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

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

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

Center City District: Housing Boom Continues

The housing boom rolling across central Philadelphia showed no signs of weakening last year, according to data released Tuesday, but a population exodus could be on the near horizon if little is done to fix the city’s schools and tax structure.

The news was mostly positive out of Center City District’s annual housing report, which found that 1,983 new apartments, condos, and houses between Girard and Tasker Avenues, and the Schuylkill and Delaware River hit the market in 2014, thanks to an influx of empty nesters and young professionals, said CCD chief executive Paul Levy.

That number was down 8.5 percent from the record-breaking 2,168 logged a year earlier. But Levy and his staff concluded that demand for the torrent of new construction of homes and apartments would be strong for at least several more years.

“Property is selling for more. It’s selling more quickly,” Levy said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150218_Center_City_District__Housing_boom_continues.html#gfAQAl0PUIx9wOV9.99

Hotels, Money, David Cohen Helped Philly Snag 2016 Democratic National Convention

WASHINGTON – Hotels, money, Comcast executive David L. Cohen, and maybe some special treatment at the Liberty Bell all helped Philadelphia get over the top to win the right to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, city and party leaders said Thursday afternoon.

“The role of Philadelphia in shaping our nation’s history is unmatched,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee. “But what’s also unmatched is the comprehensive proposal” the city put together.

The three finalists to host the convention — Philadelphia, New York and Columbus, Ohio — were judged on logistics, security and resources to host the gathering that Democrats hope will serve as an energizing springboard to the 2016 presidential race, Wasserman Schultz said on an afternoon conference call with reporters.

Philadelphia presented the best combination of all three – though the proximity of thousands of hotel rooms to the Wells Fargo Center and sports complex were among its biggest draws, she said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/capitolinq/Hotels-money-David-Cohen-boosted-Philly-convention-bid.html#BvsKUxkxJvvgDLfi.99

Target Aiming To Build Small Center City Stores

For years, landlords tried to coax Target to open one of its big-box stores in the heart of Philadelphia. Each time they failed, daunted by the difficulty of plunking a store the size of two football fields into a packed downtown.

That chase appears to have come to an end, with a much smaller version called Target Express now looking to make a splash at multiple locations in the hottest pockets of redevelopment near Philadelphia’s core.

Target Corp. is hunting for lease deals in Center City and University City to build what could be as many as four of the new stores, which are about one-sixth the size of a suburban Target.

The goal is to bring the brand to the very Baby Boomers and young professionals who became loyal customers in the suburbs, but who increasingly are moving into resurgent central Philadelphia.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150109_Target_aiming_to_build_small_Center_City_stores.html#jQsGpabPqVtiiwUp.99

Report: Bright Millennials Flocking To Center City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

The number of educated millennials living in Center City ballooned 78 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report released Monday.

“The Young and Restless and the Nation’s Cities,” published by cityobservatory.org, found that 25 to 34 year olds with at least a bachelor’s degree have been flocking to major metropolitan areas, fueling economic growth and stimulating urban revitalization.

Philadelphia ranked sixth among major cities which have attracted young college graduates to their booming city centers. New York City topped the list followed by San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago and Boston.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Report_Number_of_educated_millennials_living_in_Center_City_skyrockets.html#MqLbhuE2OgqeDAdH.99

Philadelphia’s New Gem: A Stroll On The Schuylkill

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

Let New York gloat about completing the High Line. Philadelphia is about to debut a linear park that might be even more impressive: the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk.

As wonderful as the High Line is, it merely allows people to wend their way through Manhattan a few stories above its bustling streets. When the latest segment of the Schuylkill Banks trail opens to the public Thursday, you’ll be able to walk on water, under the glittering gaze of the Center City skyline.

The new 15-foot-wide walkway dives into the river at Locust Street, and doesn’t crawl back onto dry land until it reaches the South Street Bridge, a joyous journey more than 2,000 feet long. Along the way, you’re borne over the water like Huck and Jim on their raft, simultaneously a part of the world and temporarily removed from it.

