Schuylkill River Boardwalk

The 2,0000 foot long boardwalk extension of the Schulykill River Trail to the South Street Bridge continues to move forward, but unfortunately with delays.  All of the caissons, pier caps and beams are in place.  The major work remaining is building the deck on the main boardwalk and ramp, involving a pouring of 21 deck spans and five ramp spans.  The project should be complete late Fall of 2014.

The ramp and boardwalk are designed to accommodate emergency and maintenance vehicles.  The boardwalk's 15' wide pathway will be supplemented by four widened overlooks that will allow people to rest and enjoy the views along the boardwalk without blocking the trail.  This project will provide an important link to the Schuylkill River Trail and Center City from University City and West Philadelphia.


Market8 Casino Proposal

The developers of the proposed Market 8 Casino released a rending with PlanPhilly, replacing a former sleeker contemporary design with a more reserved look.  Market8 spokeswoman Maureen Garrity mentioned that their idea is to enliven East market Street, to bring people downtown, to draw people in, even if they are not interested in gambling.

The ground floor is designed to fully engage walkers and commuters, recognizing how vital the venue will be to the vitality of the East Market Street corridor.  Market Street will be very transparent, with doorways, tables and outdoor seating that will allow 8th and Market to become an attractive social place to meet for lunch, dinner, or coffee, creating energy and excitement at all hours of the day.

The new rendering features a 168-room hotel tower that will include a spa, fitness club and entertainment terrace with views of the Delaware River.  The first four floor will be visually and physically connected by escalators shaped around a focal 4 story digital video feature.  The second and third floors are dedicated to casino space with bars, fine and casual dining, live entertainment, VIP gaming and lounges.  The fourth floor includes a concert hall/multi-purpose venue which will accommodate live performances, banquets, meetings, and boxing, a poker room, and 2-story lounge with dining and dancing.  The fifth floor will be the hotel reception area and lounges.

All floors are focused around a dramatic central atrium and the higher floors are surrounded by outdoor terraces with vistas overlooking Eighth, Ninth and Market Streets and the cityscape beyond.

Philadelphia May Establish "Land Bank"

The City of Philadelphia plans to consolidate its inventory of distressed real estate totaling an estimated 40,000 abandoned houses, lots and commercial buildings.  The properties will be grouped into "land banks" to make purchase more attractive to potential buyers.

If the City Council votes this fall, as expected, to establish the land bank, Philadelphia will join a number of other cities that have adopted plans like it to encourage buyers who are committed to making improvements, instead of speculators, to acquire tax-delinquent properties.  To keep property from speculators who might sit on it for years without improving it, the land bank would insist that buyers were current on taxes, had no history of code violations and had the resources to make promised changes.

Advocates for the land banks envision a variety of uses for the abandoned properties, including market-rate and affordable housing, commercial development, and open space.  Other uses could include community gardens or urban farms.  For the last 17 years, a project known as Greensgrow has been growing vegetables and making compost on the site of a former galvanizing factory in a low-income area of North Philadelphia.

If Philadelphia moves forward with this, it will serve as a good model for many American cites affected by urban blight and loss of industry.

Source: New York Times

Procacci & PHL's Big Casino Plans

Joe Procacci has an enticing proposal for his Philadelphia Casino site, if he is granted the second gaming license.  Procacci's proposal includes a new entertainment district with restaurants, retail, sports facilities, zip-lines, a golf driving range, a dry ski/skateboarding park, water park, soccer fields, racquet sports facilities, an indoor swimming pool, rock climbing, and live music.

The Complex will be known as the LoSo Entertainment Center (short for Lower South).  it would sit adjacent to PHL Local Gaming's proposed Casino Revolution, on land that the Lower South District Comprehensive Plan identifies as the Food District area.  About 25 acres are currently owned by Procacci, with additional acreage now owned by the city.  The complex would be next to the casino, between the stadium Complex, public park land, and FDR Park Colf Club in the west, and the Delaware river in the east.

PHL Local spokesman Bruce Crawley, says there will be no loss of any existing jobs, at Procacci or other industrial tenants within the development footprint.  He says they will work with the city to have those jobs moved, businesses transferred, within the South Philadelphia community.  Developers believe the project would create a unique attraction that would appeal to local residents, as well as to visitors to the City of Philadelphia.  Visitors however would not have to actually enter the casino, itself, to participate in the Center's attractions.

