$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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Miller’s Smorgasbord, Plain & Fancy And AmishView Offered For Sale

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Three major tourism businesses and their properties in eastern Lancaster County are for sale, it was announced Wednesday.

The businesses are Miller’s Smorgasbord, Plain & Fancy Farm and the AmishView Inn & Suites.

They employ a combined 280 people and post annual revenues exceeding $12 million.

“There will be a transition, but it doesn’t have to happen tomorrow,” said Al Duncan of Thomas E. Strauss Inc., which owns the businesses.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/miller-s-smorgasbord-plain-fancy-and-amishview-offered-for-sale/article_d0c5d524-a4b8-11e3-bfa2-0017a43b2370.html

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PHL: More Than A Plane, Train Destination

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

There is something to be said for speaking in one voice.

Key promoters of the city and region certainly think so, having all agreed to adopt a new marketing tagline – PHL: Here for the Making.

In the coming days, you can expect to see it in ads and promotions by the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Select Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.

The goal, according to Jack Ferguson, president of PHLCVB, is to leverage the marketing clout of those groups by adopting a single, focused slogan that will resonate with es, conventions and travelers who might be interested in coming here.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140212_PHL__More_than_a_plane__train_destination.html#PYSMwLPBfTEWiY8r.99

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Franklin Mills Reinvents Itself As A More Conventional Mall

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

A sky-high crane dangles over a corner of Franklin Mills Mall these days, but it is more than a towering construction tool: It is a symbol of how necessity is the mother of reinvention at this once-legendary shopping mall.

A Walmart Supercenter is taking shape at the once-pioneering complex, which opened nearly 25 years ago with theme-park anticipation as among the first outlet malls, and the outright largest, ever built. The splashy development, unveiled in 1989, was a gamble befitting its locale, a onetime Northeast Philadelphia racetrack. And early on, its unmatched offerings paid off with packed corridors.

The mall flaunted a 1.2-mile-long, zigzag-shaped concourse, and more than 200 stores hawking discount designer goods, at a time when such wares were available only at out-of-the-way old-factory outlets. Its 1.7 million square feet of bargain buys, right off I-95, was a tourist draw and local sensation.

But the megamall’s early monopoly on outlet shopping has come to an end, forcing Franklin Mills to alter its once-irresistible identity. The Walmart is one of many tenants that now make the monolith, well, a bit more ordinary. And this is by design.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20131226_Franklin_Malls_reinvents_itself_as_a_more_conventional_mall.html#B6GQUXeWYThVsWmy.99

Historic Rail Car Coming Home To Pennsylvania

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BOYERTOWN, PA — A relic from the golden age of Pennsylvania’s railroading past is coming home.

Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) cabin car (known as a “caboose” on other railroads) #477768 was built in Altoona in 1941.

For the last six years, members of the Rivanna Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) have been restoring it at a location in Virginia, far from the car’s home.

Now it is being donated to the non-profit Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust in Boyertown. There it will be maintained and kept in operation on The Secret Valley Line tourist trains that will begin running on the eight mile track between Boyertown and Pottstown in the fall of 2014.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20131224/historic-rail-car-coming-home-to-pennsylvania

Santa Express Brings A Little Christmas Magic To Bellefonte

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BELLEFONTE, PA — Dressed as Rudolph this weekend, Mike Hawbaker made his way through the train cars of the Santa Express.

During one of the 11 trips, Hawbaker approached a small child, who gave the costume-clad volunteer a small piece of paper. The child had hand drawn a little picture of the reindeer and wanted to give it to the red-nosed Christmas staple.

“That’s why we do this,” Hawbaker said, smiling as he looked at the drawing.

The annual event is a joint effort among the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, the Nittany and Bald Eagle Railroad and the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society, train owner Jeff Pontius said. He also organizes similar events in Williamsport, Bloomsburg and Sunbury.

Bellefonte Victorian Christmas A Holiday Wonderland

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step into the holiday wonderland of the 32nd Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, but watch out for some of its characters.

They may be stepping around you.

Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchet and the Fezziwigs will return to Bellefonte in all their festive sartorial splendor to stroll around and greet visitors during the Dec. 12-15 celebration.

They’re among the many attractions scheduled for the traditional holiday extravaganza organized by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association. Carolers, arts and crafts vendors, concerts, horse-drawn carriage rides, gingerbread houses, visits with Santa and more await to put even the biggest Scrooge in a holiday mood.

NY Chef’s Jaw Broken In Philly Attack

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

A Manhattan chef suffered a broken jaw while walking in Philadelphia last week in what he believes could be a vicious example of a so-called “knockout” attack – but police aren’t yet calling it that.

