Elevated Park On Rail Viaduct Finally Firming Up In Philly

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neighborhood volunteers first began cultivating the idea of converting the ruins of the Reading Viaduct into Philadelphia’s own elevated park more than a decade ago.

After years of organizing, raising money, and drafting proposals, their efforts – and those of the politicians and professional planners who joined the cause – finally appear ready to bear fruit. Without fanfare, the city and the state have included millions of dollars in their latest budgets toward the first phase of the project: transforming the quarter-mile railroad “spur” that curves through the city’s burgeoning Loft District and dead-ends onto North Broad Street.

Turning that section into a park with stunning Center City views is just a small part of the overall vision to “green” abandoned railroad infrastructure, transforming foreboding eyesores into amenities.

A larger, 4/5-mile section of the viaduct stretches with fortresslike walls from Fairmount Avenue to Vine Street. Across Broad, the old railroad line drops below street level, running through a subterranean channel from the former Inquirer and Daily News building to Fairmount Park at Girard Avenue.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140406_Elevated_park_on_rail_viaduct_finally_firming_up.html#Uh2WhMLXCYwVcP2B.99

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Changing Skyline: Parking Garages Threaten To Wall Off Schuylkill’s East Bank

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich http://www.flickr.com/photos/10396190@N04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Philadelphia spent the last decade working out a single, knotty planning problem: How should the old industrial spaces on the Delaware waterfront evolve? The consensus was that vacant land would be developed to resemble the rest of the city, with walkable streets, a mix of uses, and lively ground floors. No one was naive enough to think such projects could be realized without parking garages, but the expectation was that the structures would not dominate the river.

It’s a shame the conversation was never extended to the city’s other riverfront, the Schuylkill, which has come alive since a trail park pushed into Center City.

Like the Delaware, the Schuylkill is dotted with tracts of empty land crying out for housing, offices, and retail. But while little new has been built on the city’s big river – save for the suburban-style SugarHouse Casino – the Schuylkill is now sizzling with likely projects.

Predictably, each of the three proposals would front the river with a large, unsightly garage. They range from One Riverside’s modest, one-story garage at Locust Street to NP International’s multilevel, mega-development at Cherry Street. If built as designed, they would turn the bustling Schuylkill waterfront into Philadelphia’s own Great Wall of Parking.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20140328_Changing_Skyline__Parking_garages_threaten_to_wall_off_Schuylkill_s_east_bank.html#FYw7GIe2AssxRvpe.99

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How Does LDS Church Finance A $70M Temple?

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Along the two blocks of North 17th Street on either side of the Vine Street Expressway in Center City, remarkably different financial trajectories of two religious groups are playing out.

At the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, south of Vine, church leaders are turning property accumulated over generations – such as cemeteries – into cash in a bid to fill huge financial gaps.

About a block north, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans this week to build a meetinghouse and a 32-story residential tower next door to its $70 million temple, already under construction. The apartment tower alone could cost $75 million to $90 million, a real estate expert said.

Where do the Mormons get the money?

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140214_Two_churches__different_financial_trajectories.html#rE4QE48B2I9s6zuS.99

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Mormons To Build 32-Story Tower Near Center City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Mormon Church plans to build a 32-story apartment tower and a public meetinghouse on a vacant lot next to the Vine Street Expressway, filling in a key piece of the no-man’s-land that has long separated Center City and North Philadelphia’s rebounding neighborhoods.

The private development by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls for 258 apartments, 13 townhouses, and retail shops at 16th and Vine Streets.

The meetinghouse will have a chapel, courtyard, multipurpose space, and a center to research genealogy, said Michael Marcheschi, senior real estate manager for the church’s national special projects department.

The development, announced Wednesday by Mayor Nutter and church officials, will stand next to the Mormon temple under construction on Vine Street and set for completion in 2016.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140213_Mormons_to_build_32-story_tower_in_Center_City.html#xda8G1b8kTLrO4VA.99

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King Of Prussia Rail Project Public Meeting / Open House – January 30th!

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA has scheduled a Public Meeting/Open House for the King of Prussia Rail Project. The King of Prussia Rail Project will evaluate various alternative alignments to make the connection to the NHSL and destinations in King of Prussia.

