Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Date Set for SugarHouse Groundbreaking

After three years of political bureaucracy and NIMBYs screaming at the rain, it's finally been scheduled. SugarHouse Casino will break ground on October 8th at 3 o'clock. Unfortunately the disruptions on the part of the Boys Club in Harrisburg and the feet-stomping in Northern Liberties, ground breaking did not take place before we flushed our economy down the toilet, so instead of a complex of modern towers rising from the river bank, we'll probably be seeing a brightly lit warehouse and parking garage. Well done.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"SS Americana"

While they decided to move filming from Philadelphia to Vancouver this year, the season premier of Cold Case had an unlikely star - The SS United States. Set as the location of an alleged suicide on her final voyage, the fictional "SS Americana" paid tribute to her real life counterpart by breaking the transatlantic crossing record. Among other similarities, the fictional ship was docked in South Philadelphia, stripped of her interior, and awaiting some form of reuse.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Green Challenge

The G20 brought attention to the other side of the state, as well as Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which not only makes good use of the city's waterfront, but is an environmental marvel unrivaled in a genre of architecture dominated by gas guzzling warehouses controlled by uninspired union bosses from ground breaking to ribbon cutting. I had never even noticed Pittsburgh's convention center sitting on the river like a futuristic port, and as I had heard the location was chosen in part due to Pittsburgh's strides towards green alternatives, I wanted to see how the David L. Lawrence Convention Center fared in comparison to our unnamed monstrosity. Turns out we didn't do so well. Here are a few ways Pittsburgh greened up their act with the David L. Lawrence Convention Center:

The DLCC was built on urban brownfield, redeveloping an extinct industrial portion of the waterfront reducing the cost of site preparation. Rather than redeveloping the post-industrial wastelands along Philadelphia's rivers, the PCC was built by demolishing a significant portion of Chinatown requiring extensive site preparation and demolition costs, leaving an eclectic and diverse portion of Center City littered with surface parking lots.

The DLCC is the largest Gold LEED certified building in the world for both it's design and construction, and for it's current and continuous daily operations. During the first decade of operation, PCC union employees got their green from the city and state by extorting a full day's pay if they were there for more than an hour.

95% of the demolition required for the DLCC site was recycled. 50% of the new materials needed for the DLCC were produced within 500 miles of the site. 10% of the building is made of post-consumer material. While Philadelphia has installed solar powered trashcans around the perimeter of the PCC, the PCC itself does not offer sorted trashcans to weed out recyclables.

Over 75% of the DLCC is lit by natural light. The primary hall is 100% naturally lit. The PCC air conditions the outdoor tunnel on 13th Street for those waiting for idling buses to take them to hotels as close as a block away.

The DLCC's landscaping is indigenous to western Pennsylvania. The PCC's potted plants are mostly dead.

The DLCC has proven a 66% reduction in purchased water because of an aquifer located beneath the center. The PCC will undoubtedly avoid proposing waterless urinals because the unions say they don't require enough maintenance.

Step it up, PCC!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joseph D. Kestenbaum

He kept his identity a secret for the the summer, hiding behind his non-responsive lawyer, Joseph C. Kuhls, to avoid the understandable public outcry over his decision to destroy the historic La Ronda. But it was inevitable that Joseph D. Kestenbaum, President, Chief Executive Officer, and co-founder of Marsh Hawk Capital Management, LLC, would have to reveal himself eventually. I have to commend the Philadelphia Inquirer for mentioning Joseph D. Kestenbaum's name more than enough times to let everyone know this little man's name is Joseph D. Kestenbaum. Did I say his name? It's Joseph D. Kestenbaum.

Joseph D. Kestenbaum actually had the nerve to act shocked by the public scrutiny over his decision to bulldoze La Ronda. He's spitefully tearing down an historic and beloved landmark in one of the most historic regions of the country. Really
Joseph D. Kestenbaum? Are you serious? It's going to be lonely in that 10,000 square foot McMansion you plan to replace La Ronda with. Don't expect company from any of your neighbors.

