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Save Jewelers Row petition gains quick support in the face of proposed development

What would Jeweler’s Row look like with a brand-new 16-story mixed-use residential tower plopped onto the 700 block of Sansom Street? Philly citizens are grappling with the prospect ever since The Inquirer broke the news about the proposed Toll Brothers development. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia acted quickly.

To unify the voices who believe that demolishing five properties from 702-710 Sansom Street would be a loss to Philly’s historic urban fabric, the Preservation Alliance launched a Save Jewelers Row! petition, addressed to City of Philadelphia Director of Planning and Development Anne Fadullon.

Less than a week after its launch on August 11, the petition had garnered almost 3,500 signatures and many comments from concerned locals.

"It was a tool available to give the many people out there who find this proposal shocking and upsetting a voice -- to say to City officials and the developer that we, Philadelphians, don’t want this to happen on Jewelers Row," explains Paul Steinke, executive director at the Preservation Alliance.

He says that the targeted buildings on the brick-paved street are typical of the original Jewelers Row built environment: "small-scale buildings of different sizes, shapes and styles," many dating from the mid-19th century.

"Jewelers Row is the oldest diamond district or jewelry district in the U.S., and the second-largest after New York," adds Steinke, calling it "one of the most iconic retail districts in the city."

The petition’s immediate goal is saving the buildings in question, and maybe with a strong enough response from preservationists and area residents, the developer could be persuaded to build on vacant land or a parking lot.

"Gouging out these six buildings will forever alter Jewelers Row and ruin one of our city’s most iconic destinations," the petition reads.

But Steinke also hopes the petition will help bring attention to larger issues, including the neighborhood’s CMX-5 zoning code, which enabled the project in the first place. That zoning -- which is the same zoning as for buildings like the Comcast Center or Liberty Place -- is "too dense for a street like Jewelers Row," he insists.

Another issue is that Jewelers Row is not a designated local historic district. It’s recognized as "contributing to a national historic district," but is not itself protected. The trouble lies with Philly’s Historical Commission, which, according to Steinke, has not designated any new historic districts since 2010.

"I think the interest in [the petition] is really prodigious," he adds. "It sends a strong signal that Philadelphians care about their city’s historic fabric and are concerned about its potential loss at the hands of developers."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Paul Steinke, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

Construction on the Museum of the American Revolution will be completed this year

Anyone passing through historic Old City these days has probably noticed a major project at the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets. It's the future site of The Museum of the American Revolution, and construction has been ongoing for 20 months.

The new tourist attraction is landing in Independence National Historical Park thanks to a land-swap with the National Park Service -- they gained a new parcel in Valley Forge in exchange for opening up the site to the new four-story 118,000-square foot museum. The site was long home to a Park Service visitors’ center built in the 1970s for America’s bicentennial. That closed about fifteen years ago and was demolished to make way for the new museum.

"We wanted a building that reflected classic design, to fit and honor the history of the neighborhood," says CEO Michael Quinn of engaging Robert A.M. Stern Architects for the $150 million project, currently funded at $124 million with a matching grant of $12 million underway to close the gap.

"We took an approach [to the layout] that we think is going to be really effective," continues Quinn. The site's main exhibit space will be on the second floor, with a core gallery of about 16,000 square feet integrating immersive multi-media experiences with a range of notable artifacts, including George Washington's original tent which served as both his office and sleeping quarters during the Revolutionary War.

The ground floor will feature a lobby, museum shop, 180-seat introductory theater, 5,000-square-foot gallery for temporary exhibitions, and a café that will spill out along 3rd Street.

"We wanted to contribute to the dynamism of the urban environment," says Quinn.

The lower level will offer two large classrooms and the top floor will house the museum’s offices and event space, including room to seat 180 for dinner. Out of about 85,000 "usable" square feet of space, 30,000 are dedicated to visitors, education and experiences -- a very high ratio of visitor orientation.

According to Kirsti Bracali, a project manager with consulting firm Dan Bosin Associates, the design also incorporates eco-friendly elements such as a green roof and state-of-the-art stormwater management, air-cycling, and heat-recovery systems.

The building meets and exceeds Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) stormwater requirements and is working toward LEED certification. There’s a green roof on 90 percent of the spaces over the museum -- it handles rainwater as well as deflects heat. It’ll also be a nice splash of green for taller adjacent buildings to look down on.

