The Gritty Italian Market Wants That Center City Sparkle

Photo credit: User Josepha via Flickr

Photo credit: User Josepha via Flickr

Business owners in the Italian Market have been talking about cleaning up the place for years, and now they seem to have landed on a solution.

Earlier this month, City Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a resolution authorizing a hearing on a Business Improvement District for the area surrounding the storied 9th Street market. BIDs, such as the well-known Center City District, levy an extra tax assessment on commercial properties in order to fund services that business owners want. In this case, according to the preliminary plan that was attached to Squilla’s resolution, the 9th Street Area BID would pay for street- and sidewalk-cleaning crews, a parking inventory, marketing, and additional lighting and security cameras. Read more »

Squilla to Introduce Mandatory Gender Neutral Restroom Bill

Via Shutterstock

Via Shutterstock

According to the Philadelphia’s Director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick, Councilman Mark Squilla will be introducing an Administration bill for Mayor Nutter tomorrow that will require all single-occupancy public bathrooms to be marked with gender neutral signage.

“I am pleased to introduce legislation that will reinforce Philadelphia’s earned reputation for being the most LGBTQ-friendly city in the nation,” Councilman Squilla said. “All people, regardless of gender identification, deserve to be able to meet their basic needs with dignity and safety. As Philadelphia prepares for the World Meeting of Families and the 2016 Democratic National Convention, both of which will be watched by the world, we should send a message declaring that all people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, are welcome.”

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Green Incentives: New Bill Encourages LEED Silver-Certified Buildings in Philly

Efforts to make Philadelphia greener continue. Currently, for example, having LEED Gold and Platinum certification allows builders within certain zoning districts to increase their height and floor area. Now, those with LEED Silver certification might receive similar zoning bonuses.

Earlier this month, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill,  co-sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla, that would “provide floor area and height zoning bonuses for developers who meet Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification,” according to a press release.

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Big Plastic Bag Wins Again

Yuck. | Photo via

Yuck. | Photo via

Philadelphia lawmakers have tried to both ban and tax plastic bags in the past, only to be beaten by Big Bag.

When Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation this year that would add a 5-cent fee to plastic and paper shopping bags, the outcome was supposed to be different. For one, it was much less costly than the 25-cent fee that Council debated in the past. And two, a significant number of cities and states have altogether banned plastic bags.

But on Wednesday, Squilla said that he is tabling the bill for this legislative session. Read more »

Squilla Rewriting UED Law Ahead of Expected Nutter Opposition

An urban experiential display outside of Reading Terminal Market.

The debate over 3-D billboards in Philadelphia isn’t over.

City Councilman Mark Squilla is proposing amendments to legislation allowing two digital ads — known as “urban experiential displays” — near the Reading Terminal Market and Convention Center.

Council passed the legislation last month, but Mayor Michael Nutter had concerns with it.

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Philly Council OKs Massive 3-D Billboards in Center City

An urban experiential display outside of Reading Terminal Market.

Philadelphia City Council passed legislation Thursday to allow large-size digital billboards in a part of Center City near the Reading Terminal Market and Convention Center.

Critics of the ads — known as “urban experiential displays” — said they would be unsightly and lower the value of nearby properties.

“We’re not talking kiosks,” said Kiki Bolender, chairwoman of the Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia. “We’re talking about the house next door lit up like a billboard on I-95.”

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Legislation Aims to Free Up Food Trucks

Photo by Yoni Nimrod

Photo by Yoni Nimrod

Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced two bills to loosen the city’s regulations of food trucks. The bills would allow food trucks to legally vend on private property and to vend in areas zoned for high density commercial use (CMX-4 and CMX-5 for the zoning geeks) and industrial lots as well.

The bills will also separate mobile food vendors out of the city’s definition of street vendor, which also regulates any “peddler”, “hawker”, “huckster” or “transient vendor.” This will allow future bills to legislate (and free up) mobile food vendors directly.

The bills »

Half of City Council Just Got Cybersquatted

The 5th Square's website.

The 5th Square’s website.

Go to, and you won’t find a word about the South Philadelphia Councilman bearing its name., too, has nary a sentence about the longtime Councilwoman representing parts of West Philadelphia.

Instead, both websites redirect visitors to — the site of a new urbanist PAC known as “The 5th Square.”

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3-D Billboards in Center City? Company Presents their Vision to the Planning Commission

Screenshot of Outdoor Catalyst's Philadelphia UEDs  video.

Screenshot of Outdoor Catalyst’s Philadelphia UEDs video.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but if things go according to one advertising company’s plans, Center City could get closer to taking on a “digital district” look not unlike a mini-Times Square (We have digital displays on the Lit. Brothers building now, after all).

PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports Catalyst Outdoor had an informational presentation before the Planning Commission on Tuesday regarding their proposal to build “three-dimensional digital billboards in a few corners of Center City.” In addition to featuring regular ads, these “Urban Experiential Displays” would “promote local nonprofit organizations, share news and ‘infotainment,’ and carry police and municipal alerts.” (You can see a video of their vision here.)

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Morning Headlines: Carl Dranoff Gets Zoning Approval for Proposed Hotel on Broad

SLS international rendering

Part of a Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates rendering of Dranoff’s new project. Full rendering below.

A zoning bill that would make things easier for Carl Dranoff to build his proposed SLS International Hotel was approved by City Council’s Committee on Rules yesterday. These revisions permit Dranoff to build on more land without having to seek additional zoning approvals.

Sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla, the bill amends certain chapters in codes “Overlaying Zone, “Development Standards,” and “Parking and Loading.” In response to the suggested revisions, the Washington Square West Civic Association sent Squilla a letter. According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the group’s board agreed to not fight the bill, “provided certain agreements are made with respect to noise and activity at the hotel and other matters of operation.”

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