Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parking War

When it comes to the bricks, nothing hurts an urban landscape more than surface parking lots. They scar the skyline, make walking undesirable, and inhibit adjacent development. These asphalt prairies become even more noticeable at times like today, when big snow storms leave piles of snow and ice surrounding these blighted blocks and absent management companies refuse to plow or shovel their sidewalks, or plow snow into neighboring properties, leaving neighbors the headache of cleaning up after nonexistent owners.

Like a virus, surface parking lots cause neighboring properties to decline, often leading to demolition and thus absorption into the growing parking lot making a decreasingly desirable neighborhood even less desirable, leading to more demolition and so on, until you end up with what can be found in countless locations throughout the city. Not only does this type of anti-development cause neighborhoods to decline, it encourages an auto-centric mentality that can't possibly be supported in a city as dense as Philadelphia.

With lots and garages in nearly every block in Center City, if not every block in Center City, people still complain about parking. In most dense cities with a highly populated urban core - Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco - residents and even commuters wouldn't complain about having to walk five blocks or so, but in Philadelphia, even many Center City residents complain about walking, feeling entitled to the convenience of driving to the gym or grocery store.

A small portion of Center City with lots outlined in red...and that doesn't even include parking garages.

In the hierarchy of urban development, I put the owners of surface parking lots several notches below the worst slum lords. These pariahs sit on property with low taxes, have virtually no overhead, and see almost completely raw profit. It's no wonder most new buildings are developed by razing old ones. Owners of surface parking lots are free to extort developers. They are sitting on property that is nothing but profit. No matter how little they make or how unappealing it is, there is no incentive for them to sell, ever. There is no property usage tax in the city to motivate owners of undeveloped Center City property develop or seek development. What makes it even worse, is many real estate owners will raze their derelict properties in anticipation of potential development, but when development never comes turn their space into a parking lot, which never ever goes away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Bike Lanes

The two Center City bike lanes which have been added to Pine and Spruce have proven so successful that they will not only become permanent, they may be expanded. Although Inquirer articles seem to contradict each other when it comes to the impact of traffic on these streets, the bottom line is that City Hall has acknowledged no significant increase.

Many Philadelphians take any promotion of pedestrianization or bicycle advocacy as a personal attack. It's no wonder our general population is consistently ranked among the nation's most overweight and unhealthy. Our boroughs are packed with two or three car households accommodated by 18ft wide real estate. It makes no sense to the rational mind, particularly in the walkable boroughs like South Philadelphia that are serviced by limitless public transportation.

We need to stop accommodating cars under the delusion that we are part of suburban New Jersey, force these borough dwellers and suburbanites to take public transportation and walk a few blocks. If someone wants the luxury of driving a car, they should be expected to deal with the traffic. Being an urban car-owner is just that, a luxury, not a right.

If anyone expects this city to progress beyond a post-industrial fallout zone, there will continue to be more and more people and more and more traffic. No one can expect to exponentially accommodate more and more cars indefinitely. When you try that you end up with Detroit, and Philadelphia is far too dynamic to solely focus on getting people in and out, we want them to stay a while and look around. Cities with ample parking are synonymous with cities no one wants to visit. Ever been to Scranton?

People in DC, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, etc. all accommodate bikes and pedestrians. Why should Philadelphia - one of the most densely populated cities with one of the most expansive public transportation systems in the U.S. - cater to the car first? This isn't just an awesome idea, it's ABOUT TIME!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Station Square

At the other end of Market Street, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Liberty Bell Center) designed a beautiful plan for 30th Street Station. Pedestrian, transit, and cab friendly, I would love to arrive in Philadelphia to this scene rather than the mess of concrete barriers and traffic there now.

Market East Renaissance?

Girard Block 11th and Market

I love talking about Market East. I'm not a masochist, I just like seeing potential and imagining how it may evolve. I think that's what attracted me to Philadelphia in the first place. And there is no untapped potential in Philadelphia like Market East. The Philadelphia Planning Commission has commissioned an ambitious redevelopment plan by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects that reinvents Market Street as Philadelphia's Main Street. Centering around Market East Station and a new Inter-modal Transportation facility on Filbert, the plan expands towards a reinvented and enlarged Chinatown including Franklin Square, a new "Loft District" immediately behind the expanded Convention Center, and an emphasis on improvements to the Jefferson Hospital area and renewing Chestnut Street as a shopping district.

