14 January 08: FREEDOM (I won't let you down)
FREEDOM (I will not give you up)

The long train coming that is the reconfiguration and new landscaping of Independence Mall took one huge step toward completion this morning with the dedication of People's Plaza at 5th & Market.

You might recall from the November 9th Philly Skyline "Pardon Our Appearance" Skyline that the corner on the opposite end of the same block as the President's House was to be set aside for a new First Amendment public assembly area. Welp . . . here it is, freshly paved and sodded, and with electrical hookups for all your mic and podium needs.

Independence National Historical Park's acting superintendent Darla Sidles (whose position will be filled permanently by Cynthia MacLeod in mid-February, replacing Dennis Reidenbach, who was promoted to Regional Director for the National Park Service's northeast region) gave a brief background explaining the role the Park Service plays in maintaining a site on which the public can assemble, and more importantly, that the content of the message is never a consideration when filing the permits.

Said she, "the content of the message is protected under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech." That's the point of People's Plaza: it's your officially sanctioned Free Speech assembly area, specifically located thanks to its historic symbolism in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and thanks to its high visibility (lots of tourists, lots of passersby and onlookers).

Still in the first week of his new job, this guy shows up:

Mayor Michael Nutter thanked the Park for the space, and commented that dissent is at its heart American, and healthy for the public dialogue. It is after all what led to the negotiation of a Declaration of Independence.

Picking up where Mayor Nutter left off, National Constitution Center president Joseph Torsella explained that one of his favorite questions that visitors have in visiting the center is, "why are there 42 statues in Signers' Hall but only 39 signatures on the Constitution?" The answer to which is: because there were three dissenters who refused to sign the Constitution because there was not a bill of rights included in it. Others still only signed it because of the promise that one would be amended (and they got their wish -- four years later). He also used the opportunity to invite folks to attend a lecture this evening at the Constitution Center by two time Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis, who is on hand to discuss his new book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate at 6:30. [See also, NCC.org.]

The marble and granite plaza was paid for by the Friends of Independence National Historical Park, whose chair Tom Caramanico was in attendance. At the end of the ceremony, Superintendent Sidles signed the permit to the first demonstration to be held at People's Plaza, a war protest being staged by Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting next Sunday. You're welcome to attend whether you agree or disagree.

* * *

It's also worth noting that elsewhere on the same block -- Block 1 of INHP, as described by Darla Sidles -- the landscaping to the mall along the 5th Street side (between Chestnut and Market) is now mostly finished and open to the public with new benches for your Bourse eating convenience.

That leaves the President's House on the corner of 6th & Market as the last piece of the puzzle to the Independence Mall redo. The redesign by Kelly/Maiello approved in December will incorporate the archaeological findings that attracted over 300,000 people last summer. It is fully funded and is scheduled to be completed in 2009. For more on the President's House, please see ushistory.org.

–B Love

PS: Umm . . . on an unrelated note, please consider this an all points bulletin for all you kind people in Old City: There is a reward of one six-pack of any beer brewed by Yards Brewery if you find a black ski cap with a boognish on it. It somehow fell out of my back pocket this morning somewhere between Old City Coffee (whose coffeecake is outta sight, by the way), the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center. It look a lil' something like:

So if you find it, please drop me a line and I will gladly meet you with your favorite six-pack of Yards beer. If you don't drink . . . uhh, a Gatorade maybe? Thanks for listening.

14 January 08: Monday Morning Lookin' Up

Way up. Consider this Philly Skyline Orion Skyline (he's there -- click, enlarge and look for his belt) a placeholder. We'll be back this afternoon -- lots and lots going on around town, y'understand -- but right now we gotta go dig ourselves out from under that foot of snow the blizzard dumped on us. See ya shortly.

–B Love

13 January 08: Weekend update
Live from Fishtown, NYT approved destination

Sunday morning. Praise the dawning. It's just a restless feeling by my side.

A good way to start the day, hey hey whattaya say, is with the strongest black coffee in a nice porcelain mug from a thrift shot in St Louis and a fresh, broadsheet paper from New York. For this Sunday morning, Philly Skyline headquarter home Fishtown is among the news that's fit to print.

Jessica McCuan's piece for the New York Times travel section isn't revolutionarily groundbreaking or anything, and she does slip a little into the old "pierced, tattooed chefs" routine, but her aim is true and some of Fishtown's finest get ink time in the generally most respected newspaper in the country.

