31 July 08: Crescent rolls

Hey, how's it going? Nice to see you.

Word out of the Schuylkill Banks this morning is that environmental remediation work is going to begin soon at the area known as the DuPont Crescent, the curving swath (er, crescent) of land below the University Ave and Grays Ferry Ave bridges. It's the area with the patch of trees directly below the skyline in the photo above.

This is fantastic news -- essentially, it's an extension of the Schuylkill River Trail before it's even been extended.

For clarification, the portion from Locust Street to South Street will happen, but it's waiting on the South Street Bridge's reconstruction before it can even go out to bid. And when it does, it's going to be very expensive, since that portion of the trail will be a cantilevered boardwalk due to the widened railroad tracks assuming most of the existing land on the east bank of the Schuylkill south of Locust.

The Trail will eventually lead from Locust to the Crescent (and, hopefully someday, Fort Mifflin), but residents of Grays Ferry and the Forgotten Bottom can take pride in their DuPont Crescent Greenway when it opens in the next couple years.

–B Love

30 July 08: 1706 is a go

Aaand we're back. Pardon the technical difficulties.

A Philly Skyline thanks to our friend James from Manayunk; James was having dinner at Branzino restaurant directly across the street from the construction site of 1706 Rittenhouse when he watched the crane being assembled. Seems my last several trips through Center City have forgetfully veered me around this site . . . well hey hey, here it is. The crane above was put together over the weekend, and new wrap banners surround the site announcing a spring 2010 opening.

An in-depth look at 1706's biggest competitor in the Rittenhouse über-luxury market, 10 Rittenhouse Square, is being assembled as we speak. In the meantime, click the image below for a larger look at the tub at 17th & Rittenhouse Square Street. The building's official web site is HERE.

–B Love

29 July 08: Reconsidering Pi

Regarding this comment from the inaugural Summer of the Delaware post last month . . .
If I were to have one single request to add to the immediate action plan, it would be for the demolition of Penn's Landing Pi to coincide with any ribbon cutting for a riverfront trail. Harris: Call me, I have a sledgehammer.
. . . Jason from South Street submitted:
Any thoughts on an adaptive reuse of the Pi, something akin to the waterfalls in Governors Island or open it to discussion for transformation in to public art?
(For info on artist Olafur Elliasson's The New York City Waterfalls, a four-part installation involving scaffolding and reused water from the East River, see the official web site HERE, a New York Times slideshow HERE, or Curbed.com's take HERE.)

Jason's idea is a good one. While my offer to Penn Praxis still stands, I don't exactly see the Penn's Landing Pi coming down quickly or silently. The Great Lawn is a few years off, so let's have some fun with this.

The Penn's Landing Pi is the ultimate symbol of failure. It stands over an enormous parking lot in arguably the most prime riverfront real estate in the city. It was built as the support to the dumbest idea that's come out of riverfront brainstorming: an expensive aerial tram to Camden when there are already at least five viable existing alternatives. And, in throwing up its hands and saying, "well, we have to do something with it!," Penn's Landing Corporation had a giant "welcome" banner fitted for it.

(Not entirely unrelatedly, Mayor Nutter put out a call today for applicants to the brand new board of directors to the brand new Delaware Waterfront Corporation.)

Anyway, before either of these things -- the Great Lawn and a restructured Delaware Waterfront Corporation -- happens, let's look at Pi. It's about 60 feet tall and made of solid concrete. It stands over an enormous parking lot, and is about 20 feet from the Delaware River itself. What should be done with it? Hire it out to El Toro and Bob Will Reign? Cover it in LEDs reading "3.14159 . . ."? Giant outdoor rock climbing wall? Totally rip off NYC's waterfall idea?

What do you think? Let's hear your thoughts on how to best handle Pi. The best suggestions will be the subject of a new Pi post in a week or so. To submit your idea, use the form HERE, or simply email blove AT phillyskyline DOT com with "Penn's Landing Pi" in the subject.

