30 October 06: Fall back

DID YOU KNOW: yesterday was the last Daylight Saving Time adjustment following the same regular pattern since 1966, as President Gee Dubya Bush went and changed the start and end dates. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 dictates that, beginning in 2007, we spring ahead on the second Sunday of March and fall back on the first Sunday in November, rather than the first Sunday of April and last Sunday of October. What difference will it make? Likely zero to the human influence, but for computers and clocks purchased before 2005, it could be catastrophic, Y2K ALL OVER AGAIN, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

There's been quite a bit of ugly action recently, so let's get right to our Monday Morning Looking Up, Fugly Edition.
  1. SYMPHONY HOUSE CLADDING, GOIN' UP: The pretty pink prefab parts & portholes are climbing up the walls of Symphony House. If this is your bag, a great time to go check it out and take pictures is, oh, about 10:30-11am, when the sun's shining on the east and south sides. The city has conveniently blocked the east side of Broad Street between South and Lombard for your extended viewing pleasure. I promise we'll have updates of Symphony House, Murano, Western Union, Residences at the Ritz and others (like 22 Front and American Loft) soon, very very soon. If Beethoven's Fifth is your kinda symphony, then Symphony House if your kinda condo.

  2. MORE LIKE WORSTRUM: As much as we like to pick on Symphony House (and how can you not when there are projects like the Murano and American Loft happening, and Mandeville Place planned?), it's not pocking the urban landscape the way the homes being built by Westrum Development in Brewerytown, South Philly and now East Falls are. Westrum, which grew with the single family home you'd find in Fort Washington, where it is based, plopped its suburban style on the former naval hospital in South Philly, even assigning suburban names like The Reserve at Packer Park, The Regency at Packer Park, and The Villas at Packer Park. Up in Brewerytown, the gray vinyl townhomes stirred up controversy from the get-go with their stern white guy and angry kitty ads in a predominantly black neighborhood. (Brewerytown Square has since been featured on Trading Spaces.) Coming soon: The Enclave at Brewerytown, a new ethno-urban (and subtly racist?) twist on suburban nomenclature.

    Now, as reported by Globe St, Westrum has begun construction on Hilltop at Falls Ridge, an "upscale version" of units found in B'town. Now don't all you people who purchased in Brewerytown feel cheap! Get your preview on at westrum.com/hilltop, but please note: Artist's rendering, actual home will vary.

    Speaking of Brewerytown, Jim Millisky's excellent photo essay of that neighborhood will be live tomorrow, count on it.

  3. CAMDEN: NOT SO DANGEROUS! When the east is in the house . . . oh my god . . . danger! At least that's been the trend the last few years, as determined by the good people at Morgan Quitno, who awarded Camden the dubious distinction of 'most dangerous city' the last two years. Well this year, Mayor Gwendolyn Faison and her team have pulled Camden from the bottom, dropping all the way to fifth, instead giving this year's honor to World Series champion city St Louis, Missouri. Philly is trying to reach the top, but we don't have quite enough murders just yet. [Inquirer.] See also: Philly Skyline photo essays Camden 1 and Camden 2.

  4. JOE PISCOPO: I LIKE CAMDEN. While we're across the river, it's worth noting that one-time funny man and perennial Jersey gubernatorial goober Joe Piscopo is invested in Camden's comeback. The Inquirer's Dwight Ott spent some time with Piscopo to find out about the community center he's involved in, but also noted things like "teens wearing hoodies" selling drugs and Piscopo's Hummer (twice). [Inquirer.]

  5. NEXT YEAR GOT THE 15TH & CHESTNUT BLUES. In case you were like us and were wondering "huh, what ever happened to that House of Blues idea?" then hey, let's thank the Biz Journal for coming in on cue. Late summer 2007 is the target opening date for Grasso Holdings to open the 500 seat, five floor(?!) House of Blues in The Grande. The article makes no mention of Grasso's larger HOB venue planned for 16th & Washington. [PBJ.]

  6. GOOD TIMES AT THE LINC: Donovan McNabb et al managed to turn this place into a Palace of Puke, but on this given Sunday, the puke was not his, but instead the 69,000 other people in attendance. (Because as we all know, there is no such thing as a "Jacksonville Jaguars fan.") The offense did nothing, and though the defense wasn't horrid, they were still beaten by a second string quarterback and a running back with two last names. Ugly. Real ugly. Andy Reid ugly. There is good news though: no one died on the ramps, WHEEEEEEEEEEE!

    And! What in the name of holy homecomings, the TEMPLE OWLS WON! After two disgusting seasons and a marketing campaign that pasted new head coach Al Golden's face on billboards along 76 and 95 right before back-to-back 62-0 losses at the beginning of the season, Temple pulled one out for the 17,000 hungry homecoming fans, ending their string of 20 straight losses. With any luck, Temple will now not be the worst ranked team in the country. [ESPN Bottom 10.]

That's what's up. Another FYI, we're up to 74 October pictures in our frequently updated Comcast Center section. That number might be higher by the turn of the calendar, but for November, we've got some good stuff in store so stay tuned.

–B Love

27 October 06: Stuck inside of G-Ho with the sunrise blues again

Not that we're complaining. It's just one of those things where you don't know why you're up so ungodly early so you think "all right, let's roll with this." So you walk outside to fetch a coffee at Tastebuds (since Ants Pants isn't open yet) and as you're locking your door, BAM, what a sunrise. The sort of thing we used to watch in college, at the long end of an all nighter on top of a firetower in the mountains.

If spectacular sunrises were predictable (I dunno, are they Philly Weather?), we'd motivate in advance (or pretend we are in college again) and head up to the Plateau, or to the steps of the Art Museum, or to some place with a killer sunrise view. Le sigh. Till then, we've got the other end of the day with my stromie, my homie, the Cherry Hill Champ Matt Johnson and his SkyscraperSunset.com. Matt's gonna have us a nice little tour of Chinatown one of these days, and it might even come with a super duper super wide, courtesy of that new 10-22mm glass he's rockin'.

There's nothing like a great sunrise. Sunsets are nice (especially if you've got a tenth floor balcony looking at the Philly Skyline), but at sunrise, the hustle and bustle and the rat race and the car horns and the horrible murder of a single father raising four children . . . all of that stuff is asleep. Or at least hitting the snooze button.

I once got off a Greyhound bus in Oklahoma City and watched the quiet, sleepy city come alive with that distinct orange glow -- it was almost magical -- and the lighter and louder it got, the more I realized that OKC is an American purgatory. It's just SO BORING. Not a horrible, dangerous, bad place, just hideously boring. It's no wonder we sent the Indians there, but we weren't content with that so we went and took it back, and the best white people could do was Garth Brooks and the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Building? GEE THANKS, OKLAHOMA.

In conclusion, we love you sunrise, and you suck, Oklahoma.

Oh! Speaking of G-Ho, don't forget: tonight's the night (and tomorrow too) to get down to The Sidecar. You're going to a Halloween party anyway, so stop by in full regalia to raise a pint and wish a happy first anniversary to Adam and Jen and the gang at 22nd & Christian. (That "gang at 22nd & Christian" double entendre never gets old, does it?) [The Sidecar Bar.]

–B Love

25 October 06: Fall in PA: I think you better call Tyrone

I've never understood why so many people leave the Northeast for southern climes. The Northeast has the best of all seasons: frigid snowy winters, pastel allergic springs, blazing humid summers, colorful rainy autumns. Pennsylvania, in spite of its Santorums and Caseys, anti-guns and pro-guns, struggling cities and ugly suburbs and so forth, is usually a great place. While I love Philadelphia dearly, I also love going home to visit family and friends in the Alleghenies.

