Neighborhood Allies Names Innovator As First President

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neighborhood Allies has named as its first president the nationally recognized innovator behind revitalization efforts in Youngstown, Ohio.

Presley Gillespie begins his work in mid-May with the nonprofit that established this year from the dissolution of the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Mr. Gillespie founded the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. five years ago. It was that city’s first such entity and it grew from a $200,000 start-up into a $3.1 million force behind housing rehabilitation and green enterprise, including the Iron Roots Urban Farm, a commercial enterprise on a solar-powered campus with a demonstration kitchen, job training workshops and a community loan fund for low- and moderate income home buyers.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/04/17/Neighborhood-Allies-names-innovator-as-first-president/stories/201404170138#ixzz2z9oBG3S0

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Allentown Hockey Arena Sees Milestone As Concrete Slab Is Poured

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Allentown hockey arena construction saw another milestone today as more than 30 trucks worth of concrete were poured for what will be a 17,000-square-foot ice floor.

A total of 315 cubic yards of concrete were poured today, and the next major step will be making the ice itself, which will occur in the summer.

“This took a great team effort,” said Jim Brooks, co-owner of the Phantoms hockey team that will start its 2014 season at the PPL Center in September.

“There’s not too many 10,000-seat venues in the world, let alone the United States, and even less that have ice-making capabilities,” Brooks said. “It’s very difficult to pull off.”

Read more:http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/04/allentown_hockey_arena_sees_mi.html

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Work On Civic Arena Site To Begin In August

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Construction of streets at the former Civic Arena site, now a sprawling parking lot in the heart of Pittsburgh, will begin in August, officials said on Thursday.

It will be the first significant activity on the 28-acre site since crews completed demolition of the arena about two years ago. More than $500 million in redevelopment is planned.

“We’re almost ready to start construction of the urban street grid,” said Mary Conturo, executive director of the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority.

The first phase is expected to cost $9 million and focus on building interior streets on the eastern part of the site, Conturo said. The work is expected to take about a year.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5924203-74/conturo-site-million#ixzz2ybAziPaI
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Pennsylvania Tax Burden Ranks 10th Nationally

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pennsylvanians’ state and local tax burden reached its lowest point in more than a decade in 2011, but it still climbed to rank as the nation’s 10th most onerous, up two spots from the year before, an analysis released this week shows.

The Washington-based Tax Foundation said Pennsylvanians shelled out $4,374 per capita in state and local taxes in 2011, or 10.3 percent of their per-capita income of $42,268. About 10.5 percent of income went toward state and local taxes in 2010, the foundation said.

“This trend was largely driven by the growth of income,” said Tax Foundation economist Liz Malm, explaining the slight decline.

About 27 percent of Pennsylvanians’ tax money went to other states. Aside from sales, excise, income, corporate and other taxes paid in other states, the Tax Foundation factors what it calls tax exporting.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5882443-74/tax-state-taxes#ixzz2y3z5waOg
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U.S. Senator Bob Casey Backs Community Development Funding

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey wants more money allocated to the Community Development Block Grant program to allow municipalities to decide what projects are most needed and have the funding to complete them.

During a teleconference Wednesday, Casey, D-Scranton, said the Obama administration has proposed cutting CDBG funding by more than $200 million this year. Casey wants the allocation to be increased in 2015.

“CDBG has played an instrumental role in advancing locally driven projects that create jobs and contribute to economic growth,” Casey said. “The cuts proposed in the administration’s budget could limit the ability of municipalities in Pennsylvania to complete economic development projects that are essential.”

He said he’s pushing for Congress to increase the funding.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1298260/Casey-backs-community-development-funding

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York’s West End: Businesses Want To Infuse New Life Into Neighborhood

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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

Just across the Codorus Creek from the heart of York’s downtown, a steady line of traffic regularly passes through the 200 block of West Philadelphia Street, following the turn of the street uphill past smartly painted homes and storefronts.

