DePasquale: The IRS Needs to Review DNC Surplus Spending

dnc

L: Auditor General Eugene DePasquale | R: Photo by Dan McQuade

Pennsylvania’s top auditor wants the IRS to take a look at how former Gov. Ed Rendell used surplus money from the Democratic National Convention last November.

In a statement on Monday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reprimanded Rendell for using leftover funds to pay more than $1 million to DNC Host Committee staffers and interns last November.

Gov. Tom Wolf and several other officials asked DePasquale to conduct a formal review of DNC spending in May, after the Inquirer and the Daily News revealed that Rendell had issued the bonuses. At the time, Wolf said he was “disappointed” with how the money was spent, considering the fact that taxpayers footed the largest portion of the DNC’s bill: $10 million.

First things first: DePasquale’s audit, which was released on Monday, found that the $10 million state grant was spent in compliance with the grant agreement, and that, per the agreement, the DNC Host Committee was not required to pay back any of that money.

According to the review, the committee deposited the $10 million grant into a bank account kept separate from donor funds. The grant was then used for three purposes: venue rental, which cost $5.775 million; event production, which cost $2.465 million; and construction, which cost $1.76 million.

Those expenditures complied with the grant agreement, which mandated that taxpayer funds were to be used on convention necessities, including “rental and build out of the Convention arena and other facilities, transportation, communications, technology systems, necessary office space and event security.”

Still, DePasquale said Rendell should have sought approval from the host committee’s board before paying out the $1 million in surplus money to staffers and interns – as well as another $1 million in leftover funds to Philly-area charities. And he criticized the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for doing a “poor job” of writing the grant, which he said should have had a claw-back agreement, or a section stating that taxpayer money would be be used only as a last resort after all privately raised funds were expended.

But the biggest red flag of all, according to DePasquale, is the fact that two members of the host committee, Kevin Washo and Eliza Rose, received bonuses. Given that the committee was registered as a tax-empt nonprofit, DePasquale said, the bonuses could have violated IRS regulations. Therefore, he’s referring the report to the IRS.

In a statement on Monday, Rendell said DePasquale’s audit “confirms what we knew all along: that the Host Committee fully complied with the stipulations in the DCED contract and spent those funds completely appropriately and in accordance with legislators’ parameters.”

Rendell touted the host committee’s “strong fundraising and budgeting,” which he said “put on what many have called the most successful political convention in recent history” and provided for $1.2 million in donations to local nonprofits and the Philadelphia School District.

Famous Australian Beef Pies Are Coming to the Wells Fargo Center

Australian flag on the classic Australian meat pie.

So this is kind of a weird story, but it has food in it, so we’re telling you about it.

You ever heard of Four’N Twenty? Unless you’re Australian, it’s okay if you say no. They’re meat pies — beef and gravy inside a pastry crust — and they’re the single most popular sports concession dish in Mad Max Land, and also one of Australia’s national dishes. The company is invested in footy in a big way (that’s Australian rules football — a kind of insane mix between soccer, rugby and American football, often played on a cricket pitch), sponsoring teams like the Port Adelaide Power, Hobart Koalas, Fremantle Dockers, Brisbane Lions, Canberra Marmite, Brisbane Broncos and Cronulla Sharks (I only made up two of those names and I’m not telling you which ones), and have now signed a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to sell their pies at the Wells Fargo Center.

But wait. It’s not quite as random as it sounds.

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A Fast-Growing New Jersey College Builds A Town To Go With It

Annotated aerial photo of Rowan Boulevard

The evolution of Rowan Boulevard. Does this remind you of any street you may be familiar with in Philadelphia? | Photo: Aerial Photos of New Jersey, annotations by Nexus Properties

Usually, the developments I’ve come to refer to as “Instant Urbanism” pop up on the fringes of metropolitan areas, most often near some freeway interchange that wound up sprouting an edge city. These developments, like those now taking shape in King of Prussia, are designed to inject the things young Millennials and their aging Baby Boomer parents both find increasingly desirable into the autocentric suburban landscape: streets lined with stores, apartments over those stores, sidewalks made for strolling, outdoor cafés, you get the idea.

