31 March 08: PLAY BALL . . . hopefully

Stupid rain.

Games that count . . . in March? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, since opening day has been at the beginning of April since the beginning of time, but Major League Baseball thinks that March 31st is OK for opening day in 2008. And that's the league-wide opening day -- the Red Sox and A's have already played a two-game series in Japan that inexplicably counts in the standings, and don'tcha know they threw the Nats a bone and let them open their new ballpark with a real game last night.

Meanwhile, it's March, and there's March weather outside here in Philadelphia: a high of 50 with rain on the forecast.

It's not the only questionable scheduling decision Major League Baseball has thrown at the Phillies, either: the defending National League east champions' heated rivalry with the New York Mets got that much better in the offseason, with the Mets penciled in as paper champs with the addition of ace Johan Santana -- and it's the final season at craptastical Shea Stadium -- yet the last time the Phillies play them is in early September, and the final Mets/Phils series at Citizens Bank Park is a whopping two-gamer in August. (For what it's worth, the Yankees' final series at Yankee Stadium, also being replaced next year, against the Red Sox is in August, but they close the season with a three-game series at Fenway Park.) The Phillies and Mets play nineteen games after their last head-to-head, the Mets ending at home against the freaking Marlins and the Phils ending at home against the team they start with today, the 1-0 Washington Nationals.

The steadily improved Nats have themselves a whole new reason to perform: Nationals Park, which will draw a huge attendance for simply being a new ballpark. This is the other major FU dealt to the Phils and their fans: seeing as divisional rivals play each other 18 times a year, or three separate series on each team's home field, you'd think MLB would encourage fans to travel the 135 miles to root their team on and enjoy the ridiculously overpriced new ballpark. But? All three Nats/Phils games in Nationals Park are on a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, one of which is Labor Day when everyone has other plans anyway.

But whatever. It's baseball season, baby. The Fightin Phils open the 2008 campaign with a ceremonial first pitch by hizzoner Mayor Nutter (fresh off his appearance on Sunday morning's Face the Nation) at 3, followed by the real first pitch from Brett Myers at 3:05. All of this is weather permitting, of course.

A mediocre spring following a mediocre offseason following several slow starts doesn't bode well for the early part of the Phillies season . . . they came home from a sluggish few weeks in Florida to lose two meaningless exhibition games to those Toronto Blue Jays and then squeaked out a win to christen AAA-Allentown's new stadium yesterday. (Road trips up 476 are forecast this summer.) By and large, spring training means little beyond conditioning, but it could certainly help build a team's momentum and readiness. The Phillies could have had a better spring 2008, this much is true.

But let's throw all that out the window, bundle up and head to the ballpark. The questions around Pat Burrell's future, Pedro Feliz' offense, Brad Lidge's knee, Chase Utley's 2008 MVP, Pat Gillick's retirement plans, Ruben Amaro's promotion plans, Kris Benson's wife and all things Phillies will be answered one by one over the next 162 or so days. It's baseball time.


* * *

Top level Phillies resources:
• The Inquirer's interactive preview
• Phillies at The 700 Level
–B Love

30 March 08: Variations on a theme:
The implosion of Mantua Hall

This animated jobby job was the scene at 8:40 this morning from above the Mann Center but beneath Law, Prosperity & Power: the implosion of the 18 story highrise housing project called Mantua Hall.

Coverage was excellent by the both the professional media and the civilian media. For different views from different angles, have a look at the selections below, all target=_blank'd for you so that you don't have to click back and find your place in the list again.
Pro media video:
6ABC (from 35th & Mantua)
CBS3 (from 34th Street Bridge)
NBC10 (from up in a tree, apparently)
Fox29 (from 37th & Brown)
Philly.com (from 34th Street Bridge)

YouTube coverage:
Amber Hough (from Cira Centre)
Malcolm X Park (from 37th & Mount Vernon)
CDoc (from Lemon Hill)
DrGingivitis (from the PHA ceremony)
Delphi9800 (from 35th & Mantua)
Sean Blanda (from his roof on N 35th St in Mantua)
Finally, might wanna keep Phillyblog handy, as it's likely that any new videos of the implosion will be posted there.