Here are a few more Philly Skyline Pi Skylines for inspiration -- feel free to use them if you're handy with the photoshoppin'.

–B Love

27 July 08: Coming attractions, etc.

A rootin' tootin' how do you do for another hot summer Sunday, yessirree.

This Philly Skyline Rittenhouse Skyline (too high for the homeless edition) is a preview of the story of 10 Rittenhouse Square, scheduled to premier here next week, along with the latest stories from the Summer of the Delaware, and another brand new feature: The Men's Room. Joltin' Joe Minardi, he of award winning photo essays, answered the call of nature -- err, the call of duty -- and is taking on the challenge of reviewing the public toilets of Center City.

It's gonna be a good week for sure, but it's gonna start a little late. Yr Skyline will be taking a mini-hiatus for a double dipper down-the-shore, so we'll be back here Tuesday afternoon or thereabouts.

In the interim, stay cool, have some water ice, and enjoy this PSPS from up top of City Hall, taken Friday afternoon. It's also a selection from a new dozen over in the Ritz-Carlton construction section.

–B Love

25 July 08: Happy trail

"I had no prior knowledge that the city was going to match funding," Center City District president Paul Levy says of Mayor Nutter's announcement regarding his organization's proposed bike trail along the Delaware Riverfront at the well attended, well covered June 26 Penn Praxis roll-out of the 10 point, 10 year plan. "It was a delightful surprise."

It's especially delightful because this has been such a long time coming for Levy personally. Before Mayor Nutter's announcement that the city would match the funding CCD and the William Penn Foundation have raised, before Mayor Street's executive order for a central Delaware Riverfront master plan, even before all of the failed plans to extensively develop Penn's Landing, a younger Levy was riding his bike along the Delaware -- Expressway.

When I-95 cut its path of destruction/construction through Philadelphia in the 1970s, Levy was living in Queen Village. Before the sound barriers (which he lobbied for) were added, people could carry their bikes down the embankment to the unopened highway and ride unimpeded by traffic (let alone that going 80 mph) from Old City to South Philly, about where the Walt Whitman Bridge is now. When 95 opened, that obviously went away, and Delaware Avenue was even less attractive to cyclists than it is now.

Delaware Avenue ("Columbus Boulevard" if you're Italian) now has "bike lanes". They're there, like they are city on streets where they work better, for instance Spring Garden and the Parkway, but Delaware Ave's bike lanes are treacherous. They cross hundreds of drainage grates (which are horrible for street bike tires and unpleasant to cross), they're always interrupted by double parked vehicles at the Comfort Inn, Piers 3 & 5, Dave & Buster's and the like, and oh yeah, there's traffic whizzing by like it's a highway.

Believe it or not, it is a highway. Though it carries no state route number, Delaware Avenue falls under PennDOT's jurisdiction as a state highway, primarily for redundancy for I-95 in case of emergency (or cracked support column). It's for that reason that PennDOT has rejected the sacrifice of a single lane of traffic for construction of the bike trail. That rejection forced a little more creativity onto the trail plan.

Fortunately, a good bit of the earliest of the early action plan -- from the lower end of Pier 70 (Wal-Mart, Home Depot) to Penn's Landing -- is close enough to the river that it doesn't need to rely on Delaware Ave, and where it does, the sidewalks are both wide and relatively little used.

The illustration at right, commissioned by CCD to Wallace Roberts Todd, shows one possibility at the foot of Christian Street where the former municipal piers 38 and 40 are now storage. (Tugboat Annie's breakfast shack would be just to the right of the purple bar.) Take note of the yellow cones. Those, along with used jersey barriers and old shipping/trucking containers (for bike rentals), are part of a genuine green initiative (they're all recycled), as though a new bicycle trail in and of itself is not a green initiative. CCD's full conceptual presentation is archived as a PDF on Plan Philly HERE, first published there in Isaac Steinberg's story HERE.

South of the Coast Guard station (at the foot of Washington Ave), the bike trail would utilize the edge of three large parcels -- the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, the Pier 70 shopping complex, and between them? Foxwoods.