Last weekend, I boarded Amtrak's Pennsylvanian at 30th Street and headed west for Tyrone, my flag stop hometown. It's about halfway between Altoona and State College, near the tri-county borders of Blair, Centre and Huntingdon. It was once an important railroad hub, hence the station stop despite a population of barely 5,000. Fall photos a-plenty await by clicking that graphic right there.

The Foliage Network shows that the Philadelphia area is about ready to peak in color, so it just might be a Wissahickon weekend. Photos to accompany, natch. Speaking of, Jim Millisky's Brewerytown photos are in the processing stage as we speak, so check back shortly for that tour.

* * *

Pardon our Rapid Fire, but here's a quick-shot Hump Day Umpdate. Happy happy!

  1. THE LAVA LAMP DOWNTHESHORE: Westin Times Square, eat your heart out. The Jersey Shore's Wildwood has just upped the ante for post-doo wop, post-postmodern, post-stick-a-post-in-my-head architecture. My man on the Kohr Bros beat DMac has got the full story, fancy drawings and errthing. What a trip. [PWD.]

  2. THE SIDECAR TURNS ONE: Philly Skyline's official libations provider, Adam, Jen & the Sidecar Seven, this weekend celebrate their first year at 22nd & Christian. Congrats are extended, and we invite everyone to help them party down Friday and Saturday. It's Halloween weekend, so you better be in regalia, or you might be turned away. [The Sidecar.]

  3. RAISING A BARNES: The PBJ has a nice piece on the director of the Barnes Foundation, Derek Gillman, and the uphill battle he's staring down to move the Barnes onto the Parkway. [PBJ.]

  4. TRY TRY TRY TO UNDERSTAND, HE'S A MAGIC MAN: We'd written at some point in the nebulous past about Isaiah Zagar's Magic Garden and its importance to South Street's integrity. (We'd say for sure if we had a better archiving system -- and yeah yeah, we know all about WordPress.) Our Inquirer man of the hour, culture writer Stephan "Don't Want No Independence Fence Either" Salisbury writes the Magic Garden is "this close" to reaching its goal of $300k to save the lot from the wrecking ball manned by a Boston developer who deems the unique location a "visual obstruction." [Stephan @ Inquirer.] [Magic Garden.]

  5. ONE MORE FOR TYRONE: No Kristi, I'm not putting a disguise on Tyrone to keep it for myself, I'm singing its praises like Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians would have wanted me to. Our favorite son sends us into the evening with an animated YouTube ensemble, apropos for our fête-de-foliage. P-E-A-C-E in P-A. See also: I heart PA.

–B Love

24 October 06: A colorful thank you

. . . goes out to ALL OF YOU who contacted the National Park Service and your elected officials to express your disdain for the once proposed, now cancelled seven foot iron fence around Independence Hall. In an age where dissent is painted as unpatriotic and borderline treasonous, civil dissent won out. (At least for now.)

On Friday (when we were already heading west on Amtrak), National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, who once served as Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, joined current Superintendent Dennis Reidenbach, Senator Arlen Specter (who, along with Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady, Governor Ed Rendell, Mayor John Street and former City Councilman Michael Nutter, was against the fence) and Rick Santorum (who was mum on the fence issue despite repeated attempts by Philly Skyline to find out an answer, and who is doing all he can to make up a deficit to the challenger to his Senate seat), announced that there would be changes made to the security measures quietly announced in July. These revised security measures include:

  • The removal of the bicycle barricades around Liberty Bell Center
  • Moving the screening area from Old City Hall to the east wing of Independence Hall, freeing the Supreme Court Chamber and retaining it as a historical attraction
  • The removal of an additional security screening at Liberty Bell Center
  • Using new technology to improve security screening for both Independence Hall and Liberty Bell Center

  • These decisions were reached, according to INHP's official press release, "in consultation between the Department of the Interior, the NPS and Pennsylvania's two senators [to] address concerns expressed by the public and elected officials during the public comment period."

    In short: we did it! Honestly: thank you all who went the extra mile to write, fax, call, and just generally pester the Park Service to come to this point. And, thank you to the Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury, who was instrumental in bringing the public comment period, well, to the public. There was a brief mention in the official release in July of the Security Assessment, and Stephan called it out before it was scheduled to end August 1, prompting complaints from enough people (including your friendly Philly Skyline staff) that it was extended to September 1.

    We're working on pulling together some of the better comments from the comment period (thanks to the Freedom of Information Act), at which time we'll offer up a new post on Independence Hall. Until then, a role call / timeline of these events to keep the story fresh in yo head:
    Security Fence and Screening Facilities Environmental Assessment: the Park Service's original proposal.
    Independence security fence sparks ire: Stephan Salisbury's 7/30/06 piece in the Inquirer about the fence.
    These barriers do not stand for independence: My essay from the following day asking what a fence really means to Independence Hall.
    City Takes On U.S. in the Battle of Independence Square: Ian Urbina's 8/9/06 story for the New York Times (for which I was interviewed).
    Independence Hall security plan is deferred: Stephan's follow-up indicating that the public comment period had been extended.
    The Independence Experience: My 8/31/06 essay documenting my visit to Independence Hall, from obtaining a ticket to passing through screening to asking visitors what they thought of the process.
    Independence Park fence idea scuttled: Stephan's 10/22/06 story announcing the cancellation of the fence as-is.
    What now? Well . . . the bicycle barricades aren't coming down today, or tomorrow, or any time determined as yet. Plus, at least at this juncture, there is no guarantee that some sort of permanent barrier will not be installed. The re-allocation of the funding has yet to be ironed out exactly, but when that happens, the fate of the barriers will be determined, likely (and hopefully) removed. And, once it's determined, it will take several months to execute.

    It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. Senator Specter was right: this is a great day for freedom. (Whether the "Today we've told the would-be terrorists that we're not going to pay any attention to them when it comes to the access of the public to Independence Hall" comment was necessary probably depends on your political approach.) Score a victory for we the people . . . just don't expect to be able to point to it and say "we did this" any time in the immediate future.

    * * *

    Back on this side of the bike rack barriers . . .
    1. THE FALL OF PENNSYLVANIA: Call it an inkling, but I reckon we're going to be blessed with fantastic foliage in the Delaware Valley. A preview over the weekend from the central, Penn State homecoming part of the state, says it shall be so, and we got the pics to prove it. We'll try to have those up some time this afternoon. Check the weekly Wednesday report at foliagenetwork.com for the best leaf peepin' times in the Delaware Valley.

    2. SPEAKING OF SCENIC IMAGERY: We've been promising Jim Millisky's tour of Brewerytown since early last week, and by god we'll make good on that promise. Let's say by Wednesday, but hopefully sooner. Getcha popcorn ready, B'town.

    3. DROPPIN' SCIENCE IN WEST PHIL: University City's Science Center, known most recently for its smell exhibit, today breaks ground on a long talked about expansion. Filling the space currently occupied by a surface lot at 38th & Market, it's the first of six planned buildings. [PBJ.]

    4. BRIDGEMAN'S VIEW & THE WATERFRONT: Our favorite homegrown skyscraper proposal took another small step toward happening. The Daily News's Earni Young reported yesterday that its head developer, Marc Stein, was seeking support from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for the rezoning of the parcel that will house the now-standalone fifteen story parking garage that will accompany the mixed use 66 story tower. The ZBA hearing is a week from tomorrow.

