Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Camden's New Waterfront?

Camden's ambitious $830M master plan for its waterfront has been revised, and recently won approval by New Jersey's Economic Development Authority. This could be a very big deal, kids. Cira East, anyone?

The complex, designed by Robert A. M. Stern, would be developed by Liberty Property Trust. This firm, behind both Comcast towers, has a knack for getting shit done, and not wasting its time. The commercial space, residences, and hotel have a chance to dust off the irrelevance of this troubled city and resurrect some of its past as a place people actually want to be...if it's done right.

But don't let Stern's Cira Centre-esque towers fool you. This is no Cira Centre and - at least for now - the only thing that makes this project urban is the fact that it happens to be in a city. Take a gander at the site map and, whoa, that is a lot of parking. 

Unfortunately, Camden has found itself in a pickle where parking is a caveat for development. So much parking, in fact, that 4000 spaces would be provided for only 211 residential units and 130 hotel rooms. The good news is, all new parking would be garaged in structures surrounded by apartment buildings, so it won't be seen. 

Wow, that is a lot of parking.

It should be safe to say that - with 4000 new spaces and the surface lots surrounding the site - downtown Camden will have enough parking to satisfy itself for the next fifty years. If this plan happens in its entirety, one would hope it would attract urban minded residents and companies looking for a little slice of Philadelphia east of the Delaware, which is essentially what Camden should be, and new businesses would drive similar growth. Think Hoboken or Arlington, VA. 

But New Jersey, oddly being imbedded in the Northeast Corridor, is a state that has yet to truly embrace urbanism, real urbanism. I say "embrace" and not "understand" because the state has made strides with transit. They get it, they just don't seem ready to commit. Traffic and parking lots abound, and in New Jersey, especially South Jersey, car is King. 

New Jersey's reluctance to ditch it's cater-to-the-car approach, especially in urban areas like Camden, is mind boggling when you consider the city's built-in urban infrastructure. Newer West Coast suburbs like Redmond have built better urban experiences from scratch while urban cores like Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver scramble to retrofit their downtowns for a life detached from the car. 

With its sidewalk-facing apartments and vertical office space, it seems that Camden is at least trying to tiptoe into the world of tomorrow, which is subsequently the world of yesterday. I hope nothing but the best for Camden. And if its residents never abandon their cars, I hope to see those two beautiful skyscrapers every time I visit Penn's Landing.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Philadelphia's Next Downtown

If you've been following local architecture news, you've seen Drexel's transformative Schuylkill Yards proposal and Amtrak's plans for the actual rail yard. It's a doozy. In fact, the last time anything this city-altering faced Philadelphia was when Broad Street Station was demolished and the central business district was moved from Old City to West Market.

Unfortunately, that massive demovelopment coincided with an exodus that saw Philadelphia lose the population of Atlanta. It took decades for the skyscrapers we now know as "downtown" to fill the void Broad Street Station left behind. More than fifty years later, there are still remnants of the "Chinese Wall" and massive parking lots in its wake.

Fortunately, the master plans taking shape west of the Schuylkill aren't being drawn with the same raze-and-pray approach that wrecked the historic Broad Street Station. But the idyllic renderings being thrown around the media and blogosphere should also be taken with a grain of salt. Keep in mind, the longest running of these concepts isn't meant to be completed until 2050. I'll be in my 70s, and I like to think I'm still young...ish. 

I'm not getting too excited because (if) these plans bring of a forest of skyscrapers to 30th Street Station three decades from now, I'll have to enjoy them from a virtual reality cafe in the floating city of New Miami (yes, I paraphrased a 30 Rock quote).

For a realistic look at these wild proposals, the definitive voice for Philadelphia architecture and development - Inga Saffron - has a pretty spot-on breakdown of at least four projects set to change what we think of University City, and "downtown" Philadelphia.

