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Old Posted Nov 3, 2008, 6:25 AM
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PHILADELPHIA | Lowrise/General Developments Thread

Philadelphia | Lowrise/General Developments Thread
This thread is for any project under 12 floors high or any minor development within the City of Philadelphia.

For the Philadelphia | Highrise Development Thread, please visit here:

For the Philadelphia | Metro Development Thread, please visit here:
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Last edited by summersm343; May 6, 2016 at 12:18 AM.
Old Posted Nov 3, 2008, 5:25 PM
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Damn, that is one huge expansion!!

MODERATOR SAYS: This is now the Philadelphia General Developments Thread. Any new development less than 130 ft. high is to be posted here.
Pennsylvania Convention Center - Expansion

(Image - Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau)


Location: 1101 Arch Street • Philadelphia, PA 19107
Usage: Convention, Tradeshow, and Exhibition Space
Current Size: 624,000 sq ft
Expansion Size: 376,000 sq ft
Completed Total: 1,000,000 sq ft
(Saleable Space)

Redevelopment Component: 20-story Liberty Title Tower
= Total Expansion Size: 878,455 sq ft.

Owner: Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority

Original Architects: Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback And Associates
Expansion Architects: Vitetta Group & Kelly/Maiello
Construction Management: Tishman Construction
Estimated Cost: $700 million
Completion: 2011

The Expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center will have:
  • 1 million sq. ft. of saleable space.
  • The largest contiguous exhibit space in the Northeast (541,000 sq. ft.).
  • The largest convention center ballroom on the East Coast (60,000 sq. ft.).
  • The ability to host large tradeshows or two major conventions simultaneously.

The expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center will result in:
  • More than 280,000 additional room nights and more than $140 million in economic impact annually.
  • 2,000 hospitality-related jobs equaling more than $150 million in economic impact.

(images Kelly/Maiello Architects & Planners)

(Image - Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau)


The following picture of the Convention Center's western wall (along 13th St) being removed was originally posted by Muji over on Philly VII
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Last edited by summersm343; May 6, 2016 at 12:16 AM.
Old Posted Nov 4, 2008, 4:00 AM
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Do you guys still feel the same about this expansion as before? A lot of people were not happy with it, considering that there will be a huge plain white-roofed footprint in the middle of Center City.
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Old Posted Nov 4, 2008, 6:18 AM
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Putting in a green roof would be fantastic, but the state has to go the el-cheapo route since they are already over budget and they have a time factor to deal with....they already have events booked in the new section in 2011. That, and the problem with the rest of Pennsylvania (ie: Pennsyltucky) not wanting to spend anymore money funding something they feel will only benefit Philly.

The state had to spend more than it anticipated to buy out all of the property owners and demolish the buildings in the expansion zone. They were even pretty under-handed in how they went about it, IMO. And of course, being Philly and the whole pay-to-play atmosphere, I am sure the state (er, we taxpayers) are going to get ripped-off trying to get this building done in time. I expect there will be quality issues and shortcuts taken in order to make the deadline.

If money were no object, making this a "green" building would be huge in showing that this city and state are committed to the green movement. However, this building was designed before the Nutter administration was elected and before all of the current buzz about energy conservation and alternatives or environmental impact issues were making headlines.

In the long run, a green roof would SAVE the state money, but convincing our legislature to spend more money now in order to save money in the future isn't going to happen.

I think I remember someone on PhillyVII saying they should generate some revenue by placing advertising on that huge-a** roof. It could target planes flying overhead.
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Last edited by winxs; Nov 4, 2008 at 6:31 AM.
Old Posted Nov 4, 2008, 6:40 AM
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^^ Nice idea about the roof advertising... it's already been done, of course. :lol:

la forme d'une ville change plus vite, hélas! que le coeur d'un mortel...
Old Posted Nov 12, 2008, 9:13 PM
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I hope somebody has the foresight to build the roof in such a way that a green roof can be put on top of it at a later date. After all, Peco's making its roof green. (Not the bit at the top of the tower, of course, but the rest of it.)
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Old Posted Nov 12, 2008, 11:38 PM
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Given the current state of the economy, this is a very important project for the city, and I'm glad it is finally moving forward.
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Old Posted Nov 18, 2008, 9:44 PM
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November 17

Coming out of the ground.