Growing up in York more than three decades ago, Steve Billet knew the area colloquially as the “colonial block.” It was a place that had a good reputation and housed property that was a wise investment for owners, he said.

On a Monday in March, however, many of the cars that idled at a nearby stoplight would continue on West Philadelphia without stopping. The idea that the city has nothing to offer has plagued York’s image and dissuaded business owners for years, and many entrepreneurs have struggled to make their shop a destination.

Still, when Billet had an opportunity to purchase a building in the 200 block in 1999, he took it. And when he and his partner David Smith decided to drop out of the rat race — as Smith puts it — to switch careers and return to the city, they settled on the spot that Billet had bought a decade and a half before as the site of their new venture.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_25440353/yorks-west-end-businesses-want-infuse-new-life

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More People Moving To Lehigh Valley, More Leaving Northwest New Jersey, Census Data Show

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the latest U.S. Census Bureau data are any indication, the Delaware River is the great divider between growth and decline in this region’s population.

More people are moving out of Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey while more are moving into Northampton and Lehigh counties in Pennsylvania.

The Census Bureau this morning released county-by-county population estimates for last year. The data show both New Jersey counties lost population; both Pennsylvania counties gained population. This pattern has continued for three straight years, the data show.

Births outpaced deaths in all four counties; the population changes are instead tied to people migrating to or emigrating out of the counties, according to the census.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2014/03/more_people_moving_to_lehigh_v.html

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Bethlehem Developer Gets First Approval For South Side Complex

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

A developer looking to build stores, offices and apartments across from the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. site got its first green light from Bethlehem officials today.

BethWorks Renovations needed the Bethlehem Planning Commission’s permission to build its proposed 111 apartments in two buildings, instead of three as originally proposed.

All three buildings were originally slated to host a mix of retail, offices and apartments, but company officials have since decided it would make more sense to separate the offices and apartments, said BethWorks’ Rob de Beer. All three buildings will still have retail space on the first floor.

BethWorks, which is co-owned by lawyer Michael Perrucci, is permitted to build up to 115 apartments on the three lots but needed variance approval to have them only in two buildings, de Beer said.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/03/bethlehem_developer_gets_first.html

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$1.4M Grant Will Aid Colebrookdale Railroad Effort

The Colebrookdale Railroad will benefit from $1.4 million in funding made possible by a PennDOT grant aimed at repairing and upgrading the line’s rails, equipment and infrastructure.

The 8.6-mile line between Pottstown and Boyertown recently began carrying freight again and will also be home to The Secret Valley Line historic excursion railroad, opening in the fall.

“Seventy percent of the funding was provided by the state and we had to raise the other 30 percent,” said Nathaniel Guest, president of the non-profit Colebrookdale Railroad Restoration Trust, which oversees the line.

The non-profit group has a for-profit subsidiary, Eastern Berks Gateway Railroad, which oversees the freight traffic and was the recipient of the grant.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140309/14m-grant-will-aid-colebrookdale-railroad-effort

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Bethlehem Revitalization Authority Readying For Applicants

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

The Bethlehem Revitalization and Improvement Authority is accelerating efforts to hire consultants so it can start accepting development applications in the summer.

The authority is tasked with implementing Bethlehem’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, which is expected to create $587 million worth of development. Bethlehem received the state economic development designation late last year.

Similar to Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone, the zone allows state and local nonproperty taxes from new development in the zone to help finance construction within it.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/03/bethlehem_revitalization_autho.html

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Beech Street Factory: Arts-Based Community Revitalization In Pottstown

The Beech Street Factory is a $12.5-million, 30-year investment in Pottstown’s future. With this project, Genesis Housing Corporation and Housing Visions propose not only to rehabilitate a vacant, prominent building in the Borough’s National Register Historic District, but also to spark renewed focus on the arts in Pottstown.

