The Lower Schuylkill; Philly's Next Development Fronteir?

Harris Steinberg of Penn Praxis is calling attention to what he tags, an area full of mystery and promise, the Lower Schuylkill.  He spoke of the enormous potential these 4,000 industrial acres has to offer in contributing to sustaining the environmental and economic future of Philadelphia and the region beyond.  the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Commerce Department and Planning commission have been jointly developing a plan for the Lower Schuylkill since November.

With over 68% of the city's vacant or underused industrial land, and excellent transportation access, the district rests between two development hotspots: the Navy Yard and University City.  Steinberg paints a bright future for the Lower Schuylkill, imagining an elegant 21st-century landscape of new industrial, office, and research buildings, historic industrial structures, sweeping recreational amenities, environmentally sensitive wetlands, and beautifully engineered bridge crossings.

58th street Bartram's Garden Development 

Steinberg also imagines state-of-the-art research and development facilities that build upon Philadelpjia's leadership in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and life-sciences industries lining the riverfront, complete with the extension of the Schuylkill River Trail and parks that manage the flood prone areas storm water issue.  He believes this area has the potential to become a clean, green, urban machine that will power the economic engine of Philadelphia well into the 21st century.

Gray's Ferry Development

Trail Construction Takes Shape in Philadelphia

Two years ago in 2010 Philadelphia was awarded a $23 million TIGER Grant that would fund seven major trail projects throughout the city.  Two major projects are underway and more to come in the future.

On Friday construction began on the 58th Street Greenway which will link Cobbs Creek Trail, the Schulykill River Trail, and Bartram's Garden.  This connection will link three crucial city parks providing a critical link in the East Coast Greenway.

58th Street
Bartram's Garden

A connector bridge has been underway for months, bridging over the CSX tracks at Schuylkill Banks, with completion set for October.  The Walnut Street bridge is also under construction, to create a safer bridge with wider sidewalks and a bike box.

Connector Bridge

Future projects are the Port Richmond Trail which will line Delaware and Allegheny avenues, creating a multi-use trail separating traffic by a planted median.  The Boardwalk extension of Schuylkill banks will extend the trail southward from Locust Street to South Street.


The Boardwalk


What To Do With I-95? Rebuild or Re-imagine?

A conversation on the future of I-95 took place on thursday at the Academy of Natural Sciences, in a panel discussion about Urban Highways and how city's are addressing them in the 21st Century.  City planners, official and residents attended the discussion forum titled, "Re-imagining Urban Highways," and focused on the question of whether Philadelphia will choose to rebuild or re-imagine  the three-mile stretch of Interstate-95, which divides the city from the Delaware River waterfront, in the near future.

On hand was Executive Director Diana Lind of Next American City to explain what Philadelphia should think about before rebuilding 51 miles of I-95 that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has scheduled for construction.  PennDOT plans to reconstruct the sections of I-95 between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges toward the final stages of its highway renewal project by around 2026.

NY West-side Highway

The discussion explored other options for how we can manage traffic if I-95 were not to be rebuilt.  Rethinking the regions transportation options and considering a less car dependent society and opting for light rail and possibly a grand boulevard scenario with less lanes than the current 8 lane Interstate may fair to be a better solution.  Two precedents are New York's West Side Highway and where I-95 merges into US-1 in Miami ending in Key West.  Even though the boulevard is still wide at 6 lanes in Miami, it allows for  a more fluid connection of the communities on either side of the highway.  The New York boulevard enables pedestrian access to newly formed riverfront parks, festival piers, and view of the river from Development lining the highway.

What will be done still remains the question, but citizens can only hope that city officials make the wise decision to make some drastic changes.

Miami US-1 with elevated metro adjacent


O Havana

Buzz about a mystery hotel are floating around Fishtown and the Philadelphia development community.  A website and electronic flyer offer potential investors an opportunity to partake in O Havana, a 300-room luxury hotel with restaurants, a spa and a nightclub, located in front of the SugarHouse Casino.  The flyer claims the retro Cuban flair hotel has support from the City of Philadelphia, Delaware River Authority and the community.

However the Fishtown Neighbors Association has never heard of the project, Sugarhouse Casino is also not familiar, and no one affiliated with this project or anything like it has contacted the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, says Executive Director Gary Jastrzab.  The flyer also metions that it will be next door to the motion Picture Hall of Fame, which it says it will draw 1 million visitors a year.

O Havana Managing Partner Orlando E. Ballate stated to PlanPhilly that he and local partners, Core Equities, have had several meetings with city officials and neighborhood groups and they expressed support for the project and the positive impact to the city and neighborhood in terms of construction jobs and permanent jobs and revenue to the city.  He also stated that they are hopeful to get permits by July 2012.  the project could be part of the Penn Treaty Village project by Core Realty which includes Waterview Grande.