What we do know is something will happen. Drexel has partnered with Brandywine Realty Trust, and Brandywine is one of the region's largest real estate investors. When Brandywine's Cira South was proposed, it seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea. Cira Centre itself was a Cesar Pelli work of art, but the audacious proposal for two more - maybe a third - Cira tower was a little too much for the Negadelphians of the early 21st Century to accept. But it happened, and it looks even better than it did when it was first pitched.

Considering Brandywine's investment in neighboring projects, and its proven ability to pull off a "master plan," it's a good sign for architecture fans that they've been tapped for Schuylkill Yards. Basically, they're a fan of good design, urbanism, and they get shit done.  

At the same time, keep in mind the renderings being passed around the internet are conceptual. Don't hold your breath for that whacky skyscraper in the middle. It will probably look a lot different when it happens, if it happens. Amtrak's plans for capping the railroad tracks are even more farfetched, and that's by no means a new idea. Property value in the vicinity would have to become so astronomically high that the expensive endeavor of building atop the tracks would outweigh creeping into Powelton Village and Mantua. Unlike Hudson Yards, Amtrak's plan doesn't have Manhattan humping its ass. 

Nevertheless, it's a very good sign that Philadelphia's developers and universities are looking at Philadelphia with optimism, and that Amtrak has recognized this city as a valuable hub. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


If you watch my feed you might notice that I like Instagram...a lot. So, like many "igers,", I was pretty annoyed with Instagram's announcement that it would be replacing its chronological photo feed with an algorithm similar to the one used to dynamically display posts on Facebook. Or, plainly put, the change that made Facebook suck.

Being that Instagram is a Facebook subsidiary, I'm only surprised that it took this long for the Social Network to ruin the one social networking app I truly enjoy. I don't know why Facebook can't just leave a good product well enough alone. 

Claiming that 70% of pictures go unseen, Instagram wants to address the gap. When the update is implemented,  you'll see the pictures that Instagram thinks you want to see first: i.e. pictures with the most likes, a.k.a. Kim Kardashian's ass. 

There are several flaws in this logic. Most glaringly, this frustrating algorithm hit Facebook hard. It didn't kill it, but it reset the social network's primary purpose. Remember when you could post, "anyone wanna grab lunch?," and then find a lunch buddy? Now, that post shows up in your friends' feeds two days later, or at midnight, and they wonder how high you are. 

You can change your settings to see everyone's post in chronological order, but your own posts get buried beneath celebrities and political rants that get the most traction. Meanwhile, your warning about the pileup on I-95 gets lost and all your friends get stuck in traffic. Creating yet another in the network's endless settings poorly addressed the problem: the chronological newsfeed isn't just for your viewing pleasure, it also keeps all posts in sync. Facebook's role as a social network required a level of timeliness for it to work as a realtime network, timeliness that is now gone. 

70% of Instagram's posts might be going unseen, but they're unseen by people who post to collect followers, people driving a business, and people who rarely look at their feeds. These are people who don't want to see 70% of the photos in their feed. This algorithm transformed Facebook from a useful social media message board into a scrolling feed of high profile accounts that might as well be sponsored content: ads. 

If you think this is some product developer's quarterly "million dollar idea," you're probably right. That's how information technology companies operate. But this isn't simply an improvement to the product, not in the way Instagram would like you to believe. This is a marketing tool for the follow-whores that truly drive Instagram's ad sales: "Post often -> Get more likes -> Be seen more -> Gain followers." This is the kind of action that will turn Instagram into scrolling click bait, and advertisers love being tucked unassumingly into that mix. 

But for most active users, Instagram is the anti-social social network. Rarely political and seldom annoying, those who look at Twitter and Facebook with squeamish anxiety can turn to Instagram and catch up on a feed full of flowers...or cats...or cars...or architecture. Its simplicity allows users to make it what they want, and as long as you look past the follow-for-follow kids and Russian webcam sluts, it's nothing but a dry photo album for people who like taking and looking at pictures. With a pocket full of social media screaming "LOOK AT ME!," Instagram is a cathartic reprieve that's perfect in its simplicity. 