Pottstown has seen a cultural resurgence in recent years. Decades of hard work by organizations such as ArtFusion, Steel River Playhouse, the Pottstown Area Artists’ Guild, Montgomery County Community College, The Hill School Farnsworth Art Museum, and other arts-oriented organizations have highlighted the importance of cultivating visual, performing, and fine arts in Pottstown. More recently, the formation of CreativeMontCo has solidified county-wide interest in the arts. And ongoing investment by Genesis Housing Corporation, Mosaic Community Land Trust, the National Trust Main Street Program, and the Borough of Pottstown have helped to strengthen the overall quality of life in in the Borough by enhancing the public streetscape and laying the groundwork for further investment.

The Beech Street Factory proposes to capitalize on these long-standing efforts and help take them to the next level. Through their development expertise and knowledge of funding programs, Housing Visions and Genesis are planning to convert the old Fecera’s furniture warehouse into a 60,000-square-foot, mixed-use arts center. The ground floor will include 3,000 square feet of energy-efficient, financially sustainable space for ArtFusion, Pottstown’s long-running and much-loved non-profit community arts center.. And the remainder of the building will provide 43 loft, industrial-style apartments to artists and other interested residents. With 14 unique floor plans, exposed brick walls, plenty of natural light, and amenities including a landscaped courtyard, community room, resident computer lab, elevator, and off-street parking, the Beech Street Factory will provide inspiring spaces for Pottstown’s creative community to call home.

The combination of commercial and residential space will ensure a “24-hour” community at the Beech Street Factory, where the busy hum of ArtFusion students during the day gives way to quiet creativity among individual residents at night. The Beech Street Factory will seek to engage with the larger Pottstown community by hosting gallery events at ArtFusion and in the building’s resident community room and open front porch. Residents will be encouraged through Housing Visions scholarships to take classes at ArtFusion, and similarly, members of ArtFusion may wish to apply for residency at the Factory. Additionally, Housing Visions plans to market the residential units to qualified tenants throughout the region by advertising in local arts publications, print and social media, and at local arts events.

The Beech Street Factory provides the catalyst for a renewed conversation about creating a formal Pottstown Arts District. The developers plan to participate on a new Arts Task Force, supporting the Mosaic Community Land Trust in their effort to create an Artist Relocation Program around homeownership in the Beech Street Neighborhood. Through Housing Tax Credit funding, Housing Visions commits its expertise and resources to help improve the quality of life in Pottstown over the next 30 years. By sharing their extensive experience in creative financing and redevelopment of historic properties, Housing Visions and Genesis hope to foster a renewed, stronger emphasis on neighborhood revitalization and quality of life in Pottstown.

By Heather Schroeder, Development Project Manager, Housing Visions

Editor’s thoughts:  This project is gaining supporters. Here is this list, so far:

U.S. Representative Gerlach

Creative MontCo

ArtFusion

Steel River Playhouse

Genesis

Michael Horn, Architect

We feel this project could be the “game changing” catalyst that will finally propel Pottstown’s Arts Revitalization movement forward. Successful completion of a major project in Pottstown would send the signal to funding agencies, investors and developers that Pottstown is now working together toward a common goal. We urge Pottstown Borough Council to get on board with this project.

The biggest thing holding Pottstown back has been the inability of all parties to find common ground and work together. Now that Housing Visions has gotten on board with Pottstown’s desire to be something more than another dumping ground for Montgomery County’s social service ills, and made significant changes to this project, we feel this version is now worthy of our support as well.

We feel the last paragraph regarding the creation of an “arts district” and an artist relocation program is a key component of this project. We have posted about Oil City‘s artist relocation program and how it has helped transform this much smaller and more remote community in Venango County. Pottstown’s excellent location and easy access to Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, Reading and Lancaster only improve the chances for success.

We think you will see support continue to build from other stakeholders in the Tri-County area. A revitalized Pottstown benefits EVERYBODY in the 19464,19465 zip codes, and beyond.