The flyer predicts a 2013 completion date, but we shall see.  I only hope they improve the buildings design before any work is allowed to happen, it looks like you typical atlantic city, or ocean front casino hotel, nothing that represents a "New Philadelphia", or anything to push the bar on building aesthetic in the city.

Post Brothers Apartment Building at 12th and Vine

The 10 story abandoned building at 12th and Vine is getting a new LEED on life with bright future as a 163 unit apartment building, 7,000 square feet of retail space, LEED-certification, rooftop pool and "dog socializing area".

The building was purchased by Post Brothers Apartments last year and due to be fully transformed sometime this upcoming Fall.  The building will be wrapped in a brand-knew metal skin and vegetated biowalls, that will not only give it a modern aesthetic, but will also add to its energy efficiency.

The building is located near the Reading Viaduct in the newly designated Callowhill Industrial Historic District.  This could potentially be the kick start to reviving and exposing the amazing potential this neighborhood and the Viaduct has to offer.


G8-Life Completes First New Construction Project.

G8 Life's 2200 Amber residential project has proven a huge success, billowing through construction in a matter of months, but what may have seemed like forever to developers, getting through city permits and interjections from neighbors.  Like all new construction in Philadelphia, there is bound to be obstacles, but G8 successfully got one on the boards and is soon to have a second completed project at 2400 Amber.  The company has completed many renovation and rehab projects throughout the city, and now it has New Construction to add to its portfolio.

Take a look at the property as work comes to an end and the property is prepped for Sale.


Old West Philly High for Sale

If you love massive old gothic buildings then you need to check out the old West Philadelphia High School at 4700 Walnut Street.  The School District of Philadelphia has listed the 100 year-old, 250,000- square-foot building for $6.5 million.  The building is perfect for repurposing for a charter school, senior housing, condos, or ever office or studio space!  There are many other buildings at much affordable rates is this is too steep.  The sale prices are part of an addendum to the District's Request for Qualifications for prospective buyers for the 12 surplus properties it is hoping to dispose of as part of its facilities master plan.

Other Buildings for Sale:

$2.5 million: Ada lewis Middle School, 6199 Ardleigh Street

$1.35 million: Gillespie Middle School. 1801 W. Pike Street

$1.25 million: Childs Elementary School, 1541 S. 17th Street

$1.2 million: Education Services Building, 427 Monroe Avenue

$750,000: Alcorn School Annex, 1325-1349 S. 33rd Street

$450,000: Walton Elementary, 2601-2631 N. 28th Street

$360,000: Muhr Elementary School, 3150 Germantown Avenue

$350,000: Jones Annex (Maisland Building): 3250 Willard Street

$300,000: Beeber Wynfield School Annex, 1818 N. 53rd Street

$250,000: Willard Elementary, 2900 Emerald Street


Tree Philly

Plant free trees on your property by way of the City of Philadelphia through a new tree giveaway program called TreePhilly.  A campaign led by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the department was given a $75,000 check from Wells Fargo & Company, who is partnering in the program along with the Fairmount Conservancy.

Michael DiBerardinis, deputy mayor of environmental and community resources says, the program represents an effort to connect individual citizens to restoring the city's tree canopy.  DiBerardinis thinks it's the only way the city will accomplish the Mayor's ambitious goal of 300,000 new trees in the city.

Last Tuesday's presentation didn't explain much about how the initiative will work and how many trees will be available, but a brochure and a web site, TreePhilly.org, includes forms for residents to request yard trees.  Applicants must be Philadelphia property owners, and they must submit their form by March 31.  The free trees will be available for pick up at a series of "distribution events" scheduled for between April 22 and April 27, at locations yet to be determined.

PHA 11th St. Housing project

PHA replaces an old high-rise project tower with sustainable contemporary 3 story low-rise apartment buildings.  The fifty-one unit development is located on the 2000 block of N. 11th Street.  The new community layout is very urban in composition an harmonious with the traditional row-home layout on adjacent blocks in the community.

Hilton Home2 Suites Expands to Philadelphia

The Hilton brand began construction on a new hotel for The Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th and Arch Street set to open Summer 2013.  The new Home2 Suites will add 246 new hotel rooms to the Philadelphia market.

The hotel will feature more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space and 9,750 square feet for ground floor retail and restaurants.  The hotel will also be eco-conscious, containing a partial green roof, high efficiency HVAC system and significant energy performance upgrades.  Home2 Suites is the newest hotel in the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of brands.  It's an all-suite, extended stay hotel designed for the savvy and sophisticated traveler.  All rooms include plenty of space including a kitchenette, free WiFi, free breakfast and an iPad docking station.