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Time: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Open House) | 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Presentations)
Location: Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge – South Ballroom 1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, PA 19406

Meeting attendees should use the hotel entrance to reach the South Ballroom.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) welcomes your interest and participation in the King of Prussia Rail Project. Early in fall 2012, SEPTA initiated this study to evaluate an extension of the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) to the King of Prussia area. The NHSL currently provides service between the 69th Street Transportation Center and Norristown Transportation Center, serving the Main Line area in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, and connecting to Center City Philadelphia. While the transit system is expansive, a rail connection to the King of Prussia area is missing.

The project will evaluate various alignments to provide increased transit service to the King of Prussia area. The project need stems from deficiencies in area transit services that result in long travel times, delays due to roadway congestion, and transfers between services. In addition, there are many destinations in the King of Prussia/Valley Forge area that are underserved or currently not served by public transit.

SEPTA invites you to participate in the project development process and provide input.

Website: http://www.kingofprussiarail.com/

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Construction Of Philly’s Mormon Temple Without Caffeine, Smoking, Swearing

It’s been two years since ground was broken in Center City on a massive Mormon temple and visitors’ center, and it might just be one of the more remarkable construction sites in recent city history.

Let’s just say the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) goes by its own rules — not those typically found in local union handbooks. And it makes sure those rules are enforced.

No smoking. No coffee. No swearing.

Praying optional — but encouraged.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Construction_of_Phillys_Mormon_Temple_without_caffeine_smoking_swearing.html#BeIx151RoqqI1YFX.99

N.J. Company Seeks Philly Headquarters (Update)

(Is Hill leaving to avoid getting squeezed out? See Update below) Hill International, the multinational construction consulting company, is seeking a new headquarters location in Center City Philadelphia, David Richter, the 4,000-person company’s president and chief operating officer, tells me. “It’s easier to hire people, and there are better buildings and a better labor pool” downtown, compared to the company’s longtime base in Marlton, N.J., he added.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-phillydeals/NJ-company-seeks-Philly-headquarters.html#mZfkhdzqLY2rAgYU.99

A Hard Look At The Future Of Chinatowns

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People who stroll through Chinatown on Saturday nights bathe in the lights of intriguing new restaurants, hip tea shops, and stylish lounges.

But moving beneath that shiny exterior, as strong and powerful as an underground river, is a torrent of forces that threaten the neighborhood’s very existence.

An influx of luxury housing, rising rents and land values, a soaring white population, and slipping Asian population could mean the end of Chinatown’s 140-year role as a gateway for immigrants and a regional hub for culture and family.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by a civil rights and education group that examined two decades of property and demographic records in the three big eastern Chinatowns – New York’s, Boston’s, and Philadelphia’s.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131111_A_hard_look_at_the_future_of_Chinatowns.html#ra7F8e0Rev0gffuc.99

Changing Skyline: For A West Schuylkill Site, Time To Bridge Its Moat

English: 30th Street Station In Philadelphia. ...

English: 30th Street Station In Philadelphia. Roughly speaking, the center of commuting in Philly, the former center of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Philly’s main Amtrak station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  There are some really exciting projects going on in Philadelphia as of late.

To hear the champions of Philadelphia’s university district tell it, the west bank of the Schuylkill is poised to give Center City’s skyline a run for its money.

Last week, Brandywine Realty Trust announced plans for its third riverfront skyscraper, a sharply faceted, 47-story office-and-apartment tower at 30th and Walnut Streets. West Philadelphia office space now commands higher rents than the aging behemoths in the city’s legacy downtown. Such is the clamor to live close to the big campuses that at least five residential high-rises are in the works.

It’s nice to see the city’s skyline stretching west. But a clutch of shimmering skyscrapers do not a neighborhood make.

Overlooked in all the hoopla over Brandywine’s latest project, FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, are the conditions on the ground. The site is cut off from the Schuylkill waterfront by a large, triangular moat, which looks down on the train tracks that feed into 30th Street Station and is one of several barriers that make walking there an unpleasant, and often hair-raising, experience.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20131108_Changing_Skyline__For_a_West_Schuylkill__time_to_bridge_its_moat.html#4677tKeG0ScuYbfb.99

50-Story Hotel Proposal For Center City Gains In Council

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich http://www.flickr.com/photos/10396190@N04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City Council moved closer Thursday to approving millions in tax breaks for a contentious 50-story hotel development in the heart of Center City.

The $280 million tower would include two hotel brands – W and Elements – built on a parking lot at 15th and Chestnut Streets, a half-acre plot adjacent to the disastrous 1991 fire that consumed One Meridian Plaza and resulted in the deaths of three firefighters.