Right now, in the sleepy South Jersey borough of Glassboro, a chunk of Instant Urbanism has sprung full-blown from what had been a residential neighborhood right smack in the center of town, well away from any freeway.

It’s called Rowan Boulevard, and the reason it’s there is to keep the university at the edge of town from swallowing it whole.

The college that almost ate Glassboro

The $100 million donation from industrialist Henry Rowan that transformed Glassboro State College into what is now Rowan University sparked a period of explosive growth that has yet to abate. As of this academic year, the university enrolled 18,454 students from 38 states and 34 countries, a far cry from enrollment in Glassboro State days.

All those new students began to make their presence felt in downtown Glassboro, and as far as the borough and merchants were concerned, that wasn’t an unalloyed blessing.

“About 14 years ago, this was about 90 single-family houses,” said Ronda Abbruzzeze, vice president of marketing and leasing for Nexus Properties, Rowan Boulevard’s current master developer. “They were turning into student rentals and a lot of frat houses.

At the time, Abbruzzeze said, Rowan officials weren’t planning for the explosive growth that has come to the campus, but they soon became aware they needed to, for borough officials had begun to get complaints from Main Street merchants that the students were overrunning their stores and the town.

“And the town was having its own issues with different types of housing that might not have been as desirable” as the single-family homes that had sat just off Main Street, she said. “So they decided to [float bonds] and buy this 26 acres for development.”

A unique blend of town and gown

Glassboro had ideas about what it wanted to see from the outset. The first priority was building new housing for the growing student population. That led to the first new development to appear on the Rowan Boulevard parcel, the 884-bed Rowan Boulevard Apartments (2009-10).

But Glassboro never intended for this parcel to become a mere dormitory district. The second building to appear was the campus’ two-story Barnes & Noble bookstore (2009), meant to be the anchor of a mixed-use retail-residential-office thoroughfare, Rowan Boulevard itself.

Along this street the borough wanted not only student beds but also market-rate apartments and office space. And there would need to be some parking for the non-student residents and visitors. That’s where Nexus entered the picture.

“We became involved when the master developer couldn’t figure out the parking,” Abbruzzeze said. And initially, parking was all Nexus intended to build on the site. The first garage Nexus built went up in 2013 and contained 1,200 parking spaces. From Rowan Boulevard, however, what passers-by see is a five-story office building with street-level retail that hides the structure from the street.

From garage-builder to master developer

Nexus would soon find itself building more than that garage. Pointing to a building across the street from the garage during our tour of the development, Abbruzzeze said, “The town said, ‘Okay, we need proposals for what’s going to go here, and we want some luxury apartments and maybe some retail.

“I worked for the town at the time, and we had 10 developers submit proposals. Nobody proposed student housing except for Nexus.”

What Nexus’ chief operating officer realized, she said, was that the project had to include student beds to work financially. The building that got built contains 119 student apartments with a total of 412 beds, 57 luxury apartments on the top floors, and 47,000 square feet of street-level retail space. To the north of these two facing buildings lie a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and another student apartment building with 300 beds and 20,000 square feet of street-level retail.

The apartments have filled as quickly as they’ve gone on the market, Abbruzzeze said. “The retail’s been a little slower to come, but the student and luxury housing has been phenomenal.”

Clinics, commerce, chow and a “Mob Wife’s” new boutique

Some of the street-level space houses offices and services, including the new home for the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce and an urgent care center run by Cooper University Hospital, which is also the teaching hospital for Rowan’s new medical school in Camden. But retail tenants are slowly making their way to the boulevard: when I visited, a student-run cookie shop had just opened across from Tony Luke’s and a new Mexican eatery was getting ready for its December opening.

The most recent retail tenant to open on Rowan Boulevard is the Alicia Di Michele Boutique, a women’s fashion boutique owned and curated by the star of VH1’s hit reality-TV show “Mob Wives.”

“This is the perfect setting for my boutique—with active student life and a busy downtown vibe,” Di Michele said in a news release. The store is her second location, joining her original store in the Promenade at Sagemore in Marlton.