–B Love

28 March 08: End of the line at Mantua Hall

In the past ten years, Philadelphia has watched the demolition of enough of a stock of buildings from different periods of history to create an entire city neighborhood, albeit one of an odd, mixed-up makeup: One Meridian Plaza, Convention Hall, the Commercial Museum, the Adams Mark Hotel, the Liberty Bell Pavilion, the Vet, the Front & Chestnut maritime commercial buildings, the Byberry Mental Hospital, the Tidewater Grain Elevator, and most recently, those in the way of the new Convention Center: the Gilbert Building, the Metzger Building, the National Building, the Philadelphia Life Insurance Company Building and its annex, the Odd Fellows Temple, the Race Street Firehouse. If developers' visions allow, the Stephen Girard Building, the Dilworth House and the Spectrum could also meet the wrecking ball. That's a lot of organized destruction, and it's left a lot of mixed feelings.

Believe it or not, that list there is only half of the large scale demolition that's happened here in the past decade or so. The other half leaves not mixed feelings, but sentiments of almost unanimous relief, and in turn hope. The Philadelphia Housing Authority, led by its executive director Carl Greene, has been reinventing its delivery of public housing, especially and most importantly to its tenants.

With the advantage of hindsight, the highrise housing project concept of the 1950s and 60s is largely recognized as a failure. "You have to understand," PHA spokesperson Jan Pasek says, "the 1937* model of public housing was of low-rise density, with New York as the exception. Up there, space is at a premium." But, as the tower-in-the-park became the vogue, so too did the post-WWII realization that stacking lower income families upward was for the most part cost effective.

* - 1937 was the year PHA was organized.

None of this could have predicted the dramatic downshift of the makeup of that lower income family. "Dual parent families are just not as prevalent today," Pasek forthrightly states. Couple the working single parent with the deteriorated physical space of low-lit and enclosed hallways, and you enable mischief. Indeed, mischief is one way of describing the goings-on at a number of highrise housing projects all too familiar to drug activity and violent crime.

From the "Rally and Relapse, 1946-1968" chapter by Joseph S Clark and Dennis J Clark of Philadelphia, a 300 Year History, edited by Russell F Weigley, p 670:
The cost of this public housing was underwritten by the federal government. The Philadelphia Housing Authority built the units through private contractors, and administered the projects on completion and occupancy. Initially, high-rise elevator apartments were built with a few surrounding row houses to provide a self-contained community, like the Harrison Plaza and the Raymond Rosen and Schuylkill Falls developments, but these projects tended to create new low-income ghettos, perpetuating the evils public housing was supposed to eliminate. The last elevator project was built in 1967. Other housing in scattered areas was being rehabilitated and then rented to families at a percentage of their certified income, a plan more socially desirable and generally acceptable.
PHA has turned its acceptance of this failure (which it did not necessarily create wholly) into a goal of demolishing all of its highrise stock and replacing it with more standard housing.

Since 1995, PHA has demolished:

• Raymond Rosen Homes in North Philly: eight towers built in 1954, imploded in 1995
• Schuylkill Falls in East Falls: two towers built in 1955, abandoned in 1976, and finally demolished in 1996
• Martin Luther King Homes in Hawthorne: four towers built in 1957, demolished in 1999
• Southwark Plaza in Queen Village: three towers built in 1965 -- two were imploded in 2000 and one was saved, converted to senior housing and renamed the Courtyard Apartments at Riverview
• Cambridge Plaza in North Philly: two towers built in 1957, imploded in 2001
• Mill Creek Apartments in West Philly: three towers built in 1956 -- designed by Louis Kahn -- demolished in 2002 (more on this below)

On Sunday morning, it will add the next name to the list of bygones: Mantua Hall.