      Meanwhile, today's Inquirer cover story (which is way buried on philly.com, by the way -- you'd think the paper's cover story would be the lead story on the site?) is Miriam Hill's take on the transformation of the Hudson Riverfront in New York. This follows Inga's observations on the Seattle waterfront, each prefacing the long road ahead for Penn Praxis as they tackle the development of the Delaware Riverfront handed to them by Mayor Street. Godspeed and good luck.

    5. CIRA 2, ON THE DREXEL EXPANSION RADAR: Drexel University President Constantine Papadakis' keynote address at the Founders Day and Convocation portends a de-uglification of a campus the Princeton Review called the ugliest in the country. Josh Kurtz has the story for Drexel student newspaper The Triangle. Plans include expansion of the Dakalakis Athletic Center, the refurbishing of the Armory, and near to a second Cira Centre tower, a new Drexel hotel and convention center skyscraper. [thetriangle.org.]

    6. THE TOTALLY AWESOME PHILLY SKYLINE SPORTS ROUNDUP: Here at Philly Skyline, the brunt of complaints we receive (which really aren't that many, and rarely say "your a fagot" [sic] [sic]) deal with our thoughts on athletics, namely that they shouldn't be here. We disagree wholeheartedly. As our About Us page states, we have no mission statement or goal with Philly Skyline but to offer up opinions on local goings-on, and if sports (and politics) are going on, there's a chance we shall opine, especially with baseball, a truly historical game with an urban attachment, especially here in Philadelphia. So to qualify, these sports opinions aren't going to disappear, and we give enough warning when they do come that, if you don't like sports, you can skip over them.

      So yeah, this past weekend was chock full o' local sports, which are quickly summed up thusly:

      EAGLES: Ayyyyye. Andy Reid's signature bad clock management killed yet another first half, Donovan McPukesALot yet again passed for 300 yards, and the Eagles yet again lost a game they should have won. This is a 7-0 team that's somehow looking up at the Giants from a 4-3 second place. The remaining nine games are no cakewalk, but I see no reason why this team should not win this division.
      PHILLIES: Jimy Williams (63), Art Howe (59) and Davey Lopes (61) have been brought on to a coaching staff headed Uncle Cholly (62). They've also re-signed Jamie Moyer (soon 44) to a two-year extension. These decisions were made by Pat Gillick (69), who works under Bill Giles (71) and David Montgomery (60). All this goes to show that, in spite of the youthful renaissance led by Chase Utley (27), Ryan Howard (26) and Cole Hamels (22), the Phillies' key to success is old age.
      FLYERS: What'd we say about Hitchcock's mustache and jumping the shark? Huzzah! Three days later, dude's out of a job. Grow the stache back if you want another job, Hitch.
      SIXERS: Oi vey. A preseason that includes losses to European exhibition teams and a Knicks team that could barely muster 23 wins under Larry Brown. A general manager that signs players overpriced and past their prime like Chris Webber and Alan Henderson. The off-court distraction that is Ed Snider's acceptance of Sixer futility insofar as he's trying to sell them. (We support The Illadelph's support of Stephen A Smith that he should sell them to Pat Croce, who wanted to buy them from him way back when they were good.) It's gonna be a long season in Sixerville, but we can at least count on the two most exciting AIs in sports.

    Thanks for your patience, thanks for your support, thanks for all your help in the Independence Hall fence situation, and thanks for stopping by.

    –B Love

    21 October 06:

    Top o' the mornin' there. We're back on Amtrak #44 straight outta Tyrone PA. (Bless the Cabot cheese tray, a cold bottle of Sam Adams and a good pair of headphones for perfect scenery watching.) There's a good bit to catch up on -- the freedom of Independence Hall, new observations on Comcast Center's glass, the Eagles' stunning loss in Tampa -- but first we gotta let the fog clear from our recovering heads like some horses on a hillside in Sinking Valley, Blair County PA. Back in a few. Giddy up.

    –B Love

    20 October 06: Looking through a glass onion

    Ohhhhhh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. We got ourselves a skyscraper a-brewin' now. At the end of last week, we'd mentioned that the first shipments of glass had arrived at Comcast Center, and this week, the glaziers have begun installing it. And boy is it dirrrrrrrrrty! Jess kiddin'. With all the fireproofing and the welding and sawing and what not, the glass ends up being a gritty work of art. When the time comes, they're going to make some squeegee man very, very happy. (Although we presume they'll just hire out those Jenkintown Cleaner guys you see hanging off of buildings all over the city.)

    Our Comcast Center section is up to date as of yesterday, but you can short-cut straight to the newest photos (the ones with the glass) by clicking HERE.

    Pardon the scatterbrained updates this week; we'll be back to relative normal next week. That said, a scatterbrained weekend send-off for ye then . . .
    1. HOW VEHRY: Our favorite Pulitzer finalist architecture critic dropped the bomb yesterday that the Philadelphia Museum of Art has shifted its focus from Rocky to the Simpsons, hiring Frank O. Gehry (or FOG, as his hockey jersey says) to design the underground expansion that's happening over the next few years. This PMA-Gehry marriage is about as perfect as Philly could get: the Art Museum breaks its stodgy chains and hires a wild, wacky controversial architect; the city doesn't have to suffer from his product, since it will be underground and out of sight except to paying visitors. The only thing making me nervous is the comment from the Barnes Foundation's director Derek Gillman, who called it a creative choice. That could just be a diplomatic acknowledgment, or it could mean something wild and wacky is in the works for the Barnes. (It's already got the controversial part.) Our sincerest wish: please, no Gehry or Libeskind on the Parkway. [Inga/Inquirer.]

    2. GETTIN' LATERAL AT THE LINC: This lateral vibration stuff at The Linc has got to be the funniest side story to sports this year (although the Jason Grimsley stuff comes close). The Eagles said yesterday that the ramps are fine; L&I says not yet. Or: L&I says "Reeeeally, just how bad, Philadelphia Eagles, do you want those ramps to be 'fine'? Hmmmm?"

      Seriously now. Ramps that hold 70,000 people are supposed sway a little, just like skyscrapers and bridges are supposed to sway a little. And this was the Cowboys game . . . intoxication had nothing to do with it? The Eagles aren't home again till Sunday the 29th against the Jags, so let's watch how these ramps shake out. DMac (Dan McQuade, not Donovan McNabb, though Donovan probably has his own opinions on the matter) is on the Rampgate beat over HERE.

    3. THE DELTA ON THE LEFT BANK: Sunday night, World Cafe heads down the Muddy Mississip' with a faucous delta blues / NOLA zydeco show. Support G-Ho's own New Pony Blues, who open up for the Zydeco Hellraisers at 8 o'clock sharp.

    4. DEAR PHILLY SKYLINE: Presented, without commentary until after completion, is this gem of a reader email.
      I think your a racist. I've noticed how you ignore talking about the biggest sport team in Philadelphia...that would be the Philadelphia Eagles right now. You seem to ramble on and on about such dissapointing teams as the Phillies and Flyers...all white dominated teams...yet you completely ignore the fact that it's football season and talk about the 1 and 4 Flyers...the Eagles are 4 and 2 by the way but you wouldn't know that you racist biggot...ohh and I'm not even going to talk about the fact that you have never once mentioned the 76ers in your blogging about city affairs...probablly the team held most dear to all true Philadelphians...but your a racist prick from western PA who has "adopted" Philadelphia as your home. Well go the hell back to your racist, diversity lacking western PA...Sienna Miller had it right when she described it as "shittsburgh." your a racist son of a bitch...i hope you get castrated some day.

