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.

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