The 18 story tower at 35th & Fairmount was built in 1959, on the site of an old Catholic school for wayward girls. Mantua Hall is highly visible from a number of prominent locations: the Art Museum, Belmont Plateau, the Mann Center, the Zoo, Kelly Drive. But, it's largely unrecognized. Though it's visible, it's not noticeable. It's largely unattractive, and it carries the look of public housing.

Mantua Hall was designed by David Howell Morgan, who according to the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project, was a Welsh immigrant who became assistant director at the Planning Commission and president of the local AIA chapter. He was involved in lots of public housing projects in the 30s, 40s and 50s in Philadelphia and Chester. (It's worth noting here that Chester's two tallest towers, each under the operation of Chester Housing Authority, were also demolished this month, as profiled by Lini Kadaba for the Inquirer.)

Perhaps the saddest, and most brutally real, instance to come out of Mantua Hall is topical today in light of the news that the 3rd Circuit Court declared yesterday that Mumia Abu Jamal should be re-sentenced. For, while the killing of officer Daniel Faulkner has been a flashpoint relating to race and the justice system for the 27 years since, Faulkner was the second city policeman killed in the line of duty in 1981. Six months earlier, officer James Mason was in his patrol car outside Mantua Hall, filing paperwork after a dispute between a tenant and landlord, when a sniper from inside the tower shot and killed him. A suspect was arrested but then acquitted. [Damon C Williams, Daily News.]

Jeff Deeney, the social caseworker who has written cover stories for both City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly, writes a regular column for Phawker called Today I Saw, four of which have profiled his experiences with a client who lived at Mantua Hall (1 2 3 4). "It's easy to see how someone could become depressed living in a high rise like Mantua Hall," he says. "It was filthy, decrepit and dangerous. Other caseworkers I knew had nearly been assaulted on the job there. I generally tried to do my visits in the early morning if at all possible; this tends to reduce the potential hazard of working in places like Mantua. Get in and out before the drug dealers are awake."

Photo by Steve Ives from his 2005 photo essay of the Mantua neighborhood.

Third District Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell is very much looking forward to Sunday morning's implosion. "I really see this as symbolic of the rebirth of Mantua," she says. Centered around Mantua Hall, "this is an area that has had record numbers in poverty, infant mortality, drugs, and STDs. We are trying to transform back into a positive community."

She uses the operative "back" because, prior to World War II, Mantua was a typical, functional, safe neighborhood, populated largely by working class black and Irish families. The present day neighborhood -- an area defined as that between Spring Garden Street, Lancaster Avenue, 40th Street and the railroad main line (serving Amtrak and Septa's R5) -- is 94% black, 44% of which is under the poverty line. [Philadelphia City Planning Commission.]

Councilwoman Blackwell is far more interested in talking about the future. "The rebuilding opportunity we have in Mantua is part and parcel the same West Philadelphia community that is benefitting from the Lucien E Blackwell Homes," the low-rise, rowhouse style development named for her late husband and built on the site of the former Mill Creek towers nearby. "We're talking about 100 new homes, with a school (Morton McMichael Elementary School) across the street. We are simply overjoyed that PHA would commit to this project."

It is true, there will be few tears shed come Sunday morning as the 49 year old tower goes up in smoke. The residents of the 152 units of Mantua Hall have all been relocated via vouchers -- formerly known as section 8 -- to other PHA sites across the city. Deeney notes that his client has "moved on to a scatter site placement in Southwest Philly that she's really happy about. She's got two small boys so having a whole house as opposed to a tiny apartment is a very positive change for her. She was ear-to-ear smiles in the weeks before her move, which for her was a significant improvement as she struggled with major depression among other psychiatric ailments."

