Ask Liz: How Do I Get My Own Rouge and Parc Harems?

Plus: Is Philly about the jump the shark, and aren't all of these new wood buildings a fire disaster waiting to happen?

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Why do women at the restaurants on 18th Street tolerate the amorous affections of men twice their age, and how do I get to be one of those men? — Envious in Rittenhouse

Are you sure those are “amorous” affections you’re seeing? Maybe your jaundiced Philly view of the world has you seeing prurient interactions where there are none. Haven’t you heard of Take Your Daughter to Rouge Day? No? Well, it’s a thing. So if you want to get affection from a female half your age at a restaurant on 18th Street, I’d suggest you start procreating, stat.

Now that Philly got the nod for the Democratic convention, has received international praise, has a bustling music/restaurant scene and is home to a growing demographic of 30-somethings, what can we do to keep it from becoming too costly, crowded and overblown, like other cities that jumped the shark? — Concerned in Cherry Hill

Concerned, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you asked this question. Not because I share your concerns — I’ve lived through too many Philadelphia renaissances to panic — but because it gave me the perfect excuse to reach out to urban theorist Richard Florida at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute and my enduring crush. Yes, I know: It’s more common to swoon over musicians or actors, but I’m drawn to urbanist public intellectuals. In fact, if there were a Coachella for people like Richard Florida, I’d be in the front row, wearing a too-low tank top and drunkenly mouthing all the words to “Creative Class Blues.” Lucky for you — a person who actually wants a substantive answer — Florida read your letter and offered a thoughtful response via email: “I’m not too worried about Philly. David Byrne, Moby and Spike Lee have all told us about the downsides of escalating housing prices, the invasion of the global super-rich, the gentrification of neighborhood after neighborhood, and the chasing of creatives out of New York City. These problems thus far remain limited to cities like New York and San Francisco, London and Paris, and to a lesser extent places like Boston, D.C. and Seattle.

“Despite some notable examples, Philadelphia has experienced nowhere near the level of gentrification of these cities, according to a detailed study by economist Daniel Hartley with the Cleveland Federal Reserve. Philly remains an affordable alternative to NYC for the creative class, and that is why many of its members are moving there. It’s a big city with lots of space and lots of neighborhoods, so I think it will take quite a while before it falls to the problems that plague New York and other so-called superstar cities.” Feel better? Well, don’t. Florida thinks you’re just worrying about the wrong thing: “The bigger problems in Philadelphia — and in most cities — remain the gaping gap between the haves and the have-nots and highly concentrated poverty and disadvantage. That’s what deserves our attention.”

I’ve noticed that pretty much every new building is built with wood. This seems to include the new building at 3rd and Market where Shirt Corner used to be and townhomes in my neighborhood made entirely of wood. Isn’t this a fire disaster waiting to happen? — Nervous in Northern Liberties

What you’re seeing is not, actually, buildings made entirely of wood — or at least not regular old wood that Richard Proenneke would use to build a log cabin. Licenses and Inspections commissioner Carlton Williams says, “Commercial and residential buildings are required to use fire-rated materials in properties to control the spread of fires.” Gypsum wallboard is the most common of these materials used in the construction of occupied dwellings. “Also,” he adds, “fire-rated insulation between wood beams prevents fires. That’s standard building practice.”

Liz Spikol has lived in Philadelphia nearly all her life, which means she knows stuff. Got a question? Email it to [email protected].

Originally published as “Ask Liz” in the September 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.