The museum's recovered stormwater will have year-round use in cooling towers, via a large underground cistern. With its museum-quality air requirements -- temperature and humidity control is essential for preserving the artifacts on display -- it’s notable that the site will use collected stormwater to help with climate control.

"This is the first time it’s been done in Philadelphia," says Bracali of the system, which the museum has been working with PWD to implement.

The museum’s offices should be occupied by September of this year; opening day is planned for 2017.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Michael Quinn, Museum of the American Revolution; Kirsti Bracali, Dan Bosin Associates 


Lights up on the next phase for Fabric Row

Last summer, we looked at the transformations taking place on South 4th Street’s Fabric Row, and now a big piece of those plans is complete. On February 8, representatives from the South Street Headhouse District (SSHD), the Commerce Department, the Streets Department and First District Councilman Mark Squilla officially brought up the lights on a major new streetscape improvement.

The corridor now has 38 LED pedestrian lights and 12 LED overhead lights between Lombard and Christian Streets. The project also includes the planting of 20 new trees, fixes for deteriorating curbs and sidewalks, and new decorative crosswalks. Made possible by NTI Commerce Department funds secured through SSHD, the renovations extend to several nearby blocks of South Street, with 130 existing lights on South between Front and 11th Streets being upgraded to LEDs.

Philly is "considered one of the best walkable cities in this country," said Streets Department Commissioner Donald Carlton at the lighting ceremony at 4th and Bainbridge Streets. This improvement was a long-needed upgrade to one of the region’s most historic commercial corridors.

SSHD Executive Director Michael Harris added that the project would have "transformative impact" on the area. Elena Brennan, SSHD Board Chair and owner of the nearby Bus Stop Boutique, agreed.

"It’s really near and dear to my heart," she said of the lighting improvement. Nine years ago when she first opened her store the lack of adequate lighting was a big problem for nighttime shoppers and shop-owners. "This street now is going to be brilliant."

"Lighting is the key to safety," explained Councilman Squilla in his remarks -- it increases visitors' comfort and foot traffic, and boosts business on a corridor.

He acknowledged some of the project's challenges, including its winter construction timeline (which may have impacted holiday sales). But with years to come of attractive well-lit walkways in good repair, the temporary inconvenience of construction will pay off for shoppers and business owners alike.

As we discovered back in summer 2015, the roster of businesses on the corridor is evolving: shifting to include a range of eclectic upscale boutiques and restaurants alongside the traditional textile stores. Councilman Squilla lauded the burgeoning intergenerational feel of Fabric Row, where legacy businesses are increasingly joined by new ones.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: 4th Street Lighting and South Street Lighting Celebration speakers 


Welcoming Winterfest back to the waterfront

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that means one of Philly's best new winter traditions is on the way. The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is entering its third season as a full-fledged waterfront wonderland -- it opens to the public on November 27 and runs through February 28, 2016. 

Favorite elements of the festive haven, created by Groundswell Design Group, are returning, including the Lodge Restaurant and Bar, live trees full of lights, fire pits and of course the skating rink, now in its 22nd year. New this time around are five "winter warming cottages," rustic three-sided lodges furnished with electric fireplaces, infrared heating, chandeliers made of antlers, and homey armchairs and loveseats. A boardwalk, repurposed from summertime's Spruce Street Harbor Park, will connect the cottages to the Lodge.

According to Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Vice President of Operations Joe Forkin, last season was "super-successful," drawing about 80,000 skaters and more than twice as many people to the other amenities. That said, they are incorporating visitor feedback into the latest incarnation.

One suggestion was more lighting, so, as Forkin puts it, they’ll be "lighting the heck out of the site" with about 100,000 individual LED bulbs, including over 40,000 PECO-sponsored twinkles on the 45-foot holiday tree coming in from Westchester (slated for a free public lighting ceremony on December 4).

Winterfest will also boast even more food and beverage options. Garces Group will be back with rotating burger specials (including a house-made veggie burger), fries topped with short ribs and queso fresco, Frohman’s grilled sausages and hot dogs, Bavarian pretzels, and grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Distrito Taco Stand will operate in the Lodge on weekends, serving traditional Mexican street tacos. A variety of craft brews and specialty winter cocktails will be for sale, too. And for the sweeter side of things, Franklin Fountain is teaming up with Shane Confectionery’s Chocolate Café to create the Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin. You can order an ice cream waffle sandwich (choose your waffle: Belgian, chocolate or gingerbread spice), custom ice cream flavors such as cinnamon and eggnog, s’mores kits, hot chocolate, apple cider and more.

