Architype: Civic Studies

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

A rendering of Dilworth Park.

I guess “romping” is the word for what children were doing on the first day I visited the revamped Dilworth Plaza. Maybe “gamboling.” “Frolicking”? Some were frolicking. There are many words to choose from in the 10-pound thesaurus I recently scored at a used bookstore. Point is, they were having serious fun as they ran through jets of water, adults watching from multicolored cafe chairs. At one point, I saw an African-American kid, an Asian kid and a Latina kid invent a game together. I wouldn’t have been surprised if John Lennon had popped out from behind the puffy clouds to sing “Imagine.”

Not only that — people were reading the new informational panels. They were strolling to the “cafe.” They were chatting in areas that’ll be green space this time next year, and they were walking on pathways that they’ll be able to glide along in ice skates just months from now.

To say this is not the Dilworth Plaza I’m familiar with, as a native Philadelphian, is an understatement.

I turned to my companion and said, “I know there will be naysayers, but I won’t hear a word against it.”

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Pearl Art Supply to Become Millennium Dance Complex

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The space, in progress. | Photo by Lauren Mame Thomas

Our sweet, beloved Pearl Art & Crafts — another Philly retail stalwart (like Daffy’s and Strawbridge’s and Bonwit’s), whose closure was met with great gnashing of teeth. It seemed like the last vestige of South Street’s artistic, bohemian phase.

But things change and commercial corridors evolve and choreographers who work with Justin Bieber and Beyonce need a place to teach, dammit! Now they have one. Millennium Dance Complex is going to be a massive endeavor entirely devoted to anything and everything related to dance. The 39,000-square-foot space will specialize in workshops and drop-in dance classes that’ll cater to all ages, dance styles and experience level. So even if you think you can’t dance…

Here’s the plan: phase one has a target opening of Nov. 28th. The first floor will have dance studios of various types and windows looking out onto South Street, so that passersby can watch classes. Also:
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Photo of the Week: Frank Gehry Gives the Finger to the Spanish Press

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An example of the kind of design some Spaniards call “arquitectura-espectáculo,” aka, the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

Frank Gehry was in Oviedo, Spain this week to receive an award from the Fundación Príncipe de Asturias, which honors artists and arts organizations. The rationale for Gehry’s inclusion reads (translated from the Spanish):

His buildings are characterized by virtuosic play with complex forms, by the use of uncommon materials, like titanium, and by his technological innovation, which has influenced other spheres of art as well.

Apparently, Gehry takes Spanish adoration a bit for granted these days. At a press conference to coincide with the awards, the first question was from a reporter who asked how he responds to the charge that he practices what Spaniards call “arquitectura-espectáculo,” a term basically explained by the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

His answer?

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Daffy’s Reopens As Nordstrom Rack

Nordstrom-Rack

The line outside Nordstrom Rack on opening day, just before doors opened at 9am. | Photo by Tim Haas.

Discount retailer Daffy’s was in business for 20 years at 1700 Chestnut when it closed in 2012. Before that, the space was occupied by the independently owned department store Bonwit Teller, which I remember, from my childhood, as a wonderland of perfume mist and well-dressed ladies and hard-plastic name tags pinned to gray cardigans. Bonwit’s closed in 1990. A year prior to its closure, the Inquirer’s Susan Warner spoke to Ross Brightwell, who worked with the Chestnut Street Association, about what would happen if Bonwit’s left Chestnut Street.

…[Brightwell] said merchants would try to assure that another high-quality tenant would move into the space being vacated by Bonwit. “It’s very sad,” he said. “When you lose a name like Bonwit Teller, it will just reinforce this perception that Center City Philadelphia is on a downward spiral.”

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Morning Headlines: Kenney Wants to Preserve and Protect

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As if decriminalizing marijuana weren’t enough, City Councilman Jim Kenney has proposed a double whammy of legislation that could improve the city’s inadequate system of preserving historic properties. From the Inquirer:

City Councilman James Kenney introduced two bills Thursday: One would transfer $500,000 to the [Philadelphia Historic] commission, the other would add at least 1,000 properties to the city’s register of historic places. There are thousands of Philadelphia properties on the National Register of Historic Places that are not on the local register.

“If it’s significant enough to be on the federal list, it could be significant enough to be on the local register,” Kenney said.

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Roundup: The Four Sexiest Homes in Philly

Sexy Philadelphia home listings

There are only so many words to express what makes a particular home stand out (“Elegant!” “Unique!” “Luxurious!”). How about “sexy”? Below, the four properties currently on the market that have — according to their listings — undeniable sex appeal.

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Another Dilworth Park Amenity Opens Friday

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In addition to Rothman Ice Rink opening next month, Dilworth Park will be debuting another feature: the Albert M. Greenfield Lawn.

According to a press release from the Center City District, the 6,9000-square foot green space will be dedicated and opened tomorrow at 11:00am. The site is expected to function as a relaxing public area for visitors to go read and work, with occasional programmed events setting up camp there throughout the year.

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Photos: Strawbridge’s Becomes Century 21

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Yesterday morning I went to take a look at what was once Strawbridge and Clothier and is now Century 21 — not a real estate agency, but the Gallery’s new 100,000-square-foot anchor store. Our sister site Shoppist has plenty of information about names you’ll find (Milly, Y-3, Tumi, Le Creuset, etc.) and where you’ll find them (first floor or second). I didn’t take notes on that because I was too obsessed with looking for, and finding, historical details that might ricochet me back to the days when Strawbridge’s was still a thriving entity. After all, that was an important part of Philadelphia’s history. In 1996, when the company was passed from the Strawbridge family hands to the May company, the New York Times published what amounted to a eulogy, “Philadelphia Keeps Strawbridge Name but Loses a Retail Tradition.”

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This Is What a “Philly Sofa” Looks Like

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BoConcept‘s new “Philly Sofa” marks the first time the Danish retailer has named a sofa after an American city. And it’s as smooth as Philly Cream Cheese, isn’t it? The design is vaguely midcentury, and inspired, says the company, “by the laid back and practical lifestyle of Philadelphia.”

Good news for all the relaxed pragmatists out there: Pennsylvania residents who shop at BoConcept Philadelphia or BoConcept King of Prussia between November 1- November 26 get a 10 percent discount on the Philly Sofa, as well as access to the stores’ professional interior design teams:

Perhaps a classic gray or modern white with pops of colored pillows entices. Or opt for a stylish demonstration of Eagles pride with an emerald green sofa and a silver and black throw that will make cheering on game day even more fun.

Please do not opt for that, actually. Just…do not. Meanwhile, a couple more pics of the Philly Sofa below.

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