If you complain about Center City trash now, then you probably didn’t live here 25 years ago, when, as Patrick Kerkstra evocatively writes, “Center City was awash in garbage: bulging Hefty bags, swirling pretzel wrappers, fetid dumpsters lurking in every alleyway.” The idea that some day there would be teal-clad men and women sweeping the streets and driving mini street cleaners would have been laughable, as would have Walnut Street comparisons to a suburban mall in King of Prussia. A lot has changed downtown in the last quarter-century-plus, and much of that is attributable to Paul Levy, the CEO of the Center City District. To sum it up:
With apologies to Ed Rendell, no Philadelphian is more responsible than Levy for transforming downtown from the hellhole of the 1980s to the archetype of intimate, walkable urbanity it’s become.
No apologies needed to Ed Rendell, actually. A mayor has a lot to do, and is theoretically responsible for the entirety of a city (something Rendell didn’t always cotton to). But Levy, well, he’s been the mayor of Center City, and if it weren’t for him, many argue, our downtown would still be a locus of crime, graffiti, and putrid odors.
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There is so much going on in his house, it is mind-boggling. Or, better said, eye-boggling. The house’s featured amenities — not all of which we’ve ever heard of or even understand — are staggering in number and extravagance:
- six-person sauna
- working phone booth
- sliding hardware store ladder
- 3-car garage with extra-tall steel door
- bidet and raised Jacuzzi
- theater with overhead projector and 9-foot screen
- marble-top wet bar
- 1895 Brunswick pool table
- calendar table
- cigar/party room
- pool w/cascading waterfall
- cabana with bathroom
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What are the best ways to warm up after a cold walk in the snow? There’s hot chocolate (spiked, if you like). There’s sitting by the fire. There’s a heated pool, or a sauna, or a gym area to get the blood flowing. Take a warm bath, perhaps. Whatever your pleasure, the houses below oblige.
1. This Medford, NJ, home is all about warmth: indoor heated pool, towel warmers, bath with a bidet and heated seat, and leather floors. Did we mention the heated seat?
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It was only a couple weeks ago when we wrote about the relatively new listing just off of Ninth and South — a lovely rowhome redo with luxury appointments like three fireplaces; a gourmet kitchen; a private deck; and a rear garden. It’s also perfectly situated near Via Bicycle and Starbucks, among other necessities.
It went on the market in mid-November, was taken off Nov. 27, and the deal was closed and entered into the Great Book of Sales yesterday. Score! Was it Talbot’s fame that made this move so quickly? Doubtful. Between the location and the home’s condition — and the fact that Bella Vista houses are movers — it would have been fine without the Talbot connection.
It sold for $1,050,000, down from the last list price of $1,129,000.
To see the gallery of the house, click the link below:
• Rowhome Redo Perfect for Bike-Riding Coffee Addicts — and Flyers
The big news that was embargoed until this morning yet released yesterday anyway is the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s 11th Annual Endangered Properties List. It should come as no surprise that the list includes all of the city’s closed schools. But let’s start with Market East.
Victor Gruen and Elsie Krummeck, 1946 1020 Market Street, Philadelphia
As interest and activity increases around development of East Market Street, older buildings — some of them historic — may be threatened. That’s certainly the case with the Robinson Store, built by Victor Gruen and Elsie Krummeck, who partnered to design 11 stores for the Grayson-Robinson chain (which sold ladies’ underwear at low prices. Oh, Robinson, where are you now?). Gruen is an especially important figure in commercial architecture, whether you love him or hate him, as he’s known as the inventor of the shopping mall.
The Robinson Store in Center City is easy to pass by without a glance, but as the Alliance points out, it is “the last surviving example of a building campaign that epitomized the use of architecture as advertisement.” It’s a Don Draper dream.
And that’s not all that’s threatened by East Center City development. The former Coward Shoes at 1118 Chestnut is scheduled to be demolished in early 2014 — and that circa-1949 building was designed by Louis Kahn and Oskar Stonorov. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much impossible to tell that either of the buildings were ever especially impressive, so the facades would need to be restored.
As that’s not going to happen with 1118, the Alliance is calling for the restoration of the Robinson façade, which actually would benefit the developer who did it because the store is within a district that incentivizes facade improvements. “It would be a major preservation victory and could anchor any number of redevelopment plans for the rest of the block.”
Now for the other sites…
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The interior of Union Transfer, though obscured by snow today, is much admired.
What a lovely, snowy day–unless you’re on the roadways, in which case, godspeed and…does your boss have no compassion? SEPTA seems to be running fairly smoothly (she says, three seconds prior to some SEPTA meltdown) and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds are filling with posts to let you know that yes, your friend or acquaintance has also seen the snow, as has their dog, cat or parrot (more on parrots later). I should note I am far from unique in this area, having already posted two Instagram photos involving my cat and snow (instagram.com/lizspikol, FYI) and I plan to continue, perhaps even relentlessly.
Now, what to do with whatever downtime you’ll have? TELL US ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA AREA’S COOLEST SPACES!
A beautifully designed office. An amazing kitchen. A store with forward-thinking decor. A house you covet. Hotels, museums, music venues, bars, restaurants, hovels, mansions, rentals — it’s all game.
Let us know by via email, preferably with a photo (phone photos will do) to show us what you mean.
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This luxury Gary Gardner home — sitting on more than three acres of land among other Gary Gardner homes — is, according to the listing, “the address that says ‘We’ve arrived.’” Its 9,000 square feet are certainly packed with amenities, including a kitchen with four ovens, three dishwashers and a Wolf range; an elevator that runs between the basement and the second floor; an outfitted gym; a saltwater pool; a sauna; a home theater with puffy leather recliners; a billiards room; a bar; and a wine cellar.
But we like the hidden TV best.
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Estately has a gallery of homes a person making minimum wage ($7.25) can afford in various cities. Those homes are compared to those a person making $15 per hour can afford — and the difference is so depressing, it’s enough to make even the most diehard conservative move to Canada.
In Philadelphia, here’s what the difference looks like:
For those making $7.25 per hour:
This house is in Southwest Philly, around 69th and Buist. Listing says: “house’s boarded for security reason. But otherwise, it’s a good starter house.” And the price is right: $50,000. Unfortunately, this house is unlikely to be an investment that appreciates.
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When the artist Chris Perot bought this unit in the small condo building at Cuthbert and Mascher streets in 2003, the space in the former Old City factory was wide open. So Perot hired Studio Agoos/Lovera to create definition using glass and wood panels hung from the ceiling, wood columns, and elements like a massive, 2001 monolith-style fireplace to divide the space. “I love the wood ceilings and the proportion of the space,” Perot told Philadelphia Style in 2003 — and it’s likely there are plenty of buyers who will feel the same way.
In a small, secluded building with only six units, this second-floor apartment can be configured for two, three or four bedrooms because of its flexible space. The central area has 11.5′ ceilings; three exposures have windows that are more than six feet tall. The kitchen featured poured concrete countertops (not granite! It’s a miracle!) that match the (necessarily) radiant-heated concrete floors.
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