Big puffball canopies of trees sweep past. Trains rumble by, keeping time with your step. Cars whoosh along the expressway on the opposite bank. In the evening, as the lee shore fades to black and lights flicker on, the city can feel as distant as outer space. Cars and trains devolve into abstract streaks of color. Only the lapping river is a reminder that the solid earth remains nearby.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20140928_Changing_Skyline__A_Stroll_on_the_Schuylkill.html#3zXOsHclp7lMEyYi.99

Turning Up The Lights On Gray Market St. East

English: Lit Brothers Department Store, 701-39...

English: Lit Brothers Department Store, 701-39 Market Street (block bounded by Market, 7th, Filbert, 8th Streets) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (33 buildings built between 1859 and 1918, unified by a brick & iron facade). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Times Square-ification of Market Street East in central Philadelphia is underway, and it is starting at one of the most treasured buildings on one of the most stubbornly seedy thoroughfares in Center City.

Construction scaffolding has begun its crawl up the cake-frosting-white facade of the former Lit Bros. department store, a century-old architectural wonder that will be home to the city’s first flashy, high-tech video billboard screens.

Over the next three months, crews will work to install stadiumlike, wraparound LED signs rising 14 feet above the roofline of both corners of the landmark structure on the 700 block of Market Street.

Officials hope to light up Lits for the first time on New Year’s Eve – the holiday synonymous with Times Square, the Manhattan billboard mecca whose mojo Market Street’s boosters and investors are hoping to mimic.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140928_Video_screens_to_add_some_pop_to_street.html#pR6W1yWRRd3Al006.99

Attack On Gay Couple Prompts Outraged Citizens To Use Twitter To Try To Solve The Crime

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

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

The video Philadelphia police posted online represented a major break in a horrific case – capturing images of a group suspected in a vicious Center City attack on a gay couple.

The suspects in the video – a group of young men and women, laughing, smiling and dressed for a night out – had allegedly mocked two men walking near Rittenhouse Square before beating them badly, sending both to the hospital. One of the men was also robbed, police said.

Word spread, and within hours, people took to Twitter and the Internet, trawling through social media in an attempt to identify the men and women in the video and forwarding their findings to police.

As detectives in the case zeroed in on the suspects and fielded tips, the online effort to identify them became something of a crowdsourced investigation.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140918_Attack_on_gay_couple_prompts_outraged_citizens_to_use_Twitter_to_try_to_solve_the_crime.html#oEwr1taBqrS46zLg.99

Plans For Two Hotels At 15th & Chestnut Taking Shape

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

Next week, developers will present their designs for the W and Element Hotels planned for 15th and Chestnut streets to the Center City Residents Association. The presentation is for information only: The planned project requires no zoning variances and can be built by right.

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/Plans_for_two_hotels_at_15th_and_Chestnut_taking_shape.html#P5wsWYOKxqO3JmVS.99

Mormon Apartment Tower, Meetinghouse Complex Passes Design Review

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

After reviewing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ plans for an apartment tower, townhouses, retail space, and a meetinghouse at 1601 Vine St., the city Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee advised the church to open a garden to the public, work with the Streets Department to improve traffic flow on adjacent Wood Street, and use a higher-grade material than blacktop in a public courtyard.

The committee then closed its review, with little information on the large amount of public art the church is required to provide.

CDR committee members, who met earlier this week, weren’t totally thrilled about that last bit.

“Whatever we decide here becomes the way future developers come before us,” said committee member Cecil Baker. “This is part of the public realm. When jobs get this large, it’s a very important part. This is a major, major opportunity, the likes of which come rarely.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Mormon_apartment_tower_meetinghouse_complex_passes_design_review.html#GqLhlWDwGYvu5sA2.99

Homeownership In Philadelphia Tumbles, Report Says

The homeownership rate in Philadelphia declined sharply between 2000 and 2012, primarily as a consequence of the prolonged and sweeping real estate downturn that followed the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006-07, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Although Philadelphia’s homeownership rate remains high among the nation’s 30 largest cities, the 7.1 percentage-point drop in owner-occupied units – from 59.3 percent to 52.2 percent, or by 47,082 – was surpassed only by Phoenix, which suffered record foreclosures and price declines when the market swooned, the Pew study shows.