      Your a Fagot...
      Sweet brotherly love! Now, I don't normally take the bait when people leave fake (and ironic) email addresses like yourabigjackass@aol.com, but I do need to comment on a couple things here. Never mind the fact that right ON THIS PAGE there are no less than four references to the Eagles, and never mind the fact that Samuel Dalembert is used for perspective regarding the proposed seven foot fence at Independence Hall or that Allen Iverson was our selection for a recent Yankin' On YouTube; never mind the mixing up of the g's (biggot, fagot) or the fact that Philly Skyline isn't a sports blog per se, and never mind Ryan Howard's whiteness . . .

      Dude . . . Sienna Miller? I didn't even know who that was until I googled the name and found her on Perez Hilton, who affectionately refers to her as "Sluttyienna". Considering "Charlie" submitted his form from a pitt.edu address, it sounds like someone must be having a hard time at the Cathedral of Learning. Being the product of public school is hard -- but I survived! You can too, Charlie. Chin up, you're gonna make it. Just go easy on the 'fagot' talk, and remember: "your" is not the same as "you're" (you are).

    5. PEEPIN' ON YOUR FOLIAGE. Well now that that's out of the way, a little disclosure: we're headin' for the mountains for some weekend pickin' and grinnin'. Foliage Network says we're in for a highly colorful weekend, and Penn State's got a weak Illinois team for homecoming, so we're heading into diversity lacking western PA for a fall foliage show. We'll see you right back here on Monday.

    Oh yeah, forgot to mention: Jim Millisky's Brewerytown exposé will debut early next week, so keep an eye out for it. We've got some Southwest Philly in the near future, too. Lookin' at you, Tinicum and Eastwick.

    –B Love

    18 October 06: GTA: NoLibs → The Hill

    Our Swine with the shine takes his show on the road, the one running from the 95 overpass in Northern Liberties, through North Philly, over the hill into Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill: Germantown Avenue. Starting back in April and finishing this past weekend, Joe Minardi gits-r-dun on GTA. Click the graphic below to enjoy the show.

    Yr Hump Day Umpdate's a quick one this week; pardon our haste.
    1. OUCH: Sabres 9, Flyers 1? Welcome back, Robert Esche. That'll learn you to say your coach's head is empty. As an aside, what's with Ken Hitchcock's clean shaven face? Has no one learned from John Oates? When you shave the signature stache, you lose all power. See also: Alex Trebek, Weird Al Yankovic. Aside: those old skool Buffalo sweaters were NICE.

    2. GERLACH, FRIEND OF THE BARNES, JUST IN TIME FOR NOVEMBER ELECTION: How blatant can a politician fighting for re-election make an episode of pandering? How about holding a press conference to announce that you'll introduce legislation that would ultimately block a controversial move to a huge (and struggling) arts foundation in your voting district less than a month before the election? Tom Schmidt reported in Friday's Inquirer that Republican Representative Jim Gerlach, who is behind in polls to Democratic challenger Lois Murphy, wants to do just that. The best line of the story is the last: Public relations aides of the Barnes Foundation declined to comment on Gerlach's proposal, saying they didn't know enough about it.

      The Foundation itself has agreed to move, the money has been raised by a number of benefactors have raised money to facilitate the move, and the city has given the land of the Youth Study Center for the Barnes. Just move it already!

    3. MARKET EAST FACELIFT AFTER ALL? Funk-O-Mart, get ready for your megastore expansion. The Girard Block, on Market between 11th & 12th, got a new lease on life (literally), as Trinity Capital Advisors signed on for 75 years and a $90M redo. But, the redo isn't going to begin for at least two years, and what happens then will be anyone's (but mostly Trinity's) guess. As of now, it sounds likely that tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch seems most plausible, but time and patience will tell. (Slots parlor, anyone?)

    –B Love

    17 October 06: Nothin' but opulence

    Busy week here on the photo tip, as well as some back end stuff, and we're gonna try to fit in some leaf peepin' up Wissahickon way before it's said and done. Today's brand new features are RJ White's photo tour of Strawbridge & Clothier's Corinthian Room, just before it closed, and RBM's follow-up to Brandy's visit to the Divine Lorraine. Jim Millisky's views on Brewerytown and Joe Minardi's trip out Germantown Ave will be up by the end of the week.

    –B Love

    16 October 06: Major pane like Damon Wayans

    Low down dirty even, like his brother Keenan . . . The dirty piece of glass on the left up there with the plywood door? That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is the first accurate preview of what will be the finished Comcast Center. Err, well, I guess they'll probably squeegee it down before it opens up, but that's the real deal glass. As of today, the concrete is up to the 40th and the steel is on the 35th floor, roughly 534' up. At fifteen feet a floor, that means the next rise in steel will make Comcast Center officially taller than City Hall, as the tip of Wild Bill Penn's hat reaches 548'. The original of that photo and more are in our updated Comcast Center section.

    It's Monday afternoon, close enough for a Lookin' Up.
    1. LORRAINE BLOCK, OH! You may recall Brandy Hartley's feature photos of the Divine Lorraine from a couple weeks ago. We were so enamored with that set that we had to go and check it out for ourselves, to see how far it's come in the seven months since Brandy toured it. After all, someone is finally doing something with the grand old dame of North Broad Street after years of neglect and property flipping.

      That someone is a group of investors called Lorraine Land LP, whose plans of developing the entire block include converting the former hotel back to living space, half allotted for condos (estimated at $150k), half allotted for rentals (estimated at $800/month), while another building is planned for the land directly behind (east of) the building. Cope Linder Architects are overseeing the project, and DPK&A Architects, which has done restoration work at 30th Street Station and the Curtis Institute of Music, is handling the restoration of the Lorraine.

      If all the plans are executed -- a bar/restaurant on the first floor of the Lorraine, a cafe along Ridge Ave, a supermarket along 13th Street and plenty of parking -- Residences at the Lorraine could prove to be a shot in the arm to North Broad Street and nearby properties. The Richard Allen Homes redo just east and north of the Lorraine has been considered a success, and the Fairmount-Ridge corridor on the west side of Broad is trying real hard.

      An RBM photo essay of the building should be up some time this evening, as should RJ White's Corinthian Room set.

    2. ATLANTIC CITY, PUSHING DISPARITY ON THE DAILY: Good times are the reason to be here this season . . . summertime is here at the Steel Pier. Welp . . . summer's over, Steel Pier, and you're fired. Atlantic City, love it or hate it. We're both, really. Call us urban purist apologist freaks if you must (and some of you might), but we like the nitty gritty holdover AC offers as much as we like the Borgata and its colorful Chihulys. The Borgata raised the bar so far, though, that all the existing chintzy Boardwalk locales had to upgrade, but at the expense of the Sands (one of the originals), Ocean One Pier (which, ok, needed an upgrade) and now the Steel Pier.

      Yesterday, the Pier closed its gates for the last time, as its landlord, THE DONALD, refused to renew its lease. Trump Entertainment Resorts, specializing in sterilizing, plans on spending $300M to turn the pier which once hosted performances by artists from Charlie Chaplin to Frank Sinatra into a "mix of residential, entertainment and retail." [Reuters.] "A living component or a guest component out there we think would be really ideal." Yeah, totally! Living 900 feet off the shore above an ocean is really ideal. You can close the roller coaster down when a hurricane's a-coming, but it might be tough to pack up the granite countertops and stainless steel refrigerator on short notice.

