Panel To Tackle Past, Present and Future in Chestnut Hill

Green space and a village-like vibe together make Chestnut Hill distinctive among Philly neighborhoods. A panel discussion on April 21 will examine how it can maintain its distinctive character while accommodating growth and change. | Photo: Herb Engelberg/The Sivel Group

Green space and a village-like vibe together make Chestnut Hill distinctive among Philly neighborhoods. A panel discussion on April 21 will examine how it can maintain its distinctive character while accommodating growth and change. | Photo: Herb Engelberg/The Sivel Group

Back in the 1960s, around the time each of them designed iconic residences in the neighborhood, architects Louis Kahn, Romaldo Giurgola and Robert Venturi discussed how Chestnut Hill could strike a balance between preserving its essential nature and accommodating new development in a forum organized by the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.

Now the question has renewed currency thanks to the housing boom that’s washed across the city and boosted Chestnut Hill’s popularity in its wake. So the Historical Society — now called the Chestnut Hill Conservancy — is assembling another panel of luminaries to take a stab at resolving the tension for our time and the years to come. Read more »

New Additions on Market West Making Progress, Including 1700 Market

1700 Market | Via Google Street View

1700 Market | Via Google Street View

In April, we put you on to some interesting developments aimed at enlivening the street experience along Market Street West. Traditionally a stodgy business district, the planned additions to 1700 Market and 1835 Market want to turn that around, as both seek to fill in dead-zone plazas with a mix of retail. In the case of 1700 Market, a multi-story dining experience (with outdoor terrace) is planned on 17th Street.

Inga Saffron profiled the history of public plazas along Philly’s “office canyon,” uh, financial district in her column last week, and in it, she explains that the new “food hall” is slated to break ground later this month.

Here’s what the DAS-designed addition going to look like when finished in fall 2016:

Read more »

Boot & Saddle Sign Will Soon Shine Again

UPDATE: Monday’s Boot & Saddle sign relighting has been postponed. Len Davidson says more work needed before the old boot glows again over Broad Street. Stay tuned.

Posted by Inga Saffron on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The two-story tall Boot and Saddle neon sign was recently taken and down and refurbished. This past weekend saw the sign get reinstalled at the Broad and Ellsworth bar, and soon it will be relit.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Inga Saffron, that was set for Monday, June 15th but that date has been pushed back.

In the meantime, read Saffron’s Good Eye column about the Boot and Saddle’s sign.

Boot and Saddle [Foobooz]

Will Philadelphia’s Historic Jewelers’ Row Last?

What are those qualities that give great cities their “strong sense of place” ? We recounted those here some months back, but the one that has our attention today is history and preservation. Because though Philadelphia has that aplenty, it certainly hasn’t held onto all of its worthy heirlooms. The latest that finds itself at a crossroads? Jewelers’ Row, according to Inga Saffron:

Maybe because working factories have virtually vanished from the urban landscape, we rarely think of Philadelphia – never mind Center City – as a place where stuff gets made. Yet, right in the shadow of Washington Square’s pricey high-rise condos, dozens of workshops such as Danta’s have somehow managed to survive on the upper floors of historic Jewelers’ Row.

That doesn’t mean they will be there forever.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: The Impact of Next-Gen Digital Signage

The next phase of digital signage atop Lit Bros. | Photo: Albert Stumm/Passyunk Post

The next phase of digital signage atop Lit Bros. at 8th and Market | Photo: Albert Stumm/Passyunk Post

We all know that technology changes at a break-neck speed. The latest cell phones rapidly become outdated early on within the two-year contract period. So what would make the tech for digital signage any different? Inga Saffron weighs in on the impact of digital signage, particularly the prospects of a bill from Councilman Mark Squilla that would allow for massive Urban Experiential Displays (UEDs) to be constructed (the Hand of Reading Terminal Market is 46-feet tall!) on public sidewalks. Who really benefits and what’s at stake?

Other can’t-miss news stories…

Read more »

Saffron: ‘Fishtown Is Having Its Williamsburg Moment’

An early rendering of the proposed complex. This is not the final design. | Photo courtesy of Roland Kassis

An early rendering of the proposed complex. This is not the final design. | Photo courtesy of Roland Kassis

Does the fancy hotel proposed on Frankford Avenue by Roland Kassis position artsy/hipster-y Fishtown squarely as Philadelphia’s version of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York? The Inquirer‘s Inga Saffron sure seems to think so and draws compelling parallels in her latest Changing Skyline piece between Kassis’s Fishtown resume with Domani Developers and the transformation in Williamsburg–particularly this new hotel plan and the introduction of Brookyln’s boutique Wythe Hotel in 2012. Hell, Kassis also brought in the Whythe’s architect, Morris Adjmi (who also designed the hip extended stay apartments at ROOST near 15th and Sansom), to further the vision of the new Frankford Avenue.