New Chinatown and Market East Gateway 10th and Market

The concept is an ambitious one, but within the overall design, the focus is so compartmentalized it is one of the most doable Market East plans I've ever seen. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the plan - elaborate as the images may seem - focuses mainly on improving existing structures and developing surface parking lots. It proposes expanding the successful elements of the Market East district, such as an expanded Reading Terminal Market utilizing the head house. While the most dramatic changes include a redeveloped Girard Block and high rises added to the Gallery, equally influential changes to the district include rerouting commuter buses to Arch or Filbert at a new transportation center that combines Market East Station with Greyhound and NJT.

Intermodal Transportation Center and Gallery 10th and Filbert

The plan has generated a lot of excitement, although one can easily understand a reluctance on the part of neighboring businesses given the past 30 years, but with a strong plan focusing on the smaller elements of an overall project, one catalyst may be all that is needed to set this concept in motion.

New "Loft District" behind Convention Center

Re-imagined Frankin Square

Monday, November 30, 2009

We Need an Act of God

How is it that in the darkest days of this country's urbanity - roughly the 60's to the 90s, when the highest contributors to the city's tax stock had fled to the suburbs leaving Philadelphia indebted and corrupt - did we manage to maneuver some of the city's largest civic projects: completely reinventing Society Hill and Independence Mall, The Gallery, Market East Station, I-95, the Vine Street Expressway, and about a dozen skyscrapers on West Market Street? For better or worse, these massive projects got off the ground and got built. We bulldozed about 100 blocks of Philadelphia's history between 1960 and 1990 and reworked miles of highway requiring extensive engineering, yet today in order to develop a vacant and undesirable block of Penn's Landing or Market East takes an act of God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Groundbreaking at Barnes Museum Site

Some protesters appeared today at the site of the Barnes Museum's groundbreaking ceremony on the Ben Franklin Parkway criticizing the Barnes Museum so called pork barrel spending, some going as far as to say it is a playground for the "rich and famous".

I'm not sure how the Barnes Museum can be labeled a playground for the "rich and famous", or even criticized as wasteful spending. If anything, relocating to the Parkway makes it more accessible to everyone, and not just those poised to drive to Lower Merion.

If the "rich and famous" are the only ones visiting the Barnes museum, the only ones to blame are the "poor and unknown". In a city more likely to invest in block parties for baseball fans than libraries and textbooks, any investment in culture and education is an investment in everyone.

Art and culture become invaluable in economic hard times. As families are less able to invest in wasteful gadgets and expensive trinkets that retain children's stunted attention for a matter of days, artwork has the potential to become a reluctant but enlightening source of entertainment.

Reading Terminal

Although it no longer serves as a railroad station, Reading Terminal survives today as the headhouse and Market Street entrance for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as well as a shared entrance to Market East Station, which replaced the Reading Terminal as an active regional rail terminal in 1984.

Reading Terminal Headhouse in the 1950s

The headhouse was designed by Francis H. Kimball and the train shed was designed by Wilson Brothers & Company in 1891 and built in 1893. Ironically demolition was partially staved off by Edmund Bacon, the former city planner notorious for demolishing historic landmarks - including Broad Street Station - and responsible for much of Center City's regretful mid-century "modernization".

Cafe and Bar inside Reading Terminal - 1980s

The new Market East Station was intended to be a sleek replacement for the elevated viaducts that extended from Arch Street northward, by placing the rail lines underground. Although this was intended to clean up the neighborhoods north of Reading Terminal by taking them out of the shadows of the train tracks, the underground lines left Chinatown and the former Furnished Room District littered with surface parking lots that have yet to be redeveloped.

Market East Regional Rail entrance to Reading Terminal prior to relocation.

The Reading Terminal viaduct was demolished from Arch Street for the Pennsylvania Convention Center but still stands at Vine Street, snaking its way through Callowhill towards Northern Liberties. Covered in weeds, the viaduct has received little attention from both preservationists or those interested in demolishing the structure for redevelopment. A few have suggested converting it into a jogging trail similar to New York City's High Line, unfortunately the Reading Viaduct doesn't really go anywhere or adjoin any successful properties. Some have even suggested turning it into a bus or rail line conveniently attaching Center City to the Art Museum, the Zoo, and Fairmount Park.

