Money-Saving Consultants Have Cost SEPTA $2.8 Million, Invoices Show

Looking for ways to save money, SEPTA has paid about $2.8 million to a Boston-based consulting firm, including payments of more than $500 an hour to some specialists.

In the process, FTI Consulting Inc. has used 24 of its staffers, some of whom have collected more from SEPTA than the transit agency’s highest-paid official, general manager Joseph Casey, who makes $273,000 a year.

The meter is still running, with additional payments expected to continue through the end of the year.

SEPTA hired FTI in February 2013 through a no-bid contract to help the transit agency reduce legal costs arising from injury claims.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20150423_Money-saving_consultants_have_cost_SEPTA__2_8_million__invoices_show.html#pWCMMI87sB0IAZoX.99

Phila. Roofs Are Sprouting Greenery

When Esta Schwartz moved into her sixth-floor condominium at the Philadelphian, the view was not its best selling point.

The condos in the front of the building look out onto the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Art Museum, but her balcony, at the back, offered views of a black roof studded with large air-conditioning units.

Not anymore. Last week, workers began spreading dirt atop the roof, then planting it with sedum and other greenery that will be pink in June, ocher come November. Tall grasses will hide the air handlers.

“In some ways, it’s like a view out of a suburban window,” she said. Perhaps a third of the building’s condos now overlook, in effect, a huge lawn.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/science/20150422_Phila__roofs_are_sprouting_greenery.html#HmDdVpIU2KkOq5jx.99

Bolaris: Possible Frost By Week’s End

Thunderstorms swept into the area Monday night, bringing with them gusty winds, small hail and always dangerous cloud-to-ground lightening. All showers and leftover storms will slip off the coast Tuesday, allowing for a return to sunshine and pleasantly mild temperatures.

The return of the Big Chill

On Wednesday, a modified polar front will lead to afternoon showers and scattered storms. Temperatures will still be in the 60s, however unseasonably cold air will greet you Thursday as temperatures by day hover in the middle 50s.

Some parts of the Philadelphia region could be hit with frost either Friday or Saturday morning as the thermometer falls back into the winter-like 30s. How widespread will the frost be? It will depend on the amount of cloud cover and a light or near calm wind. Clear and calm conditions are the best case scenario for widespread frost.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Bolaris_Severe_threat_then_possible_frost.html#ukgWoqRM6Cd28mRL.99

(Greater) Center City Philadelphia’s Population Now Second Only To Midtown Manhattan’s

An expanded Center City Philadelphia has grown so much that it now ranks second only to Midtown Manhattan when it comes to people who live in the heart of the city.

That’s according to the Center City District, which released its annual report Monday – and which is defining the area as extending from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street.

Over the past 15 years, population grew 16 percent in the district that is also bounded by the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, bringing the population to 183,240, according to latest State of Center City report.

Brisk redevelopment also continued last year in that area, the CCD reported, with 1,983 new residential units completed by developers in that area.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150421__Greater__Center_City_s_population_now_second_only_to_Midtown_Manhattan_s.html#8uGCG8AyUkPxSytk.99

Source: Eagles To Sign Tim Tebow

Chip Kelly isn’t through with adding quarterbacks this offseason.

The Eagles are expected to sign Tim Tebow on Monday for the start of spring workouts, a NFL source said.

Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer was first with the report.

While Tebow has had looks at other positions during his brief NFL career, he will be brought in as a quarterback. The Eagles already have four quarterbacks on the roster with Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne. Bradford, who is rehabbing a torn ACL in his knee, isn’t likely to be ready for practices on Monday.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/Report_Eagles_reach_agreement_with_Tim_Tebow.html#XFfbfpcZUqyT1pS0.99

New ‘Flagship’ Wawa In Center City To Have Seating

Wawa will open its first store with interior seating in Center City Philadelphia this year, the company announced Thursday as it celebrated its 51st anniversary by giving away free coffee.

Work on the store at South Broad and Walnut Streets should begin in May and be finished in time for a Thanksgiving opening, said Lori Bruce, a Wawa spokeswoman.