From Saffron’s piece: Read more »

Morning Headlines: The Curious Case of the Germantown YWCA

Image via Google Street View

Image via Google Street View

The fate of the historic Germantown YWCA building hangs in the balance due to a standoff between District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, developer Ken Weinstein and concerned neighbors who want to secure its future. What’s the main sticking point? Weinstein wants to turn the site into affordable housing for seniors and, according to Claudia Vargas of The Inquirer, that’s not how Councilwoman Bass envisions its future:

What Bass would like is market-rate development, whether that is apartments, retail, or a reincarnation of a vibrant community center.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the building at 5820 Germantown Avenue. Sold by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in 2006 to Germantown Settlement, the building has been a poster child for blight, having been neglected, vandalized and even the site of arson over the years. The PRA took over the property again in 2013 and sought RFPs for its redevelopment. The proposal from Weinstein, while not perfect, seems to be the last shot to save the building on the north end of Vernon Park. Inga Saffron notes:

Though Weinstein was the only bidder, his $15 million plan made a lot of sense. Not only did he promise to rehab the Y’s exterior, but he also has partnered with two respected local nonprofits, the Mission First Housing Group and Center in the Park. Although it would mean another affordable-housing project in Germantown, it seemed like a small price to pay for saving the Y.

Weinstein owns the lot next to the Y and has plans to make that site a market rate development. For now, the building sits and waits for someone to decide its fate. Concerned neighbors and preservationists are worried that it can’t be saved if it sits much longer.

Here’s what a redeveloped YWCA could look like if it is saved.

What’s to become of the old Germantown YWCA? [The Inquirer] Read more »

Morning Headlines: Stalled Apartment Project Near Clark Park Will Meet the Neighbors, Again

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

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

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Developers of an apartment project at 4224 Baltimore Ave. will meet with the community to discuss their plans for a 132-unit mixed-use complex. Well, that will be the case again tonight as the Zoning Committee Spruce Hill Community Association will officially hear what more developers U3 Advisors have to say about the stalled project at 43rd and Baltimore Ave. near Clark Park, reports West Philly Local.

The project evolved from a series of neighborhood meetings and was discussed at an open meeting of Spruce Hill zoning last spring. Now that a formal application has been made, the project development team, U3 Advisors, are required to have public meetings with neighbors through community associations.

You may recall that the developers had been meeting with and seeking input from neighbors before having a design for the project, something that even the venerable Inga Saffron marveled at in one of her features of the project.

Saffron’s other feature explains why this project hasn’t seen any movement since April: councilmanic prerogative. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell had refused to sign off on zoning changes to the site in order for the above design (with retail and upscale, non-student oriented apartments) by Cecil Baker + Partners to be built.  Instead, as Saffron points out, the project could only be made profitable under current zoning with a “blocky, three-story apartment house that would be crammed with dormlike units.”

In other words, stay tuned.

A meeting Monday for community input on the big 4224 Baltimore Ave. project [West Philly Local]

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Bicycle Racing Arena Proposed for South Philly


According to Inga Saffron, the proposed $100 million velodrome, which would sit on four of FDR Park’s 300-plus acres, has earned the blessing of both bicycle racing enthusiasts and high-profile members and groups in the city (Mayor Nutter, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Friends of FDR Park to name a few). This velodrome, they believe, could very well “become a top U.S. venue for international races.” (See renderings of it below!)

But even more importantly, it could help revive the area around it: Read more »

Morning Headlines: Saffron On the New Family Court Building

Photo credit: Google Street View

Photo credit: Google Street View

It’s been a long time coming, but last week, the Philadelphia Family Court finally moved its headquarters to a recently completed, nine-story, glass and metal building at 15th and Arch. And like all new additions to the city’s skyline, the building was the focus of Inga Saffron’s appraising eye.

According to the Inquirer, the new Court location offers 544,000 square feet and includes 29 courtrooms, administrative offices, judges’ chambers, and a staff training facility. But unlike its former site, which had all of the former features, the latest has extras like a playroom and computer room. Saffron says that its amenities like these that save the building from being straight-out bad:

Read more »

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