"As planned, the casinos do not fit the vision of the Central Riverfront," Penn Praxis director Harris Steinberg told his audience in June. Mayor Nutter echoed that sentiment, much to the delight of a large part of the audience (but not all of it). Foxwoods, which just laid off over 100 workers at its Connecticut casino, has no obligation to play nice right now. On the other hand, if Foxwoods truly believes it will build in South Philly, it should do what it can to get in good graces with The Other Side by granting use of its riverfront land (which it plans on keeping public and accessible anyway) for a bike trail that, if the Schuylkill is any indication, would be an instant success.

Foxwoods, Pier 70 and the Sheet Metal Workers (whose land wraps behind the Comcast customer service center) would all have to grant easement to the city and deal with liability issues. But those are things that can happen.

"When we met," Levy says of a meeting between CCD, WRT and these land owners, "we had a conceptual agreement." (I.e., they were open to the idea but no papers were signed.) "But we're technically on hold now, yes."

Tales from the Dockside: Paul Levy looks off into the future -- "six to nine months" -- toward a bona fide bike trail on Delaware Avenue.

At the Delaware Ave side of the South Street pedestrian bridge over I-95, Levy points up the river toward the Ben Franklin Bridge. His bike trail would have direct access to the hike/bike part of the bridge via a trail spur along Race and Florist Streets, directly to the bridge's pedestrian entrance; on the other side of the bridge, it would connect to Camden's riverfront trail, which already exists and which takes the rider from the BFB all the way to the Battleship New Jersey. Then he points further up the river toward Girard & Susquehanna. It's here that one of three of the bike containers would be stationed for rentals, the others being at the soon-to-be-renovated Pier 11 and at Pier 70.

Just past William King's iconic 1995 sculpture Stroll, where South Street meets Delaware Avenue via a steep staircase into a parking lot, Levy tells of another creative vision, this one out of a planning studio he held in 2003 with Penn students. It sees the enormous parking lot there at South Street transformed -- while making for even more parking. The students foresaw a long, narrow parking garage with room for more cars, but more importantly with retail along Delaware Avenue, opposite the area between Chart House restaurant and Dockside Apartments. And on the river side -- nay, in the river -- they foresaw what might be the best tribute to the river yet, an aquatic park with swimming and other water activities.

It sounds pretty amazing. But for the time being, we'll all settle for a bike trail.

–B Love

24 July 08: A 975' uptick in tourism

It's no secret that The Comcast Experience was an instant hit, from the moment Brian Roberts unveiled it at Comcast Center's grand opening. The mega-HDTV's show of custom artistic video vignettes, as opposed to Comcast programming (as many, including myself, had thought would be the case), has expectedly been featured in local press (CBS3 and the Inquirer, for example), but also surprisingly beyond our region, including the likes of technology blogs Engadget and Gizmodo. It's all over YouTube and Flickr, too.

A month and a half after it premiered, it's also an unmistakable tourist draw, if the two tour buses in the image above are any indication. Those two Krapf coaches stationed themselves along JFK Boulevard while their riders went inside to watch the show and take pictures.

It's a funny thing, taking still photos of a 80' wide, 10 million pixel video display. It's simply impossible to reproduce what you're seeing on the screen; you can frame nice shots of the subjects on the screen, or take wide angles of the whole screen, but the impact of the high definition can only be seen in person.

This is a still from the baseball portion of the current video rotation. It's nice that he has a Phillies helmet to go with his generic pinstriped uniform, but it would be way cooler if they got someone like Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard or Chase Utley to film these segments. Surely Comcast's affiliation with Phillies broadcasts could make this happen; more so with the Flyers and Sixers, considering they're owned by Comcast-Spectacor.

A month and a half into operation, Comcast Center is not only a success for the company everyone loves to hate, but also an overwhelming success as a tourist draw. It's already even got its own entry in GPTMC's "Philly Favorites" on gophila.com.