Wawas in Florida and several other locations have outside seating, but not indoors.

Bruce said besides the seating the “new flagship store … will feature many new design concepts.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150417_Wawa_celebrates_anniversary_with_free_coffee.html#L3Rq2Z2yXVzmS5Lj.99

PREIT Reveals The Gallery’s New Look

Everything about the decrepit Gallery at Market East may be about to change.

Under an intended top-to-bottom renovation, one of Center City’s most notorious dead spots would be reborn as a gleaming glass-and-steel emporium – brimming with brand-name discount fashion shops, destination restaurants, and lively sidewalk cafés.

Even the name would be new. Welcome, shoppers, to the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.

Details of the plan were provided exclusively to The Inquirer in advance of a series of meetings by government agencies whose support is vital to the project. The news marks a grand unveiling of plans for the Gallery following years of uncertainty and speculation.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150415_PREIT_reveals_the_Gallery_s_new_look.html#ZjuIZxyXWmB7TTV1.99

Bolaris: Where The Heck Is Spring?

This is the time of the year when your throw your arms up and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!!” (That’s the famous quote from the 1976 movie Network about a former anchor’s ravings over the media’s quest for profits.) Hmm, I think director Sidney Lumet was on to something.

Back to weather. Yes, we do have a chance of some wet snow this evening, but this will be solely confined across the distant northern and western suburbs. The Lehigh Valley and the Poconos could pick up an inch or two in the highest elevations.

Most of the region, including the city, will see a cold rain arriving during the afternoon and continuing through the evening rush. I’m also including a few scattered thunderstorms across extreme South Jersey and Delaware.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/Bolaris_Where_the_heck_is_Spring.html#3ptEI0p3wEt6rQig.99

Aldi To Reopen 30 Of 66 Shut Bottom Dollar Stores

Discount grocer Aldi said Friday that it will reopen 30 of the 66 former Bottom Dollar stores it took over in Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and northeast Ohio after the previous owner, the Delhaize Group, shut Bottom Dollar last year.

Five ex-Bottom Dollar stores in Philadelphia and 14 in the suburbs will reopen. Four Philadelphia stores will stay shut, along with 13 in the suburbs.

Aldi, an Illinois-based U.S. arm of Germany’s Albrecht family grocery conglomerate, said in 2013 it planned a $3 billion expansion, and Friday’s announcement is part of that effort.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150328_Aldi_to_reopen_30_of_66_shut_Bottom_Dollar_stores.html#PzL7PW1CHTgYrswX.99

Additional article about Lehigh Valley locations:

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2015/03/aldi_to_convert_2_of_8_bottom.html

Creepy ‘Spies’ Killing Live Music At Local Venues?

THREE-FIFTHS OF Chris Aschman’s jazz quintet managed to fit onto the tiny stage upstairs at Jose Pistola’s, where the crimson glow makes musicians look like they’re playing in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

Aschman, a 29-year-old trumpet player, stayed on the floor, next to the saxophonist.

Then, the bassist reached overhead and turned off the TV and the audience of 20-somethings switched their attention from NCAA basketball to a funky, odd-time-signature groove driven by a young drummer in a Phillies cap who stomps on the kick drum like he’s got something to prove.

The song, called “UCB,” short for “Undercover Brother,” is an Aschman original, as were nine of the 11 songs his group played at the Center City bar earlier this month.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150329_The_day_the_music_____spied.html#ys60mkcLZjZ5hOTi.99

Four Plans For Philly’s Iconic LOVE Park Presented

LOVE Park is getting a new fountain, lots of lawn space, gardens, and a food-truck area. The question is, What goes where?

The design team working on the $15 million renovation of JFK Plaza presented four designs to the community at a meeting Tuesday at the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The four plans, presented by Mary Margaret Jones, president of the project’s lead architectural firm, Hargreaves Associates, include all the same elements but vary in layout.