      RIP, Steel Pier. Atlantic City, you're on notice. We'll get down there in the next month or two for a long-time-coming photo essay.

    3. NATIONAL FERAL CAT DAY: If Breast Cancer Awareness, Latino Heritage and AIDS Prevention aren't enough to keep your charitable efforts focused this month, the Animal Alliance of Philadelphia has proclaimed that today is National Feral Cat Day. We're definitely cat people here at your neighborhood skyline, as you might've sussed from our contact page. Back in our studio days on Fitzwater Street in 2001-era G-Ho, there was a veritable colony of cats in the back alley. They ranged from cute kitten mewing to violent cat battling, with bits of humor spliced in a la Sylvester the Cat singing on the fence and some old man throwing a shoe at them. SO. Help control the pet population, have your pet spayed or neutered.

    –B Love

    13 October 06: Friday the 13th got more plugs than Nic Cage

    It's fright night in the old city, AHHHHHH! Frightening like the first frost, frightening like Nic Cage's star power, frightening like a big scary developer threatening a stodgy neighborhood with progress. Oof. As usual, a neighborhood association (this time Old City's) opposes a project proposal because it's "out of scale" or "too large" or "what ever." Yaron Properties' Arch Street proposal called The Americana (which we can only hope will provide its residents with complimentary Norman Rockwell prints and John Cougar Mellencamp CDs) has Old City residents up in arms because its height would exceed the 65' limit imposed within the past couple years. Never mind that Yaron has been instrumental in Old City's rise in the past 5-10 years, restoring a number of older buildings and helping to bring MTV's Real World (and ok, a Starbucks) to the neighborhood . . . THIS BUILDING IS A SHADOWY BEAST, RAAAAHHH! But don't take my word for it -- read for yourself the choice of descriptors -- ominous, swallowed, awful, "If ZBA allows this building there will be 10 more just like it within months." -- used by Old City Phillybloggers: LINKY. Plus the design comes from the firm of I.M. Pei's sons, a nice little homage to their father who helped to redefine Society Hill just a couple blocks over. [Phila Biz Journal.] [Pei Partnership.] Ever the well rounded, open minded, see-things-from-all-sides point of view, Philly Skyline's official knee-jerk response to The Americana is: BUILD IT!

    Heading into the weekend, we're gonna sell out to roll out a list-o-plugs. Ready?
    1. PLUG WHOLE FOODS: The Philly Skyline mailbag received one of the more fun entries we've gotten yesterday, labeling us 'some crazy liberal radical straight from Harvard who shops at Whole Foods, listens to NPR, is in touch with his "inner-self," and eats tofu on a regular basis.' Thanks for the compliment, but we'll stick to the beef, thanks. And we don't mind admitting that we sometimes buy it at Whole Foods, who as reported in today's Inquirer by Henry Holcomb, will be a tenant at the redesigned 1601 Vine complex by Grasso Holdings. A two-tower apartment and hotel complex, it is tentatively scheduled for a January groundbreaking, and it will rid Vine Street of one of its horrid surface parking lots. [Inquirer.]

    2. PLUG ATWATER KENT: If you love Philadelphia and its history so much, why don't you go visit the Atwater Kent Museum already? The new exhibit 'How Philly Works: Streets as Barometers of Urban Life' features the city charter drafted by William Penn in 1701 among other interesting artifacts. And hey, there's the massive floor map. [Atwater Kent Museum.]

    3. PLUG TSOP: Can't make it to Atlantic City for your fine dining experience set to the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly, Wow"? No problem. The Sound of Philadelphia is now for sale on South Broad Street. No, the R&B Museum hasn't opened yet, but a new TSOP souvenir shop has. Go get your Gamble & Huff on. [KYW 1060.]

    4. PLUG US. Coming next week on yr friendly Philly Skyline: RJ White's view of the Corinthian Room, Jim Millisky's view of Brewerytown, RBM's view of the Divine Lorraine (to complement Brandy's, mayhap?), and a number of features we've long promised but long not delivered. Next week: it's happening like 15th & Chestnut.

    5. PLUG EASTERN STATE: Man, we love that place. The history, the hauntedness, the Steve Buscemi audio tour . . . and, like every Halloween, they're rockin' Terror Behind the Walls. Check out Dominic Mercier's photos of the place here to set the mood, then head o'er Fairmount way for yourself. [easternstate.org.] Is it really haunted? Let's call it a Friday and yank on some scientists to see what they have to say . . .

    –B Love

    11 October 06: Hump Day Umpdate, ready for primetime

    Can the girl from Upper Darby get some love? Oh hell yeah she can! Tonight's the night Tina Fey jumps from SNL to sitcom, with the 8pm premier of her new show 30 Rock. Will it in fact rock? Ehh, it's a network sitcom, so it seems unlikely, but with her as the lead writer and producer, it has a chance. We'll give Tina the benefit of the doubt and yank it out on YouTube later this week, because we're busy tonight. (More on that in a minute.) If you're into the bespectacled Delco star -- and why wouldn't you be? -- check Cassidy Hartman's cover story in today's Weekly. See also, 30 Rock @ NBC. On that, let's head into a Happy Hump Day Umpdate.
    1. SPEAKING OF SEXY GLASSES . . . Comcast Center has officially welcomed the glaziers to its growing crew of laborers. The first shipment of glass paneling arrived this morning. The glass for the first four floors will continue to be delivered leading up to Saturday, when installation begins. As always, check out our Comcast Center section for photographic updates of construction progress.

    2. ART ALLIANCE, GONE FISHIN': Our sincerest apologies go out to Tina Fey and her show's corporate sponsors, but we're gonna have to miss 30 Rock's premier, because we're gettin' pissy on the Fishy tonight. The Art Alliance's feature exhibit this evening belongs to Cherry Hill's gift to the world, the Flying Fish Brewery. For a mere thirty-five clams, you too can sample five Fish brews paired with a cheese to complement the same palate on Rittenhouse Square. [flyingfish.com.]

    3. HAPPY B-DAY PHILEBRITY: Congrats to Joey and the Philebrities on another year of slicing and dicing the current events that make Philly Philly. Help them celebrate by participating in one or all of their Weekender events, why don'tcha? [Philebrity.]

    4. DEAR PHILLY SKYLINE: "Thank you for contacting me [two and a half months ago] about Independence Hall. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, and I will be sure to keep them in mind as I undertake my responsibilities as your United States Senator. [I won't actually address the question you asked - where do you stand on the Independence Hall fence proposal? - but here is a nice form letter all the same, so please won't you vote for me in November?] Sincerely, Senator Rick Santorum." Uh, no.

      But we do appreciate the reminder, Ricky, about the Independence Hall fence situation. We'll follow up with the Park Service and see if the public comments are public yet. Check for that next week or so.

    5. BRIDGES PRESENT & FUTURE: The Inquirer's Vernon Clark details a little in today's Inquirer what SRDC has been briefing over the last couple of years: the beautification of a number of bridges over the Schuylkill River. (As an aside, we'll finish up our photo essay of Schuylkill Bridges and have it up just as soon as we can.) The $83M plan will address pedestrian and bike access, as well as improve lighting, sidewalks and such. This money does not cover the South Street Bridge's reconstruction, as that bill is being picked up by the feds, the state and the city, in that order (but fronted by the city). [Inquirer.]

