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]

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Morning Headlines: Foster + Partners Will Design $1.5 Billion Penn Health Systems Tower Project

UPENN-hospital-of-pa

There are a few reasons why the in-progress Comcast Innovation and Technology Center is the most important building to be built in Philadelphia in recent memory. Not only can you point to Comcast firmly planting their corporate flag(ship) into the city’s soil (for a second time) with a skyline redefining tower at a height unseen outside of New York and Chicago, but that “game-changer” moniker was completely reaffirmed once it was announced that Foster + Partners would be in charge of its lofty designs. That brings us to today’s headline.

The University of Pennsylvania is no stranger to the upper stratosphere in pretty much every category, including medical care and facilities and architecture and design. So it may come as no surprise that they’ve retained a star-studded lineup of design and construction companies, anchored by Foster + Partners and L.F. Driscoll, to lead their new $1.5 billion hospital tower project, according to a report from Philadelphia Business Journal.

The project would be done in multiple phases over several years. It’s expected that the health system will begin razing Penn Tower sometime this year in preparation to make way for construction of the new hospital.

Foster + Partners will be joined by HDR, Inc. on the design of the project which, if you’ve seen the works of either firm, should be a gorgeous addition to Philadelphia’s built environment–seriously, the Millau Viaduct is a work of art. L.F. Driscoll and Balfour Beatty are in charge of the construction side of the project–which could be a 700-bed hospital tower with 50 operating rooms and other medical services.

Want some more coolness? Here’s Lord Norman Foster himself narrating a video of some stellar drone footage from the Hearst Tower in New York City, ten years after its opening. Might we see one of these tribute videos to the CITC ten years after its completion?
Penn Health System picks development team, ‘starchitect’ for hospital expansion [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Plans for The Gallery, Huge Sinkhole and More!

Morning Headlines: Millennials Drove East Market and the Gallery Renovation

east market rendering detail

Detail from one of the East Market renderings. Courtesy National Real Estate Development.

As per a report by the Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corp., the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Natalie Kostelni writes that the retail scene in Center City has been gaining momentum thanks to youthful newcomers: “Millennials, young families, office workers and tourists visiting the city.”

Ever since these groups have made their way into Philadelphia, retailers have followed. Sayeth Kostelni:

The demand and buying power of this combined group has translated into attracting a diverse mix of retailers – 250 apparel stores, 133 food and drink establishments, and 444 full-service restaurants. It has also grabbed the attention from national chains including Forever 21, Nordstrom Rack, Uniglo, Michael Kors, Timberland among others that have opened up stores this year in Center City. Even though these national players have gotten a foothold in the city, 77 percent of retailers downtown continue to be boutiques, independents and regional firms, the report said.

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Morning Headlines: The Gallery Could Get City Funding

Century-21

During a conference call this past Wednesday, PREIT president Joseph F. Coradino alluded to a possible contribution from City Council that would go into renovating parts of the Gallery. The Inquirer’s David Sell has the statement:

“We’re poised to deliver a world-class project. Our discussion with the public sector continues to progress with the expectation that City Council will consider a public financing package in December and ratify it in early 2015. As this process unfolds, we intend to update you on our vision, scope, schedule, and returns.”

Sell reports that a Thursday call to Council President Darrell Clarke’s spokeswoman about the news hit a dead end as she was “unaware of such plans for Council consideration.”

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Morning Headlines: The Gallery Is Getting A $106 Million Makeover

Gallery

Well, we can’t wait to see this! Yesterday, PREIT announced Macerich Co, a mall developer from California, will invest $106.8 million into redeveloping the Gallery.

Macerich owns fifty-five locations throughout the country, including the Deptford Mall. The Inquirer’s Joe DiStefano says the company, which is putting up funds along with PREIT on “on a 50/50 basis,” will be getting 50% interest out of the deal.

And what will we get out of it? Here’s what DiStefano reports PREIT’s CEO had to say: Read more »

Philebrity’s Joey Sweeney Gets Real About the Gallery

Bye Bye, Big-K! Photo courtesy of Google Street View

The Gallery’s Big-K, now defunct.
Photo courtesy of Google Street View

I’m a little behind on my philebrity reading, so I’m only just now getting to the post titled “A Small Request: Will You Please Stop Talking About The Gallery In Wincing Tones Just Because Black People Shop There?” It’s a response, of sorts, to Inga Saffron’s latest Changing Skyline column about the Gallery, which was refreshing in its characterization of the urban mall as a thriving center of commerce but oddly devoid of any mention of race, which could be seen as progressive (it’s a post-racial America!) or simply evasive.

I’ve lived in the city since the Gallery was built, and the patrons and the attitude about those patrons have shifted considerably over the years, in the same way the conversation about South Street has changed. Which is to say: white people were perfectly happy to go to both locations and see them as reasonably successful until African-Americans started to go there as well. In 2006, Philly photographer Steve Ives, “an unashamed patron” of the Gallery, wrote about the mall for Philly Skyline:

If Chris Rock were a Philadelphian he’d call [the Gallery] “The Mall White People Used To Go To”. It seems that much of downtown, which heralded the promise of what The Gallery would bring to Center City, now see it as an embarrassment, as a liability, something to deter tourists from and deny the existence of to new Philadelphians.

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Video: Mega Malls and High-End Malls Are Doing Just Fine, Thank You

Solar powered Shake Shack opens in King of Prussia.

An outpost of the New York-based trendy burger chain Shake Shack opened at the King of Prussia Mall last year — with a solar panel-covered roof.

Since 2007, 400 malls in the U.S. have closed. Now comes the filing of bankruptcy protection from both Quiznos and Sbarro, and that’s after the partial demise of mall anchor tenants like JC Penney and Sears. From Yahoo Finance:

A decade ago there were more than 1,100 enclosed shopping malls in the U.S. Since then more than 400 have either been “re-purposed” or closed outright. No new malls have been completed since at least 2009.

Onetime mall devotees like Shoppist editor Emily Goulet are now mall escapees. Of the Oxford Valley Mall, she writes:

It’s dirty. It’s depressing. …The quality of stores has gone down, way down… The stores that remain need a facelift, too. Dressing rooms are in desperate need of a paint job, racks are horrifically disorganized, and everyone just looks like they want to go home. Even the clothes, which sag limply from hangers and hang off the arms of chipped mannequins that look like they’re from about 1987.

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Morning Headlines: The Gallery Will Not Get High-End Stores

kmart gallery market east

Detail from a photo from labelscar.com

“It could be high-fashion, it could be Forever 21″ we reported last December of PREIT’s plans for the Gallery. Well, it appears the high-end road will not be taken anytime soon. Instead, the space of the soon-to-be-closed Kmart will more likely house stores of the latter variety, in addition to getting a strong food presence.

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Morning Headlines: Two Local Kmart Locations Will Close

Bye Bye, Big-K! Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Bye Bye, Big K!
Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Yesterday morning, based on a tip from an employee, we broke the news that the Kmart at the Gallery was going to close. Today the Business Journal sounds another Kmart death knell: the location in the Northeast will close as well.

The Gallery location’s closure comes at the cost of 120 employees, who will still have their jobs when liquidation sales begin Sunday, February 9th. Even more to look forward to are PREIT’s choices for new retailers: Will they be high-end, or Forever 21?
Read more »

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