Now that we know that tens of thousands of people will be descending upon Philadelphia in July 2016 for the Democratic National Convention, we thought it would be fun — given how much our city has been changing in recent years — to ponder what the Philadelphia they’ll be visiting will actually look like.
For All Those Democratic Mormons
Philadelphia’s Mormon Temple (above) was announced way back in 2008 and was supposed to be dedicated on May 17, 2015. Well, apparently Mormon temples aren’t immune to construction delays, because the temple — Pennsylvania’s first — has been delayed until 2016, but the latest estimates have it opening in time for the DNC. Hallelujah. Check out this extensive series of construction photos of the project, which is at 1739 Vine Street, just steps off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The Changing Skyline
We imagine that someone in the executive suites at the Comcast Center wishes that construction could go into hyperdrive on the company’s $1.2 billion Comcast Innovation and Technology Center tower that will dominate the 1800 block of Arch Street. After all, Comcast bigwig David L. Cohen — a huge Democratic fundraiser — has even had President Obama to his Mt. Airy home. But with a projected opening date of 2018 (pushed back from 2017), not even Comcast can get that done. The only new skyscraper expected to be finished prior to July 2016 is the FMC Tower at Cira Centre South (pictured above), which should be open one month before the DNC — the key word being should.
How the Dems Will Get Around
Not to unleash cultural stereotypes, but something tells us that Democratic delegates are a bit more inclined to ride bikes than their Republican counterparts, so it’s a good thing that our long- awaited bike share program Indego (it’s sponsored by Independence Blue Cross) launches this spring, giving the city a full year to work out the kinks before the DNC arrives.
Public transit is also very Democratic, and SEPTA spokesperson Jerri Williams tells me that the eternally delayed SEPTA Key fare payment system “should be” up and running on buses, the Broad Street Line, trolleys and the Market-Frankford El in time for the DNC. She’s less hopeful for Regional Rail.
Williams also points out that a “refresh” is planned for the City Hall and 15th Street stations (resurfaced floors, better lighting, fresh paint, deep cleaning) prior to the Pope’s upcoming visit and that SEPTA will do touch-ups for the DNC.
But let’s get real: Uber and UberX are going to make a ton of cash. And by 2016, we can only imagine that UberX will have worked out its problems with the PPA. Meanwhile, cabs will still be smelly and their drivers will still be rude and fighting over credit cards.
Because Democrats Have to Eat, Too
You can tell tourists about the Italian Market, Washington Avenue, the 13th Street Corridor and East Passyunk all you want, but let’s face it: Many of those visiting will wind up at the chains. The biggest development on that front is undoubtedly the city’s first Cheesecake Factory, which will be housed in the snazzy building rendered above when it opens mid-2015 at 15th and Walnut streets.
As for Philadelphia’s most prolific restaurateurs, they do have some plans that have long been in the works. All set to debut well before the DNC: Michael Solomonov has his Rooster Soup Company, Marc Vetri is doing a Pizzeria Vetri on Chancellor Street in Rittenhouse, and Jose Garces has a Latin project called Buena Onda opening in the Granary and perhaps something at 2401 Walnut Street.
But we bet that one if not all of them have some other projects in store for the city. As for Stephen Starr, well, we’ve heard that he’s been poking around inside Smith & Wollensky at the Rittenhouse Hotel. Just a rumor, for now.
Other upcoming restaurants that the DNCers should have on their lists: Susanna Foo returns to Center City with Suga and Chicago restaurateur Alfredo Sandoval is bringing fancy Mexican spot Mercadito our way. Oh, and the billion other projects that will debut between now and July 2016.
But Where Will They All Sleep?
Listen, this is the Democratic National Convention — not the Olympics. That said, we’re still going to have to house the 50,000 folks expected for the DNC — and that’s on top of the general tourists who would already be visiting the area during Philly’s peak tourism season. DNC organizers say they expect to fill 80,000 hotel-room nights, and we currently have about 45,000 rooms in the region.
As for new properties, The W Hotel and Element By Westin and the 12-story Hudson Hotel that’s jettisoning Little Pete’s won’t be anywhere near complete by the DNC. And Carl Dranoff’s SLS International at Broad and Spruce streets was originally supposed to be done by then but now won’t be. Our best bets seem to be the unnamed luxury hotel that will be replacing Four Seasons at One Logan Square and the 212-room Study Hotel at Drexel. Both of those hotels could be ready for the influx of Democrats.
Dems Just Want to Have Fun
Philly is already a town where you can have a whole lot of fun, but thanks to these upcoming developments, even more so. With most of the DNC action centered around the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, expect to see plenty of delegates at South Bowl on Oregon Avenue, from the people who brought you Northern Liberties bowling alley North Bowl.
For those Democrats who enjoy the great outdoors: Recent hit Spruce Street Harbor Park will be back in full force but with some new twists; Pier 68 on the waterfront (it opens this summer) will offer fishing; Schuylkill Banks could reach Christian Street by July 2016; down at the Navy Yard, 4.5-acre Central Green Park is supposed to open this spring, from the people who brought us Race Street Pier and the High Line to New York; and we’ll just have to cross our fingers for the Reading Viaduct.
Hillary at The Gallery?
The biggest developments in the shopping world are across the street from each other: The Gallery, which is getting a ridiculously overdue redo, and East Market. Then there’s the expansion of the King of Prussia Mall, but even Democrats aren’t crazy enough to deal with the Schuylkill Expressway just to buy a Gucci bag.
What did we miss? Fill in the gaps in the comments section.
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