Spruce Street Plaza Construction

Plan Philly's Eyes on the Street reports that, this winter on the corner of 34th and Spruce will emerge a $2.5 million public space called Spruce Street Plaza.  The plaza is located on lot 8 between the Pennsylvania Museum and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which is currently a parking lot wedged between 33rd and 34th streets at Spruce. Known for its street food trucks, Penn is reclaiming this triangular desert as Spruce Street Plaza.

Last week construction fencing went up and the large perimeter trees along Spruce Street were cut down to make way for the new public plaza, that will serve as an attractive gateway to Penn's medical campus.  The sight, designed by landscape architecture firm Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects, features a large central lawn, pathways made of permeable pavers, ornamental and shade trees.  The plaza will get new benches and lighting as well as a mid-block crossing at the southern end to help create a safer way for pedestrians to navigate the area where 33rd and 34th merge.


Is Philadelphia ready for a 2024 Olympic Bid?

Should Philadelphia, America's Birthplace, be America's choice city to represent our country and host the World during the 2024 Olympic Games?  Many American's may have their opinions about their deserving cities, but as of now Philadelphia and Los Angeles are the two U.S. cities attempting to bid, we may see this list change in the near future. Although the city has lost the bid for the 2016 games, the city has already begun positioning itself to be considered a "world class city", with Philly 2015 efforts to green the city and further ambitions to become America's greenest city by 2035.  The city has adopted a new zoning code to encourage development, a Master Plan for it Waterfront, park infrastructure expansion efforts, and a proposed 2015 construction date for the first phase of high-speed rail between Philadelphia and New York.

Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, said that if Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, wants to host the Olympics, its earliest realistic chance would be the 2024 Summer Games.  A study by eleven graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania showed that Philadelphia should consider bidding for the 2024 Olympics.  The study said that one of the city's biggest challenges would be convincing the voters who select the host city that Philadelphia is a "World-Class City", something that will require strategic changes in the city's landscape in conjunction with a persuasive marketing strategy.  The process also includes persuading the business community to finance an initial bid that could cost $10 - $15 million.  Two years ago in 2010 an unofficial Facebook page was started in support of the campaign, and has gained some popularity.

Here is a brief timeline of the selection Process:
2012: cities explore possibilities and form Organizing Committees
2015 USOC narrows candidate cities
2016 USOC selects candidate city for IOC consideration
2017 IOC selects host city
2024 Hopeful USA based Olympics

Renderings for proposed 2026 World's Fair 

Philadelphians may want the games, but is the city willing to foot the bill?  It would without a doubt take some heavy private and public fundraising, and much government funding for infrastructure improvements, but anything is possible.  Philadelphia certainly has the space, and is positioned perfectly in the center of the North East Corridor, allowing tourist to explore the region visiting New York and D.C.  The growing mega-region is home to over 49 million residents and 18% of the U.S. population stretching from Boston to Washington.  By the time of the Olympic Games the population is predicted to grow to 58 million.  This is all the more reason enhanced Philadelphia inner city and city to city connections along the east coast are crucial.

Possible 2024 skyline


Atlantic Building Has a Residential Future

PhillyDeals reports that the Atlantic Building, a 1920s office tower standing at Spruce and South Broad Street, has been sold to Post Brothers, Matthew and Michael Pestronk, the developers converting the Goldtex building into loft apartments.  The Post Brothers plan to convert the Atlantic to residential use.

The building was sold to Post for more than $22 million.  The Atlantic Building was built for the Atlanstic Richfield Oil Refining Company's offices, styling terra cotta exterior and rich Art Deco flourishes.  Today the building is about 60% vacant.


Lower Northeast Master Plan

As the Lower Northeast District Master Plan takes shape for public comment next month on August 7, some information about the plans development has been released by Plan Philly.

The Lower Northeast District-level Plan, which covers Frankford, Northwood, Oxford circle, Summerdale and Lawncrest, will be part of the new city-wide comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035.  The population of the Lower Northeast has increased by 10 percent over the past 20 years.  By 2035, the Lower Northeast is expected to grow by another 5 percent, to about 106,000 people.  About half of the growth between 1990 and 2010 happened near Castor Avenue, and the Castor Avenue commercial corridor is one of three areas the plan will focus on, says project manager Ian Litwin.  The objective is to increase density in a growing neighborhood.

The plan will also pay special attention to the lower, eastern part of Frankford, which the plan calls the Frankford Gateway.  This includes Frankford Creek and part of Frankford Avenue, and a number of former industrial buildings that have been rehabbed.  The third focus area is around SEPTA's Frankford Transportation Center, at Bridge Street and Frankford Avenue.  Staff research showed that 750,000 people can can get to the transportation center on public transportation on a one-seat trip.  "We want to improve the public space, and create a neighborhood center around it," Litwin said.  The majority of public opinion of local residents favors focusing commercial growth in neighborhood commercial corridors instead of strip malls.  More residents thought transit expansion would do more to improve mobility on The Boulevard than roadway improvements would.  Transit is expensive, so the plan will recommend a phased-in approach.