Nuff respect to Candace and her Bambi, to Hot Potato and their 'Jersey Shore' warm shrimp salad sandwich on a long roll that's so good it'll keep you up till 5 in the morning with heartburn, and to Johnny's Hots whose cheesesteak this self-professed cheesesteak expert has shamefully not yet sampled on one of many strolls to Penn Treaty Park, which is pictured above for your Philly Skyline Sunday Morning Skyline enjoyment. This here Penn Treaty Park view of the low-tide Delaware River and Philly Skyline could get overtaken by Sugar House's hotel tower, Trump Tower, and Penn Treaty Tower (They're still proposing condo towers? On the riverfront? Next to a would-be casino?), all three of which intend to build on the river's shore thanks to state riparian rights. [Plan Philly.]

Back to the NYT Fishtown Fluff, least surprisingly yet most deservingly, big ups to Johnny Brenda's. Littlenecks and tempura rice cakes may have impressed the NYT, but everyone I know goes for the burgers and octopus and fries with hot sauce. That treasured territorial tavern of ours is also, you might recall, the host venue to Philly Skyline: For the Curious -- the first in what is shaping up to be a For the Curious salon series at Johnny Brenda's -- coming next Sunday evening the 20th at 8pm. Nathaniel Popkin will be on hand to talk about The Possible City, which Dan Pohlig of WHYY/Daily News gives Popkin pops props at The Next Mayor; Steve Ives is preparing Notecards!; and I'll be there to talk Skyline: literally, figuratively, and improvisationally. (But not in the musical sense . . . there will be no singer-songwriter Jack Blacking at this event, thanks.)

But seriously: it's free, it's fun, and the following day is Martin Luther King Jr Day, so you should be able to stay out late and make it to your day of service on Monday. Questions to be answered include such topics as Skinny and Mandeville Place. For more info, please see johnnybrendas.com. Come see us -- you can buy a calendar there if you haven't gotten one already. Speaking of: for those of you have gotten a calendar (THANK YOU), how's it working out for you? Send a pic of it in your cubicle or your dorm room wall or with you standing in front of it making the Ronnie James Dio corna and we'll put it up on a new Philly Skyline calendar in action page.

* * *

Got your milk and bread for the Great 2008 Snow-In? Get yourself a nice fuzzy hoodie, a glass of Bushmills 1608 (for that Irish distillery's 400th anniversary), and warm up with these blasts from the snowy past.

For Weekend Update, I'm B Love, and that's news to me.

–Kevin Nealon

11 January 08: The Possible City
More than shelter

by Nathaniel Popkin
January 10, 2008

The campus of Philadelphia University, where I am serving this year as writer-in-residence, is a wooded park on the slope that rises from the east bank of the Schuylkill River. The geography in this part of the city combined with old ideas about the urban form conspire to separate the campus, which includes the old Ravenhill Academy, from the East Falls neighborhood, indeed from the city itself. A walk from the East Falls train station (R6) to the Ravenhill part of campus is short, but it brings the unwelcome pedestrian to unmarked hill at the rear of the University.

The 32 bus, on the other hand, delivers the rider to Schoolhouse Lane and Henry Avenue, the University's front door. Yet few students, staff, or faculty use it. Why this is so is a result of a handful of factors -- all of which but one are the topic for another day. That one -- the lack of a bus shelter -- is an indicator of how Septa falls so short of the transit system we need it to be.

Philadelphia's transit system seems inadequate in comparison to other cities because it is based on the bus. Bus lines don't translate well to conceptual maps and they lack a physical presence, which means they are hard for most people to grasp. A subway system, on the other hand, has stations, stops, and maps so conceptual they simplify city life. And a subway station is a natural place to disseminate information. It is also manned.

But in most of Philadelphia outside of Center City, there is the ephemeral bus itself and, at each stop, a small, rectangular card with the route number. At Schoolhouse Lane and Henry Avenue that card is posted 13 feet high on a telephone pole. There is otherwise no indication that every twenty minutes a bus leaves the corner for Fairmount Park, Boathouse Row, the Parkway, and City Hall, ending finally a few blocks from the Italian Market.

Now imagine the corner with a bus shelter. Here is the physical presence the invisible system needs, and what's more the information required to put riders at ease. The most effective bus shelters provide light, room for advertising, cover from the rain and wind, system information and schedules, neighborhood maps, destinations, and critically, they tell when the next bus will arrive.

Happily, the cost of installing and maintaining bus shelters is paid by advertisers -- enough to return revenue to the city too. Therefore the most formidable obstacle to installing bus shelters at scale throughout Philadelphia is the electrical hook-up needed for lighting and the LED displaying on-time information. Luckily, a Canadian firm has perfected a solar electrifying system used now in Edinburgh, of all sun-splashed places. There is an up-front cost to the solar system, which is installed without disturbing current infrastructure, but it is insignificant compared to a conventional hook-up.

