Thursday, December 30, 2004

Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center

Ground has been broken on the new $11 million Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center in East Falls (see story). The center will open in Fall 2005 and is set on 9.2 acres of Fairmount Park. The facility will have 16 courts (8 indoor/8 outdoor), a stadium court, and a two-story, 10,000 sq. ft. structure with office space, workout/locker room facilities, and other educational and meeting spaces.

Mummers Parade: You've Gotta Go

If you have never attended the New Year's Day Mummers Parade (sponsored by Southwest Airlines), you really need to check it out. Great weather is forecast for Saturday and parade viewing should be as pleasant as it has been in decades. The Mummers are one of Philadelphia's greatest cultural treasures and really need to be seen in their full glory to be appreciated. If you cannot make it out, tune in to Channel 17 - the parade will be on from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Another recommendation: the "Show of Shows" is an annual indoor performance by Mummer string bands. This year's event will be held on Saturday, February 26, 2005 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. It's a great family event, more entertaining than "Nemo on Ice".

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Dijya Know About: The Delaware Valley Mountain Bike Patrol

The Delaware Valley Mountain Bike Patrol (“DVMBP”) is a volunteer group that emphasizes “emergency care, education, mechanical assistance, environmental concern, trail user etiquette, local expertise and direct interaction with land management agencies.” They work to promote environmentally sound and socially responsible mountain biking in the Philadelphia region. The DVMBP’s geographic focus is on the Wissahickon Valley section of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the largest municipal park system on the planet.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Liberty Bell, Still Swell

The National Park Service estimated that 1.8 million people are expected to visit the Liberty Bell this year, the most since the Bicentennial in 1976 (see story). Park officials attribute the high tourism projections to three new facilities: the Liberty Bell Center; the National Constitution Center; and Independence Visitor Center.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

First United Methodist Church of Germantown: The Religious Left

The First United Methodist Church of Germantown is featured in a two-hour documentary that will be shown nationwide on PBS - Channel 12 locally - on Wednesday, December 29, from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. The piece will focus on the church's pioneering peace and social justice missions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Nutter and Kenney: The Right Stuff

Councilmen Nutter and Kenney unequivocally support ethics and campaign reform (see story), as well limits on the "pay-to-play" game. Other potential mayoral candidates? A bit more equivocal.

John Chaney - 1,000th Game

While beating Princeton last night, Temple University Men's Basketball Coach - John Chaney -became the fifth active Division I coach to lead 1,000 games (see story).

Rittenhouse Square, one of the Best

The Project for Public Spaces has declared Rittenhouse Square to be the sixth best neighborhood/district in in North America.

Monday, December 20, 2004

PhillyCarShare Frees 1,000 Parking Spots

PhillyCarShare is a non-profit that rents hybrid gas/electric vehicles on an hourly basis to pre-enrolled customers; they have announced that its approximately 1,500 subscribers have sold or avoided purchasing approximately 1,000 cars, equivalent to the number of on-street parking spots on Walnut and Chestnut streets. In the aggregate, members save $3.6 million annually because they're paying for vehicle usage only when they need it, not 100% of the cost as required when a vehicle is individually owned. Check out the car sharing network's website for more info about the benefits of automated vehicle sharing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

City Council Ethics Update

So sorry to hear that Councilman Cohen's relationship with his daughter may have been compromised because he couldn't score her a job twenty years ago (see story). And I'm sorry to hear that Councilwoman Blackwell feels that Councilman Nutter's ethics proposals would disrespect where she came from (see story). Her quote is priceless "[o]bviously, many people got here [in Council] through nepotism," she said. "It's a matter of respecting where I came from." A couple of things - (1) the dinosaurs went extinct, the Berlin Wall fell, and stronger ethics rules will come to Philadelphia City Council, and (2) Councilman Cohen and Councilwoman Blackwell - nobody is impugning your relatives' or your own integrity or capacity to do good work, but you're elected officials and you're held to a higher standard and different code of conduct. Philadelphia government isn't the family business - don't you get that?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

$200 Million Center City Development Planned

The Goldenberg Group is planning a massive mixed-use project called the “Pavilion Market East at 8th and Market Streets” (story). The $200 project envisions a 25-story, 300-unit residential building facing Chestnut Street. Additionally, a four-story, 320,000 sq. ft. retail center will face Market Street. Target, Barnes & Noble, Linens ‘n Things and a 16-screen movie theater are probable tenants. A 10-story, 1,000-vehicle garage is envisioned to complement rail and transit accommodations near the proposed development.