* * *

With a ceremony being staged Sunday morning at McAlpin Rec Center, at 36th and Aspen, Philadelphia Housing Authority will demolish Mantua Hall.

The ceremony, emceed by PHA executive director Carl Greene and featuring other local officials including Councilwoman Blackwell, begins at 7:30am, with the implosion itself scheduled for 8:30am. The press has been asked to set up on the 34th Street Bridge, the one next to the Patti Labelle mural that leads to the Zoo. You might try your luck there, but some other places worth a look include the ones mentioned above (Art Museum, Belmont Plateau, etc), and the open field at 39th & Parrish seen in the first image of this post. If you're looking to watch (and photograph and/or film) the implosion on the skyline, there is no better place than the hill above the Mann Music Center:

Though it may not include the loud rock music and lasers I suggested for implosions a while back, Mantua Hall will indeed go out with a bang, a bang worth celebrating.

To end with another bang, let's go back to November 2002 for the last PHA demolition, Louis Kahn's Mill Creek towers, as viewed from Septa's 46th Street station platform.

* * *

For further reading on Mantua Hall:

PHA: official press release
Blackbottom.org: historical photos of the building and neighborhood
PAB: 'Mantua Hall Housing Project' entry
PCPC: Mantua neighborhood plan

–B Love

27 March 08: Brook em, Dano

Tucked away in the upper corner of West Philadelphia lies the urban hamlet Overbrook. Though probably best known to folks outside the neighborhood for either the high school, the train station or The School For The Blind, the neighborhood is one of Philadelphia's hidden surprises.

Gorgeous (and pricey) stone homes line beautiful, curving tree-lined streets. Neatly appointed lanes of brick rowhomes hug the gentle slopes of the neighborhood's many hills.

Unlike much of the city, the faces of its residents span the length and breadth of humanity. Astronauts and movie stars have walked its blocks. Its streets are quiet and its avenues are alive. It reflects some of that charm most people don't associate with Philadelphia and, in some places, a bit of the same patina that makes this city what it is.

The general neighborhood is a agglomeration of smaller places - Overbrook Park or Overbrook Farms - but generally the feel stays the same from one street to the next. It feels like home.

This here is a sampling of Overbrook.


–Steve Ives

For more from Steve Ives, please see his archives HERE.

27 March 08: Powder blue, powder blue.
It's all for you; it's all for you.

And you can feel that.

Fly your flag, Philadelphia, fly your flag. For today, 27th March, is Philly Flag Day. Brenda Exon, the Philly Pride Lady, and her dedicated staff at Partners for Civic Pride are celebrating the birthday of the Philadelphia city flag of powder blue and yellow -- excuse me, azure and maize -- with their second annual party at the Municipal Services Building. Why not stop on by for an azure and maize cupcake and a flag for yourself?

–Brother B Love

26 March 08: Filler Skyline

Howdy, pardner. All lines go to Center City. Such is the case from the El platform at 60th Street in West Philadelphia. Click that image to enlarge the scene from last Friday at sundown.

Lots of back end Serious Business going on on this spring like spring day, but we all certainly thank you for stopping by. Accuweather checks the metropolitan 19125 area in at 60° as we speak, so on the chance you're not reading this on your City wide Wireless from the shores of Penn's Landing with a fat Ashton Magnum hanging off the side of your mouth, perhaps these photo essays of springs past will serve well until that happens.

–B Love

25 March 08: Carry the zero, or,
Philly Skyline Time Warp, 2002

Six years ago right now, I had been in Philadelphia for all of sixteen months. I was comfortable here, but I was definitely still getting a feel for the place. I did this, and still do this, by going out with a good pair of headphones and a camera. But, six years ago, I still hadn't convinced myself to take the leap from traditional (film) photography to modern (digital) photography, so in shooting with a 35mm or medium format camera, I was constrained by the length of the roll of film and the cost of printing, not to mention the time and effort to take a roll of film to a print shop (or worse, a one hour photo lab) and either wait or come back for it. In short, my photography was limited -- choosy by obligation. In the boxes of photos I have from before I went digital, there are lots of photos of Rittenhouse Square, Independence Park, murals and South Philly.

