Wistar Institute Expands in University City

The Wistar Institute broke ground back in late September on a major expansion project that will ensure its future at the forefront of cancer research and vaccine development.  The institution is building a seven story, 89,700-square-foot research tower, which will rise above its current landmark facility designed by architects George W. and William G. Hewitt at 36th and Spruce streets in 1894.  The project will enable Wistar to expand its research operations, recruit new scientific faculty and pursue collaborative biomedical research in emerging areas of science.

Five of the floors will house laboratories, designed to support team science, an approach that reflects the future of biomedical research.  The expansion project will enhance Wistar's outreach and visibility by creating a new public entrance to the Institute on Spruce Street.  in addition, plans call for a 200-seat auditorium for hosting scientific symposia and public events, a soaring glass atrium and inspiring public spaces throughout the building.

Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014, the $100 million expansion project will support 380 construction jobs and is expected to create 100 new research and administrative jobs at Wistar in the future.

Dilworth Plaza Redo Begins Soon

The renovation of Dilworth Plaza, the main Gateway to City Hall, will soon get underway.  The two-and-a  half year construction project is stated to open some time in 2014.  The currently inaccessible, multi-level, unattractive, hard-surface plaza into a sustainable, well-maintained, green public space with no stairs or barriers from the street.  The new plaza will have a large lawn, tree groves, a programmable fountain and space for 400 benches and chairs.  The underground will be dramatically improved as a new transit gateway, providing entrances to Broad Street and Market Street subways and the trolley lines.  New elevators will make the transit levels accessible for the first time.

The Center City District has a long-term (30-year) lease with the City for Dilworth Plaza to construct, maintain, and manage the Plaza.  The CCD will assume all cleaning, site- and landscape-maintenance responsibilities for the Plaza.  The $50 million renovation project is supported by a $15 million grant from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, and $15.5 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, $5 million from the city's capital program, $4.3 million from SEPTA, and a variety of foundation, corporate, and private contributions.  The new Dilworth Plaza was designed by Kieran Timberlake architects, OLIN landscape architects, and Urban Engineers.


Lander's Point

Lander's Point in Tacony gets upgraded to Park Status along with a face-lift that will accommodate hundreds of users daily from surrounding neighborhoods.  Groundbreaking took place Monday on the new 4.5-acre park that will replace the current paved surface with greenery, wetlands, benches, picnic tables, solar lighting and composting restroom facility.

Plans are to have most of the river's edge restored to a natural state, which will yield wildlife habitat.  The work will include demolition and removal of concrete ramp structures and concrete and asphalt paving throughout the site.  A river overlook and fishing pier at the river's edge will be part of the new park along with, riparian edge restoration, the creation of tidal wetlands, and the restoration of a riverbank forest area for picnicking and passive recreational activities.

The park will be a gateway and trailhead for the Delaware River Heritage Trail and will be a link in the East Coast Greenway that runs from Main to Florida.  This trailhead will include a drinking fountain, walking trails, park and trail furniture and the necessary infrastructure to support these amenities.

Plans for the park were developed by Baltimore's Biohabitats, the same landscape architecture firm that designed Washington Avenue Green in South Philadelphia.  Construction of the project is expected to cost $1.5 million.  All of the money has been raised with about half coming from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  Other funding sources include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Wildlife Fund.


Cynwyd Heritage Trail

Designed by Studio/ Bryan Hanes, Lower Merion Township is working on a 60-acre park with a 2 mile trail that will connect one of Philadelphia's oldest suburbs with a thriving art and entertainment district across the river in Manayunk via the Manayunk Bridge.  The design of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and Park will capitalize on the unique features of the former industrial site as well as the nature of the surrounding communities.

The rail corridor, an abandoned piece of infrastructure which once connected people to goods and services, has been cut off from public use for nearly 100 years.  The Township and designers envision repurposing the corridor as a linear park, creating physical and social connections, linking wildlife and nature corridors, transporting people and creating strong communities.


Penn's New Nanotechnology Center

The University of Pennsylvania is currently in the process of constructing a brand new nanotechnology center, named the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology.  The building site is an important gateway location along the north side of Walnut Street.  As the campus is approached on foot or in a vehicle from the east, this is the first major academic building that one will encounter, and must announce the presence of the campus within West Philadelphia in a dramatic and notable way.

The new research facility will encourage the collaboration, exchange, and integration of knowledge that characterizes the study of this emerging field, and will combine the resources of both the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Total project cost: $88,000,000
Area: 80,000 GSF
Completion: August 2013
Architect(s): Weiss/Manfredi


Transit Oriented Development at Broad & South

An 80 unit residential building with retail has been proposed for the north east corner of Broad and South by developer Carl Dranoff.  The building may also include restaurants, coffee shops, a grocery store or deli.  There will also be plenty of parking for bicycles, almost as much as there will be for cars.

Earlier this week, the philadelphia City Planning Commission voted to recommend that city council pass proposed legislation that would allow the project to include the commercial uses and have below-grade parking for accessory uses and reduce the space required for off-street loading.  Zoning Bill 110670 also reduces the number of parking spaces required to a project of this size to 3 for every 10 units.  Less parking is needed for this building because an entrance to the subway is just beneath a building signage marquee.  The building is set to have 30 vehicle parking spaces and 25 for bicycles.