Philadelphia Wage Tax Reductions Coming!

Beginning January 1, 2005, Philadelphia is reducing the resident tax rate from 4.4625% to 4.3310% and the non-resident rate from 3.8801% to 3.8197%. Philadelphia has lowered its wage tax incrementally for over a decade, evidencing a commitment to lower taxes and more efficient government.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Barnes' Collection Moving to Philly

A Montgomery County Orphans' Court Judge issued an order this morning granting the Barnes Foundation authority to relocate its collection from the suburbs to a new facility on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia (story). The Foundation owns a multitude of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works - including 181 Renoirs, 69 C├ęzannes, 60 Matisses - and others by Picasso, Modigliani, Monet, Manet, Degas, etc. The collection contains more than 2,000 pieces and is valued in excess of $6 billion.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Reconvene the Continental Congress?

Some have suggested - Suburban Guerrilla - that a Third Session of the Continental Congress should be convened in Philadelphia so we can have a dialogue about the nation's direction. Sounds like a great idea; we should work up a new Constitution and circulate a draft for discussion. Every couple hundred years, documents need freshening up.

Philadelphia Super Bowl Champions!

North Philadelphia's Aztecs beat the Huntington Beach (CA) Chargers to win the 2004 Pop Warner Super Bowl at Disney World in Florida. Nice job! By the way, the organization's namesake - Glenn Warner - took his final coaching job at Temple University in 1933 and had only one losing season before his 1938 retirement. Pop Warner Football originated in 1929 in America's Hometown, Philadelphia, PA.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Councilman Cohen, Slowin'

Councilman Cohen should be ashamed of himself for impeding progress on City Council's consideration of ethics bills (see story). Of course, the Councilman has been an active practicioner of nepotism himself, having employed his wife for many years. And - somewhat relatedly - got his sons into the family business (one is a State Rep, the other a Court of Common Pleas Judge). His delay tactics aren't surprising, the Councilman has increasingly become a caricature of a "liberal politician"; he wears the mantel proudly, but has been quite ineffectual as an advocate for "liberal causes" in Philadelphia, whatever that means in 2004. As a Council observer, I remember him once complaining during a budget hearing with the Office of Fleet Management about the unwieldiness of the "gooseneck lamp" in the back of his taxpayer provided Ford Crown Victoria. I also remember him complaining about bicycle lanes on Ogontz Avenue. Kind of makes me think that term limits are a good thing - you sort of lose your effectiveness after over 25 years in the same office (or any job for that matter).

Water Works Restaurant Imminent

The Fairmount Park Commission has selected a firm to operate a restaurant at the historic Water Works, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Azalea Garden. The restaurant will be Mediterranean-themed and will have an ambiance and elegance similar to New York’s Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park. The new operator expects to spend $1-$2 million to refurbish the existing structure and surrounding area. Seating for 100 inside will be provided, with 130 alfresco spots during warmer months.

Wharton Students Create a Program to Combat Global Warming

Social Capitalists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have created a product that finances alternative/clean energy projects. An innovative donation mechanism, TerraPass pools funds that make marginal alternative/clean energy projects feasible, thereby reducing carbon emissions. Distinguishing itself from typical donations to environmental advocacy groups, there is a direct and immediate nexus between the contribution and desired outcome.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Philadelphia First: Innovative Program to Pay Residents for Recycling

Next month, approximately 6,000 homes in the City’s Northwest will begin earning up to $25 monthly in restaurant and store coupons, depending on how much they recycle. Every household will receive a 36-gallon container equipped with a unique barcode. Specialty vehicles will scan the barcode and weigh the recyclables. Materials to be recycled include cans, glass, paper and - unlike elsewhere in the City - plastic. Households will receive monthly statements showing how much they recycled/earned; $5 in coupons for every 10 pounds. The idea comes from the Philadelphia entrepreneurs and social capitalists at “RecycleBank”. If successful, this pilot program will be rolled out more broadly by the Philadelphia Streets Department, the agency responsible for curbside recycling collection. This program is the first of its kind.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Center City Hotel Occupancy: Strong

Center City hotels had an 84.8% occupancy rate in October, an improvement of 7.3% from the October 2003. Year-to-date, downtown hotels have improved by 6.5% over 2003, according to Smith Travel Research and the Center City District.

Scofflaws: Your Time is Up

The Philadelphia Traffic Court – partnering with the Philadelphia Parking Authority - launched an enforcement effort against over 40,000 scofflaws who owe the City more than $90 million in fines. A three-pronged strategy is being employed, including “booting" the cars of recalcitrant motorists; arresting - or threatening arrest within 72-hours - defendants with outstanding fines; and, letting credit agencies know about folks with large fines. Sounds good to me.

