SEPTA Announces Trenton Line Contingency Plan in Wake of Amtrak Crash

Photo | Sandy Smith

SEPTA deputy general manager Joe Knueppel. Photo | Sandy Smith

The crash of Amtrak train 188 at Frankford Junction last night also threw SEPTA’s Trenton Regional Rail line out of commission. After throwing extra trains on nearby lines for this morning’s commute, SEPTA officials this afternoon outlined their alternate plans for getting the Trenton Line’s 12,000 daily riders to and from Center City while Amtrak repairs the damage on the Northeast Corridor.

Deputy General Manager Joe Knueppel gave the details at a news conference at SEPTA’s control center at its Center City headquarters. The alternate services consist of: Read more »

The Roosevelt Boulevard Subway Is Dead … Unless It Isn’t

Renderings of (clockwise from left) the Roosevelt Boulevard Subway Extension viewed from the Northeast and two views of a proposed Northeast town center at Cottman Avenue Station, all circa the Philadelpha City Planning Commission's 2003 Roosevelt Boulevard Corridor Study.

SUBWAY DAYDREAMING: Renderings of (clockwise from left) the Roosevelt Boulevard Subway Extension viewed from the Northeast and two views of a proposed Northeast town center at Cottman Avenue Station, all circa the Philadelpha City Planning Commission’s 2003 Roosevelt Boulevard Corridor Study.

If you haven’t been paying attention to tunnel-digging news out of the Pacific Northwest — and, I get it, you probably haven’t — you should know that out in Seattle they have a giant tunnel-boring machine called “Bertha,” and that Bertha got stuck a few hundred feet into its job of digging a two-mile-long highway. She was finally freed last month for repairs and once she’s back in business, work on the long-stalled project to replace an aging freeway viaduct will resume.

Total price tag for the two-mile tunnel: $3 billion.

Why should anyone in Philadelphia care about this?

Well, according to at least one regional planning official quoted in the press, that’s about how much it would cost to build a subway-elevated line (including a tunnel) more than four times as long along Roosevelt Boulevard (though, okay, another study put the price tag closer to $4.6 billion). Read more »

Broad Street Run, Festivals Will Make a Mess of SEPTA All Weekend Long


A weekend full of festivals and the Broad Street Run on Sunday will cause detours on a slew of SEPTA bus routes.

The reroutings begin at 8 p.m. Friday, when all of the bus routes that run on or cross the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 19th to 23rd streets — Routes 7, 32, 33, 38 and 48 — will be detoured for the Philadelphia Science Festival Carnival. The detours will remain in effect until at least 11 p.m. Saturday.

Three more detours begin early Saturday morning: Read more »

NLNA Gives Finnigan’s Wake Conversion Plans A Trim

So, Finnigan's Wake could look dramatically different. | Image: Sandy Smith

Early Conceptual designs show that Finnigan’s Wake could look dramatically different. | Image: Sandy Smith | Designs: Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

There have been times when the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association Zoning Committee has stopped developments in their tracks because of the strong objections of a single near neighbor.

That didn’t happen at the committee’s March 30 meeting, and boy, was that neighbor pissed about that.

Instead, the committee expressed general approval of a plan to build an addition on top of the former Finnigan’s Wake at Third and Spring Garden streets and only asked that the developer take about 20 feet off of the proposed 75-foot-high structure.

Architect Sam Olshin of Atkin Oshin Schade Architects, presenting on behalf of developer Stockton Real Estate Advisors, explained that the addition, Read more »

SEPTA Unveils Renderings of 15th Street Station Renovations

There’s good news, bad news and “bad news with a but” about the long-planned, long-delayed reconstruction of City Hall Station on the Broad Street Line and 15th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line.

The first, but perhaps unavoidable, bit of bad news: The hordes that will descend upon Philadelphia for the World Conference of Families starring Pope Francis this fall and the Democratic National Convention next summer will experience the same dingy, cramped platforms and passages we have had to endure for more than 85 years. Read more »

Sharswood Residents Experiencing PHA Deja Vu


The Norman Blumberg Apartments. Photo | PHA

Longtime residents of Sharswood, a part of the city located just north of Girard College in North Philadelphia, can tell you exactly when their neighborhood started heading south: 1969. That was the year the Philadelphia Housing Authority opened the Norman Blumberg Apartments, a 501-unit array of high-rise towers and low-rise garden apartments near its center. The crime that came with the tenants who moved into the project sent the neighborhood’s black middle class residents fleeing, starting a cycle of decay and abandonment.

The residents now living there have been meeting regularly of late with the Philadelphia Housing Authority to hasten the day when the project disappears. Last year, the PHA received a Choice Neighborhoods grant from the Federal government to plan for the Blumberg project’s replacement and study what should follow in its place.