But police say they are investigating the assault on Diego Moya, 30, and hoping to locate surveillance video in hopes of finding suspects, said Officer Jillian Russell, a department spokeswoman.

According to police and Moya’s own account to the New York Daily News, Moya had just finished eating pizza with some friends in Old City when he headed out toward the hostel he was staying at on the first block of S. Bank Street about 11 p.m. Tuesday. He had been in town visiting his parents for a pre-Thanksgiving visit.

While on Bank Street, Moya was attacked from behind. He told the New York Daily News he believes it was a group of males between the ages of 16 and 21.  Philadelphia police said Moya was not able to give a description of any attackers after they arrived about 11:30 p.m.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Report_NY_chef_breaks_jaw_in_knockout_game_in_Philly.html#QlAX3wWl5FOYoMFK.99

Bethlehem Continues To Boost Christmas Events

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

Bethlehem keeps working to earn its Christmas City nickname.

The city may have more holiday events than ever this year: Christkindlmarkt is open for its 21st year, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites is holding holiday tours and carriage rides for its 20th year and Center City’s Christmas City Village is returning for its third year.

The continued addition of holiday attractions has only helped existing events, operators said. Christkindlmarkt, a German-style holiday marketplace put on by ArtsQuest, had two of its three best years following the debut of the Downtown Bethlehem Association-organized Christmas City Village in 2011, ArtsQuest spokesman Mark Demko said.

Christmas City Village — an open-air German-style market also known as Weihnachtsmarkt — is adding another five huts for a total of 35 this year, Downtown Business Association Manager Kara Johnson said. And Historic Bethlehem is already ahead of schedule on pre-sale tour and carriage ride tickets, according to LoriAnn Wukitsch, the organization’s vice president and managing director.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2013/11/bethlehem_continues_to_boost_c.html

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

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

The Pumpkin House – Kenova, WV

A friend of mine suggested that something like this would make a great festival for Pottstown.  As many residents recall, tractor trailer loads of pumpkins made their way into Pottstown every fall to become Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie, before the company was sold.  She suggested in addition to the pumpkin carving that a “pumpkin toss” might be fun when the pumpkin viewing was all over.

Several locations come to mind, Memorial Park or Riverfront Park would be at the top of the list.

This would be a great “homage” to Pottstown’s past.  Pumpkin parade, pumpkin queen, Pumpkin 5K and the list goes on and on :)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kenovas-Famous-Griffith-Pumpkin-House/278830822139142

The Giant Rubber Duck Will Fly Sunday From Its Pittsburgh Nest

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)

After hatching on Sept. 27, the duck is ready to leave the nest.

The 40-foot rubber duck, the brainbird of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman that has been floating in the Allegheny River just off of Point State Park the past few weeks, will fly out of town at 11 p.m. Sunday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust said this morning.

Despite petitions to keep the duck here, the trust is sticking with its initial plan to remove the bird, coinciding with the Steelers vs. Ravens game Sunday at Heinz Field. At that point, the duck will be taken to an undisclosed location, cleaned, dried and put in storage at a warehouse in the South Side.

“It came in like a lion, let’s let it go like a lamb,” said Paul Organisak, vice president of programming for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/the-giant-rubber-duck-will-fly-sunday-from-its-pittsburgh-nest-708115/#ixzz2i5tIbfDQ

Lake Erie Algae: Report Says Toxic Mega-Blooms Could Become The ‘New Normal’

English: Aerial view of Presque Isle State Par...

English: Aerial view of Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie near Erie, Pennsylvania, USA. View is to the east-northeast. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built 55 off-shore segmented breakwaters to prevent the beach erosion problem at Presque Isle State Park that caused the loss of this important recreational site and environmental habitat for wildlife. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This is an important issue for Pennsylvania.  The algae is problematic for Erie County as a tourist destination and as a wildlife refuge (Presque Isle State Park).

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — It was the largest algae bloom in Lake Erie‘s recorded history — a scummy, toxic blob that oozed across nearly one-fifth of the lake’s surface in the summer and fall of 2011. It sucked oxygen from the water, clogged boat motors and washed ashore in rotting masses that turned beach-goers’ stomachs.

It also was likely an omen of things to come, experts said in a study released earlier this year. The warming climate and modern farming practices are creating ideal conditions for gigantic algae formations on Lake Erie, which could be potentially disastrous to the surrounding area’s multi-billion-dollar tourist economy. The shallowest and southernmost of the Great Lakes, Erie contains just 2 percent of their combined waters but about half their fish.