A regional rail train leaves Reading Terminal on the Reading Viaduct in the 1980s

Reading Terminal still houses a public market, originally established at 12th and Market in 1859 as Franklin Market and Farmer's Market. When the terminal was built, these markets were consolidated as Reading Terminal Market in 1893. Reading Terminal Market still thrives today as one of the nation's oldest (if not the oldest) farmer's markets.

Reading Terminal Headhouse today at 12th and Market

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arcade Building

Another unlucky victim of West Market's rebirth was the Arcade Building. Built in 1901 with the addition of a massive tower in 1904, it was designed by Frank Furness. A 1901 rendering of the Arcade Building next to City Hall and Broad Street Station, makes the Arcade Building look much wider than it actually was.

Shown here in the late 1950's with its additional tower, the Arcade Building was later known as the Commercial Trust Building.

Shown from 15th Street with City Hall in the background, the Commercial Trust Building shortly before its demolition which occurred in 1969, which made way for Dilworth Plaza, eliminating this portion of Broad Street.

Fallen Star on Market West

West Market Street - a district lined with most of the city's contributions to sky scraping architecture - was once home to a number of theaters, shops, apartments, and hotels facing Broad Street Station's "Chinese Wall". A long forgotten gem of this gritty, eclectic strip was the Harrison Building - demolished in 1969 along with the Arcade Building (the domed building in the rear).
At 4 South 15th, the Harrison Building served as an office building and hotel. It was designed by Cope & Stewardson in 1894, with alterations in 1902 and 1912, and razed in 1969 as part of West Market's massive urban renewal project which also included the demolition of Broad Street Station and the Arcade Building.

Centre Square, or rather the Clothes Pin itself, now occupies the site of the Harrison Building. Although many are coming to once again appreciate Brutalist architecture - and Comcast did a good job renovating the entrance to Centre Square, as well as the transportation plaza holding the Clothes Pin - I would love to have seen this brutal presence side by side with the elegant Harrison Building, not to mention the massive Frank Furness Arcade Building across 15th Street framing City Hall with its sister to the East, the Wanamaker Building.

Centre Square was designed by Vincent Kling & Associates in 1973.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trinity Houses

Unique to Philadelphia - though perhaps at one time a few may have existed in New York - the trinity house, also known as a bandbox house or Father, Son, and Holy Ghost house, is a small house usually built for the lowest class of servants. Often built for indentured servants or slaves, the trinity house originally contained one room per floor, hence the name.

Completely against William Penn's original intention for Philadelphia to be a "Greene Country Towne", property owners utilized every bit of land they could, particularly when it came to their servants' quarters. Rather than building a rambling shack for their workers, they stacked the space vertically.

Over time blocks were divided and subdivided repeatedly, leaving the main streets such as Walnut or Chestnut for the wealthy home owners, smaller streets such as Juniper and Camac for servants or the lower class, and even smaller streets off those, and sometimes even smaller streets off those, creating a kind of coiled snail shell within each city block.

It is in these smallest of streets (most cities wouldn't even consider them alleys) that we find the courts that held the trinity houses. Usually built facing each other in rows of four, they are all typically the same. Elfreth's Alley contains a great selection of trinities, although these houses are simply very old and predate the development that led to the large scale production of trinities homes as servant quarters and the interior courtyards recently being rediscovered.

Elfreth's Alley

Typically these houses would contain three floors, a basement kitchen, and a tiny attic. Each floor would be about 100 square feet, contain a fireplace, and be connected by a pocket staircase tucked behind the chimney. The back would contain a cobbled privy. A very good example of a classic servant trinity can be found in Franklin Court behind Market Street.

Franklin Court

Many of the trinities that survive today, many of which can be found in Washington Square and Society Hill, have been modernized and even combined in order to house modern families. Often the privy area and backyards are converted into kitchens or expanded living rooms, some have replaced the pocket staircase with a more convenient staircase, and some have chosen to combine two houses into one. Fishtown, Chinatown, and Northern Liberties still have many examples of well preserved trinities still containing the original layouts which are often used as rentals.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Walnut Street Renaissance?

Philadelphia is finally getting its long awaited Apple store at 1607 Walnut. Apple aside, it's a good sign that retail is returning to Walnut Street after the recession caused a temporary exodus. While Walnut Street seems to have retained - and even gained - business for the super rich, it lacks the business that keep most from fleeing to King of Prussia for a day of shopping. That is exactly what the Apple Store represents. Now if we could just see an Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Crate & Barrel, and a dozen other mall staples we could give the suburbs a run for their money.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Speaking of Stadiums

In the spirit of Philadelphia's second consecutive participation in the World Series, here is a rundown of Philadelphia's contribution to the architecture of sport.