Forkin likes the "little bit of wilderness" in an urban setting: "You can come down and experience this lodge-like, forest-like feel in the city, where people probably don’t have a lot of opportunities in this setting to sit near a fire pit, or roast a marshmallow.”

A wide variety of programming will include family-friendly 12 Days of Christmas Movie Nights from December 14 through December 25; titles include Elf, Miracle on 34th Street and Charlie Brown Christmas. For the slightly older set, Fridays and Saturdays will feature DJs for dancing and skating.

Entrance to Winterfest is free, and food and drinks are available for purchase; skating admission is $3 (free for all Independence Blue Cross cardholders and employees) and skate rentals are $10. The fest will be open seven days a week, including holidays, with extended hours December 19 through January 3.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Joe Forkin, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Big announcements, big fun on the Delaware Waterfront this summer

"The additions to the Delaware River Waterfront in recent years are truly remarkable," enthused Mayor Michael A. Nutter on April 9 at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation's summer programming announcement. The upcoming warm-weather festivities will include a first-of-its-kind outdoor roller rink and the return of Spruce Street Harbor Park. 

Since 2009, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has worked to activate the city's underused spaces. This year, the organization is partnering with Independence Blue Cross and Univest/Valley Green Bank, enabling them to move toward seven-day-a-week programming.

"[This] helps us build towards our mission of making the waterfront a recreation destination throughout the year," explains Communications Manager Emma Fried-Cassorla.

Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest, Philadelphia's first and only outdoor roller rink, will replace the popular Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest site, giving the space year-round vibrancy. The rink  -- featuring roller and in-line skates as well as a high-end roller-hockey-grade flooring system -- will be open seven days a week from May 22 through the end of September. 

The Winterfest Lodge will transform into a boathouse-themed restaurant and venue, decorated in a relaxed summer vibe. The whole fest will be free and open to the public (with roller skating being the only ticketed activity; Independence Blue Cross cardholders skate for free).

Also luring the hot, thirsty and bored east will be the return of Spruce Street Harbor Park (SSHP). The wildly-popular boardwalk-inspired installation will open Memorial Day weekend, a month earlier than last year, and expand its offerings -- that means more seating, more hammocks, more dining choices, more beer and more family-friendly attractions. The park will also boast a new meadow donated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a re-imagined version of the Oasis.

In addition to the new outdoor roller rink and SSHP, Philadelphians and visitors can also enjoy a slate concerts, festivals, and movies along the waterfront this summer. 

Writer: Hailey Blessing
Source: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation

Reading Viaduct Park -- and four other exciting projects -- get green light

"All our childhood memories go back to a park story, a recreation center story, or a library story," argued Mayor Michael Nutter at a March 16 press conference at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. It was an appropriate sentiment since he was announcing a $11 million investment in the Fairmount Park Conservancy and its Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

The Knight Foundation, with a commitment of $5.4 million, and the William Penn Foundation, bringing $5.5 million to the table, are teaming up to provide these funds, which will in turn support five major civic projects, some of which have held the public imagination for decades.

The dollars, Nutter said, would further the city’s goal of making "Philadelphia the number one green city in the United States of America." The common denominator of all the projects, he added, is that they will revitalize and transform underutilized, under-resourced spaces.

Speakers joining Nutter were Fairmount Park Conservancy Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell; Michael DiBerardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental & Community Resources and Parks and Recreation Commissioner; William Penn Executive Director Laura Sparks; and Carol Coletta, vice president for community and national initiatives at the Knight Foundation.

According to Sparks, the investment will continue to build Philadelphia’s profile as a world-class destination for "shared spaces that a diverse population can enjoy." Partly because of our booming Millennial population, "Philadelphia is the ideal national laboratory" for civic space experiments like these, and foundations with a nationwide lens are recognizing it.

Reimagining the Civic Commons, according to the Conservancy, will "explore whether reinventing and connecting public spaces as a network of civic assets will help cities attract and keep talented workers," boost the economy, help get residents more engaged, and "begin to level the playing field between more affluent communities and those in need."