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Old Posted Nov 26, 2008, 9:49 PM
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Philadelphia: 3939 Chestnut - The Hub

Old Posted Nov 27, 2008, 2:49 AM
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Here is a link to some info on the project
Old Posted Dec 2, 2008, 1:33 PM
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from PhillySkyline.com

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Old Posted Dec 11, 2008, 3:49 AM
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I'm going to try to get a couple good pictures of this...but the concrete supports are REALLY coming along. Like crazy fast.
Old Posted Feb 20, 2009, 3:58 PM
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Updates for February?

Any of you photographers out there feel like stopping by and giving us a pictorial update?
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Old Posted Feb 21, 2009, 2:31 AM
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Originally Posted by winxs View Post
Any of you photographers out there feel like stopping by and giving us a pictorial update?
I'll try to get one on Monday during lunch but it'll be iPhone quality
Old Posted Feb 28, 2009, 10:54 AM
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PHILADELPHIA | Presidents' House


Conjectural elevation of the President's House in Philadelphia, ©2000-2006 Edward Lawler, Jr. This building on Market Street served as the Executive Mansion of the United States from 1790 to 1800, the "White House" of George Washington and John Adams


Render credit: Kelly-Maiello via Plan Philly

From here: http://www.planphilly.com/node/8311

Feb. 23

Governor Rendell wants President's House fast-tracked

By Kellie Patrick Gates
For PlanPhilly

With more than six years of planning behind them and the funds needed to complete construction and create an endowment now secure, most people involved with the President's House commemoration project are looking forward to the projected Fall 2010 opening.

Hours after the Delaware Regional Port Authority's Wednesday vote to earmark $3.5 million for the project, attorney Michael Coard remained jubilant. Coard, who founded the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition in order to be sure the project included the stories of the enslaved Africans who lived at the house, called it "a gigantic leap toward making history in America."

Foundation work is set to start this spring. Getting to that point was not a simple process, largely because the stories the memorial will tell about this nation's first two presidents and the nine Africans who George Washington held captive, mean so much to so many.

One prominent preservationist who advised the President’s House Oversight Committee, believes a wrong decision made at a critical juncture in the process - the discovery of actual, physical remnants of the old mansion - will leave Philadelphia with a monument that is not as powerful as it could or should be.

At that point, said University of Pennsylvania architecture professor Frank Matero, the design phase of the project should have returned to square one by re-opening the design competition, and a new winner should have been selected by the public.

"Philadelphia could have been on the map for this, the way it was for Franklin Court," Matero said. "I think we blew it on this. I think we missed it."

Matero, who is chair of Penn's Historic Preservation Program, said that good design should be "a visual dialogue" and in this case, the original foundations, the new interpretive center, and the structures that already exist on The Mall should be in conversation with each other. The foundations had not been discovered when Kelly/Maiello drew up the original design. And because they were added in "as an afterthought" they are not part of the current design's visual dialogue, Matero said. "The remains should be the thing that lead. In this case, they follow," he said. "That's why I think it's so dead."

The current design makes only small changes to the original design, but adds to it a glass viewing structure that will allow visitors to look down into the ground at some of the foundation remains.

Some officials at Independence National Historical Park - where the President's House commemoration will stand - did consider whether a redesign was necessary, said Jane Cowley, Park spokeswoman. But they did not mull that option for long, she said. "One thing that really jumped out was that including the archaeological remains into the design we had already would really add to the design - it was not something that would subtract from it, but something that complemented it."

"The project was already under contract as the result of a thorough selection process," said project manager Rosalyn J. McPherson, president of the ROZ Group. "Fortunately, Kelly/Maiello’s design concept was flexible enough to incorporate the discovery. There was no reason to go back to square one."