Philadelphia Retail Explosion

Quartermaster Plaza in South Philadelphia is the biggest new shopping center in Philadelphia. The $70 million shopping center will contain 540,000 sq. ft. of retail space and will occupy 44 acres at 2300 West Oregon Ave. The center will provide over 1,000 jobs. Stores already in business include Home Depot, Staples, BJ's Wholesale, PetSmart and A.J. Wright, as well as smaller places like EB Games, Verizon Wireless, Kicks USA, Payless Shoes, Mattress Giant and Bank of America. More stores are planned, such as Walgreens, Old Country Buffet, Foot Locker, Wendy's, Chili's and Cold Stone Creamery, which will open early next year. The bottom line; Philadelphians no longer need to leave the City to find national retailers, they’ve recognized our purchasing power and have come to us.

Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple

New York City provides Philadelphia with the largest single source of young adult domestic migrants, according to census data analyzed by Innovation Philadelphia.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Comcast's New HQ Plans: One Step Closer

Governor Rendell approved the release of $30 million from the Capital Redevelopment Assistance Fund for the proposed tower that would house Comcast’s world headquarters. This structure and Comcast’s associated workforce expansion plans could bring between 1,000 and 2,400 jobs to Center City. The skyscraper would be Philadelphia’s tallest, at 60 stories. The $30 million would be allocated to infrastructure needs related to the project’s development.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Flakey New Restaurant

University City welcomes Cereality, a “cereal bar” opening at University Square near the Penn bookstore at 36th and Walnut Streets. This is Cereality's first sit-down location, having opened another smaller location in Arizona last year. Penn was selected because it offered an optimal market: loads of college students and lots of nearby commercial activity. Servers at this unique new restaurant are known as "cerealogists" and will be wearing pajamas.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Las Vegas on the Delaware

One of the world’s largest gaming companies - Caesar's - is floating a plan to build a $350 million slots parlor and entertainment complex on Delaware Avenue. The plan outlines a two-phase project: First, an 80,000-sq. ft. facility with 3,000 slot machines, a 2,500-seat theater, and a number of stores and restaurants. Phase two would add a luxurious 500-room luxury hotel. The goal is to create a destination resort. Projections for the first phase include 1,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs. An additional 2,000 permanent jobs could be created after the hotel is constructed. When completed, the complex would generate hundreds of millions in local and state tax revenue. This is fantastic news for Philadelphia; great for tourism, the local economy, and for state and City tax coffers. Hail Caesar, Hail Caesar!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Philadelphia High School Provides Shortcut to College

Lamberton High School in Philadelphia’s Overbrook section - assisted by Eastern University - will become the first public school in state history to establish an "early college high school". Under this innovative academic model, students completing four years of high school will simultaneously earn two years of college credit.

This program is an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of its effort to establish early college high schools throughout the country. Students wishing to opt out may transfer from Lamberton, Philadelphia’s only K-12 school. This means means that students outside of the catchment area can apply for any resulting vacancies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Philadelphia University Breaks Ground on New Student Center

On Monday, Philadelphia University in East Falls began constructing a $25 million campus center. This project will be partially funded by the largest donation in school history, provided by Maurice Kanbar, a prolific inventor and founder of the company that makes Skyy Vodka.

72,000 sq. ft. of space are planned, encompassing a 200-seat multi-use room, a store, student life offices, and eating facilities. Philadelphia University - formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science - has 3,100 part and full-time students and was founded in 1884.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Urban Outfitters HQ moving to Navy Yard

Urban Outfitters - a Philadelphia-based retail operation with stores across North America and Europe - is relocating its 500-person headquarters to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Navy Yard presents the region’s largest business location and development opportunity, with 4 million square feet of existing space and 6,000 employees currently on site.

The company has 71 Urban Outfitters and 62 Anthropologie stores. Urban Outfitters also has another line - Free People - with products in 1,100 retail outlets and at one company-owned Free People store.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

eBay, what took you so long?

After two years of relentless advocacy by Philadelphia's Councilwoman Tasco (representing the 9th Councilmanic District), eBay announced last week that racial slurs used to describe auction items will no longer be allowed. Thanks for the prompt action, eBay.

Largest Philadelphia Marathon Ever

The first Philadelphia Marathon in 1994 had only 200 runners. This year – the 11th running on November 21st - over 10,000 participated. That’s a 5,000% increase. Mike Korir of Kenya won the men’s division in 2:19:43 seconds. Larisa MiChailova – 35 years old - of Russia was victorious in the women’s division in 2:41:57.