The two greener proposals feature square-shaped lawns and sitting areas within the rectangle-shaped park. A third and fourth proposal involve slightly smaller lawns but more walking space and a pathway cutting through the park that would align with the LOVE statue and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Jones said the plans combined feedback from more than 1,000 people who attended meetings, e-mailed, or tweeted.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150325_Four_plans_for_LOVE_Park_presented.html#z5JxfZG7uwgvRAMl.99

Bolaris: Spring-Like Thunderstorms To Record Cold And Flakes

Get ready for the Jekyll and Hyde month of March to continue. Later this week you’ll need to break out the shorts before you scramble again for the winter coat and scarf.

On Tuesday, we’ll see some clouds to sun — along with a continued chill in the air — as temperatures will remain stuck in the unseasonably cold 40s. (Normal high is around 55 degrees).

On Wednesday, we will see a transitional day as milder air riding up over the chilly Canadian air will produce a few scattered afternoon showers as temperatures nudge into the 50s.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Bolaris_Spring-like_thunderstorms_to_record_cold_and_flakes.html#TRQAJQPx6L5JteRX.99

Philly L&I Dodges Questions About 600 Inspections By 9 Rookies In One Week

A group of inexperienced and uncertified inspectors for the Department of Licenses and Inspections conducted around 600 inspections of unsafe buildings in a single week last month, The Inquirer has learned.

Each of the nine newly hired inspectors then recorded their work in L&I’s database under the name of another man, an experienced inspector with the agency.

L&I officials say the inspections were part of a training exercise for the rookies.

The inspections, from Feb. 9 through 13, were performed the same week City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report criticizing L&I for not inspecting unsafe buildings – those that are badly damaged or deteriorated – in a timely manner.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150323_L_I_dodges_questions_about_600_inspections_by_9_rookies_in_one_week.html#E4ZoYtgCSAIfCJof.99

Bolaris: Wet Snow To Greet Spring

Yesterday, we had the luck of the Irish with temperatures reaching the 60s. However, you can bet your lucky charms that Old Man Winter still has a few tricks up his chilly sleeve.

Overnight, temperatures tumbled through the 50s, 40s, 30s and then reached the very winter-like 20s by daybreak.

To get through this hump you will need to throw back on the winter coat as temperatures — despite plenty of sunshine — will flirt with 40 degrees today, about 15 degrees below normal.

The chill will remain on Thursday with readings in the chilly 40s.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Bolaris_Temps_to_drop_snow_coming_by_weeks_end.html#ji5V33QHlv1Gux7c.99

Study: Reopening PATCO ‘Ghost Station’ Will Cost $18.5M

The estimated cost to reopen PATCO’s long-shuttered Franklin Square subway station in Old City will be at least $18.5 million, a new study says.

That’s about 50 percent more than transit officials expected.

The study, requested last year by PATCO’s parent Delaware River Port Authority, estimates 1,300 riders would use the station each day, but that nearly all of them would be current riders who now use the 8th and Market Street station.

The DRPA has been considering reopening the “ghost station” beneath Sixth and Race streets for years, and the agency included $500,000 in its current capital budget to reexamine the issue.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20150317_Study__Reopening_PATCO__ghost_station__will_cost__18_5M.html#ClKKXBqGrsKBxEf7.99

Homegrown Middle Class: A Neighborhoods Policy For Philadelphia

To John Kromer the city’s persistent poverty is best tackled at the neighborhood level. In a four-part series of commentaries Kromer, an urban housing and development consultant and former city housing director, will explore different policy interventions the next administration can deploy to reduce poverty, stabilize neighborhoods, and finance anti-blight work. Kromer lays the foundation with this first installment:

Mayoral and City Council candidates rarely have to take strong positions on neighborhood issues because other topics, such as taxes, crime, schools, and drugs, are more likely to attract voter interest when presented in a citywide, rather than neighborhood-specific context. Given all the demands of a hectic campaign season, most candidates don’t bother to bring forward substantive proposals for improving the condition of Philadelphia neighborhoods until after the elections.

The lower-priority status of neighborhoods as a campaign issue is particularly unfortunate, because the city’s biggest problem—the persistently high level of poverty in Philadelphia—can only be solved at the neighborhood level.

