the other two townhomes will have parking at a lot a block away. CITYSPACE’s Rachel Reilly is listing the property along with Sarah Robertson. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Rachel Reilly, CITYSPACE Realty

MOVING PICTURE: The Roots Mural is Coming Home to South Street

The Roots are officially coming home.

At a press conference last week, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program announced The Roots Mural Project will live at 6th and South Streets in the Headhouse District where the band was founded.

The mural will tell the story of The Roots, especially Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson and Tariq Black Thought Trotter's founding of the group.

The artistic team was also announced. The Amber Design Collective team features Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, David Guinn, Ernel Martinez, Charles Barbin, Willis Humphrey and Keir Johnston. The Roots Mural will be across the street from the Mural Arts mural Mapping Courage: Honoring the Legacy of WEB Dubois and Engine 11, which was painted by Humphrey.

The design will be finalized in the spring, when mural painting will begin. The mural is expected to be dedicated in October, which is Mural Arts Month.



Courtesy of the Roots and the Mural Arts Program

Senator working to give old South Philly Armory more local control to make way for redevelopment

For the past few decades, a mammoth building has sat decomposing on South Broad St., in a neighborhood that has otherwise been a beacon for redevelopment. This building is the former Third Regiment Armory at Broad and Wharton, which was last used by the National Guard in the 1980s. Since that time, the building has lay relatively dormant, embroiled in a dispute between the state Department of General Services and the local Tolentine Community Center and Development Corporation. Yet, state Senator Larry Farnese is hoping to change this, and spur redevelopment of the building.

Farnese recently authored Senate Bill 1368, which calls on the state to give Tolentine more control over the Armory by removing onerous restrictions. Tony Mannino, chief of staff for Sen. Farnese, says that the state Department of General Services mandated that the Armory could only be used for community services and could not be sold. Thus, the state senator wants to see these restrictions removed.

According to Mannino, one of the main problems with the Armory is that Tolentine doesn't have the money to adequately fix it up. "The condition of the building is so bad," admits Mannino. This includes the floors on the Broad St.-side of the building, which have partially collapsed. Ostensibly, the state didn't even grasp how poor the condition of the building was. "The building is in a more deteriorated condition than the Department of General Services had previously understood it to be," Mannino adds. 

Still, Farnese's office says the building is structurally sound to the best of their knowledge. Tolentine Community Center has been working with the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections in recent years, and made substantial repairs to the Armory's roof in early 2011. 

While Farnese wants to clear a path to re-development for the Third Regiment Armory, there has yet to be a solid plan as to what the rebirth should look like. "We want a re-development consistent with good use for the community," says Mannino. Mannino offers a revelation when he says the parcel seems to be zoned R-10A, which means residential. So, parties will likely have to pursue a variance for anything else. 

Apparently, Farnese's office has only had preliminary meetings with the Passyunk Square Civic Association and South Broad Street Neighbors about the Armory so far. They're currently concentrating on getting SB 1368 passed in the state Senate and House, so thoughts of how specifically to redevelop the space will have to come later. The bottom line is, Farnese is "trying to balance the interests of the community, state, and Tolentine," says Mannino. Hopefully, this balance will lead to further re-development on S. Broad sooner rather than later. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Tony Mannino, Sen. Farnese's Office
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