Considering the blowback, Instagram will probably add this as an optional setting, but don't expect it to go away. This is some business analysis team's quarterly baby and it's going to happen. If you're one of many Instagram users who enjoy looking at the photos from those you follow, you're going to have a hard time keeping up. Perhaps even worse, many who enjoy looking at your own pictures will be missing those you post that get buried under high-profile accounts. 

This is about money. Considering Instagram is a free app, that's fine. Product enhancements should have a financial component when you're giving technology away. But that doesn't excuse soiling a good product for short-term profit. This change is solely about driving action on the app, discouraging thoughtfully artistic content in lieu of the shameless self-promotion that drives likes and comments, and sells ads. 

App users are fickle and trends die fast. Remember FourSquare? Unless your app is a must-have - and I'll lump Facebook's invincibility right up there with cable and electricity - the user experience needs to be your top priority if you expect to survive. Some things are better left on the slow and steady, tried and true path that's proven to work, and rolling out new filters has worked for Instagram. It beat Twitter because it addressed an untapped market of reluctant social media users that don't Tweet. 

If Instagram wants to drive revenue, then add a few more sponsored photos to the feed. If it's truly concerned about a 70% gap in viewership, then display the feed in a grid, the way a user's own feed is displayed, so you see nine to twelve at a time. But don't mess with a user experience that the vast majority of your users prefer. Unfortunately this seems like the trickle down result of Facebook's demand to squeeze more money from its products before relegating them to the archives of the internet next to FarmVille and Friendster.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Short-Fingered Vulgarian

If you're too young to remember Spy magazine, it's been scanned into Google, and I suggest you binge read. Google quotes Dave Eggars on the magazine's short-lived run, "There's no magazine I know of that's so continually referenced, held up as a benchmark, and whose demise is so lamented." 

But if you need a reason to read it, Donald Trump said, "It's a piece of garbage."

Donald Trump wasn't just bullishly ranting. He knew exactly why he thought Spy was garbage: Spy dedicated its existence to eviscerating Donald Trump. For a good backstory on Spy and why it loathed Donald Trump, Mark Ames published a worthy read on Pando about a time when humorous editorials were less in line with Onion parodies or satirical news feeds from John Stewart or Stephen Colbert. 

Spy was ruthless. As Ames points out, Spy didn't relent when it's target had fallen, they kept on kicking, and did so with journalistic precision that today's most trusted news outlets could never hope to achieve. Their articles were researched, well written, and downright callous. Their contributors could have easily been called bullies; that is if each politician, tycoon, or celebrity hadn't been guilty of every misdeed Spy put to paper. These people had it coming, and Spy was there to air their dirty laundry. It might not be a coincidence that Spy's closure in 1998 coincided with the proliferation of reality television, sensationalized cable news, and a return to political correctness.

For good reason, Gen X can be considered both the best and worst generation, at least of those we remember. It invented political correctness in the late 1980s, an apolitical juggernaut that hypocritically spawned a two dimensional false ideology that every disenfranchised group be dumped in its own bucket, and that none can do wrong. The rise of social media has allowed political correctness to return en masse online, and on the campaign trail it falsely implies that when a Trump or Cruz is wrong for America, a Clinton or Sanders must me right. 

It's pure reactionary ignorance that doesn't just allow us to avoid questioning the actions of our reluctantly favored candidates, it demands we not question them. If we cross party lines, even for a quizzical moment, political correctness says we've abandoned our ship.

But Gen X also invented the tool for combating this blindness. The generation gave us Seinfeld, South Park, and Spy magazine, resources that turned political correctness upside down and attracted an audience through comedy. 

We have very few voices today who offer this kind of intellectual reprieve, and when they speak out, they're often criticized as being unsympathetic. Camille Paglia recently pointed out a similar dissatisfaction with comedians like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, not so much in their inability to land a blow, but in the hypocrisy in only combating politics on the opposite side of their personal wall.