    6. BRIDGES PAST: Here's a thing. See that concrete structural column in the image above? Like the Penn's Landing Pi, it stands without a bridge above it, between Martin Luther King Drive and the Schuylkill Expressway. On the other side of the traffic, you can see what used to be the other support, on the 34th Street side by the giraffe section of the zoo.

      Once upon a time, there was a footbridge crossing the interstate from West River (MLK) Drive to the Zoo called Fisherman's Walk. The footbridge was a noble idea upon which city residents could hike and bike along the Drive and pop right up to the zoo.

      The problem, like many grandly planned pedestrian bridges, was that very few people actually used it. A bigger problem with this one in particular was that, well, it was 76 passing underneath, not a comely, serene river. And wouldn't you know it, a couple of eighteen wheelers -- three in fact, in 1980, 1985 and 1990, respectively -- rammed into the thing, rendering it unfit for use. So when PennDOT asked to have it removed, citing it as an obstruction to the traffic flow of 76, the Streets Department gave it one last look before saying ok. Via an in house visual study and survey, it was determined that virtually no one used it, thereby ending the short life of Fisherman's Walk.

      It's too bad, really, because on paper a footbridge there is ideal. At Girard Avenue, there is no way for the pedestrian or cyclist to get to the zoo from MLK Drive. The only option is to continue down to Sweetbriar Road, hang a left and then double back on Lansdowne Drive. That, though, is a minor inconvenience to the small few who might actually visit the zoo via this route.

      Were it up to Philly Skyline with a bottomless well of funding, we'd rebuild the footbridge, steering as clear of 76 as possible, with the bridge's landing extending to a brand new wooden pier 15-20 feet out into the River. There's a magnificent weeping willow tree on the riverside of MLK from the support column that would make the perfect place for a small fishing pier, with a great view of the skyline, the river bend, Boathouse Row and the Waterworks. You know, add some meaning to Fisherman's Walk. Right now, the bank is overgrown and to see the actual view, you'd need to wear pants, hike through brush and hope you don't fall into the river. Over along 34th Street, we'd make sure that side's landing is up to snuff, with fixed up sidewalks and a big "welcome to the zoo" sign. We might even drag out an old Penn master plan for West Philly and rename 34th Street "Frank Furness Boulevard" after the city's most recognizable architect. Just as soon as we stumble on a windfall and can afford to fund this, we'll let you know.

      (A special Philly Skyline thank you to Fairmount Park Chief of Staff Barry Bessler and the Streets Department's Chief Bridge Engineer Jack Lutz for this information.)

    7. UNTIL THEN, VISIT THE ZOO via 76's unbearable Girard Ave exit, or via the Route 15 trolley, or via the directions we described above (MLK -> Sweetbriar -> Lansdowne). Or better, visit vicariously through the photo essays below, taken on Monday. (Sorry silverback gorilla -- we'll get you next time, promise.)

    –B Love

    11 October 06: STOP THE PRESSES: 22ND STREET IS FREE!!!

    On behalf of Septa's 12 and 7 bus routes, cyclists and commuters from Fitler Square, G-Ho and South Philly, and anyone using 22nd Street for its designated arterial travel, we'd like to thank the contractors of the ugly red houses with green garage doors above for removing the chain link fencing and trailer to finally give us our street back.

    We'll be back with a Hump Day Umpdate a little later today.

    –B Love

    10 October 06: The lion sleeps today

    Please excuse us today while we recover from zoo hangover. Hundreds of animals and thousands of kids aged 2-10 will wear anyone out. That picture above is one of a hunnard or so we'll have up hopefully by the end of today. Or so.

    In the meantime, let us bitch about Philly Magazine for the 813th time. No, they didn't rip us off again, it's just that their fact checking department didn't do its homework about our favorite neighborhood, and that makes us unhappy. In its current issue, the rag known for its plastic surgery ads and penchant for affluent suburbs proclaims the Best Places to Live, creating one list for the suburbs and one list for the city, shying away from integrating its choices into a single, unified Delaware Valley. Well whatever.

    That's not our biggest beef; no, our biggest beef is on its choice of a name for Philly Skyline's home neighborhood of G-Ho. While Philly mag is not expected to use a name as fresh as G-Ho (like, say, the Inquirer's Craig LaBan or the Weekly's Kristen Henri or the Metro's Josh Cornfield might), calling us by the WRONG name is downright offensive, not only to us, but to the real neighborhood with the name in question.

    So, a memo to Philly mag: GRAYS FERRY IS NOT THE NEIGHBORHOOD YOU DESCRIBED. Furthermore, Grays does not have an apostrophe. The area from South Street to Washington Avenue, Broad Street to the Schuylkill River can respectably be called Southwest Center City, the Graduate Hospital Area, South of South or, as we've preferred since we put our stamp on it, G-Ho. It CANNOT be called Grays Ferry. For you see, there is already a neighborhood called Grays Ferry, which lies further south, from the railroad viaduct above 25th Street west to the Schuylkill (and including the Forgotten Bottom), Grays Ferry Ave south to Morris St.

    The real Grays Ferry neighborhood has historically been marred by racial tensions, but has done much better over the past five years or so, seeing the construction of 'nice' low income housing. (The Wiki entry on Grays Ferry says that despite housing a mere 1% of Philly's population, it is home to 10% of Section 8 housing.)

    Then they go on to spend a whole paragraph talking about the Schuylkill River Park, which while nearby, is technically in the Fitler Square neighborhood (or what they might call Rittenhouse West, to throw a familiar name out to its readers). Ah well, what can ya do . . . it's Philly Mag being Philly Mag.

    We wouldn't even have an opinion on this if it weren't for paying a visit to G-Ho's favorite baristas at Ants Pants and killing time with a copy while sippin' a boilermaker and waiting on an apple cheddar bacon tumbler.

    Never mind all that anyway. The zoo pictures should be up today, (EDIT: they're now up, linked below) tomorrow at the latest, and RJ White is going to take us on a tour of the now-closed Corinthian Room at Strawbridge's somewhere in that same timeframe.

    In the meantime, please enjoy the photo essays below, or check out some of these related and unrelated links to some of our favorite sites.

    The Disney Hole
    Pictures of Walls
    Ron Newcomer
    Word Up Thome
    Chris Doc's Ruins
    –B Love

    9 October 06: Monday Monday: so good to me

    What a big moon havin', TO losin', Yankees eliminatin' weekend it was. We're into this new week for Chris Columbus and the 1492 Ridahs and, of course, yr Monday Morning Looking Up.
    1. ATHLETICS, THE ACCEPTABLE SCHADENFREUDE: I mean seriously. We're not a bunch of jerks or anything, but when you see the Eagles stuff a big fat 38-24 Lito Sheppard sock in the mouth of the T.O. hype machine, how can you not delight? Up in Detroit, it was the same thing, with the nitty gritty Tigers knocking out the $200M Yankees. Alex "I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team" Rodriguez ended the series 1-for-14. How sweet it is (says the Phillies fan with the chip on his shoulder).

    2. BILL CLINTON: "I LOVE THIS CITY." We love you too, Bubba. We didn't really pay much mind last week when former presidents Clinton and Bush were awarded the Liberty Medal, but Bill stuck around to hang out in North Philly with the face of the Philadelphia Soul. (The who?) Jon Bon Jovi was joined by Clinton to announce the renovation of fifteen homes by Bon Jovi, Habitat For Humanity and Project HOME, the first phase of a long term project for low income housing. Good on ya, Jon Bon. Take note how in this scenario, the media is calling the homes "rowhomes" and not "townhomes", as all new construction is called, yet they're the same style and fabric. Hmmm . . . [CBS3.]