Quite as important as its impact on the individual bus rider, installing smart bus shelters at scale throughout the city is a formidable way to reject Philadelphia's default parochial position. At once -- and at minimal cost -- we can forge a larger, more accessible, more clearly connected city, one that is open and easy to understand.

It's still a new day, after all.

–Nathaniel Popkin

For more on The Possible City, please see HERE.
For Nathaniel Popkin archives, please see HERE, or visit his web site HERE.

10 January 08: The Possible City
Nature's balance

by Nathaniel Popkin
January 10, 2008

The Old Mine Road, which starts at the Hudson River and continues to the Delaware Water Gap, is one of the first commercial highways in the US, in use for at least 300 years. Much of the New York portion became US 209. But in New Jersey it passes through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where the road is lightly paved or gravel, narrow, and scenic. Otherwise dotted with mostly abandoned farm houses (farms taken for the failed Tocks Island Dam project in the 1970s), rushing streams, corn fields, and meadows, in certain sections the road passes within eye-shot of the Delaware, its islands, its turns, and the cliffs that rise on the Pennsylvania side. It's a less epic landscape than the Hudson but more intimate and moving. Here, more than anywhere else in the mid-Atlantic region, one feels the lush belly of the earth in its melancholy tension with the passage of time.

It is a place of ruins; when the federal government condemned farms for the dam project (which was to have active recreation uses as one of its bi-products -- think miles of parking for summer day-tripping families) it left a landscape suspended in time. Camps, farmhouses, outhouses, stone walls, gardens, and barns were left. Some have fallen and others bulldozed, but not the resentment of a people whose way of life was, they believe, condemned. Oldtimers in Sussex and Warren counties on the New Jersey side and Pike in Pennsylvania therefore despise government, the Feds especially. The resentment endures despite reason, coalescing with the reactionary conservatism of our times. Cy Harker was one of those oldtimers; his farm, one of the few privately-held working farms within the park's boundaries, straddled the Old Mine Road just above Peter's Valley, the artists' colony. His stone house with sky blue trim and barn, his ancient dog, the curve of the road, the tilt of the earth made Harker's farm a popular spot for photographers and landscape painters and Harker himself an iconic figure. He'd refused to sell to the Feds, after all, and in his nineties still worked his land.

But late in 2006, the old man lost control of his tractor. It ran him over and he died. His heirs sold the farm to two local brothers, Aaron and Matthew Hull, and their wives. The Hull family had endured the failed dam project and the subsequent designation of the recreation area. And despite the positive impact of the park on the area, they still carried resentment, an irrational mistrust of "government," a fear that colored their view of the world. They own the land on each side of the road, they say, and threading the regulatory needle, claimed its ownership. So this fall they installed gates across the Old Mine Road, one at south end of the farm, the other, 300 yards on, at the north.

Having walked those 300 yards many times, I was dumbstruck last week when taking a winter hike we discovered the gates. My wife and I had to instruct our daughter Lena that walking around the gateposts wasn't breaking any law, merely asserting a right to traverse an ancient path. "It's a road!" I exclaimed. What is a road, but a testament to the need we have for one another? This one particularly, in use since the seventeenth century, is part of the nation's patria, an early nexus of commerce, culture, and community.

One might lose sleep thinking about these gates. Imagine, for example, that each of the landowners on either side of the Hull farm did the same and blocked their part of the road; the road -- society itself -- would lose all meaning. So this is sabotage of the public sphere by private whim, never mind that the landowner on either side is the US Department of the Interior. Never mind, indeed, that in winter the Park Service itself closes an uninhabited part of the road a mile or so on. Having been underfunded for so long by conservative governments, it doesn't have the budget to keep it safe.

The Hulls say the gates are needed to protect their safety and privacy. This is like President Bush saying he's invaded Iraq to spread democracy. They're words, merely, meant to cover actions, in this case ones they know are possible only because their farm is surrounded by public land. Bill, a retired engineer who leases federal property just to the north of the Hulls, is unlikely to block off his portion of the road, trapping them in. So this is a dare of sorts meant to force the federal government to take strong action, thereby confirming what they already believe.

Some 70 miles downstream, our parks too, suffer the imbalance between private initiative and public good. Only here in Philadelphia -- aside from the occasional Ohio House as café project -- there is too little messy personal ambition and too much high-minded public good. The result is abundant nature -- we've nine environmental education centers in the city alone -- too little money to manage it, and too few people to enjoy it. The imbalance is the legacy of diverse historical forces -- from Penn's original ideas to the shrunken tax base -- and critically, a shrunken idea of what city parks can be.