To Spy, greedy tycoons, corrupt politicians, and celebrity heirs were all equal offenders in dumbing down America, and gave the '80s and '90s what it needed to fight the rhetoric of political correctness. In the '90s, the Clintons were not immune to Spy in the way that they are to liberal comedians today. Looking at the covers of Spy magazine, the words "informed" or "unbiased" might not come to mind, but the articles refused to choose sides or even acknowledge that sides existed. 

Although Spy closed in 1998 and has since only managed to release an anthology in 2006, Spy has recently received quite a bit of press, likely to Donald Trump's chagrin. If you want to know why everyone is talking about the size of Donald Trump's hands, it goes back to a Spy article printed more than 25 years ago. As the Wall Street Journal or New York Times might refer to a subject as "investment banker" or real estate mogul," Spy took to other, more colorful accuracies. "Queens-born casino operator" is my personal favorite. 

But it was Graydon Carter's moniker, "the short-fingered vulgarian," that really got under Trump's skin. To date, Graydon says he still receives mail from Trump himself, clippings with a photo of Trump's fingers circled in gold marker, thus proving the length of his digits. Were it not for the man's longstanding hatred for Spy magazine, this might signal a man with a good sense of humor about himself. But Spy wasn't in the business of making friends with its targets, and Trump clearly knew this. From Hillary Clinton to Justine Bateman, Spy was relentless in its attacks on those in positions they didn't earn, didn't deserve, or were simply too stupid to understand. 

It's completely understandable that the archives of Spy have resurfaced in the face of Trump's inexplicable rise to political prominence. In 1987, Spy printed, "Please, God, let him run. If Donald Trump runs for president, God, we promise we will never make fun of the pope again. Or Pat Robertson. Well, the pope, anyway." The truth is, Trump's rise to political prominence isn't inexplicable, it has been expected, and Spy wasn't the only outlet that knew it. 

While peddling his biography, Trump: The Art of the Deal in 1988, he told Oprah Winfrey that he'd consider running, and that he "wouldn't go in to lose." It's easy to watch the debates and assume that this is all a game to him, a reality TV show to one reality TV star. After all, a mogul of Trump's caliber understands the value of media stock during an election year, and the Republican debates aren't disappointing their audiences, or their advertisers. But success in reality television is granted by a self-awareness that your vapid superficiality is building your brand, and your bank account. A Kardashian or Jenner can't succeed without a sense of humor, even one that's feigned. To that, Trump isn't a reality television star, he is reality television, and the Republican candidacy his network.

To pour through the pages of Spy's twelve year run, we don't just see a man who embodies the quote "Greed is Good" or a television personality content with amassing a fortune. We see a man who views this nation his empire, and Manhattan his Rome. This is not Rupert Murdoch or Jack Welch, a billionaire resigned to enabling a system in their favor through their vast wealth. This is a man who wants to tear down the system to make it his own. To Trump, he is not a presidential candidate, but a king petitioning his right to the throne. 

Eighteen years ago, we had a voice that was willing to panoramically hold our candidates, our celebrities, and those who crossed that line accountable for their belligerence, ignorance, and greed. Today that voice is buried beneath the heap of the web; unintelligible, unfindable, and nonsensical. The most marketable rise to the surface and find a home on MSNBC, Fox, or Comedy Central to sell ads or fall flatly - and hypocritically - satirical. Snark and irony have replaced a biting, investigative knowledge of reality. 

Today's answer to discourse is not a comprehensive understanding of how appalling all of our politicians, tycoons, and celebrities truly are, but a completely rebellious upheaval. Cynical shortsightedness has become our undoing, and it's forced us to choose between tyrants, zealots, and fear mongers, with no avenue to question the lesser of our evils without retaliation in the name of sensitivity or devotion. 

Politics is - and should be - somewhat brutal. Trump, with all his faults, knows this. Sanders, the inevitable flip side, knows it too. But the voters, having slumped into a post-Spy world of unicorns vs. dragons, are too afraid that questioning our own team might result in a loss. We shouldn't be asking why Trump is running for president. Everything about that makes sense. We should be asking why we're forced to choose between a dynasty, the establishment, and those with no clue how to make their claims happen. 