Matt Golas, managing director of PlanPhilly.com, says he's amazed by the number of people at Comcast Center, which he walks by daily on his way to Suburban Station, who stop to watch the video or crane their necks upward and take pictures. "I feel like I'm not in Philly," he says, pausing briefly to clarify, "it's pretty great."

Table 31's plaza café is consistently packed with people looking for something a step up from the underground's marketplace, itself mobbed on the lunch hour. Yesterday afternoon, a symphony performed by Adelphia Arts Academy (a summer work-study program by the Philadelphia School District for students in grades 9-11) serenaded lunchers, onlookers, and indeed tourists.

Between the Comcast Experience, Humanity in Motion, the marketplace, the fountain, the plaza, Table 31 (both inside and outside, where the tan, twin blonde hostesses have become the dual face of the plaza café), and even the fact that eco-tourists could come here to see the tallest green building in the country, Liberty Property and Comcast may even want to hold off on the construction of phase 2 so as to not interrupt a good thing.

* * *

Two Philly Skyline Abstract Comcast Skylines for your Thursday afternoon . . .

–B Love

23 July 08: Hump it up

It's been a while since we've rocked a real live, honest man's Humpdate, so let's skip the foreplay and do that right now.

What we see here is the Girard Block -- that bound by Market, Chestnut, 11th & 12th Streets -- or if you prefer, Girard Square. As usual, Natalie Kostelni nails the news for a piece in last week's Business Journal, reporting that Trinity Capital Partners has sold the 75 year lease it signed last year to redevelop the block. The inset graphic there was one of the studies that architects Blackney Hayes did for Trinity, the larger version and accompanying description for which you can find on Blackney Hayes' web site HERE.

While a large scale redevelopment opportunity may have done wonders for Market Street east of City Hall, there was no guarantee of it, especially when this proposal would have stood atop a shopping mall . . . directly across the street from an existing shopping mall, The Gallery. These towers, while decent looking, also would have blocked the entire eastern side of the PSFS Building, and we just can't have that, now can we?

One of these days, maybe we'll see that other block of Market East -- 8th & Market, once the site of Gimbel's -- the one in the greatest need for development, actually get the attention it deserves from prospective developers. I've long said that, if Philadelphia is going to be force fed these casinos by the state, that 8th & Market makes more sense than just about anywhere in the city.

If we have no choice but to take two casinos, do as Inga says and put one at the airport, where both local and international travelers can drop coin unimpeded by any distractions and not affect any nearby residents. Put the second one at 8th & Market, a nearly full-block surface lot begging for development, strategically located exactly halfway between the two largest tourist draws in town: Independence Mall (5th & Market) and the Convention Center (11th & Market). It's the colorful, glitzy bridge between that two that's missing now, making that walk a really long six blocks for conventioneers who make the effort.

* * *

Speaking of the Convention Center, its forthcoming expansion is at this very moment claiming the last of the lives of buildings which once occupied the four-square-block area. The Race Street Firehouse is finally joining its fallen comrades the Gilbert, Metzger, National, Philadelphia Life and Odd Fellows buildings. The word is that the gargoyles were in fact preserved and will be displayed in some manner at the new Convention Center when it opens four years from now.

Click to enlarge.

Still speaking of the Convention Center, here's a shot panned back a wee bit to get the full context of just how much ground the expanded PACC will cover.

* * *

Among the bits of good news that dotted the airwaves last week was the joint press conference by Mayor Nutter, Governor Rendell, Fairmount Park and CCD's Paul Levy announcing the long-desired improvements forthcoming to the Ben Franklin Parkway. (Check Matt Golas' and Isaac Steinberg's piece on PlanPhilly HERE and Andrew Maykuth's story in the Inquirer HERE.)