This last point is what Dennis McGlade, president and principal at Olin Partners, the landscape architecture firm, and I are discussing as we sit on the new granite seat wall at Lubin Plaza. (Andropogon Associates, not Olin, designed the plaza, which McGlade thinks is "lovely.") McGlade is an empathetic man with short white hair and throwback glasses. He is a pluralistic thinker with a keen sense of plant systems and human psychology. To him, tree placement has as much to do with aesthetics as it does with ecology, plant biology, and human nature. And the question of nature in the city reveals connections among road salt, blacktop, empty lots, roofs, population density, and rainfall.


. . .

–Nathaniel Popkin

For more on The Possible City, please see HERE.
For Nathaniel Popkin archives, please see HERE, or visit his web site HERE.

9 January 08: The day we met the Mayor

Tuesday, January the 8th, will be a day that thousands of Philadelphians hopefully remember as special and significant for, at least for a day, we were (most literally) in touch with our government. It had nothing to do with any comeback kids who win primary elections because they cry on television or has been mavericks who win primary elections because one state spites another state, thanks to the asinine setup of American primary elections which render other states still -- like Pennsylvania -- irrelevant in the national scope of presidential politics.

No, it had everything to do with positivity and symbolically open government, all right here in Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter graciously opened the doors of City Hall to shake hands with his public and hear our thoughts, and thousands of people took him up on it. Steve Ives and I were among them.

We met in the middle of Dilworth Plaza, where a 360° turn provided the best views of the longest single line of people maybe I've ever seen, as well as new lighting by Center City District and the City on the western portal, news crews getting ready for their 6 o'clock live spots (what up Mike Strug and NBC10), southbound drivers on PA Route 611 (Broad Street and, for one block, 15th Street) asking what the line was for ("free Ben & Jerry's!"), crazy vagrants calling people "motherfuckers" and generally not liking all the people on their usual hang spot, and opportunists using the occasion to film people's opinions on stop-n-frisk and carry pro-Mumia signs.

It was all very Philly. Businessmen in suits. Laborers in worn jeans and sweatshirts. Eagles fans in Brian Dawkins jerseys and gray sweatpants. All standing in line, waiting and waiting, slowly moving, and not minding one bit because everyone wanted to see Mayor Nutter and personally thank him, congratulate him, and wish him well.

Two and a half hours is a long time to stand with strangers, but in the spirit of the day, the strangers came together and talked Nutter, talked Philly. We talked about the last time we went up City Hall tower: I went fifteen days prior, Christmas Eve morning; the tall white man in the overcoat hasn't been since he was a kid, before it was closed in; the funny Latina lady had never been.

We talked about Mummers and Phillies and Rizzo and Street and Residences at the Ritz-Carlton across the street and Comcast Center peering over Penn Center at us down on Dilworth Plaza.

We marveled at City Hall itself, one of the very goals of the evening: "There's nothing like this anywhere else." "This would never be built now."

We talked to City Hall guards and Nutter volunteers. We cheered the Mr John guy when he heroically (and extremely quickly) set up half a dozen portable toilets on the very spot where the City Toilet once stood. We talked chili with Dovate. We looked up North Broad Street at the Philadelphia Life Insurance Company buildings, about which a passing by George Claflen relayed the great news that demolition was, for at least another two weeks, staved off and a trial date set. (Inga, Plan Philly.) Following that conversation, and perhaps in a pardonable moment of overwhelming civic pride, we -- Steve, myself and a fireman -- cursed the parent state.

We made our way up the final stairs to the sounds of the Girard Academic Music Program's Mozart number and inside, under Conversation Hall's amazing chandelier, a soothing harp. Leading up to Mayor Nutter himself, I pondered telling him that the Convention Center's expansion needs a green roof, pondered revisiting the South Street Bridge topic I've personally discussed with him twice, pondered disobeying the several requests to not take pictures once inside. But once we were there, Steve and I just shook the man's hand, congratulated him, and wished him luck. Then we made our way out of there, wishing the best to new Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey on our way into the Mayor's Reception Room, where City Hall tour director Greta Greenberger shined in her big public moment and where HughE Dillon was ready to take our picture for his Philly Chit Chat report.

And it was all we. And for one unseasonably warm day in which standing in a really long line was perfectly OK, we were beautiful.

–B Love

9 January 08: Sunrise suite, or,
If you see something, say something

You wouldn't know it to look out into the wet mess right now, but this was the scene in the Great Outdoors (of Fishtown Woodland Manor) at 7:15 this morning. The semiotic skies of the New Day keep a-rollin': as Nathaniel reported on the morning of the inauguration, it was gray and cloudy in the morning, and the sun was shining by the time the Academy crowd had dispersed. Last night, when thousands lined around the block just to shake Mayor Michael Nutter's hand, global warming was for one day just right. (I'd still like for at least one mother of a snowstorm to rip through here by the end of the winter, let's say like Presidents Day five years ago.) And then this morning, one last pretty pretty sunrise before reality's rainy skies closed in and The Man and his government get to work.