The physical portion of the Maiello/Kelly design creates a sense of the former house with partial walls and windows - including the famous bow window - fireplaces with tall chimneys, and a staircase that hints at the home's second floor. Visitors will walk across a floor plan of the former structure, and an enclosed space would allow visitors a sense of the crowded quarters where the enslaved slept.

Archaeologists came across the foundations during a dig from March through July of 2007. Under ground next to the Liberty Bell pavilion lay the arch of the bow window whose shape is thought to be the inspiration for the oval office. And there also were the walls that held the kitchen where enslaved Africans worked, and an underground passage through which they likely traveled in getting from the kitchen to the main house.

Matero saw the original design as a created ruin, constructed to give visitors a sense of place when there was no tangible evidence of the house that once stood there.

But once actual ruins were found, he said, the design no longer made sense. The dig revealed the juxtaposition of the fancy house where Washington worked on solidifying a new nation founded on freedom and the places where nine people labored in slavery.

The foundations are so powerful and so significant to the story that the city should have re-opened the design competition. "They should have been the generator of form," Matero said.

"What better evidence could you have than those two spaces coming together and touching, literally, those two worlds touching?" Matero asks. And being right next to the Liberty Bell? "I can't think of a more powerful coincidence," he said.

It's hard to find a person who doesn't agree with Matero on the significance of the site, and the power of its contradictions. "There's no place where black slavery and white freedom stood side by side in such glaring contrast," Coard said.

The President's House project has always had its share of debate - some of it quite heated. During the 2002 construction of the Liberty Bell Center, historians and the public began to demand that the President's House site be marked and that the memorial include stories of the lives of the enslaved Africans in President Washington's household.

At first, Independence National Historical Park wanted to focus only on the Liberty Bell. But in 2003, consensus was reached that the site would commemorate not only the 10-year stretch when America's first two presidents lived in Philadelphia, but also those of the nine enslaved Africans that Washington owned.

When the Oversight Committee, convened in 2005, was searching for an architect to design President's House, the 21 applicants were instructed to tell the stories of everyone who lived there. The designs also had to teach visitors about the executive branch of the U.S. government, the systems and methods of slavery and the free black population of Philadelphia.

In 2006, the committee chose the design by Philadelphia architects Kelly/Maiello from those of six semi-finalists from Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

The next year, with the archaeological findings unearthed, debate began anew. There was disagreement about how - or even if - to include them in the President's House design.

It was hard to miss the enthusiasm people had for the uncovered foundations. About 300,000 visitors came to the site to look down into what was essentially a large hole in the ground and talk to the archaeologists about what they found.

But would the physical remains get in the way of the stories? Or were they the most powerful story teller of all?

Philadelphia's prominent architecture critic, the Inquirer's Inga Saffron, took a similar position to Matero's in a July 2007 on her blog Skyline Online.

"Once the discovery of the foundations became a national sensation - attracting more than 250,000 curious visitors since early May - the Philadelphia architecture firm was asked to see if it could find a way to incorporate the foundations into its memorial design. It was clear to many that the rough, time-scoured foundations speak far more articulately and movingly than the planned Kelly/Maiello structure. Those old stones testify to the site's multiple and conflicting meanings," she wrote. "… the city should go back to square one. Hire a design consultant. Organize a national design competition. Invite the world's top designers. Include the best historians in the field, Only then will Philadelphia make this site into the national memorial it deserves to be."

At the request of the Oversight Committee, Kelly came up with strategies for five different alternatives. They ranged from keeping his original design as it was, to putting all of the foundations on display in a glass enclosure that would tie into the Liberty Bell pavilion.

The chosen alternative, with a portion of the foundations under climate-controlled glass that allows visitors to look down upon the most significant of the ruins from a viewing area, is expected to cost $6.9 million.

The ruins will be 10 to 12 feet below visitors' feet. Hidden lights will illuminate the foundations to improve visibility. Part of the glass enclosure will follow the shape of the bay window.

To Matero, the glass enclosure feels too isolated from the rest of the design. "There's a failure to engage the physical remains in a way that's moving," he said. "The current design isolates them. (Visitors will be) at a safe distance so they don't have to feel anything or be engaged."

