Our Odds on the 30th Street Station Area Development Plan

30th Street Station development plan, aerial view

The 30th Street Station area master plan laid out a fantastic vision of a second downtown for Philadelphia in University City. Only money stands in the way of realizing it, with the public sector as the weakest link. | Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

$6.5 billion.

The figure was tossed out rather casually in the course of yesterday’s formal unveiling of the two-years-in-the-making master development plan for the area surrounding 30th Street Station in University City, but it represents the largest single bet yet placed on the future of Philadelphia.

The parties involved — Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, PennDOT, SEPTA, and a slew of elected officials and community groups — have put their chips down on a project that has many moving parts and will play out over the course of decades.

As we’ve seen plans almost as ambitious as this one go up in smoke (anyone here remember River City?), it’s only logical that we should ask what its chances for completion are. Herewith are my own odds for the plan’s key components and the overall chances that the plan will be fully realized sometime in our or our children’s lifetimes. Read more »

University City Preservation Tragedy: When Density Begets Dullness

Dull density vs. handsome history. If this is the price of progress, can we get a refund? | Photo courtesy Naked Philly

Dull density vs. handsome history: If this is the price of progress, can we get a refund? | Photo courtesy Naked Philly

One of the positive aspects of the current development boom in Philly is that long-underutilized land is being put to better use. Denser development makes the most of our great transportation infrastructure and adds more vitality to neighborhoods across the spectrum.

Of course, no good is unalloyed. Sometimes, to get the benefit, pieces of the city’s past must be sacrificed. It’s part of the natural process by which cities remain vital.

But not all new development is worth sacrificing the past for. Sometimes, the pursuit of density (and the increased revenue that comes with it) demands too high a price.

Especially when that price is the replacement of handsome ensembles of historic buildings with bland, uninspired boxes. Read more »

Jose Andres Comes To Philly

Beefsteak by Jose Andres is now open on Penn's campus | Photos by Chelsea Portner

Beefsteak by Jose Andres is now open on Penn’s campus.

Chef Jose Andres is kind of a big deal.

Actually, Jose Andres is kind of a huge deal. The Spanish-born chef behind such concepts as minibar and Jaleo in D.C., China Poblano in Vegas and Tres in L.A., he trained with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, has won just about every award there is to win, and is (more or less) the guy who formalized the small plates concept in the United States. He is one of the best-known chefs in the world, a serious rock star, and guess where he was yesterday?

In a basement at the University of Pennsylvania, talking about vegetables.

Read more »

The Gables Goes On the Market

4520 Chester Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19143 | TREND Images via BHHS Fox & Roach

4520 Chester Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19143 | TREND Images via BHHS Fox & Roach

University City in the Gilded Age was Philadelphia’s original streetcar suburb. And the people who could afford to build grand homes along the expanding trolley lines did so. One of the grandest of these homes, a landmark in the neighborhood, is now on the market, offering a rare opportunity for a would-be host, an investor or someone looking to live really large today.

The property in question is The Gables, a long-running Victorian bed and breakfast at 46th Street and Chester Avenue. Built in 1889, this home was enormous by the standards of the day and remains exceptionally large now. With 11 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, generous spaces for relaxation and entertaining and a sizable lot surrounding it, this home offers multiple possibilities for a potential buyer. Read more »

That House Out There: How’d This Place Wind Up on This Block?

4620 Kingsessing Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19143| Images via Zillow

4620 Kingsessing Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19143| Images via Zillow

The 4600 block of Kingsessing Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia—the listing refers to this area as “Cedarhill,” a name we’ve never encountered before—is a tidy block anchored by a church and lined on one side with mostly well-maintained Victorian twins. The partner of the row’s saddest-looking twin, however, went bye-bye some time back.

The good news is: Something’s filled that hole, and the price its builder wants for it suggests that either the neighborhood’s fortunes may be on the rise or the student-housing wave is spreading further southwest.

The not-so-good news is what’s filled the hole. Read more »

The Stupid Joy of Simple Things: Clarkville Reviewed

Photo by Emily Teel

Photo by Emily Teel

The thing that matters most about Clarkville is where it lives. It’s a pizza restaurant with good beer, a single solid pasta, and a short, tight menu of things that aren’t pizza—things that aren’t always great, but feel like pleasant surprises anyway when you stumble across them on the menu. But that’s just what it does. In some places, the restaurants make the neighborhood—Manayunk, Fishtown, Walnut Street during Le Bec Fin’s first youth. In others, the neighborhood shapes the restaurants. Clarkville? Absolutely the latter.

Read more »

Coming Soon: Two New SEPTA Bus Routes?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

SEPTA wants to hear what you have to say about proposed changes in bus service, including two new routes slated to start service in 2017-18. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

SEPTA’s Annual Service Plan for Fiscal Year 2017 includes two new bus routes that won’t be launched in the coming fiscal year. That’s because the agency wants to get as much public feedback as it can about the proposed services before letting them roll.

Both of them, though, are much anticipated, and one of them responds to longstanding clamor from some Philadelphia neighborhoods for new service to fill a connectivity gap. Here’s the skinny on each of them: Read more »

Rents Leveling Out in Philly, But University City is One of the Highest Priced ‘Hoods

Image via Zumper

Image via Zumper

The Philadelphia rental market ranks 16th in the nation in terms of average rents per one-bedroom apartment. As more units come on board in Center City and beyond, new data from Zumper shows that the rise in rents in the city as a whole has stalled, with prices for a one-bedroom dropping 10.5% over the past year (2.9% for two-bedrooms pads).

Unsurprisingly, Center City remains the strongest and most expensive market in Philly, with the highest priced neighborhood, Logan Square (hello, Granary!), averaging $1,870 per month. According to industry experts, renters can now expect to pay over $3 per square foot for rentals in those Class A buildings in Center City, such as Icon 1616, 2116 Chestnut, and even soon-to-debut buildings like 1919 Market and the Dalian at Rodin Square behind the Barnes Foundation (hello, Whole Foods!).

University City comes in a close second at $1,850 per month. According to a recent University City District report, the median rent in the booming Eds, Meds and Tech district sits at $1,450 per month, so expect something in that ballpark, considering the influx of new units planned in the coming years.

Read more »

A Peek at Marigold Kitchen’s January Menu

Photo by Michael Persico

Photo by Michael Persico

Marigold Kitchen still doesn’t have a menu but they do offer a peek at some of the 13-15 courses that co-owners and chefs Andrew Kochan and Tim Lanza are preparing alongside chef Keith Krajewski.

This month, the $90 per person feast will include:

  • Leek Ash Raviolo: butter-basted hen of the woods mushroom and black ravioli, filled with liquified parmesan, ramp pesto
  • Australian Beef: seared tenderloin with foie gras butter and chocolate-braised crimini mushroom, puree of smoked potato and leek and Malbec jus;
  • Cheese & Pears: Korean pears macerated in bleu cheese, dipped in salted almond crumbs and paired with an apple cider churro.

Read more »

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