Opened in 1887 and demolished in 1950, the Philadelphia Base Ball Grounds or National League Park - known locally as Baker Bowl - at Broad and Huntingdon near Lehigh hosted the Philadelphia Phillies from 1887 to 1938 and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1933 to 1935.

Columbia Park opened in 1901 and was demolished in 1909 and 29th and Cecil B. Moore. It was home to the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 to 1908, the Philadelphia Giants from 1902 to 1908, the Philadelphia Phillies in 1903, and Philadelphia Athletics (NFL) in 1902.

Shibe Park or Connie Mack Stadium opened in 1909 at 20th and Lehigh and was demolished in 1976. Designed by William Steele and Sons it was home to the Philadelphia Athletics from 1909 to 1954, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1938 to 1970, and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1940 and 1942 to 1957.

Shibe Park in the 1970's prior to demolition.

Sesquicentennial Stadium - later known as Philadelphia Municipal Stadium or John F. Kennedy Stadium - was designed by Simon and Simon as part of the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition. It was demolished in 1992. On South Broad Street in South Philadelphia's Stadium Complex, it housed the Philadelphia Quakers in 1926, the Philadelphia Eagles from 1936 to 1939 and 1941, the Liberty Bowl from 1959 to 1963, the Army-Navy Game from 1936 to 1979, and Philadelphia Bell in 1974.

The Wachovia Spectrum - CoreStates Spectrum, Union Spectrum, or simply the Spectrum - located in South Philadelphia's Sports Complex was opened in 1967 and is due to be demolished in 2010 for Comcast - Spectator's Philly Live! It was home to the Flyers, 76ers, Wings, Phantoms, KiXX, Soul, Freedoms, Bulldogs, and Fever from 1967 to 2009.

Veterans Stadium in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex was designed by Hugh Stubbins and Associates and opened in 1971. It was demolished in 2004. It was home to the Phillies, Eagles, Atoms, Fury, Stars, and Temple University's athletic association.

The Wachovia Center - Spectrum II, CoreStates Center, or the First Union Center - was built on the site of JFK Stadium in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. It was designed by Ellerbe Becket and opened in 1996. It is currently home to the Flyers, 76ers, Wings, and until 2008, Soul.

Lincoln Financial Field in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex was designed by NBBJ Sports and opened in 2003. It is the current home of the Eagles, Union, and Temple Owls.

Citizens Bank Park in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex was designed by Ewing Cole Cherry Brott and HOK Sport and opened in 2004. It is the current home of the Philadelphia Phillies.


I'm sure there are 5,500 capable Philadelphians willing to work a competitive job for a competitive salary. The union goons won't win forever. There's only so much money to go around, and voters only have so much patience. It's not 1950 anymore and if popular opinion is any indication, blind union support is over. It's only a matter of time before the system breaks, bankrupts itself and is forced to reorganize, or the politicians feel the heat from the voters and finally put the union in its place. I have to admit, as unrealistic as it is, I would love to see each and every one of these 5,500 greedy extortionists waiting in the unemployment line tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Philadelphia's Thriving Market Street

Until the end of the 20th century, Market East was Philadelphia's bustling center for retail commerce. It wasn't always pretty, but the eclectic collage of ever changing businesses illuminated in neon succeeded as the urban equivalent to the sprawl enjoyed by suburbanites.

Seen here in 1953, 13th and Market was a bustling and dense hub of commercial activity. The NE corner of this intersection is now occupied by the block-wide Marriott hotel while the NW corner is occupied by a surface parking lot.

So what happened? It's easy to blame urban flight, but Market East's real estate stock didn't completely crash until the late 1980's, perhaps even the 1990's. Before that the gritty patchwork of businesses and merchants successfully served commuters and locals alike.

In 1965 Snellenburg's department store spanned the south side of Market Street between 11th and 12th in what is now known as the Girard Block, a two story placeholder that has been holding a place for several decades.

As a wave of "improvements" for the surrounding neighborhoods began, it is almost as if Market East's intended renaissance was exactly what sealed its coffin. While large corporate entities such as Aramark, Marriott, and Loews succeeded in bringing a large number of employees to Market East, many of the street's original merchants who at one time serviced these employees had been removed in anticipation of larger development which never came.