Tower Investments Buys Inquirer Building

Bart Blastein of Tower Investments bought the home of the Philadelphia Inguirer and the Daily News from Philadelphia Media Network at 400 N Broad Street for $22.65 million.  Bart has plans to redevelop the 470,000-square-foot property, yet there is no word on what he intends to do with the site.

Odds are it involves perhaps a mixed use of office and residential with retail at its base, or completely residential conversion.  This falls in line with the developers expansion plans for North Broad Street, following a recent purchase of 1400 Spring Garden Street.  The word is, Blastein stands to be the saving grace of North Broad, piggy backing of the expansion of the Convention Center and future development opportunities it presents, as well as taking advantage of a gold-mind of development opportunities in this district.  The Center City District aims to expand the celebration and investment of the arts North up Broad Street, meshing well with the interest of Blastein, who's successful transformation of Northern Liberties was supported by the Artist Community and Creative Class of Philadelphia.

CHOP Builds New Primary Care Center

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia broke ground on a new primary care center named the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Primary Care Center in West Philadelphia.  The $30 million, 52,000-square-foot facility will provide pediatric care and community programs to children and their families in the surrounding community. The new center will give West Philadelphia families convenient access to standard-setting pediatric healthcare.

Located on a four-acre site, the two story, 52,000 sf building will contain 6 child-friendly examination rooms, plus rooms dedicated to radiology, hearing and vision testing, and a phlebotomy laboratory.  The facility will also house community programs offered by Children's Hospital, such as Early Head Start, Reach Out and Read, domestic violence education, and asthma education.  The Center plans to accommodate over 45,000 outpatient visits annually.

Architect: Brawer & Hauptman Architects
Contractor: INTECH Construction

Construction is expected to be complete in late 2012, with an opening planned for early 2013.


Final Philadelphia Zoning Code Gets Passes by City Council

Last Wednesday marked the end of the Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission, with a final vote and passing of the final report.  After nearly half a decade of work and 50 meetings later, it all concludes with a final YES.

Plan Philly reports Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger praising the Commission for its years of work and the transparency of the process leading up to Wednesday's meeting.  He said the Commission was the most effective longstanding working group he had ever seen, and asked for volunteers to help create sign controls in months before the new code becomes effective. "You are experts on this code" Greenberger told Commissioners.  "Because of your level of expertise and detail, you are now ambassadors to the public at large on this code."

Greenberger recited some statistics on the zoning reform process given to him by ZCC director Eva Gladstein: 50 ZCC meetings, 62 work plan committee meetings, 25 civic engagement meetings, $2 million in City funds spent, and 3,400 community participants.

Potential Future Development at the Rivage Site in East Falls

Onion Flats has designed a unique mixed used residential/retail project named THE RIDGE, for the corner site adjacent to the Falls Bridge and Kelly Drive, located at 4300-4326 Ridge Ave.  With a focus on high quality design, manufacturing and sustainability, their proposal intends to not only meet but exceed the development goals of the RFP by providing a unique and ground-breaking model of sustainable development.  The company intends to create a pedestrian oriented and landscaped residential community that reconnects this currently blighted site back to its adjacent Fairmount Park and Schuylkill River neighbors.

The 128,440 sf, 5 story building will contain 126 one and two bedroom residential units, 8700 sf of new retail along Ridge Avenue and Calumet Street, and 138 new parking spaces.

The designers will attempt to construct Philadelphia's first Passive House Certified and Net-Zero-Energy mixed-use residential/retail community as well as the country's largest. THE RIDGE Intends, therefore , to achieve net zero energy consumption and net zero carbon emissions annually, with all energy required for heating, cooling, lighting and domestic hot water generated on-site.  This "sustainable garden community" takes its planning, architectural and sustainable design strategy from six basic principles:

1. Provide sufficient parking at grade, but eliminate the car from sight and create a pedestrian experience
2. Activate the street with appropriate retail uses
3. Create a "new ground", or garden landscape, at the second level across the entire site
4. Shape the landscape of this new ground with "ridges" of residential units that have no interior hallways, but a circulation system which doubles as outdoor community space, viewing platforms and opportunities of encounter between neighbors, ie, creating a community rather than an apartment building.
5. Create a 100% pervious site with 100% Green Roof coverage, so that storm water is managed naturally
6. Generate all power necessary for the community on site with significant Solar PV array


PWD Green Cities, Clean Water Takes Shape

Back in 1997 Philadelphia received a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency to improve its combined sewer system. The initial plan called for replacing old pipes, building more tunnels, and using mandate constructions to better handle stormwater.  A lot of construction would have taken place, but waterway restoration would have taken a long time.

A better plan was needed for Philadelphia's old combined sewer system.  in combined systems, stormwater and sewage flow together in a single pipe; during heavy rains or snowmelts, the system can be overwhelmed, resulting in flooding and waterway pollution.

The Philadelphia Water Department went with a new "Go Green" approach.  The new 25 year–$2 billion plan announced in 2007 and officially approved by the state this summer pledges to install as many green features as possible.  Over the next 25 years, tools like porous pavement, rain gardens, rain barrels, sidewalk planters and stormwater tree trenches will help capture and manage Philadelphia stormwater.

Updated wastewater treatment facilities and pipe renewal are also part of the plan, but the hope is that the green features will keep water out of the sewer system altogether. In this new Green City, Clean Waters plan, waterways will be more quickly restored, and residents will more readily see and enjoy the improvements.