Can Center City’s Flying Saucer Be Saved?

Image from Fairmount Park archives via Preservation Alliance website.

Image from Fairmount Park archives via Preservation Alliance website.

Used to be the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia released an annual list of 12 “endangered properties” — bricks-and-mortar equivalents of trembling polar bears clinging to melting blocks of ice. Today the Alliance announces a change: it’ll release the same kind of list three times a year, with four properties each time, and call it “Places to Save,” which rolls off the tongue and rids the whole endeavor of its woolly mammoth feel.

The four picks for this cycle include the William Penn Inn, the Mt. Moriah Cemetery Gatehouse, the Blue Horizon boxing venue, and the flying saucer in LOVE Park, aka, the Fairmount Park Welcome Center. Now, the first three picks have rather obvious merit, but there are many people who look at that round, midcentury yo-yo building and don’t quite get it. What the heck is it? Why is it?

Designed by architect Roy Larsen of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larsen, it was built in 1960 as the Philadelphia Hospitality Center. This was well before the city’s visitors center was even a glimmer in Philadelphia’s eye, and the architecture and concept were both cutting-edge at the time. “There was a huge amount of civic pride at building this architectural wonder at the base of Penn Center,” says Ben Leech, the Alliance’s director of advocacy. “Architecturally, it’s the last best example of postwar Penn Center optimism.”

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22nd and Market Memorial Park Names Artist

building collapse

Photo of woman at demolition site paying honor to one of the collapse victims. Photo: Laura Kicey.

The most recent Center City Residents Association Newsletter has an update on the memorial park proposed for 22nd and Market, the site of the June 2013 building collapse responsible for the death of seven people: artist Barbara Fox has been selected to design the memorial sculpture. From the newsletter:

As for her winning concept, Fox says she wanted the families to be able to personalize the memorial for themselves. “My idea was to have windows in a house-shaped piece, and each victim’s family could customize how the window would look so that it would mean something to them, like the color of the glass or the texture of the glass. The name of each of the six victims would be etched into the granite over each window. Then, there would be a seventh window for individuals who were injured in the collapse. Above that window it would say ‘for those we remember’. “

All due respect to Fox, who was obviously speaking very preliminarily, let’s memorialize the death of seven people, rather than six, so that Ronald Waggenhoffer is not forgotten. (In case you have forgotten him, read this piece about his suicide.) He was a victim too, and deserves his own window.

Morning Headlines: Saffron On the New Family Court Building

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

It’s been a long time coming, but last week, the Philadelphia Family Court finally moved its headquarters to a recently completed, nine-story, glass and metal building at 15th and Arch. And like all new additions to the city’s skyline, the building was the focus of Inga Saffron’s appraising eye.

According to the Inquirer, the new Court location offers 544,000 square feet and includes 29 courtrooms, administrative offices, judges’ chambers, and a staff training facility. But unlike its former site, which had all of the former features, the latest has extras like a playroom and computer room. Saffron says that its amenities like these that save the building from being straight-out bad: Read more »

Property’s Weekend Agenda: Relive the Glory Days of Hohendel House

Have a cold brew at a house party that celebrates the newly renovated Hohenadel House in East Falls! This Saturday, the party will include recreated Hohenadel brews by local homebrewer Tom Coughlin, live music, and a pop-up museum with “period-appropriate furniture” and other artifacts. Further event details below.

Back in the mid-nineties, Hohenadel Brewery in East Falls was an endangered landmark that went on to be demolished in 1997. The home of the defunct brewery’s owner seemed to be heading in the same direction.

According to Philly.com, the historic mansion that once housed the Hohenadel family was in such a state of disrepair that graffiti artists, squatters, and a whole other slew of blight connoisseurs had taken over. One day, someone stepped in: Read more »

Rydal Home Near Bradley Cooper

Alright, let me preface this by saying I’m not trying to get Mr. Cooper stalked or anyone in trouble. BUT, it seems pointless to profile this house without mentioning that a 10-minute walk (at least, according to directions from Google Maps) will get you to his former doorstep.

So no, you wouldn’t be his neighbor-neighbor, per se. Rather, you’d be neighbors in the general neighborhood-y kind of way. Think of it as a fun fact you can tell your grandkids one day (like those stories you hear about your cousin’s best friend’s aunt’s stepfather running into -insert celebrity name here- in an elevator): “We ran into Bradley Cooper while walking Buddy!”

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Property’s DesignPhiladelphia Pick: Szenasy, Design Advocate

For today, we suggest closing your DesignPhilly experience by going to Szenasy, Design Advocate. The event will be held at the Center for Architecture and will consist of a discussion with sustainable-design advocate Susan S. Szenasy, Center for Architecture director Hilary Jay, and architect and writer Joseph G. Brin. If you have Szenasy’s latest book, Szenasy, Design Advocate, be sure to have it on hand: a book signing will follow.

If unfamiliar with Szenasy’s work, just know this: She’s a long-standing voice in the cause for “ethical, sustainable, human-centered design.” Her most well-known role may be that of editor-in-chief  (now publisher) of Metropolis Magazine. Metropolis covers architecture, planning, interior design, and so much more and is known the world over.

The talk should prove quite interesting.

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On the Market: 2-Bedroom On the Oldest Residential Street in America

130 Elfreths Alley vertical alt

Every now and again a home on Elfreth’s Alley–the country’s oldest, continually inhabited street– becomes available. Without looking too far, a record number of three of these historic residences were put on the market earlier this year–all right before Independence Day, go figure. (Yeah ‘murca!)

Lately, another one of these American heirlooms was listed for sale. (Another one could be hitting the market soon, too. But more on that as Halloween moves closer…)

In this case, 130 Elfreth’s Alley, a red-shuttered dwelling built in 1741, is furnished with fireplaces showing off decorative mantles, wide-planked flooring made of pine wood, and a brick exterior with lintels, cornices and dormers. In the summer, the rear brick patio would be swell for meals since it’s connected to the eat-in kitchen.

Gallery below.

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Morning Headlines: Saffron Says Not Enough Affordable Subsidized Housing

Photo credit: 205 Race website.

Photo credit: 205 Race website.

As home values start to pick up and Philadelphia enjoys its first significant growth spurt in a long time, a different story unfolds for those on the lower end of the income spectrum.

In her latest “Changing Skyline” column, critic Inga Saffron writes that while the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods push up prices, inclusionary housing tends to fall by the wayside, even when developers promise to include subsidized units in their buildings.

Inclusionary housing, which is basically an “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours ” deal, involves developers pricing some of their apartments for below-market rates in favor of receiving zoning bonuses. Some do it, most don’t. As Saffron points out, the number of market-rate residences outweighs affordable housing in the area:

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

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Gallery: This Is What A Shuttered Philadelphia School Looks Like

Photo credit: Conrad Benner

Photo credit: Conrad Benner

If you’ve been following coverage of the school closings that swept the city, news of how the former Edward H. Bok Technical High School would be living its second life may not come as a surprise.

Last month, we reported how developer Lindsey Scannapieco plans to transform the building into what Next City calls “the city’s largest creative community space.” Indeed, Scannapieco envisions a mixed-use building with rental units, terraces, co-working spaces (a feature which, while growing in the city, is sorely lacking in East Passyunk), and a rooftop cinema. Until then, however, Bok is being used as a storage center.

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