On the heels of the latest, greatest rankings-list announcing Philly is the fifth-best walkable city in the US, the Parkway, crafted so many years ago to be the walkable boulevard its inspiration Champs-Élysée always has been, took its first step toward making that a reality by laying out the groundwork. This includes improvements to Three Sisters Plaza (the dead zone of a park directly across the street from the Basilica on 18th), an all new 'Shakespeare Park' in front of the central branch of the Free Library, eventually the Barnes Foundation's move into Center City (at 20th), and the café we see above (at 16th, in the plaza in front of Mexican Post on the ground floor of Three Parkway). Café Cret will include not only a legit coffee/espresso stop operated by Capriccio (who's run their café on the ground floor of the Warwick for 15 years), but also a new visitors center with CCD's touch. It opens in September.

* * *

Never minding the inflation of 135+ years, in pure numbers, the restoration of the Masonic Temple is costing more than it did to build it. DPK&A Architects, who've worked their restoration mastery at the likes of the Divine Lorraine and Union League, are heading up the process, with an assist from ThyssenKrupp, who assembled the custom scaffolding for the project. The job is to be done and the scaffolding removed sometime this fall.

* * *

Click to enlarge.

File this one under Stories You May See Soon On Fox Undercover. The Isaac Goodman Building, at 12th & Vine just behind the biodiesel station, has long been a favorite of graffiti artists and taggers and photographers and people who just happen to be strolling on the Reading Railroad Viaduct, whether on fire or otherwise. The ten story building appears to be under some sort of renovation right now, but two recent tags on the building's exterior are sure to raise some authoritative eyebrows and bring an even darker name to tagging and graffiti, that associated with terrorism. About halfway up the building, it appears someone just reached out a window and tagged "KILL COPS KILL COPS KILL COPS". And across the top, in letters large enough to see from several blocks away (as pictured above) is "OSAMA". Oi.

* * *

Click to enlarge.

Down at the Penn's Landing Marina, we peer from the pier upstream for a semi-regular checkup with the third tower at Waterfront Square. Do two Duckboats and a jet-ski make this a Philly Skyline Summer of the Delaware Skyline? God I hope not.

* * *

Aaaand we're under way! The National Museum of American Jewish History, scheduled to open on the Fourth of July in 2010, made quick work of the demolition of the former CBS3/KYW building, and it appears that construction itself is also on the fast track. Awesome.

* * *

Did someone say demolition? Ugh. While most people would agree that the Spectrum is a bit of a dump -- Charles Barkley told the Daily News Live panel that the locker rooms were so close that Moses Malone's butt would bump Charles' head any time reporters did an interview at his locker -- seeing it go is just going to seem so unnecessary. (Props to Anthony SanFilippo of the Delco Daily Times, who broke this story back in February and who's done a nice job following its beat. Check his story confirming the demolition HERE.)

I'm all for a big cheesy entertainment area, with brewpubs and sports bars and casinos and hotels being built around the sports complex. It needs it. Philly Live can, and likely will, be a success -- and there's room for it NOW. Except for three square residential blocks, the eastern side of Broad Street is comprised of surface parking from I-95 all the way to I-76 (Packer Avenue). The area surrounding the Spectrum and Wachovia Center is nothing but surface parking. Ditto that for, well, pretty much every part of the entire sports complex that is not the individual stadiums. Google satellite imagery, comin' right up.

It's just another example of our throwaway nature. The Spectrum has stood for 41 whole years, long enough to amass a couple Stanley Cup championships, an NBA title (it opened the year after Wilt Chamberlain led the Sixers to their first of the two titles they've won), some amazing concerts and . . . well, a second life as a second tier sports and entertainment arena. Given its history, I think that's fine. The Phantoms have a unique situation as a minor league team playing next door to its parent team, and now they'll have to find a new home, be it Atlantic City or Allentown or the highest bidder. So will the Kixx, who . . . wait, who are the Kixx again?

Oh well. At least Comcast-Spectacor is going to send it off with a bang, a yearlong series of events and memories and hullabaloos. They've already got a web site in its memory at RememberTheSpectrum.com.

* * *

And this right here is a Philly Skyline Unholy Humidity Skyline to take us on home. Bring a towel and let's go home.