Organizing a neighborhoods policy that can be effective in reducing poverty levels is doable but complicated. Doing so requires thinking about existing strengths and weaknesses and future opportunities in a new way and seeking to obtain political buy-in for a new approach immediately. Advocates for fundamental policy changes can’t afford to wait until after the inauguration ceremony, after the appointment of planning and development officials, and after the presentation of the new administration’s first budget. Anyone who’s serious about planning to significantly reduce poverty during the next city administration needs to begin now.

Read more:

http://planphilly.com/eyesonthestreet/2015/03/16/homegrown-middle-class-a-neighborhoods-policy-for-philadelphia

Music History In South Broad Hotel-Condo Project

Introduced as interior designer for the 152-room SLS LUX Philadelphia Hotel, the iconic Phillipe Starck found it easy to strike the right chord with his audience of city movers and shakers.

Turning to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the Frenchman thanked the recording impresarios for giving him “the kind of music that has allowed me to make good projects.”

“This is my opportunity,” Starck said of his first Philadelphia project, “to be able to pay my debt to you and your music,” to which he listens as he designs.

With speeches, gold bricks, and daytime fireworks Friday at the Kimmel Center’s Hamilton Garden, developers Carl Dranoff and Sam Nazarian, CEO of Los Angeles-based sbe Entertainment Group, led the tributes to Gamble and Huff.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150314_Music_history_in_South_Broad_hotel-condo_project.html#Bbp17K28Dt0jt96z.99

Are These The 10 Best Philly Suburbs?

Editor’s note:  No surprise that the future tourism mecca of Western Montgomery County is missing from the list.  I guess mini-golf, carousels and train rides aren’t enough to propel a crime infested borough to the top of any great places to live list.  Not sure why the cart is always put before the horse.

Real estate website Movoto.com has compiled a list of the 10 best Philly suburbs.

With nine towns in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey, the site ranked these towns based on many factors such as amenities per capita, standard of living, crime rate, and average commute time to Philly.

Coming in at number one is Devon, which the site says has the highest graduation rate, a median income of more than $142,000 per year, and is the “safest place for miles near Philadelphia.”

Six towns in Montgomery County made the list, while the rest were in Chester, Delaware and Camden counties.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/philadelphia-real-estate/Are-these-the-10-best-Philly-suburbs.html#6shZWa03k79QQEqc.99

Zoning Code Changes Would Help Guide Redevelopment Of Former Industrial Sites In Philadelphia

Two members of City Council are proposing changes to a new zoning classification that’s meant to encourage the redevelopment of former industrial sites into mixed-use residential projects.

The category, Industrial Residential Mixed-use (IRMX), was created during the overhaul of the zoning code that culminated when a new code was enacted in 2012. Because it’s a new category, it has yet to be mapped into many neighborhoods.

But Councilmen Mark Squilla and Kenyatta Johnson are co-sponsoring a bill that would make a number of changes to the category. The changes would require IRMX projects to include non-residential uses, incentivize artisan or light-industrial uses, reduce the maximum lot coverage, and ease parking and loading regulations.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Zoning_code_changes_would_help_guide_redevelopment_of_former_industrial_sites.html#tBqxSQKwwjLgiCLY.99

Has Philadelphia’s Market East’s Time Finally Come?

If Philadelphia were a basketball court, Market Street East would be that inexplicable dead spot on the floor, the place where the ball just doesn’t bounce.

The eight-block corridor has four Dunkin’ Donuts and two Subway sandwich shops — but no outdoor cafe. A McDonald’s sits in what used to be a porn emporium.

The mid-street shopping selection on what should be a glittery avenue ranges from drug store to cut-rate clothing to cash-for-gold. Addicts come and go from a methadone clinic. The homeless own the corners, and the constant, rolling wall of buses fouls the air.

For years, when people like Paul Levy pitched the route’s potential to developers, they answered, “Yeah, I get it, but nobody goes to Market Street.”

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Mall_to_the_Hall.html