Category: News

Explosion at Extremely Historic Firehouse in Old City Does “Extensive Damage”

  Either an ambulance or a firetruck exploded at the Engine 8, Ladder 2 firehouse at Fourth and Arch. Details are scarce right now, but CBS 3 reports that the damage to the building is “extensive.” While it’s always troubling when a historic building is compromised, it’s particularly devastating in this case because the firehouse [...]

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Morning Headlines: The Woodlands Serve As the Setting for Elizabeth Gilbert’s New Novel

Photo by Liz Spikol

Photo of the Woodlands by Liz Spikol

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which zoomed up the bestseller charts and was made into a movie with Julia Roberts. Her new book is something different — a novel, The Signature of All Things, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries that’s anchored by life at a vast estate. That estate, it turns out, was modeled on the Woodlands, the beautiful cemetery and old mansion at 40th and Woodland in West Philadelphia. (The cemetery once was the home of a herd of deer but then they disappeared, rumored to have been exterminated by the former ownership. But that is just been a rumor.)

“It was so obvious as soon as we drove up. That’s it! Everything about the Woodlands was right,” Gilbert told the Inquirer. And historically, given the novel’s focus on botany, it made sense to the plot:

In real life, the Federal-style Woodlands, built in 1788, was the country home of William Hamilton, a gentleman intensely interested in architecture, landscape design, and botany. He traded seeds with Thomas Jefferson, another talented plantsman, and William Bartram, son of John, the noted Philadelphia botanist.

The Woodlands is getting a renovation now, but we hope not too much changes. It’s one of the city’s most beautiful spots as is.

Earthy pleasures in Gilbert’s new novel

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Morning Headlines: City Has Higher Standards for Its Own Demolition Projects

Philadelphia City Council’s special committee to investigate the building collapse at 22nd and Market has released its findings this morning — and it ain’t pretty. The Special Investigating Committee on Demolition Practices’ report can be read cynically or pragmatically, but reading it in the former fashion might lead one to believe the city cares less about its citizens than covering its collective governmental behind. From CBS Philly:

The 70-page report from City Council’s makes clear that the city imposes higher standards on its own demolitions than those carried out by contractors on privately owned buildings.  For example, contractors demolishing public buildings must submit a criminal background check and provide evidence of competency and experience.

We’ve written before about the lax requirements for becoming a demolition contractor for private jobs, but to seem them in contrast with city requirements is offensive and discouraging.

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Morning Headlines: Controller’s Office Calls L&I “Evasive”

Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections delivered a three-page document and a reference to a 3,000-page report to the Controller’s Office in response to a request that the Controller be allowed to monitor demolition procedures.

Controller Alan Butkovitz has accused L&I of “stonewalling,” and based on comments by the Butkovitz’s deputy Harvey Rice, the document seems to have made things worse: ”Basically, what they did is evasive, which raises even more questions about their inspections and the work of L&I on demolitions and other matters,” Rice told the Inquirer.

Read more here.

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Morning Headlines: New York Times Covers Philadelphia’s Land Bank Battle

parvin state park

Even in the winter, Parvin State Park is pretty. Via stateparks.com

  • Could the vast number of empty properties plaguing Philly neighborhoods be the push needed to create a land bank? The New York Times reports on Philadelphia’s battle with blight.
  • Like many state parks, New Jersey’s Parvin State Park has a rich history. Sadly, its level of disrepair requires immediate action, according to Edward Colimore.

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Blatstein Puts Tower Place Up for Sale

Tower Investments’ Bart Blatstein is planning to unload his Tower Place, the H2L2-designed apartment building that took less than a year to go up within the frame of a mid-century state office building. The luxury tower, which has 204 apartments, is 75 percent occupied, writes Natalie Kostelni, and is being marketed by Jones Lang LaSalle. [...]

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Morning Headlines: Jim Kenney Has a Rental Idea to Help Philly Schools

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Photo of Mayor Nutter in Citizen’s Bank skybox by Bradley Maule

Everyone has some kind of novel or desperate idea to get money for the schools; at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Mayor Nutter had been to Lourdes. The latest pitch comes from Councilman Jim Kenney, whose own novel idea involves city rentals — at the stadiums.

After the mayor asked for donations so students could get school supplies (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence), Kenney suggested the city rent out the skyboxes it controls at the Linc, Citizen’s Bank Park and Wells Fargo Center. As it stands now, the tickets for those boxes go to schools, non-profits, staffers and friends of elected officials,” according to CBS 3. Ah, “friends of elected officials.”

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Morning Headlines: City Treasurer Speaks Out About Daughter Who Died in Building Collapse

philadelphia building collapse

Photo: Bradley Maule

Nancy Winkler, Philadelphia’s Treasurer, held a press conference to announce the filing of a wrongful death suit resulting from the building collapse at 22nd and Market.

Winkler’s daughter, Anne Bryan, died in the collapse, and until now, Winkler has not spoken publicly about her loss. She and her husband, Jay Bryan, say they’re filing the suit with the hope that the case goes to trial and all the facts are revealed.

Winkler and Bryan also want a blue-ribbon investigatory panel into the disaster. CBS Philly quoted Bryan making an understandable point:

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Morning Headlines: J. Crew Outlet Is Coming to the Philly Suburbs!

Screenshot from J. Crew Factory website.

Screenshot from J. Crew Factory website.

First Madewell–J. Crew’s sister store–chose Walnut Street for its newest location. And now J. Crew Factory–the store’s outlet–comes to the ’burbs.

The commercial real estate group PREIT has announced that the Factory will open at the Plaza Shops at Plymouth Meeting Mall in the fall. Imagine: 6,000 square feet of J. Crew–but less expensive.

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Building Collapse New: Another Lawsuit Filed

Roseline Conteh, mother of eight, was one of the people who died when the “Hoagie City” building collapsed onto the Salvation Army at 22nd and Market. Now Conteh’s family is filing the second wrongful death suit related to the tragedy, and the defendants are the same, according to philly.com:

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