    3. CREI: NEITHER ROWHOMES NOR TOWNHOMES. A while back, we showed some love for CREI, the Northern Liberties developer who is sort of the face of creative living in that face of creative neighborhoods. They took on an otherwise relatively blah 101 Walnut (pictured between Jon Bon Jovi and TO above) and gave it as sleek an update as they could. It's still got a blank wall on its north side, but that's actually kinda funny considering it's the view residents of the Beaumont will have, when the Beaumont set the standard for ugly blank walls. 101 Walnut is topped out and will be ready for living early next year. Up in NoLibs, CREI's American Loft (American & Brown Sts) is now making progress toward street level, and Old City's ice-cube-looking Nouveau has taken shape between I-95, the Ben Franklin Bridge and 2nd St. CREI has redesigned their web site, and each project has a PDF with drawings and details. If Q comes to fruition, it will be an achievement in structural engineering, and it will be the world's largest Motorola Surfboard modem. It's sharp, to be sure, but I want to stick a coaxial into it. [CREIrealestate.com.]

    4. BLACK LILY IS BACK PHILLY: Well, it will be next spring. The PBJ reports that Philly's favorite late musical collective will launch the Black Lily Film & Music Festival next May. For more info, holler at their myspace. In the meantime, to see what Jill Scott has been up to, g'won ahead and yank on YouTube below. Her track on Lupe Fiasco's 'Food and Liquor' album . . . oh man. Just watch the video.

    For those keeping track, Comcast Center's concrete is up to floor 39, and the steel is up to 33. Photo and diagram updates over in the Comcast Center section. We'll have some Murano updates at some point this week too, as well as the general construction section we've been promising. We'll check you out tomorrow . . . we're goin' to the zoo.

    –B Love

    6 October 06: Weathering ahead

    It's the storm before the calm; push through baby, we're gonna make it. It's been a rough week, and it's gray up there now, but everything's gonna be all right.

    But before it does, Philly Skyline's Bella Vista Bureau Chief Nathaniel Popkin has some thoughts on our beloved South Street, in particular the 1300 block.
    Have you been to 1300 South Street recently? This is like Dante's Inferno, what with the noise and pollution of construction; it's also the best and worst of times and a terrific example of a visionless government incapable of even the least slightest effort. It suggests, too, how City Hall undermines the best interests of the city at (almost) every step. And another thing it is: it's ghetto and gentro all at once, it's an urge to prettify and cosmopolitanize struck dumb by low-life developers, death by parochial neighborhood groups, and a government that thinks it doesn't matter.

    Well, you know the basics: a block from the Subway and truly a kind of gateway for many people to South Street and much of southeast Center City, including the historic stuff. The fine looking 1352 Lofts, with the right instincts, scale, and ambition for the spot. Its execution, too, is really pretty good. It does itself well despite not being on the corner of Broad and South, which it desperately wants. The opposite corner: the Art Garden, which is haphazard in its execution. Nice use, wrong place. But that could be mitigated and the presence of A GARDEN in such a critical corner of the city turned into an obvious asset. Nearby, a pair of twin Tel Aviv houses, as I call them, contemporary to the core, recently completed, but with garages. I'll take those and excuse the garages mostly because they're on a side street facing west. One or two lovely renovations. A handful of vacant lots. About a dozen of the poorest new construction row houses recently installed, with the worst materials, garages, and most magnificent fuck you to city life one could imagine, all by themselves, for the little shits that they are obliterating any hope of making this an actual functioning city of the 21st century. Four more of these under construction now, with ambivalent structures (could be storefronts, could be garages), but you get the idea.

    The green lamp-posts you and I paid for are torn and tattered, some moved from their original placement to accommodate garages, the sidewalk is nearly untraversable (though it has improved in recent years), the subway station left to dangle like some relic from the Lenni Lenapes.

    Here was an urge to light the sidewalk, to improve the pedestrian *experience* being faced down by vinyl garage doors, curb cuts on a retail street: here is the government wasting your money because it can't communicate what it knows is right. Here too is that subway station: what a stop it could be, if you think about it, and the entire enterprise of energy and transportation policy being faced down, again, by those damn garages. How does a city, with an ailing transit system, justify undermining that system so transparently by encouraging the use of the private automobile within a single block of a subway station? And then there's the failure of vision altogether. Think Broad and South. Think what those two streets represent in the cultural cadence of contemporary (and historic) Philadelphia. Transfer that intersection to a half dozen or so other cities and you get the point. Opportunity lost. Major opportunity lost. No wonder the Arts Bank, 13 years later, still looks as forlorn as it did in 1993 or whenever it opened.

    There is hope, though I believe it is slim. The site of the Arts Garden is right on the corner. Now imagine what that corner ought to be: 7-8 stories, residential, commercial, perhaps including a multi-plex, and an expanded subway station. Here's where the garden is simply not justifiable. It does more damage to the cause of livability than any other use there because of its location. It's like a black hole. Move Isaiah's mosaic stuff and all the carbon-eating trees somewhere else (how about to Broad and Fitzwater which I have a feeling will never happen) and resurrect the hope of the big city. Leave it and Philadelphia remains an odd sort of always the bridesmaid never the bride.

    Nathaniel Popkin
    Phew. He's right, 1352 Lofts (pictured above, as seen across the garden) is really sharp. It's one of the better infill projects in the city over the past several years, and it's the perfect scale -- complementary to the Arts Bank and not overbearing. Plus it's got great looking windows that will have a great view of the skyline and . . . well, the garden. Peak your head around the corner onto Juniper Street (below South) and you'll see the "Tel Avivs" Nathaniel is talking about: the sort of forward thinking Philadelphia-scale rowhomes you'd otherwise find in Northern Liberties, not in Hawthorne. But there they are, standing like jewels in the rough that includes a broken sidewalk, some of the ugliest new construction anywhere (the north side of the street, closer to 13th), litter and graffiti that looks like a crying Palestinian mother. As a Mark Foley page might say, WTF?

    A quick look into the crystal ball reveals much.
    1. OYE MI CANTO: If you've been too big a fraidy cat to see North Philly for what's good, this Saturday's your time to break outta that funk. As Hispanic Heritage Month winds down, Taller Puertorriqueño hosts its Book and Craft Fair in El Centro de Oro. Live music, dancing, reading and so forth, 5th & Lehigh, 1pm onward. [tallerpr.org.]

    2. HIDDEN RIVER, SCULLING DRAGON: When you're finished over in the barrio, head the way of the dragon, out Lehigh toward the Schuylkill. The fifth annual Dragon Boat Festival goes on all day till 5:30ish. [philadragonboatfestival.com.]

    3. ELEPHANT WALK, BABY: Meanwhile, over at the Philadelphia Zoo, we bid adieu to the four elephants who've called the semicircle between an interstate, a major train artery and a trolley route home. While we can be proud that the Zoo was the first of its kind in a young America, it hasn't exactly adapted with the times. It's hard to when there is no room to grow, obviously. But it's sad to see large animals like elephants and tigers not only out of their context, but in such a small space, so we're happy that the elephants will be moved to larger habitats. To Petal, Dulary, Kallie, and Bette (since you're reading this on your elephant internet), godspeed.

      Which reminds us: a photo essay of the Zoo is on its way.

