Saturday, February 22, 2014

Family Court's Kimpton Hotel

Caught up in the exciting skyscraping proposals along Vine Street, the Schuylkill River, and other nonsense, I completely missed Kimpton's plan to renovate Philadelphia's Family Court building as a boutique hotel, solidifying an iconic corner of our landmark Logan Square.

With plans for a highrise apartment at 1601 Vine and Chinatown's Eastern Tower nearing reality, and the LDS's Mormon Temple and Goldtext Apartments under construction, dreams of capping the Vine Street Expressway as a means to entice investors seem to be stepping aside for developers who don't see the canyon as an obstacle.

Truthfully it isn't. From Portland to New York, many cities have highway crevasses cutting through dense neighborhoods that have succeeded without a Big Dig. If skyscrapers flanked the banks of the VSE, crossing it would be akin to walking across an inner city boulevard. It's no wider than the Ben Franklin Parkway.

While Vine Street seems to be organically evolving into such a grand boulevard, one headache still stands in front of Kimpton's Hotel Family Court, right in front of it. For years, Food Not Bombs has provided free food for the homeless atop one of the VSE's caps, a should-be handsome park facing Logan Square and the Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul.

Things are about to change.

Food Not Bombs has to apply for a daily permit from the city to provide the picnics. If they've been going rogue and evading the city, Kimpton will make a case of it. If the picnics are on the up and up, permits in place, Kimpton can apply for the same permit. If they beat Food Not Bombs to the punch for a month or two they'll frustrate them into relocating.

Of course that may not even be necessary. If Kimpton invests in renovating the park, and being the hotel's "front yard" they'd be eagerly willing, the city may give them preferential treatment. That route isn't entirely ethical, but neither is Food Not Bombs' admission of using the hungry homeless to advance causes that have nothing to do with hunger or homelessness in Philadelphia.

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