The answer is "us," and our inability to make a declarative statement without a high rising terminal. 

Yes, we're pissed off, and that's why Trump and Sanders actually have a leg in this race. But we're not pissed off because of the establishment, one that's been running for better or worse for the last 240 years. We're pissed off because we've fostered a culture that celebrates our worst citizens, defies our desire to reason, and above all, refuses to allow us to question anyone, even our preferred leaders, without blowback. 

Whatever happens in November, it doesn't matter who our president will be. Whatever his Napoleonic needs, the Constitution will not allow Trump to be dictator. We are a Senate, a Congress, a Supreme Court, and nearly 400M citizens who should know that we are a people with the right to call into question the deplorable acts of those who influence public opinion, whether it's a Trump, a Clinton, or a Kardashian. 

What we need is Spy magazine. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

No, public transportation in Philadelphia is not worse than Pittsburgh or Seattle.

Whenever someone decides to rank Philadelphia, we know one of two things is going to happen. Either we're going to be the 90 year old Oscar winner who's "finally" granted an award we always deserved, or we're going to land at the bottom. The last two years aside, Philadelphia has bottomed out in so many lists - "official" or not - it's hard not to wonder if someone has it in for us. 

When a Travel + Leisure survey called us the nation's ugliest in 2007, I had to take stock and look around. All I saw were hot, muscle-bound Italians with thick wavy hair. As far back as a high school trip to the Liberty Bell, I remember thinking that Philadelphia had some of the sexiest bros I've ever seen. Digging deeper into the survey, I noticed that other major cities in the northeast bottomed out: New York, Boston. The one thing the cities at the bottom all had in common was ethnic diversity, which says a lot more about those being surveyed than it does about the empirical attractiveness of the average Philadelphian.

But that's what these lists are all about: subjectivity. 

Delving into listed topics that should be more definable, we see more of the same. It's easy to make a case for one city, biased or not, without accounting for the innumerable variables that make every city in the U.S. inherently unique, and media outlets have made a fortune in click bait doing just that in lieu of real news.

Just last month a survey by SmartAsset ranked the public transportation in ten major American cities and Philadelphia came in 9th. In all fairness, that isn't too bad. With only ten cities on the list, not a single one in the South made the cut, unless you count D.C. And Portland, OR, often hailed as a 21st Century transportation trailblazer, didn't make it in the top 10. 

With D.C.'s Metro ranked #1, Philadelphia fell behind Oakland and Pittsburgh. I'll repeat that, Philadelphia ranked behind Pittsburgh

A Washingtonian wouldn't know what to call this.

But here's the problem: the factors measured included average commute times, percentage and numbers of those who use public transportation, and for some reason, the median income of those who take public transportation. The raw number of users is an irrelevant comparison when you're comparing cities the size of Pittsburgh to Philadelphia or Chicago, and how are wealthy public transportation users an indicator of a successful system, especially when comparing extremely wealthy cities like San Francisco and D.C. to economically diverse cities like Philadelphia? You can't compare BART's median income users to SEPTA's? What's average in the Bay Area is astonishingly wealthy in Philadelphia.

What was also ignored was the overall need for public transportation. D.C. Metro is clean and smooth, and expansive. But it's not a usable subway system for urban residents, many who own cars. In the suburbs, Metro trains drop commuters off in massive surface lots or garages, nowhere near neighborhoods equally as isolated. SEPTA's an old system, and because of that it employs a traditional subway that services walkable neighborhoods and regional rails that engage Victorian era streetcar suburbs. Like New York, most Philadelphians don't need cars, and many don't have them.

Ignoring the polarizing differences between car-centric metropolitan regions like D.C. and walkable cities like Philadelphia or New York is essentially claiming that public transportation is a necessary solution for cities that aren't looking for an answer. The fact that New York placed below D.C., San Francisco, and Boston proves there's something a little fishy about this survey. Even Seattle, a city that sternly rejected public transportation for so long they made a movie about it, somehow beat Philadelphia. 

