Retail Roundup: The City’s Newest Stores

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Shoppist is always abuzz with news of store openings, so here’s a roundup of the latest in Philly.

Center City
We told you months ago that Uniqlo at 1608 Chestnut would be opening this fall, but Shoppist had the first peek inside before the store launched this past Friday. If you haven’t been there yet, expect to see three fully-stocked floors (basement too) and a mezzanine with the largest mismatched color floor in the country!

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Morning Headlines: Pantzer Properties Buys the Sansom For $42 Million

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

A new rental community seems to be in the works for the corner of 16th and Samson. The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni reports that New York-based Pantzer Properties has acquired an eight-story building at 1605 Samson Street, its second purchase on the block this year.

Pantzer previously bought the Oakwood Philadelphia at 1601 Samson for $28.87 million. That property, which has 80 residential units and 11,192 square feet of retail space, is slated to become a market rate rental community called the Point at Rittenhouse Row.

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Venice Island Is Reborn!

venice island

The performing arts center, when it was still under construction in June. Photo: Liz Spikol

Tomorrow Mayor Nutter will once again stand at a podium in Philadelphia and talk about the city’s green-friendly, river-related growth as he unveils the new performing arts and recreation center on long forgotten Venice Island, the Guam of Philadelphia. The spit of land in the Schuylkill across from the Manayunk Towpath has served official functions throughout the years, and had a crumbly rec center, but it hasn’t had much of a sense of identity or connection to the mainland. Those who used the rec center didn’t seem to communicate much with the outside world about the island, leaving many in the dark.

That’s all set to change after the hitherto-unknown-to-be-creative folks at the Philadelphia Water Department and Parks and Rec came together for a Kumbaya-style “if they build it, they will come” project spurred by necessity but inspired by, like, Portland.

Here’s how it happened:

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Morning Headlines: Trump Actually Takes His Name Off Something

Trump_PlazaWhile Donald Trump may have a rather strong sense of self-esteem, he’s also a savvy businessman who’s well aware of which properties he owns and doesn’t own. In the case of AC’s Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal, he hasn’t owned either one, notes the Philadelphia Business Journal, in five years. Rather, they’re owned by Trump Entertainment, which is in bankruptcy. He’s been trying to get his name off of them since August.

He’ll get his wish today, daughter Ivanka says. There’s more from the Business Journal, which aggregated a story from the AP, which was featured on NBCphiladelphia.com. So this is, what, a fourth-hand aggregation? At some point in my journalism career, there would be a Philly reporter in the car at 5 a.m., swigging coffee, on the way to AC having gotten a tip from a construction worker who was putting up scaffolding.

Anyway. For the source where I saw this news, go here.

More headlines, this way.

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Morning Headlines: Someone Finally Stands Up To Blackwell

Rendering of 4224 Baltimore Avenue. Photo credit: U3 Ventures.

Rendering of 4224 Baltimore Avenue.
Photo credit: U3 Ventures.

Will Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell respond now? Since April, Blackwell has ignored a zoning variance request from developers planning a mixed-use condo complex at 43rd and Baltimore. Even pleas from her constituents who loved the proposal have not moved her to speak. This morning, however, Inga Saffron called her out.

“But how long can she ignore this chunk of her constituency?” asks the Inquirer’s architecture critic after praising the “excellent design” of the Cecil Baker-crafted structure, which locals and the Planning Commission are excited about given Baltimore Avenue’s status as an growing commercial corridor. Developer U3 Ventures seeks a zoning change that would make the space’s current residential zoning to residential/commercial, thus helping the corridor grow.

Saffron says neighborhood reaction to Blackwell keeping mum is a perfect example of  a “quiet revolution” in the face of “councilmanic prerogative”, which is to say, the all-encompassing power council members have when it comes to land use. Or as she puts it:  “They alone determine what projects get built, where bike lanes are located, whether residents can nominate their neighborhoods for historic status, and much, much else.”

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Development Roundup: Digital Billboards Are Finally Coming to Market Street and Other Projects…

Market Street side of Mellon Independence Center. Photo credit: Google Street View

Market Street side of Mellon Independence Center.
Photo credit: Google Street View

Construction making way for video billboards set to line the roof of the former Lit Bros. building on Market Street has begun. Philly.com’s Maria Panaritis reports $10 million went into the project with an additional $10 million going to updating nearby public amenities.