A public-public-private partnership

What makes Rowan Boulevard unusual for projects of this type is that it represents a public-public-private partnership. Glassboro Borough, Rowan University and Nexus Properties all play a hand in shaping this new city-within-a-town. “We have an unbelievably awesome relationship,” Abbruzzeze said. “It’s not without its challenges some days. Everybody wants what they want, but at the end of the day, we’re all here for the same reason: to make this project work, to make it grow, to make a good experience for the townspeople and the students.”

The most recent building to open on the site is Park Place North, a residential-retail building with 37 luxury apartments and 13,630 square feet of retail space facing the development’s Town Square, a public park opened last year. (The park, which also contains Glassboro’s 9/11 memorial, sits at the northeast corner of the borough’s main intersection, Main and High streets. Its location and Rowan Boulevard’s diagonal course mimic the design of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with one main difference: the street here is lined with the type of development the Parkway’s creators hoped for but never quite got.)

After Rowan Boulevard, an Arts District

Work is now under way on the last large parcel of land on Rowan Boulevard. When finished next year, it will contain three more residential buildings with a total of 20 luxury apartments, 594 student beds and 17,900 square feet of retail space. Those will bring the grand total to 4,163 places for students to lay their heads, 114 luxury apartments and 106,796 square feet of retail space. On top of all this is 29,500 square feet of classroom and office space for Rowan and the university’s fitness center, which the apartment residents can also use.

And after that, Nexus, Rowan and the borough have other plans. Next on the agenda is the creation of an “arts district” a few blocks south of Rowan Boulevard on High Street. This project will house six theaters plus studios and classrooms for Rowan’s college of communications. Nexus also plans to build market-rate apartments on a parcel it owns that’s separate from its joint projects.

All of this will surely wake up that sleepy South Jersey town. In fact, what’s here has already done that. It has also given it something that’s in short supply in South Jersey: a lively, walkable downtown that unites oldtimers and newcomers, town and gown.



Snap Kitchen Closes Two Center City Locations

Snap Kitchen Washington Square West

Since first landing here in February 2016, the Texas-based Snap Kitchen chain has opened nine outposts across the city, including two storefronts in the ’burbs — making it an accessible (and healthy!) grab-and-go staple for many Philadelphians. Unfortunately, this weekend brought news of two of Snap’s nine outposts closing their doors.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that the Washington Square West store (1109 Walnut Street) and the Fairmount store (1901 Callowhill Street — one of the first to open in Philly) are being consolidated with stores in Rittenhouse (1901 Chestnut Street) and Bella Vista (601 South 10th Street). The reason? Company officials point to the success of online ordering through Snap Kitchen’s app, which made them realize that some of their service areas overlapped.

For regulars of the now-closed locations, this may prove to be an inconvenience, as the merged locations are each a ten-minute-plus walk away. Might we suggest that if you can’t beat them, join them?

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Ben Franklin Just Pumped $4.4M Into Philly Startups

Philadelphia skyline. Aneese | iStock

Ben Franklin Technology Partners has started off the fiscal year by setting the bar high. The organization recently announced that it made investments in 25 early-stage Philly-area companies in the first quarter, for a grand total of $4.4 million. And the number is the organization’s largest quarterly investment to date.

In 2016, Ben Franklin decided to double down on Philly’s digital health sector and the commitment to these early stage companies is clear this quarter. The ten deals in the category, which amounted to $2.1 million, represent 40 percent of the quarterly investment total. While there were nine deals in the information technology sector, the sector received about half as much investment dollars as the digital health sector. The organization made six deals across health and Physical sciences industry altogether. Most of Ben Franklin’s investments this quarter were in new companies. About 24 percent of the investment went to companies that Ben Franklin had previously funded.

Read more about the companies in each sector below.