But this isn't about public transportation. This is just another viral survey to plug a financial planning company, a company with no business releasing unsubstantiated junk data. Unfortunately that's what people read, and we all fell for it. I'll leave my impression up to experience. I've lived in both D.C. and Philadelphia. I can walk here. I don't need a car here. When I need to take public transportation, I can easily grab a train, subway, or trolley almost anywhere. It's fast, simple, and I can get where I'm going on foot from there. 

The northeast corridor is in a class of its own when it comes to public transportation. Not only can I get to Ardmore and walk to a restaurant, I can get to the Jersey Shore, New York, Harrisburg, or Pittsburgh with ease. The Link's one line in Seattle has only thirteen stations and it certainly won't take me to the beach. That's not to say public transportation is bad outside the Northeast Corridor, it's just new and faces an uphill battle amongst cultures that have freeways in their DNA. 

Cities like Philadelphia and New York shouldn't be on these lists, they should be the litmus that defines them.

The Rise and Fall of the Chipotle Cult

In the end, one of two things happens to a cult: followers get bored and find another, or everyone dies. In the case of Chipotle's, the state of California got a litigious case of Montezuma's Revenge. 

It's hard to say how it happened. After successfully dodging several outbreaks in 2008 and 2009, a slew of E. coli and Salmonella cases crippled the burrito chain through the second half of 2015, particularly on the west coast. Stock plummeted from over an astonishing $700 a share to barely $400 in January. 

Public relations officials convinced the public that suppliers were to blame. The company apologized and began handing out free food to lure diners back to short lines that once circled city blocks. Then, just as it seemed they were regaining some business - and customers began to forget about all the shit - they did it again. Free food is great, but in this scenario, it just reminded customers of the reason you had to give out free food to begin with. 

Chipotle's business model was always unique, and it's spawned a string of similar setups that have redefined fast food. Traditional fast food isn't suffering, at least not enough to change the game, but before Chipotle there weren't many fast food options that offered quality food at a reasonable price. For a few dollars more than a value meal at a dumpy chain, you get tasty food that claims to be healthy in a decent atmosphere. 

Chains like BurgerFi and local eateries like Rice + Mix and Mirabella Meatball Company offer you the same base-plus-toppings, have-it-your-way options on everything from a burger to Bibimbap. And of course, Qdoba, Jack in the Box's take on burritos, began as a carbon copy of Chipotle.

But Chipotle clung to its core and refused to evolve and branch out. Their menu is neat and clean, it's simple, but consumers grow tired of the same thing. Qdoba began offering melted queso, smothered burritos, and nachos. Sometimes referred to as "The Soup Nazi" of Mexican cuisine, Chipotle won't deviate from their core offerings. They have the ingredients to make nachos - chips, beans, cheese, and meat - but you're not getting them in one bowl unless you know someone, or make a fuss and get an eye rolls. 

Customer service is strange to say the least. It's polite, weirdly polite, if you don't fall out of line. Extremely chipper and seemingly help for, "indoctrinating" is the best word that comes to mind. But it's also two-faced. Their employees have a very visible and active presence on social media. Ask for a full salsa cup or extra guac and you might find yourself the butt of a ruthless Tweet, #chipotleprobz #thisiswhyyourefat.

#chipotleprobz indeed. Maybe consumers got tired of an outbreak too many, and maybe Chipotle reminded them of that one too many times. Or maybe a brief reprieve allowed the Cult of Chipotle to realize their basic burritos are just, basic. Customers are fickle, and the Millennials that flocked there don't like reading their complaints BuzzFeed. Customers like change and cozy booths. When the seats at McDonald's are more comfortable than stools designed to get you in and out as quickly is possible, a little case of diarrhea is all it takes to get people wondering what the hell they're waiting in line for. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

University City's Academic Turf War

As University City continues to redefine the city's skyline, one of its most lackluster additions might also be one of its most divisive. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's New College House spans the 3300 block of Chestnut Street. Instead of building up, the space-saving alternative that Drexel has recently embraced, New College House drones dully through a former lawn as if to deliberately divide the Ivy League university from Drexel to the north.