Marathon organizers should collaborate with Broad Street and Philadelphia Distance Run staff as well as City officials to create the “Triple Crown of American Road Racing”. Promote all three races as a package deal and offer bigger prize money for competing and placing in all three. It would be great for road racing in Philadelphia and for tourism.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

You’re Fired; but if You’re a Political Ally’s Child, You’re Hired

For government executives, layoffs indicate managerial failure. Failure is usually attributable to your predecessor if you are newly installed. For a second term executive, the responsibility for failure is on you. Mass firings in government result from poor planning. The advisable and humane way to achieve staffing reductions is through attrition and retirement incentive programs. Unfortunately, after inheriting a $300 million dollar surplus from the Rendell Administration, the Street Administration has announced the imminence of 500 layoffs. However, through a curious alignment of financial priorities, the Street Administration has somehow identified budgetary resources to hire a 19-year-old child of City Councilman Juan F. Ramos - a staunch ally of the current administration.

Custom Made Wheels

The Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia is a unique, entrepreneurial gem. From a non-descript location in the City’s Olney section, bicycle artisans build 100 custom bikes annually. Each bike takes about 30 hours to build. Reputation is their best advertisement, with most business coming through word of mouth. Over the last 20 years, Bilenky has created 2,000 two-wheeled masterpieces.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Committee of 70: Help Wanted

The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia’s oldest and most respected civic watchdog group is looking for a new executive director after thirty years under the direction of their current chief. To keep the organization at its dynamic best, establish a time limit (or a "term limit") for the next executive director so this important organization is infused with new blood on a regular basis and its bite is as good as its bark.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Philadelphia's Regional Economy: "Most Improved"

According to the Milken Institute, Philadelphia is ranked "most improved" among the 10 largest U.S. metro areas as per Milken's economic-performance index. Among these 10 regions, Philadelphia is ranked number three overall - behind Washington and Atlanta. This index measures recent job and wage growth rates and also examines the concentration of high-tech industries. The jump is credited in large part to Philadelphia’s leisure and hospitality industries; fast growing segments of the region’s robust and diverse economy. One gain to the regional economy likely to provide lasting benefits? The recent arrival of Southwest Airlines, which dramatically lowered air transit costs - the kind of thing a business looks for when making location decisions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Councilman Nutter: Going Down?

Speaking to supporters at Philadelphia’s first major post-election fundraiser, Nutter mused, "I currently work on the fourth floor of City Hall…I'd like to continue in my public service in the future, possibly on a different floor." Nutter’s City Council office is on the fourth floor, while the Mayor sits on the second floor of City Hall. This well-attended event on the 33rd floor of the Lowe’s Hotel in Center City included Councilman James Kenney, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, and Councilman Rick Mariano. The fund-raiser was the Councilman's most successful ever.

Historic Smith Playground Renovation

Commerce Bank is contributing $100,000 to fund renovations at the Smith Playground, a free playground near 33rd and Oxford Streets that opened in 1899. The playhouse and 12-ft-wide wooden slide have delighted generations of children. The renovation project requires $2.5 million in order to reopen the playground for the summer season. Currently, they are about halfway there and making substantial progress toward their fundraising goals.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ground Broken for School of the Future

Ground was broken today in West Philadelphia for the nation's first "school of the future", an innovative collaboration between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft. When completed, 700 students will be ensconced in a unique learning environment that will comprehensively integrate technology into the school's educational and operational structure.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bowling for Yuppies

No fewer than three upscale bowling alleys are coming to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. One in University City, another downtown, and a third in Northern Liberties. The first of these - "Strikes" will be a 12-lane alley with a bar and restaurant. It will be located at the old Urban Outfitters site at 4040 Locust St. in University City; expect to see the first pins knocked over and cosmopolitans consumed in January 2005.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

City of Philadelphia Triathlon

Registration has commenced for the City of Philadelphia Triathlon, taking place on June 26, 2005. This is an Olympic distance race - 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run - that will travel through historic & beautiful areas of Philadelphia. Entrants will be limited to 1,000. This is a USAT sanctioned event.

Philadelphia Construction Boom

For the first time in over a decade, Philadelphia will be hosting a “topping out” ceremony for a new skyscraper, the 28-story, 728,000 square-foot Cira Center built next to Amtrak's 30th Street Station in University City. In close proximity to Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, this structure is the first major office tower on the west side of the Schuylkill River.

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