SEPTA Harnesses Energy From Brake Power

SEPTA received approval for a $1.8 million project to capture and store energy from train car braking along the Market-Frankford El.  The new technology is anticipated to reduce energy consumption by up to 40% and is part of an ambitious plan by the authority to capture energy for storage and possible sale to the electric grid generating millions of dollars a year.  A federal grant is covering $1.4 million of the projects cost.

A massive batter installed at one of the authority's substations will store electricity generated by the braking systems on trains ( as the train slows down the wheels drive generators).  The battery will help trains accelerate, cutting power consumption, and will also provide extra power that can be sold back into the regional grid.  The pilot project, which involves one of 38 substations in the transit system, is expected to bring in $500,000 a year.  This figure would multiply id the batteries are installed at other stations.

The project shows how transit agencies who operate major electric rail systems can find a new source of income by tapping into the smart grid.  it also highlights one way the smart grid could save energy, avoid blackouts, and incorporate more renewable power.  The project is set to be complete by next summer.

The board also gave the go-ahead to a $144,000 study that will look at the vulnerability of SEPTA's regional rail system to climate change and extreme weather events associated with it.  track areas around Jenkintown and along the Manayunk/Norristown Line have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to flooding.

Drexel Smart House

A beautiful but vacant 1872 stone clad mansion that sits on the Drexel University campus has sat vacant for almost 15 years since its last use as the former Pi Lambda Phi fraternity house.  The home will now have new life in the 21st Century, thanks to a student-run organization backed by faculty members who plan to transform the three-story, 5,000-square-foot building into a hub for testing sustainable design and construction methods.

The "Drexel Smart House" would also serve as a dorm that could accommodate 10 residents.  In December the university pledged $1.1 million toward the $2.5 million project, giving it a much needed financial boost.

Construction is set to begin in May, with plans to renovate the historic building and construct a 4,600-square-foot addition.  A number of green features have been incorporated such as energy-efficient lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a graywater capture-and-reuse system.  Because the house is the same style as many others in the community, the technology tested in the house can be transmitted throughout the community.


Philadelphia Region Forecast to Expect Healthy Population Growth

The Delaware Valley regional Planning Commission is forecasting the region's population will grow more than 11 percent by 2040.  Figures were released at Thursdays board meeting.  The greatest percentage growth is expected from Gloucester County, predicted to see an increase of 30.5 percent.  in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Chester Country is projected to see the greatest growth, percentage wise with an increase of 39.8 percent, bringing its population to about 647,000.

Growth in Philadelphia is forecast at 6.9 percent, with a population of more than 1.6 million.  Total regional population is forecast at about 6.3 million in 2040.

In response to these figures, Ronald Bailey, executive director of the Chester County Planning Commission, told the board that "we've got to change the level of investment" in regional infrastructure to adequately handle this population growth.

U City Gets Two New Pedestrian Plazas

Making University city more walkable and pedestrian friendly is one of UCD's primary objectives.  recent projects like the parklets on Baltimore and Lancaster Avenues, and the creation of The Porch at 30th St. Station, have advanced this goal by putting people friendly amenities, like tables and chairs, in locations that used to be dedicated to automobiles.

In keeping with that recent trend, UCD was fortunate to receive two of the four citywide grants to create new "pedestrian plazas" in locations that currently have excess  capacity devoted to cars.  On of these sites is the dangerous intersection of Baltimore Ave., Florence Ave., and 48th St.  Curb bumpouts and other changes will reduce the current expanse of pavement, yielding a safer crossing for pedestrians, while also creating pleasant new spots to linger.  On Woodland Ave., a short street segment connecting to 42nd St. will be closed to vehicles, and an attractive new plaza will be created that encompasses the former street and the adjacent traffic triangle.  Interventions at both of these sites received strong support from their neighbors, and in the coming months, UCD and the city will be meeting with neighbors as plans are prepared to convert the excess asphalt to pleasant and safe oases for pedestrians.


Carpenter Square

Goldenberg Group of Blue Bell was selected by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to transform a vacant parcel at 1001-1035 S 17th St. into a $6.38 million sustainable, mixed-use development.  The authority voted last week to have the developer, going under the name Graduate Partners LP, to do the project which will be called Carpenter Square.  The development will include 11 townhomes, six condominiums and 2,000 square feet of commercial space as well as 1,000 square feet of open space and off-street parking.

The Graduate Hospital area has increasingly been viewed as a desirable area to live in Philadelphia.  With Toll Brothers continuing to expand and build in the neighborhood, this development will be a welcomed edition adding valuable real estate.  The redevelopment authority intends to convey the property to the developer in the summer, after which the developer will have 24 months to complete construction.


Zoning Map Revision Plan Gets Approval

Tuesday the Philadelphia Planning Commission took a formal step toward implementing the new zoning code when it approved the Zoning Map Revision Plan, presented by former Zoning Code Commission Director Eva Gladstein.

Gladstein explained to the Commission that the map revisions would happen in two phases.  The first phase will start the day the new zoning code goes into effect, August 22 of this year.  On that day, a conversion map will go into effect.  The map will automatically rename each district: R1 will become RSD-!, C1 will become CMX-1, and so on.  Gladstein also pointed out that in some cases the zoning standards in a given district will change as a result of the automatic conversion.  The Zoning Code Commission previously released a document detailing what changes will affect different districts.