It all happened so fast that by the time I got to the rooftop to see that orange-bathed skyline on a black backdrop, the sun was already behind the clouds. What can ya do . . .

Hear about the bomb scare, didja? The blocks around Comcast Center were closed early this morning because the police's bomb squad was called out to investigate a suspicious package found near 18th & Arch. The package has been removed and all is well.

How you doin'?

–B Love

8 January 08: Please stand by

An expression of Gratitude for your patience. (Especially for those who enjoyed the Pink Floyd at Pompeii yank on YouTube a few months ago.)

–B Love

7 January 08: I walked in it was gray,
walked out it was May

by Nathaniel Popkin
January 7, 2008

It was a morning of voices: the PA announcer who sounded like God, Anna Verna's female Howard Cossell, Michael Nutter's Kermit the Frog, and the mezzo-soprano Tracie Luck, sounding every bit as exalting as Marian Anderson. But Nutter's rose above them, above the press of history so present (William Penn mentioned more than Ed Rendell), above the able status quo, above the gilded plaster and red velvet, above the heavy weight of loss. "We are located right between the financial capital of the world and the center of government," said the new Mayor, a pronouncement made without regret rather with the sharp eye of the strategist. Forty percent of the nation lives within driving distance to our city, the city that will be great again.

If there are any complaints about this morning's swearing-in it is for the overuse of the word renaissance. Surely all four former mayors sitting on the podium used that word too, and it is meaningless. Council President Verna put it right when she said that "Change is natural and normal," and indeed, all cities are always changing in various ways all at once.

But nothing ought to be taken away from the new Mayor, who comes to us with a firm grip on a new kind of rational politics, one that sets clear goals, that speaks without fear, in an honest voice, without artifice. He spoke first about public safety, saying in regard to homicide "I've had enough and I'm not taking it any more." For this someone sitting near to me whispered jokingly, "He sounds like Rizzo." But then Nutter said, "We are all connected," four words that define his vision for public service. Indeed, he's already established an "east-west partnership" between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, whose mayor Luke Ravenstahl was on hand, and repeated his intention of partnering with elected officials in the region, Harrisburg, and Washington.

It is convincing rhetoric, in this case bolstered by specific goals: to cut the homicide rate 30-50% (he cited New York's success); to cut the 45% school drop-out rate in half; to double the rate (currently 18%) of Philadelphians who hold a bachelor's degree. He wants the 72,000 people in the workforce who have some college education to be given incentives to finish. Verna spoke at length about Philadelphia's strength in higher education; Nutter finished her thought by saying "Education is our business," and therefore we ought to be able to educate our own citizens.

He wants Philadelphia to be the nation's greenest city, open to immigrants, with high quality of life. "We deserve it, and you're going to get it," he said and the hearts of Philadelphians opened. We haven't heard such clarity since Moses Malone pronounced, "fo', fo', fo'."

Philadelphia revealed its beauty and dignity this morning, the legacy of bi-racial accommodation, of feminism, of faith (though I was personally troubled by God's presence), of its sense of civilization. Nutter was clearly moved by the weight of it. Can he harness the power that all of us hold?

The Mayor concluded his speech by saying, "That's my vision for a new Philadelphia and I'm asking all of you to embrace it and make it happen."

Still in the spirit, and having just noticed the first daffodil in bloom outside my door, I will start. I sat next to the developer Carl Dranoff, who looked like an old Philadelphia banker with his pinstripes and gray scarf and seemed surprised to find himself in the Family Circle. He talked, of course, about his projects, the next being 777 S. Broad. "It's a green building," he said, and set back for lots of sidewalk tables.

Let's say we're moving in the right direction.

–Nathaniel Popkin

For Nathaniel Popkin archives, please see HERE, or visit his web site HERE.

6 January 08: Weekend Edition
and a correction

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have officially left our lives for another football season, I have but one thing to say: one more for the Wrangler wearing warrior, Brett Favre, Packers fans.

It would seem that Friday's double dose of Unsubstantiated Philly Skyline Rumors piqued the ire of a number of readers (and Phillyblog). So, please allow me to clarify something here if it isn't already clear by the yellow font and the word "rumors": a rumor is a rumor, and will always be reported as such here on Philly Skyline. You may believe it if you wish, but I won't be offended if you don't. Rumors have been right before, but they've also been wrong.

That of Janice Woodcock's resignation from PCPC was both. She did in fact step down, but it was not via Mayor Street's request.
Dear Philly Skyline.com,

I well know that rumors can be expressed on the internet without substantiation. While my last day was indeed yesterday, it was not Mayor Street who asked me to step down.