Digital Health
The startups funded in this category include:

  • Allevi
    Allevi, Inc. wants to help create an ecosystem to create 3D tissues and one-day organs for both pharmaceutical and clinical use. Their platform the Allevi 2 makes it easy for scientist to print and pattern multiple cell types into different geometries.
  • Stel Life, Inc. 
    Stel’s mission is to transform the smart vitals devices industry. As healthcare organizations adopt various Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Stel simplifies the landscape by seamlessly connecting bluetooth vitals devices to health records without complex setup, WiFi, or mobile applications.
  • Guiding Technologies Corp.
    Guiding Technologies has developed a software platform called GAINS which incorporates artificial intelligence to transform Applied Behavior Analysis instruction for treating autism. GAINS provides real-time process and decision support for instructors updated by student performance.
  • Strados Labs
    Strados Labs offers a simpler way to manage stress, anxiety, and conditions such as asthma with a patent-pending wearable smart sensors that automatically monitor and log wheezing, coughing, and shallow breathing patterns in real-time.
  • HGE Health
    HGE Health has developed a clinical services platform that enables Providers and their COPD patients to improve a patient’s quality of life and respond to early changes their day-to-day symptoms.
  • Neuroflow
    NeuroFlow is a digital health solution that analyzes real-time biometric data for mental health and enhanced performance applications.
  • Oncora Medical
    Oncora Medical develops software that is revolutionizing the way doctors treat cancer with radiation. Oncora’s vision is to enable data-driven, personalized radiation therapy by providing radiation oncologists with a web-based software platform that allows them to significantly improve the care of their patients using historical data.
  • Ristcall
    RistCall’s mission is to improve patient safety & experience by simplifying patient-nurse communication using smart watches.
  • Roundtrip
    RoundTrip provides healthcare professionals — including case managers, unit secretaries, social workers, nurses and other transport requestors — with a simple, web-based portal and mobile platform that connects patients with on-demand, non-emergency medical transportation such as medical cars, wheelchair vans, and stretcher vehicles when and where they need it.

Information Technology
Information technology was the second most popular category with nine deals worth $1.2 million total. The companies approved for funding in this sector are:

  • Buyside
    Buyside is a data science & marketing company on a mission to help real estate brokerages profit from their largest untapped asset: big data. Buyside works by capturing many different sources of data of in real time, transforming it into actionable insights and intelligent marketing tools that generate seller leads, win more listings, and close more transaction in house. Simply put, we turn big data into big profits.
  • ImmERge Labs
    ImmERge Labs uses virtual and augmented reality to re-imagine how the world prepares for emergency situations. Using disruptive technologies to improve critical skills, we transform bystanders into rescuers through applications that integrate a physical manikin with highly realistic, multi-sensory simulations that technically, emotionally, and mentally prepare one to render life-saving interventions.
  • Needslist
    NeedsList is a marketplace for humanitarian aid that allows individual and corporate donors to immediately meet the needs of displaced people worldwide by purchasing supplies directly from local suppliers, donating funds, and completing tasks. We’re bringing efficiency and transparency to humanitarian aid.
  • Piano
    Piano is the digital content monetization and audience intelligence platform for the world’s largest and most sophisticated media companies. The company’s award-winning, high-performance enterprise platform includes a subscription commerce engine (Piano VX), a customer experience toolkit (Piano Composer), and a user management system (Piano ID) that serve as a comprehensive product suite for media businesses across digital platforms.
  • RideKleen
    RideKleen is one of North America’s leaders within the mobile carwash and fleet cleaning industries.
    With its state of the art steam/eco-friendly technology, RideKleen is at the forefront of cleaning and servicing ridesharing and carsharing fleets.
  • Source Digital
    Source Digital specializes in content monetization strategies letting viewers dive deeper into their favorite programs. Source Digital’s platform offers a data driven, cloud-based engagement platform that connects a new generation of content viewers.
  • Switchboard
    Switchboard Live developed a SaaS-based platform that helps clients manage and publish live streaming video to multiple destinations such as, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch, or Twitter/Periscope simultaneously.
  • RedQueen
    Red Queen is the world’s most comprehensive marketplace for tools that enhance video gamer skills. Red Queen provides a software development kit, tool hosting, graphical components, marketing, distribution, and out-of-the-box integration with its marketplace.