Instead of competing for funds, organizations involved will be able to collaborate with each other.

The conference included details on the five selected projects.

A collaboration between Audubon Pennsylvania and Outward Bound will help create The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park to inspire leadership development and environmental stewardship near the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.

The Conservancy dollars will also finally make the Reading Viaduct Rail Park a reality, repurposing it as a green public space that will rise from ground level to cross three city streets. Center City District and Friends of the Rail Park will join together to make it happen.

The Bartram’s Mile Trail Project along the lower Schuylkill River is part of the region’s planned 750-mile Circuit Trail Network. It will be tackled thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation.

The funds will also ensure the completion of Lovett Memorial Library and Park in Mt. Airy, with support from the Free Library and Mt. Airy U.S.A.

Finally, the dollars will transform an underutilized piece of West Fairmount Park into the Centennial Commons, a family-friendly playspace for the Parkside community. The Fairmount Park Conservancy will helm this project.

Stay tuned for more from Flying Kite about the plans for these individual projects.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Mayor Michael Nutter; Kathryn Ott Lovell, the Fairmount Park Conservancy; Laura Sparks, the William Penn Foundation, and Carol Coletta, the Knight Foundation. 


Robust winter crowds mean year-round possibilities for the Delaware waterfront

You can't separate Philadelphia from its rivers, but according to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), locals’ connection to Penn’s Landing -- versus other up-and-coming areas of the city -- isn’t as strong as it could be.

"Our goal is to change the conversation on how Philadelphians see and use their waterfront," says DRWC spokesperson Jodie Milkman of the announcement that this year’s Waterfront Winterfest is getting a major upgrade and extension. Attendance last year was phenomenal despite the fearsome weather.

Summertime also saw major growth in traffic to the waterfront thanks to Spruce Street Harbor Park, and though the market for visitors is different between the summer and winter seasons, "the waterfront can be a year-round attraction and asset," insists Milkman.

After debuting for the month of December last year, Winterfest is returning as an cold-weather fixture in Philly, re-branded along with the rink as the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. This season, the fun will run from November 28, 2014 through March 1, 2015, and include skating, food from Garces Events, light shows, plenty of fire pits, a "winter garden and forest" from Groundswell Design Group’s David Fierabend (featuring hundreds of trees and locally-sourced recycled shipping containers) and a Philly Beer Week collaboration (details TBA).

"It’s not as disconnected or hard to get to as people might have imagined," adds Milkman, especially since the Philly PHLASH unveiled a new winter schedule that includes the Winterfest site (stopping on Columbus Boulevard just south of Walnut Street). From November 28 through Dec 31, the PHLASH will run from Penn’s Landing to the Philadelphia Zoo every day from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and a special Holiday Evening Loop -- including the waterfront, Franklin Square, LOVE Park and more -- will run 6 - 10 p.m.

But the DRWC is also looking beyond winter festivities to focus on the overall impact of extended programming and "placemaking" on the waterfront, which, as Milkman puts it, proves "the need to support winter tourism in addition to summer tourism."

And it’s not just about maximizing visitors. Increasing traffic at waterfront programs today, whether it’s a summer park or skating with Santa, is key to future development there.  

"All of these programs are hopefully setting the stage for large-scale future development," says Milkman, "and pre-conditioning audiences to support businesses on the waterfront in the summer and the winter. It’s a lot easier for people to invest in the waterfront if they feel it has an audience.” 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jodie Milkman, The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation


Sneak Peak: Progress at Pier 53

This past weekend, Philadelphians were offered a sneak peak of Pier 53, an ambitious waterfront renovation project at the foot of Washington Avenue. Flying Kite headed down there on Saturday to snap some pictures and take in the gorgeous views of the Delaware. 

A joint venture between the Friends of Washington Avenue Green and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), the project will not only add green space to city, but also memorialize the immigration station that operated on the pier starting in 1876. At one point, Pier 53 processed up to 1,500 immigrants per day. (Click here for more on the history of the immigration station.)

After checking out the under-construction space, we walked north to check out progress at Spruce Street Harbor Park. That fabulous installation opens to the public on Friday, June 27. Barges boasting loungers and picnic tables, dozens of hammocks, and beach-like dunes are already in place -- it's a can't miss.

