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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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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Morning Headlines: Observation Deck Proposed For One Liberty Place

Photo credit: ryanoshea via Flickr.

Photo credit: ryanoshea via Flickr.

An observation deck with its own private elevator and a “small cafe” has been proposed for the 57th floor of One Liberty Place, the taller of the two Liberty Place towers. The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni writes that the planned deck would be open to hosting events and would be managed by Paris-based company Montparnasse 56 Group.

Given that the proposal calls for an interior deck (observation points are usually situated outdoors), city planners need not grant permission:

The proposal wouldn’t need any approvals from Philadelphia planners since it would operate as a typical commercial tenant, such as a restaurant or a company’s offices, said Gary Jastrzab, executive director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission.

An opening date has yet to be announced.

Observation deck for One Liberty Place? [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Moving onto other news…

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The Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk Extension Opens Next Month

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

Photo via Schuylkill Banks on Facebook.

The Schuylkill River Trail is finally getting its long-awaited extension in the form a 2,000-foot-long boardwalk addition set to link the trail, which normally ends on Locust Street, to University City via a ramp connecting to the South Street Bridge. The boardwalk will open October 2nd, according to Uwishinu’s Jillian Wilson.

Walkers, runners, and bicyclists planning to use the 15-foot-wide concrete structure should know it strays 50 feet from the river’s shoreline.

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South Philly’s Bok School Will Become a Hub for Creative People

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Edward W Bok School via Wikimedia Commons.

If the former Edward W. Bok School actually is transformed the way developer Lindsey Scannapieco plans, it’ll be the city’s “largest creative community space,” according to the nonprofit urbanism org Next City, which presciently made Scannapieco a 2014 Next City Vanguard member. Scannapieco’s company, Scout Ltd., was picked by the Philadelphia School District and School Reform Commission (SRC) after an open auction process moderated by PIDC. Now Scout is tasked with refashioning the hulking block-long building—we’re talking 340,000 square feet—into a dynamic multi-use space that’ll cater to artists, entrepreneurs, and “Philadelphia creatives.”

From the project website:

Offering an unprecedented concentration of space for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) innovators, artists and entrepreneurs, our proposed new use will channel the maker and craftsman roots of Bok’s history into a new showcasing space for Philadelphia’s leading creative talent. Featuring on-site parking, high volume spaces, hardwood floors, heavy floor loading capacities and a critical mass of creatives, this building will be unlike anything else within the region.

There will be:

    – “affordable” rental apartments
    – 5 roof terraces for public use, i.e., rooftop cinema, outdoor beer terraces
    – variety of work spaces
    – ground floor with “active, engaged and innovative uses that will build on the energy and new businesses of the East Passyunk Crossing neighborhood.”

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Hot Yoga Coming to Whole Foods Squared

Priya Hot Yoga, currently undergoing construction.

I’ve decided to call the area around Callowhill between 18th and 22nd Whole Foods Squared, since there will be two Whole Foods within mere blocks of each other, one of which will be on Rodin Square. It’s one of those invented sub-neighborhood names that will surely take off. At least on this blog.

At any rate, the newest addition to the WFS ’hood will be a hot yoga studio at 1828 Callowhill, around the corner from WF#1, where yoga mats and refillable bottles are on sale.

And with 293 luxury apartments opening just blocks away, I’d say Priya Hot Yoga‘s owners have the right idea.

“There’s a lot of great energy in that neighborhood,” co-owner Katie Sandy told Be Well Philly. “I think it’s just a very positive neighborhood, and we thought it could use something like this.”

Sandy and has two business partners in the venture, whose 2,200-square-foot space will also include a sit-down cafe. Smart, smart, smart.

For more, check out our sister site’s coverage over here.

Morning Headlines: 40th Street Trolley Station Redesign Plan Gets More Funding

Photo credit: University City District website.

Rendering of the planned renovation.
Photo credit: University City District website.

According to the Daily Pennsylvanian’s Sophia White, the University City District, which has been fundraising for the 40th Street trolley station redesign project since 2012, has “raised $1.4 million of its $2 million goal.” Added to this sum is a recent $6,500 award to the project, courtesy of PECO and Natural Lands Trust.

White reports that Lori Brennan, UCD’s spokesperson, sees the renovation as ideal given its location as a “crossroads of economy-shaping institutions and job-creating commercial corridors” and “key access point that allows residents of the region to efficiently commute to Philadelphia’s central business district.” UCD hopes to see the station’s potential through. From DP:

UCD wants the space to better reflect the dynamic neighborhood that the station introduces. Traveling from Center City into West Philadelphia, SEPTA trolley riders currently emerge from a dark tunnel to face a bleak acre of underused space. But after the renovations, this unattractive first impression will become a “vibrant and social space, featuring trees, movable tables and chairs, native horticulture, artful lighting and boulders for creative play,” Brennan said.

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Morning Headlines: The Divine Lorraine Now Has A Website (And More Photos!)

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

In anticipation of the Divine Lorraine renovation, EB Realty Management Corp. unveiled a website for the historic North Broad structure a few days ago.

For some reason this makes the mixed-use project feel more official, not least for the reason that it includes a “waiting list” sign up form for those of us interested in getting up-to-the-minute updates on its progress. Other goodies: de facto list of those involved, street and building history, neighborhood impact summary, and historic and current photographs of the property.

• Digital Development: New Divine Lorraine Website Plus Pics [Curbed Philly]

In other news…

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