Health and Physical Sciences
The Health and Physical Sciences sectors each received $550,000 in investment. The companies include:

  • Cagent Vascular (Health)
    Cagent Vascular is leading the way for next generation technology for vessel dilatation. The Serranator is the company’s first product and is an angioplasty balloon which incorporates serration technology and is designed to treat peripheral artery disease.
  • XeroThera (Health)
    XeroThera focusses on orthopedic and resistant infections. With breakthrough technology resulting from twenty years plus of fundamental research, XeroThera focuses on unmet clinical needs in major markets for which significant health care cost savings can be achieved.
  • Temitronik (Physical Sciences)
    TemitroniK, a spinoff of IMET Corporation, is the most flexible LED Board, IoT Control, and Turnkey Solutions Provider to the Lighting Industry. Using state-of-the-art automated production equipment, LED Boards of any shape, size, and flavor such as AC and DC up to 2 feet by 5 feet are assembled for incorporation into lighting fixtures.
  • Advanced Absorbent Technologies (Physical Sciences)
    Advanced Absorbent Technologies, LLC (AAT) brings cutting edge absorbent materials and designs to the disposable absorbent personal care products category targeting paradigms that limit the consumer experience.

Here’s a Sneak Preview of City Hall’s Awesome Holiday Light Show

city hall light show

Photo courtesy Center City District

‘Tis the season in Center City.

Anyone visiting the recently reopened ice skating rink at Dilworth Park on Monday evening is in for a treat: a fancy new light show will debut at City Hall.

The building will be awash with radiant colors and projections courtesy of experiential art group KLIP Collective. Here’s a sneak preview:

Here’s a peek at what we’re working on at Philadelphia’s City Hall. #philly #projectionmapping

A post shared by Klip Collective (@klipcollective) on

We’re super excited for the (free!) show, which will run every hour on the half hour through January 1, 2018.

KLIP has graced Philly with a ton of cool projects, including Vacant America (an immersive art installation at Bok last year), a one-night only installation in South Philly in October, imagery for BalletX and this giant animated 3D model of Donald Trump.

This won’t be the first time the group has lit up City Hall – in 2015, it helped Red Bull kick off its Art of Can competition via this sweet projection.

This year’s “Deck the Hall Light Show” is a collaboration between the Center City District, Independence Blue Cross and 6ABC. For more information and a schedule for the show, visit the Center City District’s website.

Kris Serviss Out at Blue Duck and Its Sister Restaurants

Kris Serviss

Since the opening of Blue Duck in 2014, chef and co-owner Kris Serviss has always been the — let’s call it “unofficial” face of the Blue Duck empire, which over the last six months has grown to three spots after he and his partner, Joe Callahan, opened Blue Duck on Broad and Ugly Duckling.

Not only is the Twitter-savvy chef well connected in Philly’s restaurant industry, but he was able to bring some much-needed attention to the Northeast’s strip-mall dining scene with his much-loved New American cookery. That’s why it’s such a surprise that Serviss hasn’t been in any of his kitchens in more than a month — and he says he was forced out of his managing partner role with the company but remains a shareholder.

Serviss says that his “last day” was October 13th, but neither he nor Callahan would comment in detail on what spurred the move.

“I’d like to keep that stuff private,” says Callahan. “It doesn’t do anyone any good to know how things run on the back end. It doesn’t necessarily affect customers or patrons. Nick Cammarota has been the general manager of the Northeast for the better part of two years, and Tim Schmid was promoted to chef de cuisine back in June. They’ve been running the Northeast with minimal oversight since we decided to expand and grow. The Ugly Duckling is being run by Mike Gasiewski, and he’s been the chef de cuisine since day one — so that restaurant has basically been his since we opened.”

As for Serviss: “I just want to say that I love my staff, and I’m currently pursuing new ventures.”

The First Rule of Beer Club…

Local 44 has a new program running through their bottle shop, and it’s the perfect gift for the beer nerd in your life. Or for yourself, if you’re comfortable with that sort of self-love.

They’re calling it Beer Club, and it’s a monthly subscription service that offers a curated six-pack of seasonal beer available every month just for those enrolled. Here’s how it all works.

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Music: 8 Shows to See in the Next 7 Days

Kamasi Washington plays Union Transfer on Saturday. (Jamie James Medina)

Joy Again @ PhilaMOCA | Wednesday, November 22
Upbeat, eager and earnest, this young Philly band seems to be having a good time just hanging out and making music, and their energy is infectious. According to legend, Joy Again got its start in a boarding school, so maybe that’s why there’s a frolicking air to their soft, jangling melodies. They’re indoor dogs who got out. Watch a video here.

