| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Fairmount / Art Museum : Development News

46 Fairmount / Art Museum Articles | Page: | Show All

A pop-up pool in Francisville jazzes up summer

When Philadelphia Parks & Recreation deputy of programs Leo Dignam first heard that the Francisville Recreation Center was in the running for a Knight Cities Challenge grant for a pop-up pool, he was confused.

"At first I was like, what do you mean, a pop-up pool?" he recalls. "A pool’s a pool. That pool’s been there for 30 years. What do you mean by that?"

Benjamin Bryant, director of planning and design at Group Melvin Design, actually came up with idea of a pop-up pool project and submitted the proposal to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. When Bryant found out his idea was in the running for a grant out of the $5 million Knight Cities Challenge pot, he contacted Parks & Rec to find out if they were interested.

They were. The Francisville Pop-Up Pool Project took a formerly bare urban space and transformed it with a custom-designed lounge deck, canopies, new landscaping, an outdoor play space adjacent to the pool, and weekly aqua yoga and Zumba classes.

The idea ultimately received a $297,000 grant from Knight -- this year’s pop-up is a pilot (completed with the help of the Sikora Wells Appel landscape architecture firm as well as Group Melvin Design) -- and the money will fund two more city pop-up pools over the next two years, in addition to the Francisville space.

"It turned out to be an eye-opener for me," explains Dignam. The first consideration at a pool is safety for the kids, he explains, which can mean plain pool decks and a rather "sterile" environment without a lot of appeal outside of the water. The improvements to the space brought in more adults to the park (meaning better supervision for the youngsters, a plus for everyone).

"This seems to be a step in the right direction," enthuses Dignam. "I’ve been in the department for 34 years and it’s neat to see the pools being used by everybody.”

He thinks that as other neighborhoods get a look at the project, they’ll become interested in the possibilities for their own pools. The Francisville pop-up pool will be open through August 22.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Leo Dignam, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Over $8 million from the William Penn Foundation jump-starts region's trails

Creating a new trail is about more than just drawing up an idea and laying down the surface, says Chris Linn, who manages the Office of Environmental Planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). But a grant from the William Penn Foundation -- $7 million over three years -- will enable DVRPC and its partners at the Circuit Coalition, a consortium of almost 70 organizations, including non-profits, foundations and various public agencies in the greater Philadelphia region, to move forward with ambitious plans for local public space.

Launched in 2012, the Circuit Coalition, which has already worked to build 300 miles of multi-use trails connecting urban and suburban centers to nearby parks and waterways, hopes to complete 450 more miles by the year 2040. (For a map of Circuit trails and their status, click here.)

According to a DVRPC statement, $1.6 million over three years from the William Penn Foundation will also go to Circuit partner Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, raising public awareness for the Circuit’s network of trails, which, when completed, will be "the most comprehensive regional trail network in the country," says Conservancy president Keith Laughlin.

Most of the DVRPC William Penn dollars will go toward engineering and design of new trails.

"Before any trail project can be constructed, you have to prepare engineering drawings, and they’re not cheap," says Linn.

They include things like grading, retaining walls and bridges -- and these are just a few of the issues trail designers in our region contend with.

Does the trail meet a road? The Circuit needs to interface with PennDOT on proper signage, crossings and lights. Does it follow a disused railroad or cross a former industrial site? You have to check with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and deal with soil contamination from things like coal, heavy metals, PCBs or other toxins.

And who owns the land?

"You can’t just walk out and build a trail on land that’s owned by a private person or a company or a railroad, so you have to secure the right-of-way," explains Linn.

These are all issues that are anticipated, met and resolved in the design and engineering phase of a trail, which Linn estimates at about 20 percent of the total cost of any given project. So the Penn Foundation grant is no small thing for the Circuit’s vision. With so many miles of Circuit trails throughout nearby counties vying for design or completion, it’s pretty competitive when it comes to funding.

"When we have money in hand, we want to fund projects that we know aren’t going to get hung up on problems, and if a project is designed, we know what we’re dealing with," Linn insists. "[A well-designed trail] basically moves to the front of the pack in terms of being eligible or being desirable for any kind of construction funding."

"Philadelphia is blessed with some great parks," he adds, but it’s "glass half empty" in some ways, because many parts of the city don’t have easy access to large parks or trails.