For more outdoor summer fun, check out The Visit Philly Beer Garden Series.

Writer: Lee Stabert


Here comes Spruce Street Harbor Park, another mind-blowing Penn's Landing installation

As part of its increasingly ambitious master plan for the Central Delaware, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) has announced its latest seasonal project.
Dubbed a "summer waterfront installation," the Spruce Street Harbor Park at Penn's Landing Marina will be a two-month-long landscaping and programming pop-up project that will temporarily transform the space into an outdoor oasis.
Scheduled to run June 27 through August 31, the installation will feature a boardwalk, an urban beach, fountains, misting areas, a pop-up restaurant and bar, and, perhaps most exciting of all, "a series of floating barges complete with lily pad water gardens," according to a release, "and nets that will suspend visitors over the water."
According to DRWC's Jodie Milkman, the Spruce Street Harbor Park was developed as an expansion of the group's most recent seasonal installation, Waterfront Winterfest, which brought a pop-up beer garden and fire pits to the Blue Cross RiverRink last winter. The Winterfest installation was wildly successful -- despite being closed for a record 13 days due to inclement weather, the rink's attendance numbers were still 30 percent higher than last year's.   
A $300,000 grant from ArtPlace America, which offers grants to civic organizations and cities to activate public spaces through art, provided a portion of the funds for both installations; according to Milkman, DRWC will match those funds.   
And what will happen to the fountains and floating barges once the season comes to an end? There are no guarantees just yet, but Milkman says conversations about repeating both installations are already underway.  

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jodie Milkman, DRWC


Renderings released for massive reimagining of Penn's Landing

Sometimes you see a rendering that just makes your heart leap -- that was the case with these recently released conceptual drawings for Penn's Landing that appeared on PlanPhilly.

Currently cut off from Center City by a combination of I-95 and busy Columbus Boulevard, the Delaware Waterfront remains woefully underused. Recent projects such as the Race Street Pier have drawn tourists and residents to its banks, but this new plan would remove a huge emotional and visual barrier while providing flexible space for picnicing, exercising and general frolicking. 

The project, being sheparded by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, would also include riverfront residential and commerical development to keep the area lively outside of holidays and weekends -- plus, you need a place to stock that picnic basket. The jewel of the plan, an 11-acre park, would stretch from Front Street to the river, ending in a large public space featuring an amphitheater.

Of course, something like this doesn't come cheap, but integrating infrastructure improvements increases funding options. Then there's the economics benefits of developing such an underserved stretch of prime real estate. Here's PlanPhilly:

The current cost estimate for the plan, which includes capping I-95 and Delaware Avenue between Chestnut and Walnut with an 11-acre park: $205 million in public investment.

That large number would normally be discouraging, noted [Central Delaware Advocacy Group] Vice Chairman and Old City resident Joe Schiavo. But he didn't think so after hearing about the financial concepts behind the plan. "The notion here is a lot of the work that needs to be done is infrastructure," he said. "It involves roadways, and as such funding is available through transportation budgets." The $205 million is for the public space and infrastructure only. The idea is that investment would spur the private parts of the development – the residences, restaurants, shops and the like – to the tune of $800 million or even $1 billion. "It's a very good ratio, he said.

Though there is still a lot to be figured out -- including what to do with current tenants such as The Chart House and The Independence Seaport Museum -- the enthusiasm is palpable.

"It's just absolutely marvelous," said Richard Wolk who represents Queen Village to PlanPhilly. "I went home said to my wife, 'This is going to the renaissance of Philadelphia. This is going to make people want to come to the river, and make us a first-rate city.' Because every first-rate city has a first-rate waterfront."

A presentation to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation board is scheduled for April 25. Check out PlanPhilly's whole report here.