–B Love

23 July 08: STOP SIGN

The Unisys sign debate (which was first reported here on Philly Skyline) bubbles up again today as it goes to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which would have to approve a variance for Unisys to place a roughly 15' x 60' sign on the east and west sides of the 38th & 39th floors of Two Liberty Place. Let's remember: Two Liberty Place is 58 stories tall, so this would be about two-thirds of the way up the building . . . which would look TOTALLY STUPID.

Joseph DiStefano wrote in the Sunday Inquirer that the sign is a deal-breaker, that if Unisys doesn't get their sign -- on an iconic tower designed without a sign, whose architect Helmut Jahn disapproves of the sign so much that he personally penned a letter to the ZBA -- they will not move into the city. From DiStefano's article, which carries a tone of pro-sign:
[Unisys spokesman Jim Kerr] sighed, because he's been repeating this all summer. "We're a responsible employer. These are high-paying jobs. We're moving downtown to build our brand. The sign is our logo - that's the brand. There has to be a reason for us to move downtown."
How are these for a few sample reasons? You would be in Center City Philadelphia. Center City Philadelphia, the literal and figurative center of a region of about 7 million people. Just about smack in the middle of a megalopolitan region of about 60 million people, from Boston to Washington -- connected by the nation's only high-speed train, which is faster than flying and puts you right where you want to be when you get there, no additional security checks or cab rides. Speaking of transit, Two Liberty Place is one block from Suburban Station and one block from City Hall, which between the two of them serve every single rail transit line Septa offers. Sure, Blue Bell has Pudge's steaks . . . what other reason do you have to stay in Blue Bell?

A Unisys sign two-thirds of the way up the side of the city's third-tallest tower has proven a point of contention in the business community. Some see it as an indicator of growth, that Philadelphia welcomes new business. A new Comcast tower, a Cira Centre which is growing siblings and a proposed 1,510' building don't already do that?

The Center City Residents Association does not want the sign. SCRUB does not want the sign. Cigna, which has occupied space -- more space than Unisys would be leasing -- in the same tower for years, and who has never placed a sign on the tower but for the ground floor entrance, does not want the sign. Yr friendly Philly Skyline does not want the sign. The Residents at Two Liberty -- the people who spent millions to live in condos on the floors above where this sign would be placed, including the likes of Richie Sambora and former mayoral candidate Tom Knox -- do not want the sign.

Today's your day, ZBA. Please: call Unisys' bluff and shoot this stupid sign down.

* * *

Andrew Thompson also wrote about this in last week's City Paper, mentioning another city's iconic tower I'd missed the last time I wrote about: Pittsburgh. In a photo posted on PittsburghSkyline.com (a distant relative of phillyskyline.com), I noticed that the US Steel Building -- Pittsburgh's tallest building since it opened in the early 70s, and whose exterior showcases that company's product, the pride of Pittsburgh -- now has "UPMC" (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) affixed to its crown. And it's absolutely HIDEOUS, and more over it's a symbol of sadness for that region. Yes, just like Philadelphians should -- and do, I might add -- welcome Unisys' place in the city, Pittsburghers should celebrate the growth of that city's largest healthcare system. But to do so by slapping some signage onto a beautiful tower not meant to carry such a thing is worse than distasteful.

–B Love

22 July 08: Day of the Dog

Buy this album. Do it for your ears. Do it for the band. Do it for your city.

Fate is out today, and . . . wow. In less than a year, I went from ambivalent "well, they're cool cos they're from Philly" straight to number one groupie.

Before I got Dr Dog, I'd seen them a couple times . . . with Buried Beds and Adam Arcuragi at the North Star, opening for Of Montreal at the FU Church . . . I had a ticket to their show at the TLA with My Morning Jacket and M Ward, which in hindsight was one hell of a bill, but for one reason or another didn't bother to go. I had Easy Beat and liked it well enough, but not enough for constant rotation.