DVRPC and the Circuit want to change that within 25 years. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Chris Linn, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Skateboarding role models honored at the first annual Paine's Park fundraiser

On the first evening of October, as the sun slowly descended over Paine's Park, a group of onlookers gathered to watch dozens of skaters grind and kick-flip their way through the 16-month-old, $4.5 million skateboard park, located just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway adjacent to the Schuylkill River.
Nearby, skateboarding supporters mingled between an open bar and a silent auction featuring skateboard decks, hotel packages and skate-themed art.
The occasion was Street Level, the inaugural fundraising and skate-culture event benefiting the Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund. The organization is responsible for constructing free public skateparks throughout the city, including Paine's Park. Perhaps more importantly, Franklin's Paine works to empower skateboarders through various community engagement programs and advocacy efforts.
"The [organization's] focus for so long was about concrete and bricks," says Franklin's Paine Executive Director Josh Dubin, explaining the genesis of the event, which featured skating demos and a deejay. "But now that it's built, we needed an event that celebrated the people who skate, and all the benefits that come to a community when it supports and nurtures skateboarding as a dynamic force."
The proceeds raised by the event will be folded back into the nonprofit organization's fund; Franklin's Paine is currently working to build a skatepark in Nicetown. But as Dubin pointed out, the most crucial aspect of the shindig was its focus "on the places skateboarding can take you if that passion is nurtured and supported."     
A number of skateboarding role models were recognized, including Joel Zwicky, a Wisconsin police officer who patrols on a longboard, and Skateistan Founder Oliver Percovich, who uses the sport to positively affect the lives of disenfranchised youth in developing countries.
Visit Franklin's Paine online to make a donation.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Josh Dubin, Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund 

Ambitious Mural Arts project adds color to everyday Amtrak journeys

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

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


Tela's Market opens on Fairmount Avenue, adding another asset to the blossoming neighborhood

Over the course of the last decade, the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation has been extremely active. After working to eradicate blight, cut down on crime and bring affordable housing to the neighborhood (located just east of Fairmount and north of Spring Garden), the organization had pivoted towards economic development. The recent opening of Tela's Market & Kitchen at 1833 Fairmount Ave. is the most recent marker of their success.

Developer Daniel Greenberg and Chef Chad Williams (formerly of Jose Garces' Amada and Chifa) partnered to create the artisanal grocery and café. Canno Design's Gabrielle Canno and Carey Jackson Yonce (who also designed Wishbone in University City) created a warm and intimate feel in a single high-ceilinged room by carving out sections for multiple uses. A counter with prepared foods anchors the space, with seating for the made-to-order counter along the windows, and refrigerated cases along the back walls. 

Greenberg, who has lived in Spring Garden with his wife and two young children for the past five years, saw a need for fresh food in the area, and set his sights on a lot that had been vacant for more than 20 years. Greenberg pursued the project because of his passion for the area.

"I am a lifelong Philadelphia resident," he says. "And I think each great neighborhood should have a smaller, more neighborhood-scale specialty market... I started construction on the building in December of 2012. All ground-up construction in the city presents its unique set of challenges, and this project was no exception."

According to Greenberg, the neighborhood has been supportive of Tela's; the market is already drawing repeat customers. Several of the employees live in adjacent neighborhoods, including Francisville, Spring Garden, Fairmount and Brewerytown.

Greenberg's next project in the area will be even more ambitious -- he plans to break ground on a large commercial space with residential units at 1720 Fairmount Avenue in Spring 2014.  

"I am committed to this neighborhood, and look forward to identifying future development opportunities," he says.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Dan Greenberg, Tela's Market and Kitchen

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) proposed for four major subway stops

This Wednesday at the final Central District Plan Public Open House, city planners will officially announce big changes for four of the city’s central subway stops.
The stations -- the Fairmount and Lombard-South stops along the Broad Street Line, and the Spring Garden and Girard stops on the Market-Frankford Line -- will each be covered by a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) overlay district, a zoning tool that encourages higher densities and use diversity within walking distance of transit stations.
Brand new to the Philly planning scene, the TOD districts are being implemented through the Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan district planning process.
TOD is a common tool used by urban planners to encourage development around transit assets in an effort to build walkable, pedestrian-oriented cities. According to Central District Plan Manager Laura Spina, the four stops were chosen because development potential around them is high and surrounding land is somewhat underutilized. The Girard stop, for example, currently attracts auto-oriented development such as drive-thrus and surface parking lots. 

These sites were also chosen because their base zoning lends itself to a TOD overlay. Plus, major commerical corridors run through each stop -- an ideal situation for restricting curb cuts and encouraging pedestrian-oriented development.

In addition to higher densities and more mixed-use development, affordable housing will likely be a big component of TOD around each stop. "The overlays include incentives for affordable housing," says Spina. "Access to transit is particularly important for elderly and low-income populations."

