Tuesday, December 14, 2010

McDonalds and Starbucks and Subway, Oh My!

PlanPhilly reported on a meeting to discuss Dennis Maloomian's parking garage and retail space proposed for Arch Street across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center's expansion. The building, which would be designed by the local architecture firm Erdy-McHenry and would replace a surface parking lot, was blasted by community activists who spent the meeting spouting cliches about McDonalds, Starbucks, and Subway.

As someone who can personally speak on behalf of this neighborhood and proudly call it my own, I have to wonder where most of these rabble-rousers were coming from.

I'm usually not in favor of more parking, especially when it's so close to public transportation, but when it comes to the Convention Center, most people aren't coming in on SEPTA.

This center will require more parking, and this angry mob has done nothing but ensure more surface parking in the surrounding area. This neighborhood has proven repeatedly that it is a lot easier to tear down a handful of row homes for five parking spaces than it is to erect anything.

As for McDonalds, Starbucks, and Subway, what are these people smoking? It's a Convention Center, that is the kind of business that thrives in these types of areas and they do astonishingly well. We want more Starbucks and fast food joints around our convention spaces. Not everything has to cater to bike messaging hipsters and Rittenhouse foodies. Some of us want Fuddruckers.

This vocal minority has nothing better to do but go to town meetings and stomp their feet. They are dictating life in this town for the majority of us who are too busy to do much more than air our grievances on message boards and blogs.

I live in the shadow of this hulk and I've not heard any local opposition to this garage or any business projected to be brought by the Convention Center.

These are the same professional protesters who come into every neighborhood to stifle development, then they turn their back on us when the same developers decide to level my house for a surface lot because they drove out a parking garage just because it might come with a Burger King.


  1. Glad that the developer isn't devoting 100% of the space to parking... not really concerned about Subway coming in there... still 100% opposed to this project.

    The important point is we have the largest transit hub in the region blocks away. We need carrots and sticks to get people to use our expensive but extensive infrastructure already in place. There is already enough parking in this area as Inga Saffron has noted. If we want a more viable SEPTA and a more vibrant Center City, giant parking decks next to fragile and beautiful old churches don't fit the bill.

  2. I actually agree with what you're saying and understand your point. My concern is that under the city's current way of thinking, while more parking may not be needed, it will be provided one way or another. If it doesn't come in the form of a five story garage, it will come in the form of five new surface lots.

    The proximity to public transportation is certainly a bonus, but large conventions bring in people from all over the country, who sadly aren't as keen on buses and subways as we are. They fly in, rent a car, and drive to their hotel, expecting parking to be as convenient as it is back in Jacksonville.

    I think the larger problem is the false perception that we need more parking. Even during the largest conventions there is never a shortage of parking within five blocks. This oversight (or perhaps entitlement) is apparent all over the city, not just around these large civic bodies. The city needs to draw a line and say "no more" when it comes to parking and proximity, surface or garaged. But until that happens I would rather see our excessive need to park our visitors' cars handled neatly and densely.

    Sadly, I rarely hear the same vocal opposition when a row of town homes are torn down for several private parking spaces. I get the impression that the majority of this opposition isn't as opposed to parking as they are to change and progress. Business should be welcome, chain or otherwise.

    But believe me, I can sympathize when it comes to over-accommodating cars.