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

(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

Philadelphia Teen Shot In Nanticoke

A shooting in Nanticoke left an 18-year-old male injured Sunday afternoon, police said.

Mark Brown-Mathis of Philadelphia was found walking down an alleyway between Orchard and West Broad Streets by two residents around 1:30 p.m., police said.

Brown-Mathis allegedly told the residents not to call police prior to them reporting the incident to 911.

When police arrived on scene they discovered Brown-Mathis had a gunshot wound to his right upper arm, according to the Nanticoke police department.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/philadelphia-teen-shot-in-nanticoke-1.1858841

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

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

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

The First-Ever Urban Earthship Is Being Built In West Philly

There’s a vacant lot at 675 N. 41st Street in West Philadelphia that’s about to become something Philadelphia has never seen before–an Earthship.

When Thomas L. Miller, the owner of a vacant lot in West Philadelphia, heard a woman on the radio talking about her plan to build an “Earthship” in August of 2013, he was quick to call the radio station and donate his lot to her. The woman was Rashida Ali-Campbell, founder of Yeadon-based nonprofit LoveLovingLove, Inc.

The Earthship, which is in development now at 675 N. 41st Street, will act as a Philadelphia branch for LoveLovingLove, Inc, whose mission is to heal impoverished communities with holistic health education. It also hosts programs like Operation Olive Branch, an annual award that recognizes local law enforcement districts with the lowest complaint rates. In its new Earthship office, the organization will hold healthy-living workshops for those coping with diabetes and high blood pressure.

“We want to bring holistic health information and activities to the community through workshops, holding free events on the land, and having workshops for people to learn how to build an Earthship themselves,” Ali-Campbell said, “So that other people who have the desire to build can grab up some of these 40,000 vacant lots and turn them into something beautiful and sustainable.”

Read more:

http://earthship.com/blogs/2015/01/first-ever-urban-earthship-built-west-philly/

Changing Skyline: Developer Roland Kassis Transforming Fishtown Into Hip Haven

Every changing neighborhood in Philadelphia seems to have one: a developer who dominates the scene.

In Northern Liberties, it’s Bart Blatstein. In Newbold, it’s John Longacre. In Point Breeze, it’s Ori Feibush. On South Broad Street, it’s Carl Dranoff. They amassed their real estate holdings when the neighborhoods were cheap, then became the masters of their destinies when the places emerged, Sleeping Beauty-like, from slumber.

Now, it’s Fishtown’s turn, and Roland Kassis is the reigning developer. Over 25 years, Kassis estimates, his company, Domani Developers, has collected a million square feet of property, mainly in old manufacturing buildings along Frankford Avenue, the neighborhood’s commercial spine. That’s almost as much space as the Comcast Tower holds.

Kassis, 44, who was born in Lebanon, raised in Liberia, and speaks French, exhibits the same manic energy and insatiable appetite for abandoned factories as the other neighborhood titans, but he has a sensibility more in tune with Fishtown’s arty, DIY, tattoo-and-vintage-loving culture. He not only nurtured a yoga studio on Frankford Avenue, he practices there and eschews meat. It’s hard to imagine many other Philadelphia developers chanting “Om.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20150306_Changing_Skyline__Developer_Roland_Kassis_transforming_Fishtown_into_hip_haven.html#AgDY2fTHVBtIvMvF.99

CANCELLED – MCCC Hosts Physicians For Social Responsibility Program On Fracking

Blue Bell, PA— Far from the Marcellus Shale fields of southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia region has largely escaped some of the direct impacts from the exploration, drilling, transportation and waste handling from natural gas operations—commonly referred to as fracking. However, a proposal of an energy hub in Philadelphia and new pipelines headed to the region may bring it closer to home.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Philadelphia will hold a program at Montgomery County Community College on March 11 at 7 p.m. to review the different operations of fracking, the risks of harm to health, and the exponentially higher releases of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The program, which is free of change and open to the public, will be held in MCCC’s Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

PSR is a public health, non-profit organization that provides education, training and direct services and advocacy on issues that threaten health and that medicine cannot cure. Andrea Thomas, MCCC alumna and current graduate student in Arcadia University’s Public Health and Medical Science program and PSR intern, will help participants gain a clear understanding of the ways fracking operations can impact health and the environment.

The program is sponsored by MCCC’s Division of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in collaboration with MCCC Diversity Faculty Fellow Natasha Patterson. For information, call 215-641-6445. To learn more about Physicians for Social Responsibility, visit http://www.psr.org.

Half A Block Leveled Without Permits In Philadelphia

Little more than a year after a botched demolition triggered a Center City building collapse that killed six, a demolition company took down nearly half a block of buildings in Philadelphia’s Fairmount section without obtaining the required permits, an Inquirer investigation has found.

While dismantling five buildings last spring, Ashaw Demolition of Oxford Circle also brought down a house that had been in a family for four generations without informing the owner, the owner contends in court documents.

And Ashaw used at least some of the unsafe and discredited techniques that caused the collapse at 22d and Market Streets, city inspectors said.

The demolition violated tough new rules the city adopted so the tragedy of the collapse would never be repeated, inspectors said.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Building_anxiety_at_LandI.html