Kelly said he and his team began their design process by looking at how best to create a scaffolding to tell the stories. A lot of requirements were included in the original RFP, he said. It asked for a floor plan of the structure to be included. "We were the only ones who laid the full floor plan," he said. "Others did it to quarter scale or even smaller, so people were not walking through it. Our objective was that anyone who came could walk and imagine what the spaces were like."

The floor plan and the partial walls, windows and other elements are based on historical records, Kelly said. It did not make sense to build a full reproduction of the house, he said, for several reasons: Many of the details of the structure, which was largely destroyed in the 1820s, are not known. The cost would have increased exponentially. And the directives given to all of the architects who competed to design the structure clearly said it was to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A replica house would have required personnel around the clock to keep vandals at bay and visitors safe, he said.

The structure has no second floor, but it has a stairway to give the sense of one, Kelly said.

The structure has fireplaces and chimneys in the living room and kitchen. The fireplaces are not as tall as in the original version, Kelly said, because the foundation remains help provide an anchor and a sense of place.

The fireplaces provide focal points and gathering spots similarly to the way the actual fireplaces did in the original house, Kelly said. Instead of a fire, the tour groups and teachers and students who stop at the fireplaces will see large video screens, upon which the stories of the Adamses and Washingtons and the enslaved will be portrayed in short films.

Matero isn't crazy about the screens. "The design relies way too much on multi-media. Design is not predominantly about words and images," he said.

The scripts are still being written. But in the living room, visitors might hear George Washington talk about the pressures of leading the new nation, or Martha Washington talk about domestic life at Philadelphia's presidential residence. In the areas where the enslaved Africans spent most of their time, they might hear and see Hercules, Washington's talented cook, who escaped to freedom. As did Oney Judge, servant to Martha Washington. Judge ran away after she learned that Martha was going to give her away as a wedding present.

Some stories about Hercules will likely emerge from his dealings with the free Africans living in Philadelphia, Kelly said. "Hercules was such a great chef that he gained financial rewards. He would spend his money, likely interacting with free Africans."

Nearby areas were home to both working class and middle class blacks, some of whom own large homes on Spruce Street, Kelly said.

Kelly is still working on some of the details about the slave quarters - a part of the design that Matero finds powerful.

The small room will be transparent. Upon its walls will be etched the names of the African tribes from which enslaved people were taken, Kelly said, and perhaps the evolution that some of their names took, from African to Christian.

Contact the reporter at kelliespatrick@gmail.com

Last edited by bucks native; Feb 28, 2009 at 2:36 PM.
Old Posted Feb 28, 2009, 12:01 PM
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Photo credit: PlanPhilly


Postcard credit: dshistory.org


Photo credit: farm2


current before closing:

Photo credit: labelscar.com

Photo credit: l.yimg.com

the original:

Postcard from maggieblanck.com


Photographer number: gwp102031

Photo credit: farm1

WANAMAKER'S (now Macy's)

Photo credit: xzmattzx

From here: http://www.planphilly.com/node/8361

Feb. 24

By Thomas J. Walsh and
Kellie Patrick Gates
For PlanPhilly

Broad plans for Market Street East, the inexplicably diminished commercial zone between 8th Street and City Hall, got their initial airing Tuesday night at a special presentation from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, held at Thomas Jefferson University’s Dorrance Hamilton Auditorium on Locust Street.

While the background hum has consistently been the controversy over the slots parlor slated to be moved into The Gallery’s third floor, Planning Commission Executive Director Alan Greenberger and the main architect for the early-stage plans, Stan Eckstut, stressed a public realm set of principles to lay the groundwork for a new intermodal transit station and a newly concentrated Center City “Main Street” along 10th Street. The emphasis is on bringing people and business back to Market Street – casino or no casino.

Other principles cited as bedrock for the large-scale makeover include an expansion of Chinatown (south, to gain a Market Street presence, and northeast, for in-fill development toward a revitalized Franklin Square) and Thomas Jefferson University (perhaps north toward Market).

