Cosby Lawyers Accuse Prosecutors of Playing “Gotcha” Game

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When defense attorneys for comedian Bill Cosby filed their final motion yesterday before a key pretrial hearing set for Feb. 2, they also accused the prosecutors in the case of playing a “gotcha” game by relying on testimony that a former Montgomery County district attorney had promised not to use.

According to an Associated Press report, current Montco D.A. Kevin Steele said the recently unsealed testimony by Cosby about an incident between himself and Andrea Constand was part of the new evidence that led him to file indecent assault charges against Cosby last month. Read more »

South Kensington OKs Techadelphia Zoning Variance

1525 North American Street

The “Techadelphia” project cleared an important hurdle last night when South Kensington residents voted to support its developer’s request for a zoning variance. Rendering | Harman Deutsch Architecture

Developer Sean Frankel’s request for a zoning variance for his proposed “Techadelphia” mixed-use live/work tech startup hub was approved this week by South Kensington residents who attended the South Kensington Community Partners zoning meeting.

The variance allows Frankel Management Company, the lead developer on the project that includes partner Streamline Solutions, to include residential structures on land zoned exclusively for industrial use. The residences, he explained, are crucial to making his vision of a free co-working space for young tech entrepreneurs work.

“We got overwhelming support. The vote was 27 to 3 in favor of our project,” Frankel said. Building size and parking were the reasons the three who voted against the request did so, he added.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Pennsylvanians Have Had It With Governor Wolf, Legislature

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf's hopes of ending Pennsylvania's 99-day-old state budget impasse were dashed Wednesday when nine of his fellow Democrats joined all House Republicans to vote against his revised plan to raise billions in income and gas drilling taxes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, October 7, 2015, in Harrisburg.

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know:

A pox on all their houses in Harrisburg.

It’s now calendar year 2016, and the state budget for fiscal 2016 remains unfinished after Gov. Tom Wolf line-item vetoed parts of the spending bill the Republican-controlled General Assembly sent him at year’s end. The standoff has sent both the Governor’s and the legislature’s job approval ratings plummeting, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll. Penn Live reports that only 33 percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed gave the governor an “excellent” or “good” job rating, worse than any of his three predecessors were doing one year into their first term. Moreover, a whopping two-thirds of respondents said the state was on the wrong track. If there’s any comforting news for Wolf in this poll, it’s that more respondents blame the General Assembly than the Governor for this state of affairs: 52 percent of respondents said the legislature was responsible for this mess, and only 15 percent of them rated its job “excellent” or “good.” Read more »

We Won’t Be Driving on the Shoulders of the Schuylkill Expressway Anytime Soon

The Schuylkill Expressway westbound at the Conshohocken exit. A proposal to allow driving on the shoulder at peak hours may run into a few roadblocks. Photo | Krimpet via Wikimedia Commons, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Schuylkill Expressway westbound at the Conshohocken exit. A proposal to allow driving on the shoulder at peak hours may run into a few roadblocks. Photo | Krimpet. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The news earlier this month that PennDOT is considering opening the shoulders of the Schuylkill Expressway to general traffic at peak hours caused a stir in some circles, including ours.

There are indeed a number of people out there, including planners at PennDOT, who see this as a way to speed up traffic on the perennially clogged artery.

But before anyone can even think of traveling in these temporary third lanes, PennDOT has some engineering and design issues it needs to examine first. And PennDOT’s study doesn’t even attempt to answer the question: Is this wise policy to begin with?

Before getting to that question, though, let’s look at the other issues that need to be resolved first. Read more »

Toll Brothers to Build Apartments on Society Hill Playhouse Site

The revised Toll Brothers projects on 8th Street. Rendering | JKRP Architects for Toll Brothers

The revised Toll Brothers projects on 8th Street. Rendering | JKRP Architects for Toll Brothers

What was to have been a double-barreled Toll Brothers condominium development on the site of the Society Hill Playhouse and a garage across 8th Street from it in Washington Square West is going to be rental apartments instead. Along with that change comes the disappearance not only of the 19th-century playhouse and the garage but of all the parking on the site as well.

If the residents of Lombard Mews, Rodman Street and Bradford Alley in the vicinity of the Society Hill Playhouse find themselves complaining that it’s even harder to find a place to park a year or two from now, they will have no one but themselves to blame, for their opposition to Toll’s project led the company to replace it with one that can be built by right. As a result, the first-floor garages planned in both buildings were removed to bring the new structures under the block’s height limit, which stand at 38 feet.

“We had met with the neighbors in Lombard Mews and on Bradford Alley, and with the WSWCA Zoning Committee,” said Shawn Frawley, senior project manager at Toll Brothers’ City Living division, which owns the two parcels.

What Toll Brothers had wanted to build on these lots were luxury condominiums: 24 on the site of the garage and 22 on the site of the Society Hill Playhouse and the parking lot to its south. Both structures would have had indoor garage parking.

But it seems that the neighbors had issues with the height of the resulting buildings. “We were having some decent conversations until some neighbors said, ‘Whatever you do, we’ll oppose it,'” said Frawley. In addition, “the Civic Association said it wouldn’t approve anything without the approval of the neighbors,” Frawley said.