Stagnant incomes, rising home prices, and tight credit, all products of the recession, have cut into owner-occupied numbers, the study showed.

In addition, young professionals who once were the chief source of first-time buyers are either wary of homeownership or burdened by student-loan debt.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/classifieds/real_estate/20140710_Homeownership_in_Philadelphia_tumbles__report_says.html#PLLsApVZLecmI3H2.99

SEPTA Aims For Happier Riders, Unveils 5-Year Plan

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With increased state funding and stable ridership, SEPTA officials are unveiling a five-year plan to attract more riders, repair crumbling infrastructure, and improve customer satisfaction.

Having emerged from last year’s doomsday scenarios into a hopeful era of what SEPTA planners call “innovation, integration and renewal,” the officials on Tuesday outlined a blueprint for the future that will be presented to the agency’s board for approval in July.

Meeting with transit users and supporters at SEPTA’s Center City headquarters, Byron Comati, director of strategic planning, said legislative approval late last year of a $2.3 billion boost in statewide transportation funding allows SEPTA to plan more boldly.

By 2018, the additional state funding will mean a boost of about $400 million annually for SEPTA to repair bridges, buy new vehicles and upgrade stations and equipment.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20140521_SEPTA_aims_for_happier_riders__unveils_5-year_plan.html#erJVxPXXeAuIyUU6.99

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Philadelphia’s Luxury Rental Market Is Booming

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

The city’s for-sale housing market is experiencing fits and starts on a seemingly unending road to recovery. The luxury rental market, on the other hand, remains hot.

Yet another illustration of that comes Wednesday with the official opening of Dranoff Properties’ Southstar Lofts, an 85-unit, mid-rise rental project at Broad and South Streets that is heavier on one-bedrooms than the company’s fully leased 777 South Broad a few blocks away.

Developer Carl Dranoff considers the buildings complementary, and tenants at Southstar will get to use the roof deck at 777 and will share other amenities.

Rents will range from $1,595 to $3,395 a month, he said. About 63 percent of those leasing are singles in their 20s, and 35 percent list their occupation as medicine. Most earn $50,000 to $150,000, and 48 percent are moving from within six blocks.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140427_Phila__luxury_rental_market_is_booming.html#jYw0YTP7lsBDLXES.99

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$60-$70 Million Chestnut Street Residential Development Set To Begin

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

In what would transform a bedraggled slice of central Philadelphia, demolition crews are weeks away from dismantling nearly an entire side of the 1100 block of Chestnut Street, part of a $60 million to $70 million redevelopment tapping the soaring apartment market and surging appetites to shop and live east of Broad Street.

Zoning approvals and permits are in place, additional property was acquired as recently as Thursday, and a large section of sidewalk has been closed as lead development partner Brickstone Co. prepares to build a complex of loft-style apartments above towering, three-story retail spaces.

The development will stretch almost the length of the south side of Chestnut between 11th and 12th Streets, Brickstone managing partner John J. Connors said.

Connors would not discuss what tenants are being courted, but the project could include a supermarket if rumors swirling among civic activist circles are true.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140425__60-_70_million_Chestnut_Street_residential_development_set_to_begin.html#oF4zBbpGx4j9dij1.99

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Center City Philadelphia Showing Signs Of Weakness

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

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

Center City, Philadelphia’s engine for growth for the last decade or more, is showing signs of distress, according to statistics compiled by the Center City District for its annual “State of Center City” report.

From office rental rates to visits to tourist attractions and the number of major conventions on the horizon, a variety of measures of the health of the city’s core suggest it might not be quite as vibrant as hoped.

For instance, while Center City’s population inches higher, office rental rates run stubbornly below national averages, an indication of a city’s weakness in attracting new employers.

Employment in health care and education – the city’s biggest job creators – has been flattening and, in the first time in a decade, declined in 2013.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140423_Some_concerns_as_it_regards_Center_City_s_growth.html#wfR2CIQSqRKdLfKs.99

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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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