“The potential of a casino has made this planning effort more urgent,” Greenberger said. The city had thought there would be more to talk about by now regarding the casino. “We initiated this planning process, and the intent was it would run parallel to what the casino’s plan would be,” Greenberger told PlanPhilly in an interview late Monday. “But actually the Planning Commission has gotten out ahead of the casino planning.”

Philly’s Hole in the Donut
An actual marketplace, East Market Street was an integral part of Philadelphia’s colonial era. It had been the center of commerce in the city until the 1970s, when several department stores (Gimbels, Wanamaker’s, Strawbridge’s, Lit Brothers) went into serious decline as the city continued to lose factories, jobs and residents. The Gallery, part of a larger Market East redevelopment effort, closed itself off to the street.

For at least a decade, the area bounded roughly by 8th, 13th, Chestnut and Vine streets has been known to city officials and developers as “the hole in the donut.” While much of the rest of Center City re-populated with young, upper-middle class professionals and empty nesters in new apartments and condominiums, Market Street remained virtually residence-free. The old Reading Railroad Headhouse has been handsomely restored within a Marriott, complete with a Hard Rock Café at 12th, but even that corner is bewildering to out-of-towners looking for either the Market East train station or the Pennsylvania Convention Center, blocks north, on Arch. Even 13th Street, long a degraded stretch south of Market, was given new life when Tony Goldman bought up a slew of properties and turned many into nightspots, restaurants and spruced-up rentals.

In fact, Greenberger, in the earlier interview, said there is hardly any notable landmark, for Philadelphians or visitors, with an East Market address, or an obvious entrance.

“If you think about what’s happened over the last 30 years, Market Street has been almost systematically stripped of the presence of things that exist just behind it, all around,” Greenberger said. The entrances to the Market East Station itself (along with the Greyhound Bus terminal at 10th) lurks on tiny Filbert Street. “Chinatown, robust and economically viable? Zero Market Street presence. Thomas Jefferson University, the second largest private employer in the city? No. The Convention Center? ... Not really.”

The Reading Terminal Market? Not even close. Even in the historic district, the main attractions on Independence Mall and at the Constitution Center sit blocks apart from Market. Perhaps the only new or restored notable building to embrace East Market Street, Greenberger suggested, is the Loews Hotel (the PSFS Building at 12th) and a few others west of it.

Eckstut, the planner to whom Market East has been assigned, talked upside. “I think there are many more strengths to build upon. Clearly the emphasis of all city design is on the public realm. ... That’s been our focus since day one.”

The boundaries for Eckstut’s vision are wide – from Sixth Street to Broad and from Vine Street to Walnut. Within that area, high-density, maximum growth efforts are meant to surge from all directions, with 10th and Market as the ideal center of a re-fashioned district. Its four corners are emphasized.

Guiding the plans is the concept of no one particular use, including and perhaps especially a casino, dominating the street life. Eckstut said the idea is to accommodate everyone and all uses, 24/7, the more the merrier, always active.

“The district is filled today with enormous variety,” he said. “We look at the setting and what we see is just a lot of thriving areas” – Old City, Washington Square West, Chinatown, Market Street’s western office corridor. “Every side is totally different from the rest. There is absolutely no uniformity, and we want to let this variety continue.”

Eckstut said he feels the next definite investment in the area, the one most important first step, might very well not be the Foxwoods casino. Instead, it would be a decidedly less sexy, modernized and expanded intermodal center, connecting the subway system with the west end of the Market East commuter rail concourse and the bus stations – all below grade, ideally.

Show me the money
“You have already built the most expensive part,” Eckstut said. “The thing we’re missing is the facility and the environment for buses.” Even if there is no casino, bus traffic is on the rise, Greenberger noted, to and from New York and Atlantic City and everywhere else. If Foxwoods does open, there will be buses galore, Eckstut said. So best to “make the bus experience a first class experience. ... We have the opportunity to do a really world class intermodal center.”

So it was mildly refreshing that Eckstut hazarded a guess. He said his firm built something similar in Los Angeles eight years ago for about $150 million. In Houston, he’s working on one with a budget of about $75 to $90 million. “But they’re all different,” he added. “We don’t need to build a huge one here. But it should be beautiful, built to last forever and [have] not a piece of concrete.”