Spina says the four locations are tentative and could change depending on public feedback at the Open House on Wednesday, February 27 (5 - 7:30 p.m. at City Hall).

From there, barring any major hiccups, the Central District Plan and newly minted TOD overlays will be adopted by the Planning Commission by June.

According to Spina, TOD won’t stop there -- this zoning tool is likely to play a large role in future district plans.

Source:  Laura Spina, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

"More Park, Less Way" says action plan for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Over the last 15 years, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway undergone dramatic changes. New museums, bike lanes, trees and pop-up cafes have all been added to the iconic Philly boulevard. 

On February 4, the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation will unveil their latest plan for the Parkway: "More Park, Less Way: An Action Plan to Increase Urban Vibrancy on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway." 
Since last Spring, Parks and Recreation -- in conjunction with Penn Praxis and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement -- has been working with the community to develop guiding principles for low cost, big impact improvement projects that can be implemented in the short-term. Four community meetings were held in late July.

According to Patrick Morgan, chief of staff to Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis, that information was incredibly influential in devising the final plan. "The planning process was guided and informed by citizens," he says. "We heard a lot of exciting ideas." Those ideas included adding more pedestrian amenities, improving connections to surrounding neighborhoods, greening improvements and increasing accessibility.

More details will be announced at the plan’s unveiling, which will be held at the Academy of Natural Sciences (1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway) at 5:30 p.m.
If you’d like to attend the event, please RSVP to [email protected].

Source: Patrick Morgan, chief of staff to Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Project H.O.M.E. brings TOD, affordable housing to Francisville via new construction

JBJ Soul Homes, formerly known as Fairmount Gardens, unofficially broke ground in early October at the intersection of Fairmount and Ridge Avenues in Francisville.  And two weeks from today an official groundbreaking ceremony with Mayor Nutter and Jon Bon Jovi will commemorate the construction of a new project that is being heralded as one of the most important along the burgeoning North Broad Corridor and promises to act as a catalyst for future investment. 
So why all the excitement over JBJ Soul Homes?  “It’s the ultimate win-win,” says Joan McCann of Project H.O.M.E , the non-profit homeless advocacy group behind the new four-story, 75,000+ square foot facility.  “The project brings together affordable housing, mostly geared towards the homeless, office space for Project H.O.M.E, and retail space for the neighborhood.”   Make that a win-win-win.   
Specifically, the facility will include 47 efficiency apartments and eight one-bedrooms, minimal parking due to the nearby subway stop, and 12,000 square feet of retail space that can accommodate one user or be split into three spaces.    
Laura Weinbaum of Project H.O.M.E says the group had their eye on the tract of land for a long time and wanted to build affordable housing there.  “We wanted affordable housing in close proximity to our offices at 1515 Fairmount Avenue and thought this site was perfect.  The Fairmount health center is nearby, the subway is right there and the neighborhood has a lot of amenities to offer.”
So they approached another prominent non-profit in the neighborhood, People For People, which owned the land. “They didn’t want to sell the land, but agreed to lease it to us so long as the project included retail space that catered to the needs of the community,” explains Weinabum who says as part of the agreement, People For People will manage the retail space.      
Weinbaum says one of the goals of the retail space is to re-establish Fairmount and Ridge Avenues as commercial corridors in Francisville.  To that effect, the commercial storefronts will be located on the first floor of the building along both Ridge and Fairmount Avenues and Ridge Avenue and Fifteenth Street, and is expected to establish a strong visual gateway into the neighborhood.    
The official groundbreaking ceremony is taking place Tuesday, Nov. 13th, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  After that Weinbaum expects construction should last for roughly one year and be open sometime next fall or early winter.

Source: Joan McCann and Laura Weinbaum, Project H.O.M.E.
WriterGreg Meckstroth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Benjamin Franklin Parkway Action Plan aims to improve pedestrian experience, connectivity