Hardwork Movement @ Underground Arts | Friday, November 24
Hardwork Movement is the complete package — smart, catchy, clever, unpredictable and always fun as hell. Right now we’re supposed to take a second and think about what we’re thankful for. This song’s all about that. (more…)

This Greenery-Filled Horticulture Center Wedding is a Modern Garden Fantasy

Photographs by Emily Wren Photography

The Fairmount Park Horticulture Center is one of Philly’s most well-known wedding venues, so we’re always delighted to come across a wedding that interprets the space in a fresh, exciting way. Sometimes, the freshest way is the simplest way — which is precisely why we love this streamlined, greenery-filled celebration. By pairing air plants with rustic tables and modern acrylic signage, this summer wedding takes the traditional garden decor theme and updates it for 2017. Take a look for yourself in the photos below by Emily Wren Photography.

Heidi Yun and Guirae Jang both moved to Philadelphia at the same time (2013) for the same reason (grad school), but they didn’t move together. Their paths first crossed on a weekend trip with mutual friends, and then again at orientation. “He had weird hair and talked too much,” remembers Heidi; Guirae’s most poignant memory of those early days is Heidi’s “cute smile.”

After a year of close friendship, a conversation about the possibility of two of their close friends dating morphed into a conversation that lead to the start of their own romantic relationship. Guirae was already regularly spending holidays with Heidi’s Mount Laurel-based family because his own was in California, so they informed Heidi’s parents of the change in their relationship status before even going on their first official date (which happened at Vedge one week later).

Two years later, the coffee-shop-loving couple was headed to Ox Coffee in Queen Village for a Saturday evening caffeine jolt. Upon arrival, Heidi noticed a sign that said the backyard was “closed for renovations,” but didn’t think much of it. Guirae excused himself to “use the restroom,” so one of the employees Heidi was friendly with suggested she go check out the progress that had been made in the backyard space. Heidi didn’t see the point, but her friend was insistent — especially because Guirae was taking an unusually long time to return. When Heidi stepped into the backyard, she found the space adorned with flowers — and Guirae waiting to ask her to be his wife. Heidi said yes, and cried “ugly tears” all the while — especially when her four best friends ran out from behind some trash cans to surprise her.

“We love Philadelphia, and wanted to have all of our vendors be local to Philadelphia,” says Heidi of their June wedding at Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. “But what’s more amazing is that [floral vendor] Love ’n Fresh Flowers grew all of the flowers she used in our wedding in the city!”

The modern garden vibe of the day was accented with on-trend acrylic signage and plenty of greenery. Heidi loves woodworking, so the couple made the standing seating chart, and Heidi calligraphed all their friends and family’s names herself. The groom’s favorite detail of the day was the sweetheart table — “We loved the charm and character of the pieces from Maggpie, and we felt so cozy being together but also amongst our family and friends,” he says — and the the most touching moment of the wedding for both the groom and bride was when, per Korean tradition, they bowed to both sets of parents after exchanging vows.

The couple danced to “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele for their first dance, and later cut into a champagne cake with vanilla buttercream. They honeymooned in Riviera Maya, Mexico, then returned home to their East Falls residence, where Guirae is in business development, and Heidi is a counselor.

VENDORS
Photography: Emily Wren Photography | Venue: Fairmount Park Horticulture Center | Floral Designer: Love ’n Fresh Flowers | Furniture Rentals: Maggpie Rentals | Catering: Starr Catering Group | Cake: Nutmeg Cake Design | Bride’s Gown: Carol Hannah from Lovely Bride | Bridesmaid Dresses: Jenny Yoo | Hair & Makeup: The Jekyll & Hyde Co. | Groom’s Tux: Ralph Lauren Purple Label | Videographer: Overflow Studio | Invitations: Elijah Park (friend of the bride) | Favors: Weckerly’s ice cream sandwiches | Photo Booth: The Little Picture Photo Booth