Mostly, though, it’s about leveraging what’s already in place, Eckstut said. Market East has the most concentrated infrastructure of any section of the city, with all of that underground rail topped by buses and girdled by the highway system, namely the Vine Street Expressway, which, for better or worse, whips motorists into and away from the area north of Market Street in an almost gravitational pull. Along with efforts to further develop Chinatown, part of the plan would be to concentrate traffic, exiting I-676, more effectively along both 6th Street and 8th, while at the same time making those blocks more grid-like and city-like. Just how will that neat trick be pulled off? Stay tuned, the resident who asked was told.

Paul Levy (Center City District visionary):
Rip out the buses. Center City District chief executive Paul Levy, who was part of the earlier meetings with stakeholders, said he likes much of what he’s heard so far.

The emphasis on 10th Street as a walkable spine for Chinatown, Thomas Jefferson, and Wash West and “the whole notion of connecting neighborhoods to the north and south is the right idea,” he said. He’s not certain there’s been enough emphasis on an east-west connection, though, linking the Convention Center and hotels to Independence Mall.

Levy likes the intermodal transit idea, but is “skeptical” about a center located near The Gallery. The existing bus station is at best problematic, Levy said. “I think it should be removed and put out near 30th Street Station,” he said. “The bus station currently creates major problems in terms of both Arch Street and Filbert Street.”

The bus station ended up where it is by accident, anyway, he said. It used to be on West Market, but was moved when the pyramid-crowned Mellon Bank Center was built. While the current station is convenient to Market East Station, Levy said a 30th Street site would have that advantage, too – along with proximity to Amtrak.

Levy said that if there is no casino, Market East still needs improvement. And even if Foxwoods opens there, everyone needs to realize that it would not be an endless source of revenue for projects, he added – other funding streams must be explored.

Jeff, now?
Jefferson University came up several times during the meeting as an example of an institution the city would like to see on Market Street. If Jefferson wanted to build a research tower with retail on the ground floor, Greenberger said, the city would likely be amenable.

Jefferson was also given kudos for developing 10th Street into a more vibrant avenue. And then there was the fact that we were all sitting in a new Jeff auditorium. Hmmm.

Asked if the city was in talks with Jefferson, Altman said yes – but only at the same level as it is with the rest of Philadelphia’s “eds and meds.” The city is talking to all of them about their expansion plans, he said.

Contact the reporters at thomaswalsh1@gmail.com or kelliespatrick@gmail.com.

Last edited by Swinefeld; Jul 23, 2009 at 12:46 PM.
Old Posted Mar 1, 2009, 6:07 PM
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Thanks for starting this thread! Much needed.
Old Posted Mar 2, 2009, 1:53 AM
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Does anyone know what this entire plan will consist of? If it's another notorious PHiladelphia "plan" that injects millions of dollars into firms and consultants and ultimately yields nothing--that would, in a word, suck. I find our city often to be of singular planning ability and absolutely zero action.

Anyways, will this plan fill arguably the largest current hole in a major east coast downtown? Will it get a tenant at the Strawbridge building? Does this "plan" have ties to developers?

In my opinion, Market East is useless to me and most residents that i know in the city and therefore lacks some level of redeemability and should just sell its soul and try to become the Times Square of Philadelphia. Neon, signs, big box stores, movie theatres, entertainment, chain restaurants/retail. .

I find the fact that Neon is so prominently memorable in New York, London, and Tokyo--arguably 3 of the greatest cities in the world...but SCRUB knows better here in Philly...and we just can't have that!

Tell the woman at Scrub to go f*&^ herself and light Market East up....and the people...they will come.
Old Posted Mar 2, 2009, 5:06 AM
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Mmmm this is way cool. I was just recently in Philadelphia and I love how the city is so in love with its history. I actually had no idea this house existed, this could be a very educational memorial, and right in the center of the city....it's extremely suitable. I look forward to seeing this one take off.
Old Posted Mar 3, 2009, 3:19 PM
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DAGSpace articles are the opinions of their authors. While DAG hopes they will contribute to constructive public dialogue, the articles do not represent the opinion or position of the Design Advocacy Group. This article is reprinted with permission from the Philadelphia Daily News, where it was originally published.

