Morning Headlines: Saffron: Philly’s Boardwalk Beats NYC’s High Line

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

Phila.’s new gem: A stroll on the Schuylkill [Inquirer]

Inga Saffron is downright ebullient today. Her feelings about the newly completed and opened Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk are unmistakable:

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.

Take that, New York.

Saffron is convinced that the Boardwalk trumps the High Line mostly for its transformative powers. She alternately says the distanced perspective can make Center City feel like “outer space” at night and that at other times, “strange optical illusions appear.” Why, she asks, does it look like there’s a Penn building on Spruce Street when we all know it’s on Walnut?

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$1.75M Princeton Estate With Luxe Amenities

Photo by Laura Kicey.

Photo by Laura Kicey.

We have already seen Sally Weisman’s new home in New Hope (to be honest, we are still dreaming of that perfect patio). At the time, it was hard to imagine why she would have been reluctant to move there. Now we see the home she’s leaving in Princeton, and it’s a lot easier to understand. The five-bedroom estate has recently been listed at $1.75 million, and it is just as jaw-dropping as the New Hope property.

The home is stretched over nearly 6,000 square feet of living space. The main level includes a formal foyer and center hall, a sun room, an office, the kitchen, a butler’s pantry, a breakfast room, and formal living and dining rooms. The kitchen namechecks all the luxury appliance brands. A Viking six-burner stove is not far from the SubZero refrigerator, and it’s all connected with granite. Upstairs the master suite has a sitting room all its own and an en-suite spa-like bath with a double walk-in closet. Two additional bedrooms are each en-suite and the remaining two bedrooms share a bath. The laundry room rounds up the upstairs living space. The finished lower level includes a game room, exercise room, additional laundry facilities, a kitchenette, storage and a serious wine cellar. The cellar is fully conditioned and has room for more than 1,000 bottles.

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Saffron’s Take on the Fairmount Bike Lane Wars

Photo of N. 22nd Street via Google Maps.

Photo of N. 22nd Street via Google Maps.

If there’s one thing in town guaranteed to produce loud opinions and complaints, it’s bike lanes. If there are two things, it’s bike lanes and City Council. Which makes the latest bike lane showdown in Fairmount the perfect shouty storm. Fortunately, Inga Saffron is here to lay out the facts in the Inquirer.

North 22nd Street was repaved in August. Since then, Saffron says, it has been without traffic markings of any kind. When the Streets Department proposed including a bike lane when it finally painted the lines, at-large Councilman Bill Greenlee (of Fairmount) got involved. His concern? That adding a bike lane will cause traffic backups by limiting cars to just one lane. Now everything is on pause.

Saffron says this is an important development because Greenlee is the first councilperson to exert his relatively new right to control segments of the city’s growing web of bike lanes. Naturally, the legislation giving Council said right was drafted by Greenlee himself. The Streets Department is waiting for consensus before moving forward.

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Morning Headlines: 18th-Century Philadelphia Goes to China

"Cliveden Mansion, Philadelphia, HABS PA-1184-88" by Jack E. Boucher - Historic American Buildings Survey; Library of Congress HABS PA,51-GERM,64-88. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cliveden_Mansion,_Philadelphia,_HABS_PA-1184-88.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cliveden_Mansion,_Philadelphia,_HABS_PA-1184-88.jpg

Cliveden, via Wikimedia Commons.

The village is called Southern 1910, will look exactly like Society Hill and will be in Dalian, a coastal city in northeastern China. The Inquirer’s Erin Arvedlund has the details on how Chadds Ford’s John Milner Architects won the business and impressed Chinese developers.

Dalian Common Property Development retained John Milner Architects to design and plan the gated community, where 200 Georgian-style brick homes will sell for between $1 million and $4 million. Of those, 65 have already been sold, ranging from 3,500 to a whopping 7,500 square feet.

In order to win the business in the first place, Milner told Arvedlund that he arranged a two-week long series of bus tours for the Chinese developers. They visited Fairmount Park, Cliveden and Mount Pleasant, among other 18th century city sites.

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Morning Headlines: SRC to Sell 11 Schools for $2 Million Net

"Germantown HS Philly" by Smallbones - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Germantown HS Philly by Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons.

The School Reform Commission approving the sale of 11 Philadelphia schools is big news this morning, punctuated with some pretty big numbers. The Daily News’s Solomon Leach has details on how the sales will break down.

The two biggest parcels are each going for $6.8 million. Germantown High, Carroll High, Fulton Elementary, Walter Smith Elementary and Abigail Vare Elementary are all going to the Concordia Group. Two of the elementary schools – Vare and Smith – are slated to become residential buildings.

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New Hope’s $1.5 Million Painted Lady

It’s rare to find a painted lady so far afield from the usual local spots like Cape May and Lansdowne. Rarer still to find one sitting solitarily on such an enormous plot of land. And this one doesn’t disappoint: the interior is exactly as festooned as the exterior.