The developers, Brook Lenfest and Jeffrey Cohen, say they can’t build there without tax increment financing (TIF), a deal in which they would borrow $33 million and repay the loan through tax breaks authorized by the city.

The project – and TIFs in general – has its critics, and the Council chamber was packed Thursday with lobbyists, supporters, and opponents, who waited out a hearing that lasted more than five hours.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131108_50-story_hotel_proposal_for_Center_City_gains_in_Council.html#q0H4BjrGoLvkrcT5.99

Brandywine To Build 47-Story FMC Tower In University City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FMC Corp. has agreed to move its headquarters from 1745 Market St. in Center City into the new tower that Brandywine Realty Trust has been trying to build, NE corner of 30th and Walnut Sts. in University City, for the past 5 years. The $341 million FMC Tower will rise 47 stories — 650 feet — and include 575,000 sq ft of offices, 10,000 sq ft of retail — plus 260 apartments. Adjoins a 2,000-space parking garage built by Brandywine that also serves IRS workers at Brandywine’s former 30th St post office nearby.

FMC will move its headquarters staff — currently 546 bosses and workers — to the new tower by June 2016, spokesman Jim Fitzwater told me. FMC will lease 253,000 sq ft for 16 years; the University of Pennsylvania will rent another 100,000 sq ft on four floors for 20 years.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-phillydeals/Brandywine-to-build-47-story-West-Philly-tower-FMC-a-tenant.html#w8IKD7yI7Ry0uc0p.99

Buzz Builds On Another Comcast Tower

English: Comcast Tower, tallest building in Ph...

English: Comcast Tower, tallest building in Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comcast Corp., which runs its growing media empire from Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper, is considering building at least one new tower in Center City and is working with the prominent British architect Norman Foster, according to sources in the city’s real estate community.

Details about Comcast’s expansion plans are being kept under tight wraps, but the company appears to be focusing on constructing the first of several towers on a long, skinny, 1.5-acre site at 18th and Arch Streets, a block west of the Comcast Center. That building could eventually be part of a vertical campus including towers at 19th Street and Arch, and 18th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

All three sites are controlled by Liberty Property Trust, which completed Comcast’s sleek, 975-foot headquarters just six years ago.

Since then, Comcast has grown enormously.  With its acquisition of NBCUniversal and its move into new digital products, Comcast has filled virtually all 1.2 million square feet in its glass obelisk and needs more office space for its expanding workforce.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130913_Buzz_builds_on_another_Comcast_tower.html#gAFItxjofzd2oxPB.99

Short Film Showcasing Philadelphia

To counter the stereotype of Philadelphia as Negadelphia, filmmaker Nathaniel Dodson set about to make a stunning time-lapse video to show his great city in a different light.  He called it “Philly is Ugly.”

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Philly_is_Ugly.html?c=r

Changing Skyline: Challenge On The Schuylkill

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since Philadelphia began taking its waterfronts seriously a decade ago, it has dreamed of shores lined with lithe, elegant, Vancouver-style towers.  Master plans were assembled, new recreation paths were laid, parks were created. Yet only a few high-rises have materialized, none of them the least bit thin or urbane.

That may be about to change.  Developer Carl Dranoff is planning a 21-story apartment building on the Schuylkill that has the potential to raise the bar for all waterfront design in Philadelphia.

Or not.

Before we venture further, a strong note of caution:  The project is still at an early stage, when only the site plan and the tower’s basic form, or massing, have been established.  We don’t know crucial details, like the color of the building or the material.  But the tower’s profile is svelte enough, and its architect good enough, that it is possible to imagine something special emerging.  Then again, we should keep in mind that Dranoff is the same guy who gave us the giant Pepto Bismol bottle called Symphony House.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20130726_Changing_Skyline__Challenge_on_the_Schuylkill.html#vQM37qxs5JRaUOJd.99

PhillyDeals: Is A High-End Retailer In Gallery’s Near Future?

Work crews have been hammering away, restoring the wood-and-bronze-accented central hall of the former Strawbridge & Clothier store downstairs at 801 Market St. from our Inquirer offices.

Rumors that Bloomingdale’s or another high-end department store will take the space have been current in the neighborhood.  Earlier plans and speculation had centered on a casino, a Target, or high-end restaurants.

Of course, Bloomingdale’s owner, Macy’s Inc., hasn’t announced a new Philly store.  Erin Halley, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), told me there’s nothing to announce.