I don't think Joseph D. Kestenbaum would be such a pariah had he not continued to deny any and all efforts by a third party to move the mansion to an ajacent lot. Yes, Joseph D. Kestenbaum would rather spend more money to raze La Ronda than let someone flip the bill to move it. Joseph D. Kestenbaum's excuse? Joseph D. Kestenbaum wants the salvage rights.

I don't know if there is anyone in the world I dislike more than Joseph D. Kestenbaum right now. I think I'd rather be on stage with Kanye West than be in a room with Joseph D. Kestenbaum. Joseph D. Kestenbaum is a bad, bad man.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Out on a Limb

On the 4th of July, the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania opened Tree Adventure designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design. The permanent exhibit allows visitors access to a bird's eye view 50 feet above the forest floor, and subsequent access to an over sized bird's nest. The Morris Arboretum is located at 100 East Northwestern Avenue in Philadelphia.

The High Horse on Horses

As if politicians don't have bigger things on their plate, PETA has urged Mayor Michael Nutter to ban the horse drawn carriages that carry tourists around the quaint, shady streets of Society Hill. Sometimes I wonder if anyone involved with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have ever really spent time with an animal. Animals are not people. They aren't bred like people, they don't think like people, and their bodies are accustomed to different physical activities than people.

Has PETA seen how these horses are babied? First of all, if these tired old horses weren't pulling carriages they'd be glue. There's your alternative PETA. Second of all these horses are treated better than half the human population of Philadelphia. The "busy streets" of Society Hill? And "Heavy loads"? It's a HORSE people! We use the horse as a system of measurement - HORSE POWER - for hauling just that!
Animals aren't people, people aren't animals. Humans weren't bred for riding and pulling carriages - horses were.

Perhaps we should spend our stimulus money on air conditioned apartments and massages for retired horses. Let's cut a little more education funding or close another library so we can make a horse a little more comfortable. And who's to say they aren't? Half the time the things sleep standing up, something tells me they might WANT regular exercise. PETA lost all credibility when they protested the President for swatting a fly. Even entertaining such an organization would be political suicide.

Do something to really help animals. Support your local ASPCA.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Go West

When it comes to architecture in Philadelphia, few neighborhoods can match the decadence of West Philadelphia. It is a portfolio of 19th century design that can be traced block by block, as if turning the pages of an architectural history textbook. From the mid 19th century working class row homes, to the first planned residential suburbs brought by the streetcar which include a pantheon of Victorian, Georgian, Tudor, and Colonial revival mansions, twins, and row homes offering urban refugees fresh air, trees, and green grass.

Designed by some of the first residential developers the world had seen, architects and urban planners began to see a need for an alternative to the urban lifestyle, which even in neighborhoods as lavish as Rittenhouse Square or North Broad Street in its prime, outside the mansion walls there was a world of filthy streets filled with crime, trash, and vagrants.

One of the first architects in Philadelphia to take advantage of this quest for a cleaner life was Samuel Sloan. From Chester County, Sloan designed the Woodland Terrace neighborhood of West Philadelphia which sits just north of Baltimore and Woodland Avenues as a residential suburb. He authored a number of books on architecture and the American home emphasizing the importance of proper suburban planning and a family's need for the proper home, principles much more in line with William Penn's original plan for the "Greene Country Towne" Philadelphia was originally intended to be.

His popular neighborhood and catalog technique led to numerous developments beyond Woodland Terrace, some by Sloan himself. His popular Italianate designs would be reinterpreted as the suburban movement expanded westward. As the Industrial Revolution charged on, the wealthy refugees making West Philadelphia their home would begin accumulating blocks of real estate for their lavish sprawling mansions or massive row home developments which would contain large yards, deep verandas, and up to as many as five floors with every amenity the Industrial Revolution would afford.

With alterations designed by Wilson Eyre, the Charles Moseley Swain house at 45th and Spruce, now the site of University Mews, may have been designed by Samuel Sloan as part of a larger development project. Its Italiante design is certainly inspired by the surrounding architecture.