Howard's department store, seen here in 1966, is now the site of Aramark headquarters. The lot in the foreground was made for The Gallery at Market East and is now the site of Burlington Coat Factory.

As Gimbels and Snellenburg's closed, the Gallery's JCPenny and Clover were replaced with Burlington Coat Factory and K-Mart. Closing Strawbridges left many Gallery merchants without residual clienette forcing the closures of stores such as The Gap and Guess.

Seen here in 1966, Gimbels department store was demolished for anticipated development and is now the site of surface parking lot nearly the size of an entire city block. It is controlled by predatory land developer Ron Rubin - who has no intention of developing it further.

Today very little remains of Market Street's namesake. Real estate on Market East is so affordable that space formerly occupied by large variety stores such as Woolworth are now occupied by convenience stores such as CVS or Rite Aid. Many businesses use their upper floors for storage or simply leave it empty.

The upper floors of Robinson's space age department store are now used for storage or simply left empty. Surprisingly this uniquely early design is not historically protected.

Unfortunately the fate of Market East seems to rest in the hands of private developers. While several years ago, many could not have imagined it getting much worse, it now serves as a worn example example of what happens when you try to fix something that isn't broken.

The Gallery at Market East today: It isn't aesthetically - or philosophically - worse than any other mall. But as made evident in recent years, it is hurt by the declining, surrounding real estate.

Although it's certainly not the time to start fielding new businesses to rent questionable or risky real estate, it is the time to start looking at what used to work and what we can do at little cost that make places like Market East a little more desirable and look a little less like Thunderdome. While a very small gesture, Burlington Coat Factory seems to understand this and is in the process of renovating the space and improving its curb appeal with new signage, entrances, and window displays. While it's hard to ignore the gaping holes along Market East, many other businesses would be wise to follow suit, and property owners would be wise to encourage it.

Times Square South

Whatever happened to Trinity Capital Advisors' grand plan for 12th and Market's Girard Block? It seems the former site of the Snellenburg & Company Department store is destined to stay the stump it is.

It's sad too, because it's an unkempt blight at an otherwise fine corner. It's the impression most tourists receive when they first leave their hotel room, and the last impression they take home with them. Its gloomy exterior, dirty walls, and sprawling uniformity of unorganized retail and office space discourage tourists from exploring Market East by foot. It no doubt deters big business retail or services from occupying the former Champions' location in the Marriot across the street.

TCA has specificed that they want to take their time with the location, to do it right. What they're really doing is what all big developers do with Philadelphia. They aquire property when its cheap, and then sit on it until a better market returns. I've said before, we're not NYC or DC, and although we're lucky they haven't yet bulldozed the entire block (including the Girard Building which is intended to be demolished as part of the master plan) and we're not stuck with another Disney Hole for two decades, with TCA holding the lease and sitting on their hands we will be stuck with the Girard Hole as it is for a long, long time.

Interestingly enough, the Market East corner of 13th once had a similar stump. It didn't span the entire block of Market or 13th and it's rental spaces were better designed and blended better into the existing urban fabric. However, it was demolished for a surface parking lot which seems to show no signs of being developed. So things could be worse.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


New ideas in architecture often enjoy several years of praise and then spend about twenty years in purgatory. If works survive that period of time as backdrops for newer movements, they undoubtedly receive a revival of appreciation. Frank Furness spent decades in architectural purgatory as his few fans watched example after example make way to a culture that wasn't ready to appreciate his vision. Recently we have seen a revived interest in International Style and even Brutalism, designs that spanned the early to mid-20th century; designs we have spent the past 20 years ruing.

Throughout it all of course we see the blatant reinterpretation of past styles. Toll Brothers and mass market developers continuously crank out colonial interpretations that sacrifice style for luxury. In a culture increasingly concerned with quantity in lieu of quality, fewer and fewer architects can exercise an experimental style on an audience with a declining eye for aesthetics.

We can name a period for most of America's art and architectural history: Colonial, Victorian, Art Deco, Brutalist; but what will we call the turn of the century? The late 90's is a collage of past styles, diluted and reinterpreted. While I'm a firm believer that all style is a reinterpretation of the past, these people didn't even try. Venturi, Graves, and Gehry, idols of our time, are pop culture hacks, "artists" that rely on marketing gimmicks rather than talent to secure a place in history.