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is one of Philadelphia’s most famous and beloved stretches of street.  And for good reason: aside from its name, which reminds us of one of Philly’s most admired citizens and America’s most important founders, the boulevard connects some of the most important arts and cultural institutions in the City.  
In an attempt to elevate its pedestrian experience and neighborhood amenities with its already high cultural offerings, the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation, in conjunction with Penn Praxis and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, is putting together an Action Plan to improve the Parkway's overall appeal.  
Between July 23-31, community meetings will be held to discuss improvements, programs, and projects that the public would like to see along the Parkway.  “Since we are just starting the planning process, we are very open to being informed by the process and by the public,” explained Patrick Morgan, Chief of Staff to Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis.  But with that said, Morgan notes than the Action Plan is being directed by a few guiding principles, placing emphasis on actionable items and projects that can be attained within the next few years.
And with Parks and Rec and Penn Praxis fueling this effort, expect real, tangible results to come from the process. “The great thing about this planning effort is that ideas that are generated out of it have a structure and core groups of leaders to help actually make them happen,” explains Morgan.    
According to Morgan, the Parks and Recreation Department has already been working on humanizing the pedestrian experience along the Parkway.  Improvements thus far have included better pedestrian crossings, new bike lanes, and new street trees.  Amenities, such as pop-up playspaces, new concessions, and bike rentals, have also recently been added.  And right smack-dab in the middle of the Parkway, Logan Square’s beautiful new Sister Cities Park offers a great model for what can be attained along the rest of the street. The Action Plan aims to compliment these successes, and take the Parkway’s pedestrian experience to new heights.  
The Action Plan will help bring definition to the Parkway’s main function, something that has been in a constant state of flux. Created in 1917, the Parkway is the City’s most prominent example of the City Beautiful Movement, an early 1900s urban planning idea that aimed to introduce open spaces, boulevards, and greenery into American cities, places seen as dingy, dirty, and crowded at the time.  The Parkway was originally modeled after the Champs d’Elysees but has instead become the center of some of Philly’s most important arts and cultural institutions.
This contrast explains why the Parkway has struggled to define itself.  Is it an open space first, an against-the-grain thoroughfare meant to get from Point A to B, a tourist mecca for art lovers, an active urban Parkway?  Pedestrian and connectivity improvements are a must in any urban environment; this is a given.  And its great the Action Plan aims to improve these features.  But what is the Parkway’s central function, and how flexible is it going to be to achieve that end?  This needs to be the first question answered during the Plan’s community outreach process so that any improvement or programmable amenity that is implemented goes towards an overarching purpose in defining the Parkway’s future.
To attend one of these meetings and make your opinions heard, RSVP to [email protected].  All meetings run from 6:30-8:30, with registration beginning at 6:00.  The first meeting was already held on Monday, July 23 at the Francisville Recreation Center.  But don’t fret, three additional meeting will be held over the next week.  For questions on the locations, contact Penn Project for Civic Engagement at 215-898-1112.       

Source: Mike DiBerardinis, Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

PRA looking to re-develop land in bustling Francisville

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) has begun the process of marketing an 18,500-square foot parcel of land in the fast-growing Francisville neighborhood. The parcel, which is on the 1700-block of Folsom St. and is zoned R (Residential)-10, currently consists of vacant land, which is located next to three Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) houses, and one market-rate residence, says Leigh Jones, a project manager within the PRA. The current residences could represent a further development opportunity.  A pre-submission conference was held last week to interested developers and community groups.

“We’re really excited about the Francisville neighborhood,” says Jones, who adds that it’s five blocks from the Fairmount Broad Street Subway Station and near parks and green space. In addition, it’s situated not far from Fairmount Ave, which has ample dining, shopping, and café options. 

The Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation (FNDC) has some very strong opinions about what it would and would not like to see go into the PRA property.

“We [Francisville] are over-saturated with affordable housing,” says Penelope Giles, the executive director of FNDC. “The neighborhood is not going to accept any more subsidized affordable housing.” Instead, Giles hints that two or three bedroom condominiums would be a great fit for the neighborhood. 

The Redevelopment Authority will gather submissions from developers for the property through June 21. She says that submissions should include a development pro forma and financial plan, a statement of qualifications and financial responsibility and a Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprise (MBE and WBE) plan. 

As of the pre-submission conference, the PRA admitted it has not yet talked with the PHA about the three existing public housing properties. Instead, they're leaving it up to the developers to contact the PHA themselves. The parcel of land runs from 1716 to 1726 Folsom St. and then from 1730 to 1750 Folsom. 703-705 N. 18th St. is also affected. The developers in the room certainly sounded interested, representing Community Ventures, Altman Management Company, Loonstyn Properties, Pennrose Properties, and Universal Companies.

Sources: Leigh Jones, PRA and Penelope Giles, FNDC
Writer: Andy Sharpe

BICYCLE COALITION: Is Kelly Drive trail path ready for four-wheel surreys?