The second phase of the zoning map revisions will be the individual remapping of each district, a five year process carried out by the Planning Commission.  The remapping began last summer with the West Park and Lower South districts.  The process includes holding community meetings to solicit land-use recommendations and, subsequently, crafting ordinances for City Council to act on.  Remapping is ultimately intended to bring the zoning regulations of each portion of Philadelphia into line with its current built environment and the development desires of its residents.


2200 Amber Residence

G8's 2200 Amber residence is barely kissing the face of its completion date with only minor interior accessorizing, a splash of color paint on its wooded exterior and a touch of greenery left to install.  We said we'd have some healthy competition for the Kensington market, and here you have it, along with its Susquehanna cousin right next door.

2200's sleek modern, and quite modest design manages to give off a lot of flair while still maintaing the scale and character if its new Kensington digs.  The Energy Star rated home is prepared for a 3kw photovoltaic solar system, solar thermal water heating system, and sports cement board finish on the exterior.  the concrete base is insulated using concrete forms (ICF) manufactured by GreenBlock.  The ICF method reduces the building's carbon footprint by insulating the basement, allowing for more efficient heating and cooling of the home.  The walls and roof are sealed using closed cell spray foam insulation.  Double pained windows are used throughout, creating a climate resistant interior environment reducing energy costs.

On the interior, natural light penetrates the building through skylights and cut through floor openings, prolonging interior daylight hours and helping to reduce the use of artificial lighting.  Central floor through pier and operable skylights enable a natural flow of air through the entire volume of the building.    all finish materials are made from recycled, environmental friendly resources.  A rainwater collection system in the basement is also used for irrigation.


Family Court Building Pushes On

The new Family Court Building would come as a welcome addition to Philadelphia's government institutions by many who work in and use the facility, but a few sour neighbors think different.  There is always someone to protest progress and change, even if there are no immediate threats to the environment, neighborhood, or patrons themselves.  Some times these concerns consider the rights of neighboring citizens and way of life and at other protecting history and tradition, but in the case of the family court building, it is neither.

The new structure will take the place of a eye souring parking lot at 15th and Arch Streets, which has stood unbuilt for decades, and will only tower 14 stories above street level with 3 levels of underground parking. Sponsors recently approached the Art Commission for a variance that will allow a 15th floor to be added.  The board was met by two protesters from the neighboring art deco Metropolitan apartment building, siting concerns of setback regulations and zoning, stating he had concerns about the new structure interfering with site lines, views and daylighting of his property. The Art Commission has table the discussion for further review.

This said, the Metropolitan should be ecstatic that development is happening across the street.  This section of Center City could really use new development to unify its streets and help define the neighborhood.


GlaxoSmithKline Moves to Navy Yard

Liberty property Trust and Synterra Partners create the workplace of the future at five Crescent Drive, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  GSK has signed a 15.5 year lease for the new building.  The 205,000 square-foot, four story facility design by Robert A.M. Stern Architects will be designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification.  The project represents a $81 million investment by Liberty.  GSK plans to relocate all employes currently based in center city to the new location between fourth quarter 2012 and first quarter 2013, immediately after completion.

Liberty Property Trust senior vice president and regional director John Gattuso, notes that life science firms are looking to locate in communities that are vibrant and offer a high quality of life, because these kinds of communities will allow them to attract the high quality work force they need to succeed in the coming decades.  The city of Philadelphia has designated the historic Navy Yard to support the relocation of large companies and has an intensive master plan in place to revitalize that district into sustainable and functional destination.  Analysis by industry leaders has shown that the most important driver for company location is the proximity of other biotechnology companies and proximity to demand generators and centers of influence such as federal labs, academic institutions and hospitals.

Philadelphia Navy Yard Master Plan rendering

Philadelphia fares well in the game of luring life science companies to head city-bound.  Philadelphia has a concentration of academic and health care institutions that can provide both a skilled, science-oriented work force and opportunities for research collaborations.  Another attribute is the availability of venture capital and tax-incentives to support life science start-ups and early stage firms.

Philadelphia Mormon Temple

I reported last year that the Church of Latter Day Saints had plans of building a Temple in Philadelphia.  Full scale construction of the temple is expected to begin in the spring of 2012 with completion in 2014.  Final plans for the building have yet to be presented to the City for construction approval and building permits.

Back in January of 2010, Church officials met with top administration officials of Philadelphia to review preliminary plans for the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple.  Darrell Clarke, councilman for the 5th district, referred to the plans as magnificent.  "I think it's important for the city of Philadelphia to have such a facility in the city, as opposed to the suburbs.  I think the long-term benefits of bringing that many people – upwards of 400,000 visits per year to the city – is very significant."

The future influx of weekly visitors to the Logan square neighborhood should be greatly welcomed, and could only mean positive outcomes for upcoming residential and commercial developments in the neighborhood.  Between Market and Arch Streets, a number of restaurant location should be available over the next 3 years.  The church could serve as a strong anchor to lure future residents and members of the Faith to relocate to the center city neighborhood.

The Church has indicated that the Temple will serve members from eight stakes in Pennsylvania, New jersey, and Delaware.  These stakes are presumably the cherry Hill Stake, Harrisburg Stake, Philadelphia Stake, Reading Stake, Scranton Stake, Valley Forge Stake, Williamsport Stake, and wilmington Stake.