DAGSpace: Slots and the Potential of Market East
March 2009
William Becker

William Becker is a principal at Becker & Frondorf, a construction management consulting firm. He is a founder and member of the steering committee of the Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia.

THE PROPOSAL to relocate the Foxwoods slots palace from the Delaware to Market East has generated considerable comment, and much of it echoes both the support and opposition that the original location received. But the two sites couldn't be more different, and it's important to consider Market East on its own terms.

Whether or not you believe gambling is addictive, exploitative and immoral, or whether it is or isn't the financial engine that will shower desperately needed tax revenue onto our cash-strapped city, are questions that have nothing to do with location, and won't be addressed here.

Although it's understandable that the adjacent Chinatown neighborhood has concerns, we must remember that Market Street, along with Broad, are the axes that define the center of the region. They are physical assets that should be developed to serve everyone, not only the interests of any one group.

On the Delaware, Foxwoods would have been a variation on its big-box neighbors: a stand-alone building, physically separate from adjacent development, accessible almost exclusively by car - a continuation of the area's unfortunate suburban sprawl.

Many critics, bemoaning lost design opportunities, suggested changes they believed would give the project a more urban character, but it's questionable whether they could have overcome the essentially anti-urban context or the resulting traffic jams.

Foxwoods has yet to release any images of its plan for the Market Street location, so it's impossible to evaluate the new design. Encouragingly, the Planning Commission has hired Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn, a nationally renowned urban-design firm, and traffic engineers Parsons Brinckerhoff, to help assess how this use would affect Market East, and how the Market East context might influence the casino design.

After World War II, as the city experienced the same suburban migration that weakened most older U.S. cities, department stores and other retailers opened suburban branches or relocated to the suburbs entirely. Sadly, most of the urban outlets eventually closed.

Market East, the nexus of the city's most successful and vibrant retail commerce - serving all levels of the market throughout the region - became a bleak landscape. As the Center City District has repeatedly shown, Market East is the weak link unable to connect the urban assets of the Convention Center and Penn Center to the west with Independence Mall and the historic district to the east.

After an initial flourish, it never came close to restoring Market East to its former retail glory. Despite multiple attempts to improve on the original concept, its retail continues to shrink while growing ever less diverse.

This sad transformation didn't escape the notice of city government. Over the last 50 years, there has been a virtually unbroken series of interventions representing a huge investment of public funds, with a decidedly mixed record.

The most successful was the unification of the Pennsylvania and Reading commuter lines, made possible by the rail tunnel from Suburban Station to the new Market East Station that replaced the Reading Terminal, a regional mass-transit infrastructure that other cities can only envy.

The Gallery was another massive intervention, but with a far different outcome. Dominated by the Rouse Co.'s insistence on transplanting its formula for suburban malls into an urban setting, The Gallery was built as a windowless shell anchored by dying department stores and with the same chain stores already available throughout the region.

The third major intervention was the Convention Center. Its success spurred tremendous growth in the hospitality sector, but did little to improve the quality of its immediate environment. With the expansion, it remains to be seen whether more of an already good thing will produce more benefit.

Fifty years of massive public intervention and investment suggest that the real question posed by the prospect of a Market East slots palace is whether this type of occupant will help or hinder the much-needed revitalization of this critical piece of Center City now that we know that retail can't reverse history.

LIKE THEM or not, slots palaces comprise unique regional assets that will draw customers from all over the region.

Much has been made of the dramatic growth in the residential population of Center City and environs, which might support new kinds of development.

Can the slots palace spur the growth of an entertainment district along Market East that could become the one place in the city where we might relax our otherwise appropriate vigilance about signage and honky-tonk to foster the growth of our own Times Square or Bourbon Street?

We don't have one of those. Perhaps we should.
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