But retail-watchers say PREIT, which didn’t upgrade the Gallery complex when it improved its malls in Cherry Hill, Plymouth Meeting, and other suburbs in the late 2000s, finally looks ready to make a Center City move – especially since it agreed to pay $60 million to buy the last section it didn’t already own from Vornado Realty Trust last fall.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130712_Is_a_high-end_retailer_in_Gallery_s_near_future_.html#H0ISG0TbHQrRt3SG.99

Changing Skyline: Apartment Towers Growing Toward Philadelphia’s West

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

High-rise construction in Philadelphia comes in waves. The last big crest a decade ago brought in a handful of pricey condo towers, mainly clustered in established neighborhoods around Rittenhouse and Washington Squares.  This time, the tide is rolling westward, from Center City out toward the universities, and it’s looking like a tsunami.

Five apartment towers are or will be going up along Market and Chestnut Streets, between 20th and 38th, one glassy slab after another.  The total grows to seven if you count two clever retrofits where developers have piled extra floors on top of existing buildings, turning height-challenged mid-rises into full-fledged high-rises.

This stretch – from the tattered western edge of Center City to the University City Science Center – has long been an ill-defined territory, not uniformly academic, commercial, or residential.  The arrival of a couple thousand residents can’t help but make these blocks feel more lived-in, and the bustle should advance the goal of knitting together the two sides of the Schuylkill.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20130621_Changing_Skyline__Apartment_towers_growing_toward_Phila__s_west.html

Source: Machine Operator In Collapse To Be Charged

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 42-year-old man who was operating the excavator in Wednesday’s building collapse in Center City will be charged with risking and causing a catastrophe and six counts of involuntary manslaughter, a senior law enforcement official told The Inquirer on Friday.

Blood tests revealed marijuana in Sean Benschop’s system at levels that “he was unfit to perform safety-sensitive, job-related duties,” according to a toxicology report.

Benschop, who has also used the name Kary Roberts, according to court records, will additionally be charged with reckless endangerment and will face other charges from the injuries to 14 victims of the collapse.

The charges of causing a catastrophe and risking a catastrophe are felonies.  The involuntary-manslaughter charges are first-degree misdemeanors.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130608_Source__Machine_operator_in_collapse_to_be_charged.html#6r84qROfFDJVp5xO.99

Grand Jury To Probe Bathtub Death

A grand jury will investigate the death of Julia Papazian Law, the 26-year-old paralegal found dead in a bathtub in her boss’ Center City apartment last month.

Word of the inquiry came as toxicology tests revealed that at the time of her death, Law had a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.40 percent – five times the threshold for legal intoxication, according to court sources. Medical experts say a blood-alcohol content of 0.35 percent or greater may be fatal.

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that it had asked for the grand jury probe, but declined to elaborate.

Law, who worked for high-profile defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Jr., was found facedown in his tub on May 25.

Peruto, 58, who described Law as his girlfriend, told police he was in Avalon, N.J., on the night she died. He said he learned of her death from a maintenance worker who found her body in Peruto’s Rittenhouse Square apartment.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130608_Grand_jury_to_probe_bathtub_death.html#fu7x6vMTOwwOYFpw.99

Woman Found Alive | 6 Dead | 14 Hurt Cleanup Underway

English: Center City viewed from West Philadelphia

English: Center City viewed from West Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though the rubble is being cleared, the collapse of two buildings in Center City that left five women and one man dead, in addition to the dramatic late night rescue of a survivor, will surely go down as one of the biggest tragedies in Philadelphia’s history.

City officials were still grappling with the events of yesterday early this morning.  They have yet to make an announcement as to what may have gone wrong at a demolition site that led to the destruction.

A search and rescue operation that was expected to continue today has apparently been suspended.  Early this morning, firefighters were standing by, not actively combing the site.  The ambulances that lined Market Street for much of yesterday are gone.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/6_dead_in_Philadelphia_building_collapse.html#18GCkOqYMexevE2F.99

Building Collapses In Philadelphia; 2 People Trapped

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting Center City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PHILADELPHIA — A four-story building being demolished collapsed today on the edge of downtown Philadelphia, injuring 12 people and trapping two others, the fire commissioner said.

Rescue crews were trying to extricate the two people who were trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. The dozen people who were injured were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, he said.

The collapse involved a building that once housed a first-floor sandwich shop and apartments above.  It collapsed, sending debris onto a Salvation Army corner thrift store next door.  The two are adjacent to an adult bookstore and theater that had been taken down earlier.

Rescuers were using buckets and their bare hands to move bricks and rubble to search for survivors.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=482938