The home is situated on five acres of land and is accessed via a long, tree-lined drive. The curb appeal (in this case the tree-lined drive appeal) is instantly apparent to fans of Victorian architecture. Details are reproductions but they include lots of gingerbread embellishments, wrap-around porches, turrets and dormers. Inside, there are leaded glass transoms and millwork galore. For real Victorian fans, there is also a series of ornate wallpaper selections and plenty of brocade. Upstairs rooms are somewhat less bed-and-breakfasty. Bedrooms are large and feature views of the pristine landscaping.

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Morning Headlines: Redevelopment Plans for the Royal Theater

Royal-Theater-mural

It took about a year, but developer Carl Dranoff and JDavis Architects unveiled plans for the vacant Royal Theater at a South of South Neighborhood Association meeting last week. PlanPhilly has the details this morning.

Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies purchased the historic building in 2000 but it has been mightily neglected since then. Dranoff partnered with Universal last year when the group announced plans for a mixed-use building to replace the theater. Details on the proposed building were fuzzy until last week’s meeting. Thanks to PlanPhilly, we now know the proposal includes the following provisions.

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Morning Headlines: City Council Proposes Bills on Housing Affordability and Rezoning

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

City Council was back in session yesterday, and Jared Brey at PlanPhilly has the details on bills introduced by Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla and Darrell Clarke.

Johnson’s bill is designed to extend the city’s Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP) in order to provide access to owners who live in government-subsidized housing. As it stands now, LOOP only includes residents who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and whose income doesn’t exceed 150 percent of the Area Median Income.

LOOP prevents qualified residents’ tax bills from increasing by more than 300 percent (300 percent!) in a year. Residents who already benefit from a tax abatement are excluded from the program, meaning that under the current rules, homeowners in subsidized housing can’t qualify. Johnson explained the plan to amend LOOP to Brey:

“Right now, individuals who live in affordable housing—obviously, they don’t have a certain amount of income, their taxes may have tripled, and currently they don’t qualify for the tax relief under LOOP because they have had some type of abatement in the past. But also, they’re in some type of a catch 22, because they can’t sell their homes because of a deed restriction, so the legislation that we introduced today will allow them to have the opportunity to participate in LOOP.”

Squilla and Clarke introduced bills related to rezoning efforts, neither of which were entirely surprising. Squilla wants to rezone a tiny part of Society Hill to allow commercial mixed-use and Clarke’s bill rezones neighborhoods west of Temple in exactly the way the Planning Commission predicted months ago.

All of which might explain why Claudia Vargas called Council’s agenda “tepid” in yesterday’s Inquirer.

New bills focus on housing affordability, zoning remapping [PlanPhilly]
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Splendiferous Interiors: Chestnut Hill’s Rock House

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

TREND photo courtesy BHHS Fox & Roach.

With entertaining spaces that were designed by Peter Zimmerman and a plum corner lot in the St. Martins neighborhood in Chestnut Hill, Rock House is a dream. So it should come as no surprise that the home is being sold by local bold-faced names Joseph Dworetzky and Amy Banse. You may recognize him from his days as city solicitor under Ed Rendell’s mayorship or his more recent stint on the School Reform Commission. Banse is the managing director at Comcast Ventures as well as their head of funds.

The estate clocks more than 10,000 square feet of living space, spanning six bedrooms, six full baths and a fully finished basement. The Zimmerman-designed kitchen (plus pantry) and family room make stylish gathering spaces. The formal living and dining rooms are traditional and adjoin an enclosed sunporch. En-suite bedrooms take most of the additional two floors, along with several other offices. The basement features a media room, a workshop and a powder room.

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Morning Headlines: Saffron Crashes the Dilworth Praise Party

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

Maybe she liked the renderings better?

The torrent of accolades for the city’s newest public (well, “public,” but more on that in a second) park continued through the weekend … right until Inga Saffron’s review dropped on Sunday.

Saffron begins innocuously enough, praising the cafe and popular spray fountain. Things start to turn when she italicizes the word “park.” Uh oh. Then the death blow:

But the vast granite prairie is still very much a plaza, with all the weaknesses the word implies.

To be clear, Saffron had no love for the park’s predecessor. And she does concede that the CCD has made some major improvements:

There is no doubt that this important civic space, once a smelly, run-down municipal embarrassment in the heart of Philadelphia, has been greatly improved by the Center City District’s Paul Levy, who marshaled a dream team of Philadelphia’s most renowned designers and engineers. The amenities, from the food vendor to the picnic lawn, are reason enough to applaud.

But what follows is a thorough catalog of the park’s deficiencies. Most of all, she seems offended by the amount of hardscape. The park misses the mark when it comes to balancing its position as Philadelphia’s “communal family room” while maintaining enough pomp for the city’s “civic stage,” Saffron says.

Yes, there is real magic when the fountain’s jets of water shoot into action, but inactivated, the granite landscape is dry and stiff. The new Dilworth is a suit in a jeans-and-T-shirt world.

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