Source: PlanPhilly
Writer: Lee Stabert

Rebirth at Starr Garden, the city's oldest multigenerational playground

Since 1908, Starr Garden Park has been an important neighborhood asset. Taking up the entire 600 block of Lombard Street in Society Hill, the 2.2-acre park is the oldest multigenerational playground in Philadelphia.
With that kind of history comes serious wear and tear, but thanks to the Starr Garden Neighbors, a relatively new community group dedicated to maintaining and improving the space, the future is bright.
The park has always had a lot going for it: beautiful old trees, a great location and a number of amenities including a ball field, a sports field and two basketball courts. "It’s a neighborhood gem," says Starr Garden Neighbors' Laurel Landau. "The space just needed some love."
The organization started small. "We organized and participated in five successful clean-up days, some city-wide," explains Landau. "We bagged thousands of pounds of leaves, collected trash, painted benches and fences, planted annuals and perennials, and removed graffiti."
According to Landau, the clean-up days helped the group build momentum, gaining attention from nearby residents. They eventually held two successful fundraising events. "We raised several hundreds of dollars for greening of the park," she says. "We have tapped very receptive local vendors to donate food for us to sell or gift certificates for us to give as raffle prizes."
The Neighbors have also secured two grants. The first, a Green Machine Grant from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, provided hands-on instruction in prepping, maintaining, selecting and planting a garden; it was installed on October 14.
The second, an Event Programming Grant from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, is being used for their upcoming Winterfest (2-4 p.m. Saturday, February 2). The event is being held in collaboration with Friends of Seger Park Playground, another open space just a few blocks away celebrating their new playground. Starr Garden’s portion of the fest will include a DJ, craft table, ice carving demo, face painting and other family-friendly events.
The next clean-up day is set for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. January 21.
Ultimately, the Neighbors’ ambitions reach beyond cleaning, lighting and receptacles -- it’s about quality of life and raising a family in the city. "Most of us involved have young children," says Landau. "We want them to grow up here." 

Source: Laurel Landau, Starr Garden Neighbors
WriterGreg Meckstroth

NET Impact: Innovative public art comes to the Delaware waterfront

As part of the ongoing effort to re-imagine the Delaware River waterfront as a regional destination, the City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is bringing a large-scale, interactive art installation to the Race Street Pier.  Thanks to a grant from the national creative placemaking accelerator ArtPlace, the installation—tentatively dubbed NET—is set to open to the public next summer.

"The idea is a series of interconnected nets that people can literally climb into and experience the waterfront from a suspended location," explains Margot Berg, Public Art Director for the City of Philadelphia. "It’s kind of like a public hammock space."

The city is working with Numen/For Use, a Croatian-Austrian design collective, to create the art piece at the Pier. "Our office was familiar with their work and thought it would be appealing to work with them,” explains Berg. "They’ve never done an installation piece outside or in the United States and were looking for such an opportunity. So they were on board with the idea."

A big part of the project's appeal was its location on the Race Street Pier and the waterfront in general. "The waterfront is a place where a lot of planning attention is being funneled—where the City is trying to connect people to the place,” says Berg.  "NET will serve as a way for people to experience the waterfront in a new way and make them want to come back over and over." 

Berg is hopeful that NET, in conjunction with the new headquarters of the Live Arts/Philly Fringe across the street and the nearby “Race Street Connector” public art piece, will create a ripple effect of investment along the waterfront. "The idea is to capitalize on the momentum in the area and show how art and culture can do that," she adds. 

Berg and the artists, in conjunction with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, are still finalizing details and ironing out the assembly logistics for the massive installation (a 30-square-foot cube). The team plans for a June 2013 unveiling and a three month-long exhibition.    

Source: Margot Berg, Public Art Director for the City of Philadelphia
WriterGreg Meckstroth   

Happy Trails: Major improvements approved for the Delaware River Trail

The City Planning Commission recently approved the Penn Street section of the Central Delaware River Trail. Paired with current improvements being made to the Washington Green section of the trail, this represents a major step towards implementing new design standards for the multipurpose trail. 
The Washington Green trail, built in 2010, was laid with basic asphalt and meant to be temporary. Now folks with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation are taking the next steps to make it permanent. "The route is being straightened to bring it closer to the river," explains Karen Thompson of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. "We’re cleaning up the area and removing invasive species to make the trail more user-friendly."
Thompson says these improvements are incremental and will bring that portion of the trail more in line with the new Delaware River Waterfront Corporation design standards for the entire trail.   
Those final design guidelines will be showcased in the Penn Street portion of the trail. "We’re taking all the recommendations from the Waterfront Master Plan and building it here," says Thompson. "To that effect, sustainable design elements include trail-side rain gardens and solar street lights."
The Penn Street trail will connect the future Spring Garden Street greenway to the Central Delaware, where it will run along Delaware Avenue, connect to Penn Street and run though the Sugarhouse Casino parking lot. The Casino has agreed to build the section of the trail through its parking lot, connecting it to an existing trail on the property. 
The Commission’s approval was a big milestone for the project because it has allowed the Waterfront Corporation to move forward with implementation. "The project will go out for construction bid in the next few months," says Thompson. "We hope to start construction at the beginning of 2013 and have it finished by Memorial Day." 