    4. OTHER COMINGS SOON: Which reminds us further still: the call to photographers last week has been a relative success. Some familiar faces like South Philly Sergeant Joe Menardi, West Philly Warrior Steve Ives and Cherry Hill Champ Matt Johnson have promised new series, and in addition to Brandy Hartley's excellent Divine Lorraine photo set, new contributors are on their way including RJ White, Jim Millisky and Gina Tumolo. That R Bradley Maule fellow has some more on the way, too. You wanna contribute? Email [ photos AT phillyskyline DOT com ] for more info.

    5. ALL THE WAY LIVE: The 215 Festival is about the dopest mostly-free series of events you're gonna find in this town, so if you missed Amy Sedaris and David Rees last night, check the schedule and find something to do this weekend on the super duper cheap. Before the Eagles game, natch.

    6. F.U.T.O. For real. Go Eagles!

    –B Love

    4 October 06: An ode to the construction worker;
    the Divine Lorraine, finally

    When the sad news broke a couple weeks ago that a construction worker at Symphony House fell to his death, it shed light on the risk and challenges involved in large profile construction and labor. Building skyscrapers is no easy task, but it's easy to see why these guys love their job. A local ironworker told me that it's sort of a rite of passage to purchase the "Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper" photo, taken in 1932 at the site of 30 Rockefeller Center's construction in New York. I can dig it.

    I guess I say all of that to say that a new construction section is, uh, under construction, and has been a long time coming. While we've got dedicated sections to Comcast Center and Murano, and have had them in the past for The St James and Cira Centre, we've been meaning to make a go-to place for the construction of the projects not as big, but just as worthy of attention. That'll be up soonish, like this week or next.

    The above photo is of the Dorrance Hamilton Building at Thomas Jefferson University. It's on its third floor above ground, and across 11th Street from it, the Western Union condo project is up to about the 11th floor of steel. Symphony House is at about 26 of 33. The Murano is preparing to lay the first floor of concrete as we speak. Residences at the Ritz is still prepping the site, digging up the old parking garage there. 101 Walnut is topped out, and 22 Front is on its third floor. The Pearl is on its second floor in Chinatown, and on the site of the old Convention Hall, Penn's Center for Advanced Medicine is on its third floor. Lots of construction around town, lots of jobs around town, lots of people doing those jobs. Congrats fellas and keep up the good work.

    * * *

    So yesterday, while we weren't updating Philly Skyline, we made the rounds on our favorite bookmarks and saw something on Philebrity and were all "holy CRAP!" In one fell swoop, Fishtown superstar Brandy Hartley has answered a lot of questions: "Why aren't there any female photographers on Philly Skyline?" "Why don't you have any pics of the Divine Lorraine?" "Why haven't you talked about Johnny Brenda's this week?" Then bam, here she comes with the quickness. Or rather, here we come with the slowness -- Brandy and some friends took a tour of the Divine Lorraine in March and we just now saw it.

    Brandy, you might recall, is Johnny Brenda's one woman wreckin' machine, and she delivers the goods in the form of a new-to-us photo essay of one of our favorite buildings anywhere, let alone North Broad Street. The Divine Lorraine, designed by prominent Philly architect Willis Hale, has a long and weird history. It opened in the 1890s when North Broad Street was a chic location for the nouveau riche (see also: the Met Opera House), and remained a luxury apartment building for several decades. MJ Divine, best known as Father Divine of the Peace Mission Movement, purchased the building in 1948, set up operations for his religion, and converted the building into the first fully integrated hotel in the country. After closing in the 90s and being sold in 2000, it sat (and still sits) vacant waiting for the right investor to seize the moment and make her shine again. It appears that that time may be now, as DPK&A are well under way with their renovation project. Here's hoping it can spur some activity for the area.

    Many thanks to Brandy for contributing her pictures. Check them out by clicking the graphic below.

    –B Love

    2 October 06: Octoberbreast

    HI, I'M AN IDIOT. Today's update was done a while ago but I just forgot to make it live. My bad. Anyways . . .

    October rocks. The temperature's just right, the leaves go from green to gradient, baseball's on its highest stage (more on that in a few), and people and buildings wear pink in the name of healthy breasts. Said breasts bring us to this week's Monday Morning Looking Up.
    1. PAINTIN' THE TOWN PINK: Just like the Sears Tower, Empire State Building and Library Tower, Philly's tallest buildings go pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Learn more about the cause here, and just turn your heads upward for a glimpse of Philly's pink. Philly Skyline will have a thorough photo essay of pink lights later this month.

    2. THE FAÇADE TREATMENT: But in the meantime, we're today premiering The Façade Treatment, a new photo essay of buildings' . . . façades (duh). Check it out HERE or just click the graphic after MMLU.

    3. SMOKING BAN, ONE WEEK IN: We're a week into this thing now and . . . it ROCKS. It's about as ideal as it could be, considering all the question marks and assumptions that have come with it. In the past week of nights out, I'm personally 4-for-6, with North Bowl, the Public House, the POPE and even McGlinchey's biting the bullet and asking smokers to go outside. The other two shall remain nameless since we love them dearly and appreciate their civil disobedience, considering no instructions have been formally issued to bars and restaurants explaining how and when exactly to implement it or the consequences otherwise. Still, I can't wait for the day I come home from these two places without that asthmatic stench.

    4. SOUTH STREET BRIDGE REDUX: Keeping our favorite decrepit neighborhood landmark with the great views in current conversation, Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr brings the good news bad news thusly: PennDOT, who originally opposed a redo of the Schuylkill Expressway ramps, is now actually considering just that. That's great news for anyone who knows what a deathtrap the on-ramp is, especially the inexperienced who are too afraid to accelerate and end up stopping, which is far worse. It's bad news only insofar as it will further postpone the construction (changing the merge is a significant engineering expense). But it's the kind of bad news you can use, and is an idea we've supported from the get go. Spend the extra millions and keep the bridge inconveniently closed 4-6 extra months for a lifetime of convenient safe merging.

    5. BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE DUX: With a big nod to Philly Skyline's good friend Chris Doc, we'd like to call attention to the good work being done by DRPA's web people. The Ben Franklin Bridge opened as the Delaware River Bridge 80 years ago, and for the anniversary, DRPA has put together a Flash-base slide show with audio commentary documenting the construction. It's good stuff, and it's HERE.

    6. THE PHILLIES: MEETING ALL YOUR EXPECTATIONS: Ok. Now that the season is over and the Phillies have missed the playoffs yet again, this topic needs its own post. We'll come back to this.

    7. YANKIN' FOR JESUS: While we think the Capitol Years are the best band in Philly, the Roots are the biggest band in Philly, the War on Drugs are the next band in Philly, and Hall & Oates are the best alumni from Philly, a Christian band just might be the most popular band in Philly. MewithoutYou's Myspace comment section resets itself every day because of the attention its fans give it. They are touring their brand new album Brother, Sister this month and next in such familiar larger venues as the Electric Factory, Irving Plaza, and a handful of the House of Blues stages. A year or so ago, I was contacted by a Hollywood music video director to do some location scouting for this band. We got it done up on the Reading Railroad Viaduct and in lower Kensington during the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Good times. The final product, directed by Lex Halaby, is called "Paper Hanger" and is yanked from YouTube just below. If you look really really hard, you'll see my reflection inside the moving vehicle; I was driving the van as the passenger riding shotgun filmed as we drove up 3rd Street between York and Lehigh. MewithoutYou's official web site is HERE.

    –B Love