According to the report, which was compiled by more than two-dozen scientists, the 2011 runaway bloom was fueled by phosphorus-laden fertilizers that were swept from corn and soybean fields during heavy rainstorms. Weak currents and calm winds prevented churning and flushing that could have short-circuited its rampant growth.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/hunting-fishing/erie-algae-report-says-toxic-mega-blooms-could-become-the-new-normal-706852/#ixzz2hHcUmdjs

Hotel Lancaster Will Replace The Brunswick Downtown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Standing amid workers installing tile and trim and painting the new lobby, real estate developer John Meeder declared: “The experience starts here.”

The experience is one of a bright, open lobby; clean, well appointed rooms; and a well-managed facility.

It will be the experience of The Hotel Lancaster, promised Meeder.

“The Brunswick is history. It is no longer the name of this hotel,” he said. “Sorry historians, but there is too much baggage.”

The street-level lobby had long been recommended by urban planners, but by moving it to the East Chestnut Street side of the building, Meeder and his partners also are getting a new address.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/901905_Hotel-Lancaster-will-replace-the-Brunswick-downtown.html#ixzz2h3cWK938

Reading Visitors Bureau Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

In April 1963, a group of forward-looking business and civic leaders organized the Reading-Berks County Pennsylvania Dutch Travel Association.

The region’s rich history and cultural heritage, they believed, could draw tourists whose dollars would strengthen the region’s economy.

The association has undergone several name changes and had several homes, but 50 years, later the founders’ vision still guides the Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“It’s still our history, art, architecture and the sheer beauty of our region that attracts visitors,” association president Crystal A. Seitz said Monday.  “Tourism touches everybody’s life in Berks County.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=511449

Raging Fire Strikes At Heart Of Sandy-Hit New Jersey Town

Map of New Jersey highlighting Ocean County

Map of New Jersey highlighting Ocean County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEASIDE PARK, N.J. – A raging fire spewing fist-sized embers engulfed much of an iconic Jersey shore boardwalk Thursday, destroying more than 50 businesses and undoing months of rebuilding efforts after the inundation of Superstorm Sandy.

Workers joined the fire in tearing into the boardwalk – a last-ditch effort to rob the inferno of fuel that helped preserve what was left of the economic lifeblood of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights.

The wind-whipped fire devoured eight blocks of boardwalk – four in each town – and caused millions of dollars in damage before workers halted its advance by ripping out a large section of boardwalk and piling up huge makeshift sand dunes meant to hold back fire, not water.

The blaze destroyed 32 businesses on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk, borough Councilwoman Nancy Koury told The Associated Press.  Michael Loundy, a real estate agent who works with Seaside Heights on tourism projects, said 20 businesses were destroyed there.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=510840

Judge Clears Hotel Brunswick For October Reopening In Downtown Lancaster

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

A Lancaster County judge has OK’d a series of agreements that will allow a developer’s plan to makeover the shuttered Hotel Brunswick.

Judge Jeffery Wright signed an order Wednesday that includes 21 operating agreements between the city, the district attorney’s office and developer John Meeder’s Meeder Development Corp.

The order clears the remaining legal hurdle Meeder had in reopening what was once a city landmark.

Meeder said Wednesday that the order keeps his planned reopening date of “early October” right on track.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/893882_Judge-clears-Hotel-Brunswick-for-October-reopening.html#ixzz2egteqhCq

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

Pittsburgh’s ‘Knit The Bridge’ Project Declared A Success

Seventh Street Bridge (aka Andy Warhol Bridge)...

It was covered by the BBC and NPR, Time.com and the Huffington Post and by media in Europe and Israel.

The vast, improbable, record-breaking Knit the Bridge project — in which the 1,061-foot-long Andy Warhol Bridge was covered with 580 knitted and crocheted blankets during the second weekend of August — is officially a success, according to organizers, public officials, knitting enthusiasts, yarn bombers and people on the streets of Downtown.

Today is the last day to see the largest such “yarn bombing” of a structure in the United States and possibly in the world, before a team of volunteers arrives at 5 a.m. Saturday to start dismantling the project. The bridge will be closed until 7 p.m. Sunday as volunteers undo the thousands of plastic ties fastening the acrylic yarn panels to the structure, said Amanda Gross, a local fiber artist who came up with the idea for the Knit the Bridge project.

As the city basked in warm September sunshine Thursday, those strolling near the 87-year-old steel suspension bridge gave the project rave reviews.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/lifestyle/knit-the-bridge-project-declared-a-success-702219/#ixzz2e8uj3g5u