The plan will also recommend phasing in the proposed Frankford Creek Greenway.  Residents support both creating the Greenway and focusing investment on existing recreation centers.  But due to limited resources, more expressed a desire to improve the existing recreation centers, saying that effort would also address other concerns, such as making the community safer.  The plan will suggest grant funding for the Greenway.


Art Commission Approves Philly Skate Park and other Projects

The long promised skateboard park near the Philadelphia Art Museum comes closer to realization as it received approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission on Wednesday.  A plan was submitted and approved for Paine's Park benches, now that funding is in place for the project and the building effort is ready to proceed.  The plans also included storm water management elements, such as three rain gardens to meet new requirements.  Much of the proposed site furnishings (benches, lighting, bike racks) would conform with standards now underway at other Schuylkill River Parks.

In further news, Commissioners granted final approval to the overall master plan and the first phase of a multi-tiered project at FDR Park, the Phillies Urban Youth Academy.  The first phase includes a new field and dugouts.  As the project moves forward, the commission would like to review designs for signage, a proposed canopy and other aspects.

St. Boniface Development

We reported back a while ago about plans by the NSCA (Norris Square Civic Association) to build a residential building on the site of St. Boniface Church.  The Association has been working with Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez to come to agreements on the use of the land.  Last month, Sanchez and DeCarlo of NSCA issued a joint statement summarizing their updated plans for the site of the former church.  NSCA plans for 15 co-op housing units at the site were opposed by Councilwoman Sanchez throughout the spring.

The new plan call for no more than eight housing units.  A rendering of the new plan for the northeast corner of the St Boniface site shows seven two-and three-story, single family homes, each with two off street parking spots in the rear.  The design done by KSK Architects Historians Planners, Inc. call for brick facades on the seven rowhouse units.

According to contractual agreements to CPLC and by the requirements for grants awarded to the association, NSCA needs to build 30 affordable housing units by 2013 in order not to loose grant money.


The New Eastern Tower Community Center

New construction looms on the horizon for Chinatown North.  The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. plans to create a 23-story, multipurpose tower located at the northwest corner of 10th and Vine streets.  The first two floors of the building will include the recreational area and retail space.  The remainder of the tower will be used for residential units and offices featuring spectacular views of the city.

Zoning for the future structure is in place and approved, making it the largest building in Chinatown.  The goal of the PCDC is to start building next year with a two year construction timeline to follow.  They are currently in the process of selecting the perfect architect for the job.

The housing units will be rental apartments, each made affordable to accommodate low-income families.  Keeping in line with the main purpose of the community center, which is to unite the neighborhood, it will be accessible for residents who are young, old, rich and poor.  The center will consist of 15,000 square feet of office space, 12,000 square feet of retail space and 144 residential units.  There will also be a small garage capable of holding up to 46 cars.  Zipcar has agreed to provide the center with cars that will remain internal to the building.

Hawthorne Park Opens

Squarely positioned on three quarters of an acre at 12th and Catherine streets, the $2 million Hawthorne Park offers neighbors about 50 new trees in nine native species – including London planes, swamp white oaks, and of course Hawthorns, and well as 4,000 square feet of plant beds and expansive 19,000 square-foot lawn.

Anchored with only two sets of orange plastic chaise lounges, the lawn is the park's most distinguished feature.  the park is lined by old a new rowhomes that replaced the former MLK Towers.  Landscape architect Brad Thornton of LRSLAstudio, the local firm behind the design, says the hybrid turf was selected for its drought-and traffic- tolerant qualities, and noted that it (and the entire park) is irrigated.  With the tolerant turf, it will still be interesting to see how the lawn holds up.  We so often see lawns turn to patchwork or barren desserts in so many of our city parks.

The parks other design elements include a double herringbone pattern of boardwalk-style brick that lends the park's generous pathways the appearance of decking, several granite wall-seats, a few tables and chairs, and numerous benches.

To fulfill the one percent of Art requirement, a stainless steel sculpture, Object for Expression, occupies pride of place at the center of the park. Intended by Philadelphia artist Warren Holzman to evoke a lectern or pulpit, the piece acknowledges the fact that Martin Luther King delivered a speech on the site in 1965.


Delaware Riverfront Redevelopment Project; Tributaries of Green, Reinventing Penn's Landing

We have seen many proposals for the Philadelphia waterfront, one done by Philadelphia firm WRT, which has become really popular, aiding in the adoption of the Master Plan Overlay.  This particular project, done by Architect Michael Lovaglio is also an innovative take on the waterfront stretching from washington Avenue to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.  Take a look! This may be the best one yet, when considering public space, connections, and vehicular right-of-ways.

"Tributaries of Green" explores linking the Delaware riverfront with downtown Philadelphia by providing articulating green infrastructure within the strata of low/mid rise buildings.  This strategy relocates the energy and density within a large skyscraper and transposes it horizontally, creating a dynamic connective urban tissue of urban space and linear gateways linking the river back to the city.  The green infrastructure not only responds to sustainable urban issues of heat islands and rainwater overflow, runoff and filtration but also provides a network of natural public and private open spaces of nature, estuaries, and wetlands, all of which superimpose an ecological footprint with a dense urban environment.