Whether that was the building's intent, Dr. Amy Gutman, Penn President, might be the only one who knows for sure. It's a fair assumption considering the former lawn's central position between both campuses. Once enjoyed by both Penn and Drexel students, New College House could have been doubled in height to save half of the lawn. Instead it builds a wall against Drexel's massive expansion pushing into Chestnut.  

It looks as though a high-priced academic turf war is taking place on what now houses Philadelphia's most expensive real estate, with Penn's conservatively low-rise, brick-and-mortar bumping up against Drexel's sky scraping, modern delights.   

Whether an architectural rivalry truly exists in University City is anyone's guess, but Drexel is gearing up to change the way we think of the American campus. Drexel's departure from their aging brutalism with a modern, and ironically soothing interpretation of the same style, has been a welcome change for a campus consistently ranked amongst the nation's ugliest. Drexel may not be competing with Penn, but with its own past. For decades its orange brick and harsh lines sidled up to the classical curves and lush lawns of Penn's campus, traditional tokens synonymous with the Ivy League. 

We've gotten a sneak-peak of what's to come from Drexel in the last few years, but the transformation officially began today with Drexel President John Fry's announcement that Brandywine Realty Trust will be heading up an ambitious project to house a growing student population in an integrated and urban fashion. 

Dubbed Schuylkill Yards, Drexel's expansion will tap into the underutilized space surrounding 30th Street Station, blending updated incarnations of existing infrastructure with modern infill. Taking a page from the city's most innovative endeavor, the Navy Yard, a development that borrows heavily from the workplace philosophies throughout the Silicon Valley, Drexel isn't just expanding their university up and out, they're fostering an environment for innovation. 

The term "mixed-use" is thrown around so often it's almost meaningless, and often leaves us with parking podiums and empty storefronts. Where it's worked most in Philadelphia has been in University City, specifically amongst Drexel's recent developments. Walking along Chestnut Street, it's very apparent that there's a college somewhere in the mix, but at its heart, it's the city. Walnut Street, on the other hand, clearly belongs to Penn. To walk Walnut is to walk through the heart of a campus. 

Drexel's plan is smart. Its absence of collegiate isolation doesn't just attract retail to its mixed use element, but it's inviting technology firms, medical labs, and a student experience integrated with neighboring colleges, even the city's school district. 

Penn will always have a place alongside the historic greats - Harvard, Princeton, and Yale - but the relevance of that position is changing. As tuition costs soar, prospective students are taking a closer look at their postgraduate opportunities and what employers are looking for. Law firms and traditional employers still eye the Ivy League for buttoned up recruits, but for more innovative corporations like Google, Apple, even our own Comcast, it's quickly becoming less about where you went and more about what you did there. Playing a role in that place has become a huge component of a successful education, an integrated component that Penn hasn't grasped or is too arrogant to admit. 

In the 1990s, graduates who didn't land their ideal career simply went back to school and Van Wildered it through degree after degree, and twenty years later, many of them are finally paying off their loans. With today's cost of education, that luxury is gone, but universities like Drexel are replacing it with another. Students are now analyzing what it takes to land their backup jobs, and looking for educations that either place them in positions before they graduate or teach them how to create their own. 

As Penn continues to dominate as the region's premier, traditional education, Drexel is charging into the future of academia, a future where students are not merely offered an education, but also trained on the realities of a postgraduate world and what it takes to own it. Drexel is giving their students a place to grow after they graduate right here in Philadelphia. 

Penn's turning out doctors and lawyers, but Drexel is graduating students who will invent the next Google or Tesla. If a turf war is unfolding in University City, Drexel is winning by not merely carbon copying what worked for Penn once upon a time, but by building better to create what works for the future.