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Zoning Change Approved, Finally, For Franklin Mint Site

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

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

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP, PA –  A decade after the Franklin Mint closed, its round museum building still sits vacant along busy Baltimore Pike in Delaware County.

Development of the prominent property has been plagued by opposition from residents, a slow economy, and – most recently – a legal battle among the developers.

But the plan took a step forward this week when a revised zoning ordinance won approval from the Middletown Township Council. The site, with more than 170 acres, could now have 350 townhouses, offices, retail space, and a hotel.

Its completion could take years. By that time, the site could become just one piece in a transformation of the heavily traveled Route 1 through Middletown.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140301_Zoning_change_approved__finally__for_Franklin_Mint_site.html#61TJpi4ej4yS7q3Z.99

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Norristown Residents Ask Commissioners How To Revitalize The Area

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

NORRISTOWN, PA — Conversation at the commissioners “conversations” meeting at Norristown Municipal Hall largely focused on bringing Norristown back to its glory days.

Peggy Dellisant, a Norristown resident who used to own Main Changes Clothing, said the town needs foot traffic on Main Street to make a comeback.

“I just retired. I watched Main Street die a slow death,” she said.

Dellisant said that the abandoned prison on Airy Street is beautifully made, and turning it into something modern would help to bring the foot traffic into Norristown that the businesses need.

“The prison on Main and Airy is coming apart,” she said. “It really would be a shame to see that building just deteriorate. This town really needs a lot of help.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140227/norristown-residents-ask-commissioners-how-to-revitalize-the-area

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Allentown’s Americus Hotel Project Advances, But Concerns Remain

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The revitalization of Allentown‘s Americus Hotel took another step toward reality today, but development officials want further assurances the project will actually be completed.

“We don’t want to have a project that’s going to fail,” said Sy Traub, chairman of the authority that oversees development in the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

“If we approve a project that goes belly up in the middle of it, and it’s a project in the middle of our city that’s going to sit vacant and stalled, then it’s going to be a real problem,” Traub said.

Developer Albert Abdouche appeared today before a Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority committee with his plans for a revamped 11-story hotel at 549 Hamilton St.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/02/allentowns_americus_hotel_proj.html#incart_river

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Pew Report: Philadelphia’s Middle Class Is Shrinking

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

The Philadelphia middle class, a backbone of economic vitality that once made up the majority of residents in most of the city’s neighborhoods, has declined in steep numbers since 1970, from 59 percent to 42 percent by 2010, according to a report released Monday, the first of its kind.

The precipitous decline of adults within this long-celebrated class occurred widely across the city and most sharply before 2000, sparing only chunks of Far Northeast Philadelphia and Roxborough and smaller pockets elsewhere. Those areas remained majority middle-class as of a few years ago, said the Pew Charitable Trusts, which spearheaded the study.

The data capture what has been sensed and dreaded by policymakers for years: Philadelphia is decidedly poorer than when it was a manufacturing powerhouse, losing even a greater share of higher-taxpaying middle-class residents than the nation as a whole, and failing even to see increases in its upper-class population to match other cities that fared better.

Whether middle-class Philadelphians fell into a lower-income class, moved into the suburbs, or died is not shown by Pew’s analysis, as researchers have found such detailed tracking to be elusive.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140225_New_Pew_report_shows_city_s_middle-class_shrinking.html#GakidtL6rbcd5xYK.99

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How A Pittsburgh School, Empty For 30 Years, Became Home To Electronics Firm

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hays School had been empty for 30 years when Bob Dagostino drove by one morning and saw the “For Sale” sign. He copied the number and called for a tour. At the time, his electronics business Downtown was outgrowing its third location.

“At our other place, [employees] sat an arm’s length apart,” said Chuck Roberts, vice president of Dagostino Electronic Services. “Bob brought me in look at the school and I said, ‘Why don’t we get a renovated space?’ and he said, ‘No, no, this is our headquarters.’ He had a vision.”