Fortunately there still remains an audience for experimental architecture and a badly needed reinvention of style. While the Toll Brothers and the Venturis may dominate the mass market and the one-in-every-city venues (just so Los Angeles can say "We have a Gehry!"), there are a number of refreshingly new designs outside the overrated big league being implemented in city governments, hospitals, and universities.

Erdy-McHenry has reinvented the idea of large scale American architecture. The Radian in particular, one of University City's latest student housing projects, takes a comically out of scale approach to communal housing. It conjures up images of Soviet block housing satirically twisted with artistic cues and a randomly balanced placement of architectural elements. It's juxtaposition to historic West Philadelphia and its towering presence over Walnut Street make this imposing structure seem to hover above the sidewalk like a quasi-futuristic space station - and it works.

With more and more examples being displayed across the city, from North Philadelphia's Avenue North serving as a gateway to Temple University, to the reinvention of the public square in Northern Liberties' Hancock Square, to a simple coffee house adjacent to the Constitution Center, Erdy-McHenry's unorthodox approach to just about everything could fast secure a place in history as the 21st century's Frank Furness.

Go North

The offices that housed the vacant State Office Building and Inquirer annex are rumored to be relocated to the former Strawbridge & Clothier Building. The SOB rumors have stalled following other rumors regarding SugarHouse at Strawbridges, so no one really seems to know what's happening with the 1950's modernist State Office Building and the sprawling, stone Inquirer annex. My advice, before the SOB's landscaped courtyard at Broad and Callowhill becomes an outdoor homeless shelter, start contacting some ideal tenants to take advantage of the space.

North Broad is not the wasteland it once was. Chinatown is spilling over the Vine Street Expressway. The Loft District is filled with renters and offices. The closest grocery store is the overpriced Whole Foods near the Parkway and Center City desparately lacks any sort of big box amenity except for a dying and outdated K-Mart. The Inquirer annex building is practically made for a complex of large scale retail development. It could easily house a grocery store, a gym, and maybe even a Target. It also has plenty of room for parking. Just take advantage of the space before the opportunity is lost to blight.

Parkway Press

Cafe Cret
Perhaps it took the better part of a century, but Philadelphia's own Champs-Élysées - The Benjamin Franklin Parkway - has seen quite a bit of press in the past few years. From the Museum of Art expanding into the Perelman Building to the recent Barnes Museum discussions, Cafe Cret now sits on the Parkway near Love Park while new landscaping will soon be surrounding the Barnes Museum, once the site of the juvenille detention center and a small Hooverville. Although the Calder family hijacked his outdoor work, hope still remains that the outdoor installation space could provide a canvas for local artists and more lush park space.

Parkway 22
The Residences at Rodin
Two proposals still linger on the Parkway: Parkway 22 at 22nd and the Parkway, and The Residences at Rodin. The Residences at Rodin gives off a stately, French flair with its curved roof and scaled appearance while the adjacent Parkway 22 offers more to the modern American skyline. As with much of Philadelphia, this juxtaposition offers an uncomfortable beauty. While city planners have spent the last century attempting to make the Ben Franklin Parkway into a broad French Avenue, it is in fact Philadelphia's broad avenue. Why should the surrounding architecture attemp to represent any other city but our own? Even Park Towne Place with its suburbanized footprint and 1950's minimalism offers a uniquely American comfortability visible from the fartherest end of the Parkway.

Park Towne Place
Reproducing the Champs-Élysées in Philadelphia would no doubt be beautiful, but it would be just that, a reproduction. Reproductions are better left to Disney World and Southern California. Philadelphia has enough of its own unique heritage and history. Our Ben Franklin Parkway is surrounded by cultured neighboods and its own, uniquely American, architectural antiquety. Rather than force new development into a cohesive, master plan, we should do what makes America the rich architectural melting pot that it is and allow developers to contuinue developing this architectural quilt that surrounds the Ben Frankin Parkway.

Friday, October 23, 2009

White Tower Hamburgers

Long after North Broad Street's golden age, White Castle's knock-off and rival, White Tower, founded in Milwaukee, WI had one of their small franchises located at Broad and Race.

Seen here in 1951, the site is now the anchor for the new, grand entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center currently under construction. Note the Race Street Fire House in the background, recently demolished in 2008 for the Convention Center expansion.