September 2002 is when my approach to photography changed. Given how fast technology changes, that was eons ago, but as DSLRs were still very young, my calculated "digicam" decision erred on the side of brand name, so I got a Sony CD Mavica (MVC-CD400).

This 4 megapixel jammy didn't have a very long optical zoom (3x, or barely more than 70mm equivalent), but it had a reputable Zeiss brand lens, and its storage was not a Compact Flash type of memory stick, but mini-CDRs, a concept which too has for the most part moved on. Another side note about this camera is that it was the first to use a laser to establish focus in low-light settings, which I found out real quick at the North Star Bar. Doug Martsch (of Built to Spill) was in town, touring his Mississippi blues solo album Now You Know, and I was upstairs with my new camera . . . trying to focus on the guitar man on stage below, when the laser deployed and covered him in squiggly red lines. OOPS.

The simple joys of digital photography are instant gratification and, more importantly, quantity, because from quantity comes quality. "Practice makes perfect," after all.

. . . This slaphappy episode of The Philosophy of Digital Photography, with your host Cornelius McGillicuddy, is brought to you by Prodigy World Wide Web services, The Roots Picnic and the letter F . . .

Instantly, I was taking thousands of photos with this Mavica and with repetition I could see improvement. That quantity was also assaulting the camera's sensor and CD writing capabilities to a point of having it serviced twice, replaced by the 5MP upgrade and then having that serviced and replaced. Six years later, I have a giant box of little CDs with 4 and 5 megapixel JPGs sitting in the corner.

Since January 2006, I've been shooting with a Canon Digital Rebel XT, which itself is kind of showing its age; the 5D is (at last) right around the corner. At least half of my 250G hard drive is filled with RAW and JPG files, nearly 90,000 of them, from that same timeframe.

But back in fall 2002, my Mavica was brand new and I was taking photos like a madman. I had not yet been to the zoo to check out the new hot air helium balloon attraction, so I made it my first dedicated mission. The Zooballoon image above, when it wore the giraffe and not its new Carson Palmer jersey, is filed as DSC00557.JPG, or the 557th digital photo I ever took. Four clicks later, I took the photo below, today's Philly Skyline DSC00561 Skyline.

There's no Cira Centre (or its garage), no Comcast Center, no Murano, no Waterfront Square, no Edgewater, not even the St James. Martin Luther King Drive was still West River Drive. There was no such thing as "Schuylkill Banks". 2200 Arch was still the cruddy old Belber Building with its water tower on the roof.

A lot has changed in not even six full years . . . it'll be fun to revisit the view from the Zooballoon six years from now, too. Parkway 22? Cira Centre South? American Commerce Center? Some vertical farms? Something else? Only time will tell. Time will also tell what camera I'll have in hand, and whether we're even still using terms like optical zoom and megapixel.

–B Love

24 March 08: Dead Kennedy

That big ol' ship you see on your Philly Skyline is the USS John F Kennedy -- CV-67 -- which came into port at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Saturday afternoon. The all purpose aircraft carrier was decommissioned last summer after nearly 40 years of active service for the United States Navy.

The vessel was originally scheduled to be towed into the Navy Yard on Thursday, but high winds kept her at sea until Saturday afternoon, which ended up working out, as thousands of people lined the banks of the Delaware, from the Bay in Delaware all the way to the Commodore Barry Bridge Park in Chester to the boat launch and fishing piers of West Deptford, New Jersey. Matt Johnson and I met at Red Bank Battlefield in National Park, New Jersey (where he did a photo essay last year). Red Bank is home to Fort Mercer, the Jersey-side fort opposite the River from PA's Fort Mifflin, which in concert defended colonial interests from the British and Hessians during the Revolutionary War. (They served their purpose well until they were abandoned during the British siege of November 1777, which ultimately led to the Continental Army's reset in Valley Forge.)