It often takes vision to remake a century-old school. Pittsburgh has scores of them, some in private hands, some long vacant, several converted into apartments and 19 still to be sold. Pittsburgh Public Schools has contracted with Fourth River Development to sell them.

The former Schenley High School in North Oakland sold last year for $5.2 million and is slated for luxury housing. McCleary School in Upper Lawrenceville sold last year for $410,000 to a residential developer. Morningside School has been approved for sale to the Urban Redevelopment Authority for $275,000, also for housing; negotiations are underway “as we speak,” said Patrick Morosetti, sales and leasing manager for Fourth River Development.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2014/02/24/How-Pittsburgh-school-empty-for-30-years-became-home-to-electronics-firm/stories/201402240060#ixzz2uGDkAqAk

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Stability Spurs More Growth In Pittsburgh

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slow and steady wins the race: It works for the tortoise, and it seems to be working for Pittsburgh.

The latest annual “Pittsburgh Today and Tomorrow” report by PittsburghTODAY found that Pittsburgh continues to make modest economic progress after years of decline.

PittsburghTODAY is a nonprofit part of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social & Urban Research that tracks the region’s progress compared with 15 other areas of similar size, geographic and demographic makeups.

Doug Hueck, program director for PittsburghTODAY, highlighted data regarding population growth, unemployment levels and housing appreciation rates as examples of the city’s revival.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/22/Stability-spurs-more-growth-here/stories/201402220041#ixzz2u57osImH

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SW Germantown ‘Rising’ Thanks To Program

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

ANYONE INTERESTED in learning the true meaning of perseverance should spend some time in southwest Germantown.

After years of attending meetings, making phone calls and lobbying the city, community organizers have succeeded in bringing the neighborhood under the fold of the PhillyRising Collaborative.

The collaborative, an idea from the Managing Director’s Office, seeks to combat quality-of-life issues in crime-ridden neighborhoods by working closely with area organizations.

Organizations like the Southwest Central Lower Germantown Civic Association, run by Allison Weiss.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140223_SW_Germantown__Rising__thanks_to_program.html#76vcBFGG46d2ojRA.99

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Failed Movie Studio In Montco Cost Taxpayers Millions

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

NORRISTOWN, PA — The project to transform an old Norristown shopping center into a movie studio was supposed to bring the glitz and fortune of Hollywood to the sagging seat of Montgomery County.

Build it and filmmakers will come. Build it and jobs will come and lift Norristown to prosperity.

That dream fizzled like a box-office bomb last May, when the project’s investor filed for foreclosure against the developer.

The forlorn shopping center, Logan Square, sits half-empty, its fate likely to be announced in the coming weeks. The county is grappling with how to recoup the $25 million it sank into the project — including $10 million in federal funds it must repay — and its lawyers are preparing a lawsuit against the developer. And prosecutors are scrutinizing the deal to see if more than bad luck and poor judgment were to blame.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140218/failed-movie-studio-in-montco-cost-taxpayers-millions

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Business Forum: Steel, Health Dare And Future Wealth Of Our Robotic Region

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A city that doesn’t make things can never be a real city.

The Steel City got its name and built its international reputation by making the best metal products in the world. For Hollywood, wealth and fame came from making the greatest motion pictures the world has ever seen. Silicon Valley earned its place in history by giving us the personal computer, the cell phone and just about every other indispensable high-tech gadget you can think of.

In the aftermath of the dismantling of the steel industry, Pittsburgh was especially fortunate to have a world-class health care and university system. These gems allowed us to sidestep the ruinous fate that has befallen other Rust Belt cities such as Detroit and Gary, Indiana.

However, in the long run those regional assets will not be enough to elevate this metropolitan statistical area and its wealth back to the level it enjoyed during the middle of the last century.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/Biz-opinion/2014/02/15/Steel-health-care-and-future-wealth-of-our-robotic-region/stories/201402150066#ixzz2tPa3gmXI

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