On a more important note: Thank you, and thank you so much for promoting the fact that this city needs a comprehensive plan. We do need one and it must be done well if this city is to position itself for a brighter future. May your blog hold our local government responsible for producing one, at the proper pace and with full citizen participation.

Janice Woodcock
Inga reported in Saturday's Inquirer that it was actually Mayor Nutter who asked Janice to step down. That's a big difference from Mayor Street asking her to step down. With that said, Philly Skyline regrets the error and still wishes Janice the very best post-Planning Commission.

About the Comcast second phase rumor: as a fellow named Giovanni Sasso said on Skyscraperpage, That's why it is a rumor -- if Brian Roberts and Bill Hankowsky had personally called me into a meeting and said "we are announcing plans to build a 125 story tower," I would have said "Brian Roberts and Bill Hankowsky told me they have announced plans to build a 125 story tower." . . . It's a rumor, take it or leave it.

* * *

And now for something less curt and more cute, here is a picture of the Philly Skyline mascot, Tripod, wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket.

Elsewhere across Philly's news banks at the moment, two items of interest stand out:
  1. POPKIN ON THE NEW YEAR: Philly Skyline Senior Vice President of Everything Nathaniel Popkin was a busy man in the days leading up to 2008, gathering notes and prognostications for the year in the most scientific prediction method possible: visiting palm readers and card readers. The very Philadelphian results are found in his latest Slant, the first of the new year at City Paper. It is HERE.

  2. FATE OF THE INQUIRER BUILDING -- AND STAFF: The Courier-Post's Eileen Stilwell is becoming a regular Natalie Kostelni these days with the interesting reads and Philly Skyline name-drops . . . Her latest piece, for yesterday's paper, builds on the anticipation of what exactly is going to result from the impending sale of the Inquirer Building and what will happen physically with the staff that currently inhabits its 18 floors. That Courier-Post article is HERE. (To launch a Philly Skyline series of photos taken over the last six years, please see HERE.)

* * *

Moving right along, the next two days mark the launch of two completely unrelated items, but two of significance and expectations all the same.

MONDAY IS NUTTER DAY: At long last, Michael A. Nutter sheds the hyphenation from his title and becomes the 98th Mayor of Philadelphia. Patrick Kerkstra has an excellent outlook of what's at stake in Saturday's Inquirer. The swearing-in will happen in the morning at the Academy of Music (where Chris Rock will be performing in February), and his staff at City Hall shortly afterward. If you were wise enough to buy tickets in advance, you may attend his inaugural ball, Philadelphia Realized, at the Navy Yard.

Otherwise, he is hosting an open house at City Hall on Tuesday from 4 to 8. Mayor Nutter will be shaking hands, meeting his constituents and generally playing host in the courtyard and Conversation Hall, while the west, north and east portals will be illuminated (thanks to a City / Center City District partnership). Also, according to the official press release, "William Penn and Ben Franklin will also be on hand to help commemorate the day." Awesome!


Then, just as you're arriving home and winding down with something a little stronger than the free hot cocoa at the Nutter party, tune in to A&E to see just who plays the hero and who plays the goat in their new "reality" series Parking Wars, based on the vastly esteemed Philadelphia Parking Authority. From A&E's web site:
PARKING WARS is a first-hand and decidedly playful look at what happens when the citizens of Philadelphia comes face-to-face with the PPA.
The organization whose most recent episodes of publicity involve its inability to keep up its payments to the city's general fund and School District (Inquirer, also Patrick Kerkstra) and its inflated top level salaries (Daily News, Bob Warner), and whose Traffic Court amusingly has convenient parking for $5 across the street, is the star of the series initially slated for 20 episodes. Whether any of those issues makes its way into what stands to make PPA out to be the good guys, and whether it makes the average Philadelphian look like the stereotypical Philly knucklehead to the average American TV viewer remains to be seen.

One thing yr friendly Philly Skyline can comment on now is: A&E must've gotten out memo to use the latest skyline view possible. Sort of. While the skyline graphic (MLK Drive view) features Comcast Center, is appears to have been added post-haste, a little to the left of its actual location. Ah well . . . let's give them AN A&E FOR EFFORT. GET IT?

If A&E does make them out to be lovable heroes, you might consider peppering your perception with the other point of view, found at PPA Wiki.

* * *

One place you can always find up to date views of the Philly Skyline is our Comcast Center construction section, which has as many long views -- skyline views -- as it does detailed close-ups of construction. So even if you're not the biggest fan of that building, you might enjoy the view from, say, South Philly, North Philly, Fairmount Park, and always our favorite, the Belmont Plateau, all of which are found in the latest update from over the weekend. A Philly Skyline Plateau Skyline concludes this weekend edition which hopefully finds you well and looking forward to the New Day.

–B Love

4 January 08: Here comes the New Day

. . . but not before at least one last Old Day here in Philadel-phi-EH. My favorite mayor and yours, John F. Street, has one last weekend to add to his legacy that will be remembered by FBI taps and wasted -- or at least stalled -- opportunities, and more recently, iPhones and once-deferred-but-now-retroactive pay raises. That includes today, the last day of his administration's Zoning Board of Adjustment, who can green light projects that need rezoning before they (the board) are replaced by the next board. Inga Saffron's column today has an excellent breakdown of what's at stake (even just today) and how it's ludicrous that the process bypasses the City Planning Commission and an informed planning process altogether.

Speaking of the Planning Commission, today is also the last day of Executive Director Janice Woodcock, who is stepping down after 15 months of executive service that includes advocating for a new comprehensive city plan and the waterfront civic vision. Among Michael Nutter's many announced appointments, a new PCPC head has not been among them. Stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: Unsubstantiated Hearsay is now reporting that Janice did not in fact step down, but that Mayor Street himself called her yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and let her go, leaving PCPC without a head exactly two business days before Michael Nutter takes office, and that other city agencies may be in for the same fate. Oh Mayor Street, you so crazy! Go on, take the money and run. HOO HOO HOO!

UH is also reporting that Janice's replacement is being culled from a pool of national candidates, which is to say that there's a good chance that the new head of PCPC will come from somewhere else, as with a number of his other appointees.

Meanwhile, her staff will continue working toward that comprehensive plan with its series of community events which ask us, the public, how we envision the city -- "neighborhoods, skyline, parks, and business districts" -- in 2035. Imagine Philadelphia picks up where it left off in December with upcoming events in North Philly, Port Richmond, Germantown, Roxborough and at last, Center City, whose meeting is Tuesday the 22nd at the Convention Center. Check HERE for full details. While it's easy to be skeptical about another series of meetings, this one is extremely important in the scope of both the city's history and its future: Nutter has touted a comprehensive plan, and the last time the city put one together, it made the Planning Commission's head the face of planning across the country. The problem with this, of course, is that it was over 40 years ago, and Ed Bacon's vision (which included a number of expressways which would have decimated South Street and Cobbs Creek and which were thankfully not built) has been amended and rewritten hundreds and hundreds of times. It's time to simplifyyy . . . MAN.

It's your city, after all. Do the Planning Commission a favor and help them help us all.

To Janice: thanks for the memories, and godspeed.

On a related note, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association is next Wednesday hosting a community forum at which they and the Planning Commission will share their plan for that neighborhood. Expect beautiful new renderings, civil discussion and overwhelming support for the Philadelphia River City project. It's Wednesday January 9th at Moore College, 20th & Race, at 6:30pm. Be there and be Square.

Something that might not be on the agenda, because it is at this stage an Unsubstantiated Philly Skyline Rumor is, well, the next phase of the Comcast Center project.

Now, the second phase of the project itself is not a rumor. A smaller, 16-18 story tower which pays homage to One Penn Center (Suburban Station) just across the plaza has always been planned, and can be seen even in the earliest renderings as Two Pennsylvania Plaza. As this web site has reported a number of times in the past year, as the main Comcast tower has risen and attracted tenants both above and below ground, the second tower has been a simple matter of when, not if. Only now, the question is whether a 16-18 story tower will be enough for Comcast's continued growth.

The southwest corner of the block bound by 17th & 18th and JFK & Arch is directly above Septa's regional rail tracks and the infrastructure is built to withstand a building upwards of 40-45 stories. Remember, the short-lived, 20-story Sheraton Hotel once stood with its thousand-car garage on the entire block between 17th & 18th on JFK. The rumor mill is suggesting that Comcast wants something . . . a wee bit bigger, and perhaps better, than the tower it hasn't even fully moved into yet.

Now that's some funky hearsay. Bookmark our Comcast Center construction section for photos of that tower once it starts rising, whether it's 16, 18, 43 or 100 stories.

–B Love

3 January 08: 69th Street train, making all stops
. . . Doors closing

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .

How y'all doin' out there? All bundled up? Scraper for the frost on the windows? Hot toddy coffee to start your day? Good.

So it goes from up above Girard Ave station on such a winter's day. That's just a three minute walk from JB's, y'know, so on Sunday the 20th get your tokens (and getcha popcorn) ready, cos there's a Philly Skyline party in the works.

Regular Philly Skyline productivity and output are chugging along behind the scenes, but this is probably a good enough moment to let you know that the first photo updates of the year are high five alive at Comcast Center, Murano and Residences at the Ritz-Carlton. 10 Rittenhouse Square is also just about there -- there's one teeny bit of info that needs clearance before we're live, but using context clues, you may find a sneak preview.

Stay warm out there, friend.

–B Love

3 January 08: 2008's first . . . Coming Attractions

All righty then, partners, it's three days into the new calendar year and we've already got something you'll wanna mark down in your Philly Skyline, The Calendar: 2008. Well, a date for you anyway: January 20th. And it involves everything in the Philly Skyline Events Skyline above, even the driver of the Golf waiting to make a left. Curious? You should be.

Details soon, but the date is solid: January 20th. See you . . . here?

–B Love

2 January 08: Yr Mummers so fat,
they got to iron their pants in the driveway

If it's a New Year, it's Comic/Fancy/String Band/Fancy Brigade time, and chances are you're either struttin' up Broad Street, standing (and waiting and waiting and waiting) on either side of Broad Street, or nursing a hangover to a house full of pork and sauerkraut smell with MyPHL on the teevee.

Me, I took advantage of the delayed start of the 2008 Mummers Parade and enjoyed a pine-orange mimosa with my cheesy, peppery egg soufflé, grilled mushrooms & onions and heaps of bacon round about noon before hopping the El for the SouPhil saturnalia. Clicking the graphic at right will take you to a page of 30 photos from the Parade.

Hopefully you were able to catch the fireworks at midnight down Penn's Landing way, because they were something else, boy. You know those big loud ones fireworks shows always end with? Well this display, it had some that were that loud but which also had the color display, maybe the biggest single pyrotechnic display I ever did see. From yr Skyline HQ's Fishtown deck, these things looked like they were going to consume the entire Ben Franklin Bridge. Really impressive, as the fireworks go.

Right after that, with a Cuban Romeo y Julieta and a glass of the finest whiskey, we rang in 2008, here it is, hello hello, welcome aboard. And with that embrace of the new year, a gracious goodbye to the old year. This here Philly Skyline 2007 Skyline is the setting sun on the year that was, 2007.

–B Love

31 December 07: Out with a bang

You take a sip, you take a breath, you take a nap, you take a walk, you take a drive, you take a red eye to go, and it's gone daddy gone, gone like two oh oh seven.

Here at yr friendly Philly Skyline, it's been a petal to the metal kind of year, shakin' hands, kissin' babies, runnin' over mailboxes and just tryin' to stay on the up and up. Sure, there have been a few things that have been blown right by like a scruffy hitchhiker, but as long as we're livin' -- L-I-V-I-N -- there'll be time. Some of 2007's promises will be 2008's promises: The Skinny (ha ha! Seriously!), a new look, better organization and archiving, more neighborhoods, more profiles, more photos, more events, calendars, chili cookoffs, baseball playoffs, words to live by. It's going to be a rock & roll 2008.

But we can't just tie one on at Penn's Landing under the big exploding sky and skip outta 2007 without a final, official shout-out to the folks who've been along for the ride. So . . .

• To Nathaniel Popkin, Steve Ives, Michelle Schmitt, Nidhi Krishen, Michael Shannon and Conor Corcoran: thank you for all your awesome contributions, hard work and inspiration. Without your efforts, Philly Skyline might have devolved into what I fed my cat this morning. (Aww, I love that three legged cat.)

• To Joe Minardi, Matt Johnson and Arthur Petrella, thank you for sharing your views of our local world. Here's to more photos, and to anyone interested in contributing photo essays in the new year, think of some ideas and drop a line to photos AT phillyskyline DOT com and let's talk after the hangovers.

• To Inga, CDoc, DMac, Golas & gang, Cornfield & cohorts, Sweeney, Deeney & Valania, Albert, Enrico, Dovate, Illadelph, Zoe Strauss, HughE, Ruby Legs, Gambacorta, Weitzel, and everyone making Philly interesting, keep on keepin' on.

• To Zur in the Northeast, Jimbo in Tampa, DEREK IN OLNEY, Mark & Marcus in G-Ho, Paul in Northern Liberties, Ray in East Falls, Bart in Wisconsin, Barry in Titusville, Vinny in South Jersey, Tim in Roxborough, Glory in North Philly, John III in West Philly, and all the regular emailers: thank you for being moved/impassioned/incensed/inspired/affected enough to drop a line.

• To everyone who's emailed that I've failed to get back to in a timely manner if at all: my bad. I'm trying, honest I am.

• To you, my dear reader: thank you very, very much for coming by and coming back.

• To everyone in the Faces Of 2007 photo compilation: say cheese.

Happy New Year, everyone. We'll be back in action just as soon as dem golden slippers are back in the closet with a plate full of newness and goodness. We'll even come to your emotional rescue.

–B Love