Investors and other involved parties are aiming for a New Year’s Eve light up as the area has long been a ghost of its retail past. The “stadiumlike, wraparound, LED signs” are expected to encourage redevelopment and bring in revenue, something it has already started doing:

Indeed, advertising contracts for billboards of this nature can be very lucrative. Merlini estimated that annual revenues from the signs to be installed atop the Lits building would be in the “seven figures.”

“We didn’t know what a revenue source it would be until we got into it,” he said, adding that advertisement contracts were already in place.

Here are other unfolding projects…

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Morning Headlines: St. Laurentius Decree Takes Effect Today

st laurentius church

Photo of St. Laurentius at Memphis and Berks in Fishtown: Google Street View.

For Philadelphia’s Roman Catholics, Sunday’s generally a day of prayer, but this week it was anything but for one Fishtown church, St. Laurentius, which Archbishop Chaput “decertified,” meaning it’s no longer a Roman Catholic church.

However, the decertification says the building can be used in the future for “profane but not sordid use,” according to the Inquirer — and that’ll be true even if it’s demolished and condos are put in its place.

Ken Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the decree means that if the church is demolished or put to another use, the property could not be used for any purpose contrary to Catholic teachings. The order takes effect Wednesday…

John Wisniewski, a longtime member of St. Laurentius, said that a group of parishioners has hired a canon lawyer and that an appeal of the relegation was being sent to the Vatican.

While an appeal is in process, the church cannot be torn down, Gavin said.

Archbishop decertifies Fishtown church [Inquirer]

More headlines, this way…

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A Rowhouse In Manayunk That Is Not a Rowhouse

manayunk canal

Pretty Manayunk. Photo by Liz Spikol.

Manayunk’s Main Street waxes and wanes, but here’s something new: Rowhouse, a furniture and home goods store, which Shoppist describes as “a treasure hunt for cool home finds.” We don’t have much intel yet, but for some initial info, head here.

Morning Headlines: Saffron: Philly’s Boardwalk Beats NYC’s High Line

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

Phila.’s new gem: A stroll on the Schuylkill [Inquirer]

Inga Saffron is downright ebullient today. Her feelings about the newly completed and opened Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk are unmistakable:

As wonderful as the High Line is, it merely allows people to wend their way through Manhattan a few stories above its bustling streets. When the latest segment of the Schuylkill Banks trail opens to the public Thursday, you’ll be able to walk on water, under the glittering gaze of the Center City skyline.

Take that, New York.

Saffron is convinced that the Boardwalk trumps the High Line mostly for its transformative powers. She alternately says the distanced perspective can make Center City feel like “outer space” at night and that at other times, “strange optical illusions appear.” Why, she asks, does it look like there’s a Penn building on Spruce Street when we all know it’s on Walnut?

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Falcon Condominiums Ready to Launch

Four of the units feature master bedrooms that are 15'x15'. Rendering via FalconCondominiums.com

Four of the units feature master bedrooms that are 15’x15′. Rendering via FalconCondominiums.com

I once asked Bart Blatstein, one of the more successful developers in Philadelphia, what he thought were some of the biggest issues in city development. The first thing he said? The scarcity of female developers in Philadelphia. (The second thing he mentioned was minority developers.) It is certainly true that the names that get mentioned over and over are men’s — Carl Dranoff, Eric Blumenfeld, Kenny Gamble, Tom Scannapieco, etc. But it’s also true that there are women in the business, including Lesley Scannapieco, who plans to develop the former Bok School. Add to that list of names Khara Cartagena, a successful businesswoman (she’s the owner of the Velvet Lily), who’s been quietly developing since she was 18. With her newest project, the Falcon Condominiums on the 3800 block of Terrace Street, she’s making a bit more noise.

First, the skinny: the condos, built on the site of the former Falcon Polish Social Hall, consist of seven contemporary units in the heart of Manayunk. The units are three stories; six have two bedrooms, one den and two and a half baths. There’s also a one-bedroom unit that’s ADA compliant. All units have at least one patio, if not two, and there’s secure garage parking. Kitchens have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and bamboo floors, while bathrooms have both wood grained tile and white wall tile. The units range from 1,800 to 2,000 square feet, except for the one bedroom, which is 600 square feet.

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