Editor's note: This is presented as a content partnership with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

More bikes will be available for rent in Center City
thanks to a new partnership between Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Wheel Fun, a national franchise that specializes in hourly rentals.
Wheel Fun's location in JFK Plaza (Love Park) will open in time for Bike to Work Day (May 18) and be open on weekends until Memorial Day from 9 a.m.-dusk and thereafter daily from 9 a.m.-dusk through the fall.
Beyond bikes and tandems, Wheel Fun also rents surreys, or quadracycles -- the kind of four-wheel rides you might see on the boardwalk down the shore -- and double recumbents, . Surreys are restricted to an out-and-back route from Italian Fountain Circle to the Girard Ave. Bridge, but there are definite questions on whether they can co-exist with other users of the narrow, multi-use trail.
According to the Bicycle Coalition: "With or without surreys, conflicts on the Kelly Drive path are a compelling enough argument for relieving trail congestion by improving the bridge link to the Martin Luther King Drive trail."
Bike PHL Challenge rolls out today 
Starting May 1, Philadelphia has the chance to show the rest of the country how much it gets around by bike. 
Last summer, Philadelphia logged 150,000 miles riding to and from work. It's easy for you and your friends to get involved and get the chance to win new bicycles. 
Registration is open here. Log your miles through Endomondo's website or any free smartphone app. FAQs are here.
The Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities is offering 10 in-street bike corrals to interested city businesses. The corrals, introduced by the Bicycle Coalition to the city last September, turns one car parking spot into 14 bicycle parking spots.
Application process is open and runs until May 30.
Safe Routes Philly is offering a contest to Philadelphia students in grades 2-6 to create a poster that answers the question: Why do I ride a bike? 
Winners will be chosen to participate in Philadelphia Bike to Work day on May 18 with Mayor Nutter.
This summer, the Philadelphia Streets Department will remove abandoned bikes from Center City and surrounding areas, and the City has opened the 311 call center to collect relevant info. 
Abandoned bikes have missing or damaged parts, are in unusable condition and have been locked at the same location for more than a month.

THE BICYCLE COALITION OF GREATER PHILADELPHIA has been making the region a better place to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and outreach since 1972. The nonprofit, membership organization's programs include Bike Philly, the Bicycle Ambassadors, Safe Routes Philly, the Complete the Schuylkill River Trail campaign, and Neighborhood Bike Works (now an independent organization). Follow the Bicycle Coalition on FacebookTwitter, and on their blog.

Send feedback here.

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

Vine St. groundbreaking expected later this year for Pennsylvania's first Mormon temple

While most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) live along the Mormon Corridor in the Western U.S., there are actually quite a few Mormons who live in the Delaware Valley. Despite this, members of the Church currently have to schlep up to Manhattan or down to Washington D.C. to find a temple. This will soon change as the Church is preparing to put the first shovel in the ground on a new temple and mixed-use facility on Vine St. between 16th and 18th Sts.

Currently, Vine Street is a sea of surface parking between 16th and 18th, despite its prime location near the Ben Franklin Parkway, the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center annex. The Mormons have bold plans to make use of these lots by building a 60,000 sq. ft. neoclassical temple, a 20,000 sq. ft. temple services building, a 155-space underground parking garage, and an undetermined mixed-use space, says Corinne Dougherty, the Philadelphia regional public affairs director for the church.

The temple’s exterior design promises to be dramatic. According to Dougherty, the exterior of the holy place will be made out of granite, and will include two spires, with the statue of an LDS angel gracing the top of one spire. The facility’s façade will be designed in such a way that will mesh well with the Free Library and Family Court buildings. "It is important for our temples to compliment the architecture and culture of the cities in which they reside," says the public affairs director. Salt Lake City Utah’s FFKR Architects is responsible for the exterior design.

While the exterior of the temple should be marvelous, the interior of the building will be beautiful in its own right. It will be designed in the Classical style, and contain a majestic entry and waiting space, a baptistery, offices, and instruction and ordinance rooms, according to Perkins+Will, the design firm that is in charge of the interior. Among the luxuries that will be found inside the temple are stained glass, broadloom carpet, ornate paint and gold leaf, and intricate stone flooring. Perkins+Will is a large firm with offices in more than two dozen locations across the globe, including here since 2007.

There is still no word on what the Church will do with the mixed-use parcel it acquired at 16th and Vine. While Grasso Holdings was previously given permission to build a 46-story mixed-use space at the site, they agreed to hand over the land to the LDS. The Church has consented to meet with neighbors, the City Planning Commission, and the Re-Development Authority (PRA) when it does decide what it wants to do. 

Dougherty explains that no groundbreaking date has yet been etched in stone for the temple, which means rumors of a July start for construction might be premature. She does say that construction should commence by the third quarter of this year, but doesn’t say when that will be. She is fairly certain that the temple and temple services building will be completed by 2014. Once that happens, the temple will have an open house period for several weeks. Take advantage of this open house, as the temple will only be open to Church members after it is dedicated, says Dougherty.

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Corinne Dougherty, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
46 Fairmount / Art Museum Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts