PHOTOS: Google Maps Hack Shows Philly In a Cherry Blossom Alternate Universe

Image by Google Street View and Sakura Dream Lux

Image by Google Street View via Sakura Dream Lux

Oh, this hurts.

Some of you may know we’re in the midst of cherry blossom season, but for those of you who don’t, it’s basically when Japanese cherry trees are in full bloom, an event lasting anywhere from for 4-6 days. And though we’re no Branch Brook Park (the NJ park with the largest collection in the country), Philadelphia does have a substantial amount of cherry blossom trees whose April flowering is celebrated at an annual cherry blossom festival.

All that being said, we’re totally in love–and totally in pain because of our intense yearning for this to be real!–with this Google Maps hack by a Japanese beauty brand that transforms average cityscape scenes into a cherry blossom wonderland. All you have to do is go to this link (it wouldn’t show up on Chrome for us, but did so on Safari), type in the address or intersection you want to sakura-up, and press enter. Do it when you’re not too busy though, as the site does have a few glitches. From CityLab:

Be warned. Much like the notoriously hard-to-grow trees, the current version of the site has a few finicky limitations. It only works in areas where Google has done a street view sweep. (Sorry, Africa.) The graphics-heavy visualization is a bit slow and there’s no language translation for the Japanese language prompts.

For the record, the lack of English has ceased to be a problem as Quartz has generously provided a translation that allows you to see where you’re supposed to type in the address.

Below you’ll find some screenshots we took of various places around Philly if cherry blossom trees were lining the streets. Best alternate universe ever? Mayhaps. (Also, if this doesn’t have you filling out a Tree Planting Request Form from the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation office, we honestly don’t know what will).

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Upcoming North Apron Improvement Project Will Impact City Hall Parking Lot

Rush hour at the City Hall parking lot.

Rush hour at the City Hall parking lot.

Let’s call it what it is. With a number of VIP parkers and cracked concrete, the north apron of City Hall looks like crap. To be fair, the Pedestal of one William Penn has been slowly changing (for the better) over the years–first with a much needed restoration, then with Dilworth Park and soon with a new subway experience that is estimated to cost upwards of $90 million.

According to Bridget Collins-Greenwald, Commissioner of Public Property, the next step in the revitalization efforts around City Hall will continue with a renovation project on the north apron–you know it as the City Hall Parking Lot. Due to the Papal visit in September, the project will be split into two phases, the first being focused on safety and aesthetics and the second concerned with making the area more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  As Collins-Greenwald put it, “we didn’t want City Hall torn up” for the big event. Here’s the plan for Phase 1: Read more »

Time Lapse: Watch South Bowl’s Lanes Get Installed to A-ha’s “Take On Me”

South Bowl, the long-awaited sister project to the ever-popular North Bowl, opened in February on Oregon Avenue just east of Tony Luke’s. The former fruit and produce distribution center needed a major overhaul to transform it into a hip bowling alley, but by golly, did they ever pull it off. There are 26 lanes, multiple pool tables, a brick oven for pizza and an upper level (with a bar and old school games) that overlooks the lanes.

We found a fun video on Youtube that shows the lanes being built in just over four minutes! Better still, it’s set to the music of A-ha’s Take on Me. Fair warning: You will have this song in your head for the rest of the day.

South Bowl coverage [Philly Mag]

Jaw Dropper of the Week: Mid-Century Vision By Irwin Stein For $599,000

Photo by Laura Kicey

Photo by Laura Kicey

“There are only two other homes with this distinctive roof line. Stein also favored built-in cove lighting, low-rise open staircases and built-in sofas,” writes Bobbie Ann Tilkens-Fisher, owner of this amazing home in Wallingford, Delaware County.

And she would know wouldn’t she? Because aside from being the owner, Tilkens-Fisher is the founder of At Home Modern, a mid-century consulting business. And the Stein she’s referring to? None other than Irwin Stein, the modern architect with ties to Oscar Stonorov and Frank Weise, and who was “less a single-minded titan like Louis Kahn and more a flexible but visionary pragmatist who got things done,” according to Liz Spikol.

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An Idea for Petty’s Island, the Isle Between Philly and Camden

Photo credit: Delaware Valley FoodWORX.

Winning proposal of the 2015 Better Philadelphia Challenge: Delaware Valley FoodWORX.

Does the name Petty’s Island ring a bell? For those of you just tuning in, it’s a 300-acre island on the Delaware River, right between Camden and Philly’s Port Richmond neighborhood. It’s got a pretty colorful history (you know, pirates and Irish kings and the like), though these days it’s less of an adventure story churner and more of a storage fuel base for the Citgo Petroleum Corporation. Today, only about a third of the island has been left untouched.

That is until last December (figuratively speaking). Yep, months back the island got press time thanks to the 2015 Better Philadelphia Challenge winners being announced. Contenders were asked to reimagine the island in a way that would address a “real-world urban design issue” in Philadelphia. Not only that, but the hypothetical proposal would also have to be applicable in other urban centers. You can see the jury prize winners on the Center for Architecture website, but we’ve included a gallery of the the first prize winners’ Delaware Valley FOODWORX proposal right here:

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3201 Race Street Plans Apartments, Homes and Childcare

3201 Race Street, looking west | Rendering via Erdy McHenry Architecture/Radnor Property Group

3201 Race Street, looking west | Rendering via Erdy McHenry Architecture/Radnor Property Group

A Drexel-owned lot at 3201 Race Street looks to have a new life in its not-too-distant future. Radnor Property Group plans for a glassy 16-story apartment tower designed by Philly-based Erdy McHenry Architecture. 164 market rate apartment units will rise above a mixed-use platform that will contain a large childcare facility and a public green space that looks over the train tracks towards Center City.

David Yeager, president of Radnor Property Group, said the project was born out of a request for proposal from Drexel University for projects geared towards market rate housing and childcare for their staff and the nearby community.  Yeager described it as another “cog” in the wheel of Drexel president John Fry’s vision for the Innovation Neighborhood and beyond.

The project will also include 12 market rate townhomes to the north, a green roof and an underground parking facility with 26 spaces. There are also 61 bike spots and two car share spaces.

It’s also important to note Read more »

Property’s Photo of the Week: Reflections of William Penn

Reflection shot via @r.zntch on Instagram

Reflection shot via @r.zntch on Instagram

Now that the hellish winter is officially behind us (fingers crossed), it’s time for another tried and true season of bane for Philadelphians–pothole season. They look terrible, shred your tires and can absolutely mess up an unsuspecting bicyclist. They also happen to make for some great photos, thanks to reflecting puddles.

Sure, it’s no Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park, Read more »

Morning Headlines: Plans Presented for Market Street Building Collapse Memorial


On Wednesday, the Art Commission got a “walk through” of the plans for the memorial park at 22nd and Market, the site of a tragic building collapse in June 2013. Though there were concerns about some of the design elements, depth of shrub beds and types of trees planted for a sense of permanence, “The commissioners unanimously recommended conceptual approval,” reports PlanPhilly’s Matt Golas.

The park will include three granite structures designed by artist Barbara Fox, who described the piece as a “remembrance” to people who died in the collapse and its overall impact. More from Fox, via PlanPhilly: Read more »

What Could Have Been: Proposed Rapid Transit Lines for Philadelphia

Image via Philadelphia Studies

Image via Philadelphia Studies (Psssst! Click the image for a closer look!)

GAHH, if only! As a staunch public transit rider who takes both a bus and the El to get from Northeast Philly to Center City (takes anywhere from 45 mins to an hour and a half, depending…well, more on that later), something like the above-pictured rapid transit system would be deeply appreciated by occasionally resentful, but always loyal, commuters like myself.

And no. Much like our Jaw Dropper of the Week home, this is not some silly April Fools’ joke. Rather, it’s a blast from the past found on Michael Krasulski’s Philadelphia Studies blog:

Back in 2002, while on medical leave, I attempted to abstract and post online the annual reports of the Philadelphia Department of City Transit. […] A fellow on the Main Line, whose name I have long forgotten, made this for my website. The map is, mostly, based on the original 1913 plan. He added the airport connection “just because.”

In other words, the map you’re looking at is a modern day illustration of the rapid transit lines proposed by Philadelphia Transit Commissioner A. Merritt Taylor between 1913 and 1915 (except for the airport line, of course). Philebrity notes that when Taylor was drawing up these routes the Market-Frankford Line was still “in its infancy” and the Broad Street Line would not be built for another ten years or so.

Still, as Jim Saksa points out in a tweet, this was all formulated at a time when “we still had streetcars everywhere.” SEPTA went on to acquire these after taking over the system in 1968, but only seven surface lines continued into the early 1970s, “along with the five Subway-Surface Lines that still serve West Philadelphia,” according to Jake Blumgart in this 2012 Inquirer article. Here’s what Blumgart says helped preserve those lines still running in West Philly:

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Blatstein Unveils Atlantic City Pier Plans: “This Place Won’t Fail”

The Playground - Outside

Image Courtesy Steelman Partners and Tower Investments

Saying he would make Atlantic City the “the capital of entertainment on the East Coast,” Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein unveiled his dramatic redevelopment for the Pier Shops at Caesars today. The pier, which Blatstein’s Tower Investments is developing along with casino architect Paul Steelman’s firm, has been rechristened The Playground.

“I promise you, this will become the number one tourist attraction in Atlantic City,” Blatstein said yesterday at a dog-and-pony show at the pier. “I guarantee it.” Later, he doubled down on the pier’s success: “It’s a symbol of what Atlantic City is going to become… With Paul here by my side, this place can’t fail. It won’t fail. I don’t want to want it to sound oysters here, but I have never failed in my career. I have never not picked an area that has not turned around. This is going to be the greatest success of my career.” Read more »

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