The entertainment project is predicated on receiving the license because it would benefit from the casino and hotel, which Canfora said would "serve as a transformative catalyst for the overall Lower South District of the City of Philadelphia, enhancing economic impact and creating jobs and business opportunities.


CDAG Sends Letter To Gaming Board On Wynn Casino

The Central Delaware Advocacy Group recently sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week, reports PlanPhilly.  The letter states that the Wynn Philadelphia Casino proposal  wkould be a better Central Delaware fit if river access was improved, the parking garage took up less space, its roof was open for river-viewing and the entire design was more "contextually compatible" with the region.  The letter also states that CDAG "represents no particular disposition toward gaming and does not oppose, nor does it support, the Wynn Philadelphia Resort Proposal."

Wynn would not be bound by the Central Delaware Master Plan should he be granted the license.  If that happens, the city would place special casino zoning on the Richmond Street and Delaware Avenue parcel, which overrides underlying zoning, including the overlay.


One Riverside Tower

Carl Dranoff's mixed-use 20-story, 147 residential unit tower with adjacent cafe located at 25th and Locust streets, overcame a huge hurdle at last weeks Civic Design Review.  The Civic Design Review Committee considers the public realm impacts of large projects in Philadelphis.  The by-right project called One Riverside, designed by Cecil Baker Architects does not require any zoning board approval.

Dranoff will apply for for a final zoning permit from Licenses & inspections as soon as the CDR Committee submits documentation of the meeting, which is likely to happen over the next few weeks.

Blackstone's 191-unit Residence

Blackstone Development plans to build a 191-unit, mixed-use project on an industrial parcel at Germantown Ave. and Thompson Street in South Kensington.  The project was subject to Civic Design Review last week, with a largely positive outcome.  The project requires variances for residential and commercial uses in an industrial district.

The Committee applauded the developer for putting the parking facilities, containing 153 spaces, underground.  It also recommended that the developers consider removing some of the pedestrian entrances into the courtyard of the project and widening others.  Final approval has not yet been granted, more community meetings are planned.


Domani Developer's Fishtown Residences

PlanPhilly reports that, Domani Developers plan to convert an out-of-use industrial building at 1421 E. Columbia Ave., near Memphis Street in Fishtown, into a 57-unit apartment complex with a City Fitness gym on the ground floor.  Last week, September 3, the project was presented to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  The zoning application calls for the consolidation of eight lots into one lot.  These lots have since been used for a single building for some time now.  The applicant's zoning refusal from L&I was based on the RSA-5 residential zoning district, which appears to encompass some of the eight lots in the application, the other half of the property falls under I-2 industrial zoning classification.

The different zoning districts have different requirements and limitations for things like parking and density, and the multi-family project would require variances in either one.  The project includes 30 underground parking spaces and 57 bicycle parking spaces.  The local Fishtown Neighbors Association voted in support of the project as a whole, but surrounding neighbors opposed the project due to parking concerns.

Paula Brumbelow, a representative of the Planning Commission, said that the Commission supports the granting of the variances for both the residential units and the fitness center, but asked that the developer continue to work on mitigating parking congestion.

Race Street Flows To The Sound of Music

In a few weeks on October 1, Philadelphia musician and sound designer Michael Kiley and his ensemble, The Mural and the Mint, will release Animina: A Race Street Pier Sound Walk.  Kiley used recorded sounds found along the river- including the train whistle, and wrote lyrics and music that play on themes related to the river, the pier, and the city's overarching goal for the pier and other Central Delaware projects, "Re-linking the city to the riverfront."

Artist: Michael Kiley

The music can be accessed through the use of a $.99 cell phone app and GPS technology.  The song changes while the listener walks from 2nd and Race streets in Old City to the end of the Pier and back again.  For example, the lyrics "In front of you/ at the end of the road/ is someone you once lost long ago," will be heard as " Is someone you once lost long ago/ in front of you/ at the end of the road" when the listener walks in the opposite direction.

The app's use of GPS limits user ability to requiring people to physically visit the Pier and Race Street Connector to fully experience Kiley's art. It forces users to visit the neighborhood to experience the art. The concept could prove successful, leading to future adaptations to other sites along the river.