The present Battlefield Park leads down to the river's shore, and one can hike nearly a mile north around the river's bend -- during low tide. Matt and I did that and watched five tugboats and loads of other escorts such as the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments' marine units bring Big John to shore. (Getting back to the Battlefield during high tide was a little more adventurous, since a good part of our hiking route was underwater.)

Henry Holcomb was at the head of the USS JFK coverage and had a great write-up of Saturday's events in yesterday's Inquirer. Navsource.org features a number of historical photos of the aircraft carrier, including the christening by Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy HERE.

The fate of the Kennedy is, as of now, uncertain. As reported by Henry Holcomb, she is "classified 'out of commission in reserve.'" That could mean a return to active duty -- meaning a load of renovation and modernization -- or it could mean relocation to another port of call to function as a museum (similar to the Battleship New Jersey over in Camden). In the interim, there is one enormous ship called John F Kennedy at the very bottom of South Broad Street.


–B Love

22 March 08: Get lit

The evening skyline from South Street Bridge last night around 8 o'clock: Comcast Center's crown is turned on. It's still being tested (last night was only the second night it's been illuminated) and thanks to LED technology, it will be able to be programmed different colors like Cira Centre and the new gable lighting on One and Two Liberty Place, but consider this a preview. (Remember, Comcast Center will not officially be opened until May.)

What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Shoot me an email HERE or just email blove AT phillyskyline DOT com with "Comcast crown" as the subject and I'll post the best comments sometime next week.

–B Love

13 March 08: 1,500 feet of Breaking News

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; friends, Romans, countrymen; members of the press: meet American Commerce Center.

Your Philly Skyline is about to change. About to incur a growth spurt. About to shatter any notion of Philadelphian reservedness, about to take A New Day A New Way to a whole other level.

The spired skyscraper pictured above and below would like to reclaim for the Central Business District one of its biggest surface parking lots, the one profiled in Monday's Penny Postcard post.

Led by its president Garrett Miller, Walnut Street Capital (WSC) has had a vision of major mixed-use for the lot at 1800 Arch Street since it acquired it in October. It brought on world renowed architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to craft that vision.

KPF is not only accustomed to Philadelphia, having recently designed the US Airways terminal at the airport and Huntsman Hall for the Wharton School of Business, but it is indeed well familiar with the very vicinity of 1800 Arch. As Center City watched its skyline be redefined in the 80s, KPF contributed Mellon Bank Center, which was originally to have been as tall as One Liberty Place, as well as Two Logan Square, One Logan Square and its adjacent Four Seasons Hotel. It's also worth mentioning that Gene Kohn, the Kohn of Kohn Pedersen Fox and chairman of the company, is from Philadelphia. He graduated from Penn in the 50s and cut his teeth working for Vincent Kling in the Penn Center 60s.

KPF also knows their way around the supertall. As we speak, their designs for new tallest buildings are under construction in skyscraper meccas Shanghai and Hong Kong, the Shanghai World Financial Center (1,588', 100 floors - Skyscraperpage) and International Commerce Center (1,608', 118 floors - Skyscraperpage), respectively.

Remember how Comcast Center -- one block away -- transformed the skyline? Well, brace yourself . . .

This is American Commerce Center.

The vitals: 26 story hotel, 473' to the garden accessible to hotel guests. 3-to-6 stories of street-accessible retail along Arch Street with a public garden facing the dome of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and another garden on the sixth floor, between Arch and Cuthbert and overlooking the one below. 63 story office tower, 1,210' to the lower portion of the roof, 1,500' to the top of the spire. All parking is underground, including dedicated bicycle parking. LEED gold.