One of those residents is a more recent arrival, a guy from Illinois named Adam Lang. Lang settled in Sharswood almost a decade ago with an eye on sticking around the neighborhood. He soon got involved in both Republican politics and neighborhood issues, working with neighbors to help bring a supermarket (the since-closed Bottom Dollar) to the area and taking an active role in the neighborhood civic association, which has devoted much time and energy toward restoring the neighborhood to the condition it was in before the PHA opened the Blumberg project.

His neighbors have, as a result, accepted him as part of the community. He hosts movie nights and other neighborhood events on the empty lots next door to his house, lots that he purchased from the PHA with the aim of making them a side yard for his home.

Imagine his surprise, then, when he got a letter from the PHA on January 15th saying the agency might want to take them back sometime this fall. Read more »

The Sad Demise of the Bill Cosby Legacy


Philadelphia sounded like such a wonderful place. It was the 1960s, and I was a young black kid, growing up on the side of Kansas City where kids like me grew up while attending school on the other side. I took crosstown buses to get there once I was old enough to travel alone.

I’d been places already: They had names like Savannah, Lufkin and Los Angeles, places where I had family. One of those places went up in flames in 1965, the year before I visited: The rioters torched the building next door but spared my uncle’s package store. Three years later, on the night after Martin Luther King was killed, two business districts near my home also went up in flames while I remained indoors, watching the conflagration on TV.

But I had no relatives in the Northeast. I knew nothing about Columbia Avenue, and they didn’t show that one on TV. I did, however, know about the Ninth Street Bridge, and racing go-karts down a street that “went straight down for a quarter mile and emptied out — onto a freeway.”

And that was Bill Cosby’s doing. Read more »

Coming to the Marketplace Design Center: The “Family Apartment”

An interior shot of the Marketplace Design Center by MikeWebkist via Flickr.

An interior shot of the Marketplace Design Center by MikeWebkist via Flickr.

Apartments in Philadelphia generally come in three sizes: small (studio), medium (one bedroom), and large (two-bedroom), with small and medium dominating.

A new development that will transform a Schuylkill riverside landmark is about to rewrite that formula in response to changing demographics and trends. Instead of small, medium and large, the apartments in this new project will come in medium, large and extra large.

Next year, PMC Property Group will begin work on a project that will turn the Marketplace Design Center at 2401 Market St. into a mixed-use building that will include office space, street-level retail, a hotel and apartments in addition to a reconfigured showcase for interior designers. Read more »

MAP: This Is What Philly Would Look Like With Full 24-Hour SEPTA Service

Owl Service Map

We gave SEPTA some suggestions for all-night bus routes. They showed us what that might look like.

If you read my first commentary on all-night SEPTA subway service — in which I asked if SEPTA might better spend its money providing 24-hour bus service to all corners of the city — you may be surprised to hear that I was quite pleased when the agency decided to make its experiment with all-night rapid transit on weekends permanent.

And it’s not just because it means I can now take a train rather than a bus home on those occasional weekend nights that I stay out way late. Rather, it’s because it shows the agency responded to its riders. A bunch of them recommended this change, SEPTA tried it, and the riders responded enthusiastically.

And the agency is providing this service, which is carrying anywhere from 66 to 100 percent more riders than took the Nite Owl buses, for a mere $34,000 more per weekend than it spent on the buses.

That’s $1.768 million for a year’s worth of overnight subway-elevated service on the weekends.


There’s still this nagging feeling in the back of my head that this $1.8 million or so would still be better spent providing overnight service to parts of the city that don’t have any — or are too far from the nearest — 24-hour bus line.

Read more »

Jeff Reinhold’s Renovation Fitness Regimen


Tenants in Reinhold Reisdential apartment buildings—all of them—just got a splendid new amenity they can take advantage of.

And it’s the result of a restoration project worthy of the company that once owned several of them, Historic Landmarks for Living.

But the reconstruction of the former YMCA Naval Annex gymnasium, part of the creation of the new MetroFit fitness center at Reinhold’s Metropolitan apartment building at 117 N. 15th St., is just one of the last acts in a project that has spanned the last two years, namely, updating the old Historic Landmarks portfolio for modern tastes and demands.

“These buildings were converted in the 1980s,” Reinhold CEO Jeff Reinhold said. “It was time to bring them into the 21st century.”

This meant updating kitchens, redoing bathrooms, putting in new climate-control systems, and putting in more and bigger closets, a Reinhold specialty.

And, in the case of the Metropolitan, returning to active use a facility that Historic Landmarks, the firm that brought Carl Dranoff to prominence in Philadelphia’s development community, left alone when it converted the former lodging and recreational facility for military personnel into high-end apartments in 1984.

Read more »

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