Source: Karen Thompson, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
WriterGreg Meckstroth

New pedestrian scale lighting adds vitality, safety to Chinatown, Old City, Washington Square West

Ever walk a city block in Philly at night and wonder what gives that piece of street a sense of place? All too often, it’s the details that deliver; small fixtures or amenities in the urban realm that cater to the pedestrian user. Over the years, the Center City District has understood the importance of high quality pedestrian features on city blocks, something that hasn’t escaped their priority list to this day. More recently it has installed 124 pedestrian-scale light fixtures in three areas of Center City: Chinatown, Old City and Washington Square West.   
In Chinatown, ornamental pagoda lights were installed in the 900 and 1000 blocks of Arch Street plus 10th Street between Arch and Race Streets.  New lights were also added along Eighth Street between Market and Filbert Streets. 
In Old City, the CCD added pedestrian lighting to two blocks on Third Street between Market and Race Streets. And in Washington Square West, new lighting was added to the 1000 block of Spruce, and on 11th and 12th Streets, between Spruce and Pine Streets.
These recent improvements are the latest in a series of lighting installments the CCD has been implementing since 1996.  In all, $24 million has been spent and 2,179 ornamental lights have gone up, mostly around Rittenhouse, Washington and Logan Squares.  With 2/3 of all blocks finished in the district, CCD is always strategizing on where to implement the next round of lighting improvements.   “Our goal is to finish the balance of the blocks in the CCD,” explains Paul Levy, President and CEO of Center City District.
The purpose of the program has always been to “add vibrancy to the streetscape, improve safety and encourage people to visit businesses and restaurants,” says Levy.  Lighting is particularly important in fostering the ’24-hour downtown’ that Center City already is, a status Levy and others want to maintain and strengthen. 
Expect other parts of Chinatown and undeveloped areas within Center City to continue seeing pedestrian lighting improvements as development occurs.  “Since most of the remaining (unfinished) blocks are in areas where new development is still occurring, we usually partner with developers when they complete their projects,” says Levy, who says CCD's efforts to cover all blocks will be complete within five years. 

Source: Paul Levy, President and CEO of Center City District
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Placemakers: Chinatown North, The Porch at 30th St., Race Street Pier will get even better

Three high-profile, transformational areas of the city received significant funding this week through ArtPlace, a new national collaboration of 11 major foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks and eight federal agencies (like the National Endowment for the Arts) that aims to accelerate creative placemaking.
In Philadelphia, there is an abundance of creative placemaking taking shape across the city.

The Asian Arts Initiative received $450,000 for the Chinatown North Social Practice Lab. The University City District took in $375,000 for The Porch at 30th Street Station. The City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy earned $200,000 for the Numen/For Use Public Art Project at Race Street Pier.

The Porch, a reclaimed parking between the nation’s second busiest train station and the site of the former U.S. Post Office building that opened late last fall, will use the funding for urban design upgrades and art installations for the half-acre public space. 

“The Porch has unparalleled potential as one of Philadelphia’s great public spaces,” says University City District’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Prema Katari Gupta in a news release. “Our early efforts to animate this space have been succeeding beyond our very high initial expectations.”

The Social Practice Lab aims to position Chinatown North as a “dynamic neighborhood site” for local and national visual and performing artists. The goal will be to create alliances that promote neighborhood development and strengthens community bonds.

The Numen/For Use Public Art Project is among the many ongoing efforts to activate the Delaware River Waterfront. Croatian-Austrian design collective Numen/For Use’s first U.S. project involves creating a large-scale interactive installation at Race Street Pier Park.

“The Philadelphia projects receiving ArtPlace funding exemplify the best in creative placemaking,” says Carol Coletta of ArtPlace, which awarded more than $15 million to 47 projects. “They demonstrate a deep understanding of how smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people.”

Source: University City District
Writer: Joe Petrucci
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