Mayor Michael Nutter, via his Press Secretary Doug Oliver, believes that "it would be a spectacular addition to Philadelphia's skyline. Sustainability efforts and building green continue to be hallmarks of this Administration and the plans for this particular project are consistent with those goals."

If we've learned anything over the past five years of Philly's mini building boom, it's that the streetscape trumps all else when surveying a new building's contribution to the city.

Garrett Miller knew this going into concept: "it has to be engaging at the street level, or else it is a failure." The pedestrian fabric is as much a part of American Commerce Center (ACC) as is its height. Along 18th Street, following the natural direction of (vehicular) traffic, the pedestrian is greeted with a mini-plaza that will be home to a café and the three-story lobby of the hotel. At 19th & Arch, the main entrance of the office tower amplifies the corner by the tower's massing being sliced -- chamfered -- back from the street corner.

Make no mistake, though, the height is very much a part of ACC. That same chamfer is echoed as the tower rises, and at its top, it then angles again back to a large spire. Miller clarifies, "while the vision of the building is to engage the pedestrian -- to engage Philadelphia -- at the street level, we also want the tower to be a symbol of our collective aspiration and hope. We want it to be seen from far away, literally and figuratively."

Even in a questionable market, funding does not appear to present a problem, as Miller cites that partners have been established and that the lot was purchased with 100% equity. Put another way: construction could start whenever.

Where it becomes a little tricky is with the 125' blanket height limit which Fifth District Councilman Darrell Clarke enacted following the then-Barnes Tower controversy. The site is currently zoned C4, which does not have a height restriction, but with a large FAR (floor area ratio), ACC would need rezoning. Councilman Clarke declined comment on American Commerce Center for the time being.

Rob Stuart, president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, feels that "the height is less important than how it meets the street," and in that regard, the developer has done his homework. "This is a very serious design, with a well qualified firm," Stuart continues, referring to KPF's track record.

For a site that has been a surface parking lot for nearly thirty years, a lot of thought and consideration has been paid to its redevelopment. So much so that it may prove a lot for some neighbors to handle. For this reason, Miller expects WSC to meet with neighbors to hear their concerns and to build a comfort level. Stuart appreciates the thought that has gone into ACC, but says "now we have to evaluate the impact such a large project will have on the neighborhood."

In fact, Mayor Nutter encourages it: "through a series of community forums, various stakeholder groups will have an opportunity to voice the concerns that they may have. We don't have a full picture of what that feedback will be, but concerns will be heard and appropriately handled."

It will be interesting to see how ACC is exemplified as LSNA and the City Planning Commission continue to develop their neighborhood master plan, which they're already in the middle of. While Logan Square contains elements of an 'urban village', it is also very much the Central Business District, which the Planning Commission sees as Arch Street to Market Street. Our skyline's current shape is no accident.

Because the LSNA-PCPC plan-in-progress is so complex, LSNA has a set of design principles to apply in the interim. Stuart says that WSC "has taken account of a number of our principles, notably the street level and sustainability."

The recently announced plans for the 12th & Market Girard Estate block present an interesting juxtaposition when compared against ACC's plans, which are of equal endeavor. The Girard site will require not only massive amounts of demolition -- on top of the subway portion of the Market-Frankford El, no less -- but also the demolition of one of Philadelphia's oldest standing skyscrapers, the 1896 Stephen Girard Building by James H Windrim. At 1800 Arch, ACC has only a parking lot attendant's booth in its way.

* * *

It's very early in the process. A groundbreaking ballpark isn't even until summer 2009. But to weigh the siting, the favorable pedestrian experience, and the choice of an acclaimed (read: expensive) architect is to understand that American Commerce Center is a very serious proposal, a very serious statement about Philadelphia's sense of place.

Stay tuned.

For further reading:

American Commerce Center
Walnut Street Capital

All images courtesy of Walnut Street Capital and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

UPDATE: Ah what the hell, howzabout a rudimentary Philly Skyline composite?

–B Love