Judith Appelbaum, chair of the Washington Square West Civic Association‘s governmental affairs committee, presided over the meeting where Toll made an informational presentation to neighborhood residents. (Zoning Committee Chair Jon Broh works for project architect JKRP Architects and thus recused himself.) “Toll Brothers never came to the RCO with a formal proposal for the project,” she said. “We had informational meetings where the project was presented to the Zoning Committee and neighbors for discussion. We gave them feedback and indicated that we were willing to continue talking with them.

“Toll also had several groups of meetings with neighbors to negotiate details of the project, and at some point, the negotiations broke down. At some point, they came to the conclusion that they were never going to get anywhere with the neighbors. So Toll ended the discussions and decided to do the by-right project, and once you go by right, the RCO isn’t involved.”

Read more »

Manufacturing Philadelphia Tech Jobs: A New “Factory” to Rise on American Street

1525 North American Street

Streamline’s “jobs factory” pays homage to American Street’s past – and, the developers hope, its future. Rendering | Harman Deutsch Architecture

[Updated Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m. to indicate that a vote has yet to take place.]

South Kensington (or Old Kensington, to some) has historically been part of the city’s industrial heart, but lately developers responding to the residential boom in neighboring Northern Liberties and Fishtown have been giving those old industrial buildings heart transplants such as the one the current home of Spencer Industries on Mascher Street is about to get.

The city, it appears, hasn’t abandoned the notion that South Kensington can still be home to industry completely, though. American Street, an extra-wide north-south thoroughfare between Second and Third streets that still has a freight railroad line running down its middle (long abandoned, alas), is still mostly zoned industrial, and there’s still a Keystone Opportunity Zone designation intended to lure job-creating businesses running the length of the street in Kensington.

Yet most of these industrial-zoned lots remain vacant, like the one Streamline Solutions, a local development firm that specializes in residential projects, purchased on the east side of American Street, extending from Jefferson Street almost all the way to Oxford Street. Surrounding the lot are mostly residential structures, including a row of houses on the block’s Oxford Street side that clearly predate its I-2 zoning.

This would seem to be a great place to build new residences. But the lot’s zoned industrial, which means a variance would be required to build any residential structure.

Which led Streamline co-CEO Sean Frankel to propose a novel solution to the problem: Build townhomes on the back half of the lot and a “factory” of a different sort on the front.

“I spoke with our architects, and they said it was zoned for industrial and manufacturing,” he said. “I asked them if there was anything else we could do on the site.”

And that’s when Frankel had his epiphany: “I said, ‘We’re going to manufacture tech jobs.'”

Read more »

The PPA Is Immediately Buying $300K Worth of Snow-Removing Bobcats

Washington Square West - Philadelphia - snow - 2016

The PPA will purchase smaller front-end loaders to assist with the snow removal effort. | Photo by Dan McQuade

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously overstated the cost of Bobcat front-end loaders and the total amount the PPA was spending on them. Philadelphia magazine apologizes for the error.  

The Philadelphia Parking Authority approved an emergency resolution Tuesday afternoon to throw a little more of its own muscle at clearing the city’s streets.

The resolution, passed at the PPA board’s regular monthly meeting, authorizes the immediate purchase of six Bobcat front-end loaders to clear snow from city streets at a cost of $50,000 per vehicle. Read more »

Upper Merion Residents Seek to Derail KofP Train Proposal

NoKOPRail Facebook graphic

While the business interests and developers in King of Prussia are all in on SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High-Speed Line spur, a bunch of Upper Merion Township residents feel they’re being, ahem, railroaded — and they don’t like it one bit.

They’ve taken their case against the extension to the public in the form of a Facebook page and an online petition on Change.org.

Township resident Dan Cowhey, one of the organizers of the Facebook campaign, gave several reasons for the local opposition to the spur. They fall into four broad categories: Read more »

House Judiciary Committee Votes to Launch Impeachment Investigation Against Kane

Kathleen Kane

The state House Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved a resolution that would launch a formal investigation into Attorney General Kathleen Kane‘s conduct in office pursuant to a possible vote to impeach her.

Kane has been the subject of a grand jury investigation into her actions relating to a leak of confidential information about a critic as a possible act of revenge. The grand jury charged her with leaking the information and then lying about it when questioned under oath. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges; her trial is slated to begin later this year. Read more »

Here’s What Is and Isn’t Running on SEPTA

SEPTA Media Relations

That jet-engine snow blower has been hard at work clearing tracks today, but its work isn’t done yet: there’s still half the Norristown High-Speed Line to clear. | Photo: SEPTA Media Relations

Here’s the gist of what SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel had to say when he briefed the media at 7 p.m. about the system’s status for Sunday night and Monday morning: If you plan to use SEPTA to get home tonight, key bus and trolley routes are currently running, and both the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines will have overnight service with some minor adjustments.

Broad Street Nite Owl buses will run overnight, but the Market-Frankford Line will run trains instead. Personnel will be stationed at 15th Street/City Hall to facilitate the timed transfers between the two lines.

The West and Southwest Philadelphia trolley lines that operate overnight will run through the tunnel rather than follow the diversion route as they usually do overnight on Sundays. Read more »

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