We All Belong warmed me up a little to the Dog, but in an acquired taste manner, like Tom Waits, or scotch. Acquire it I did, perhaps not coincidentally around the time I gave into my buddy Doug's insistence that I take down my Beach Boys barriers and just listen to Pet Sounds long enough until I liked it. Next thing I knew, I had "Worst Trip" stuck on loop in my head. ("Hey," I thought, "isn't that a phrase from 'Sloop John B'???")

That's the thing with Dr Dog: every music review ever written about them mentions either the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Band or all three. It seems that every single type of music that can be made has been made. What else is left beyond hip hop and electronic music? Maybe there's something that hasn't been invented yet, but even then it will, at least in some part, be derivative of something that already exists. So who's to blame Dr Dog that it's so obvious they are fans of those legendary B-bands. What matters is their own craft -- which just gets better and better each time out.

Fate has been streaming on Phawker Radio for a few weeks, and a number of tracks have popped up on Dr Dog's Myspace and web sites like Stereogum here and there for the past couple months, but today, it's officially available for our consumption.

Like each of the three B-bands, Dr Dog have always had multiple vocalists, with varying ranges of talent in the academic sense, but all of which simply wail. It's the wailing from bassist Toby Leaman that makes their taste so challenging to acquire. The dude screams -- especially on Fate -- there's no doubt about it. But, he nails it. While Scott McMicken's softer voice is perhaps less offensive, it's pretty easy to interpret Jeff Tweedy's comments last year in the New York Times (a year ago today, turns out) as being about the Toby Songs:
They sing out, they sing with gusto, which isn't something that I hear a lot these days, especially in younger bands. They sound like real singers, people that really love to sing, as opposed to people that you kind of wonder why they're singing.
But even as the Scott Songs are undeniably Catchy (go ahead -- listen to the choruses of "The Old Days" or "Uncovering the Old" two times in a row and see if they don't get stuck in your head all day . . . it can't be done), the Toby Songs are equally as Catchy, given enough spins. The whole damn album is Catchy. Catchy Catchy Catchy. That's the cliché of the day, but like any good cliché it has a real starting point. The transition from "The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer" into clap-clap-clap intro of "100 Years" that continues throughout the song??? So calculated, so good. Fate is a real album with real continuity, but whose songs don't depend on each other so much they can't stand alone. They do.

Oh no. All right. Come on! In May at JB's.

If Dr Dog one day earns a spot on the Philly Walk of Fame (more on this in the near future), I think it's a safe bet that it will be decided by Fate. Oh wait, did you see that? Decided by Fate? Of course you did. Dr Dog knows what they're doing . . . when they're being so brash as to name their album Fate; when they close the album with a train taking off (well, OK, the train that closes Pet Sounds is more in the distance, behind the barking dog); when song after song deals with death and God.

Man, I can't get enough. They've already got a huge following (they released their set from the 2007 Bonnaroo), and with a tour that's taking them from now to Thanksgiving and from Philly to Amsterdam by way of San Francisco and Conan O'Brien (which you may have seen last week on Philebrity -- check out Zach Miller banging out those keys on the TV), that following should get huger. It's Fate.

* * *

Dr Dog's label, Park the Van, has an array of options for purchasing the new album. Check it HERE. And to celebrate the new album, the band's official site has a cool interactive Flash thingy HERE.

–B Love

22 July 08: Philly Skyline For Sure

Happy Tuesday, folks.

The PSFS Building is by far my favorite building in the city. It was groundbreaking when it was built, the pairing of materials and window spandrels looks amazing, the sign is iconic (as opposed to being tacked on halfway up the building two decades after the building was designed and built without a sign because you think you're entitled to it for bringing 225 people into the city), and Loews Hotels did a stunning job converting it to a hotel. The Solefood restaurant downstairs isn't too shabby either, and the bar's happy hour specials are among the best.

Even the bathrooms are fantastic, probably the best in the city that are publicly accessible. I just thought of something . . . There are about a million food blogs out there. (Foobooz is best.) I can't think of a single one on bathrooms. Everyone eats and drinks, so everyone, uh, releases what the eat and drink, too. Would someone out there like to write a Philly bathroom feature for yr friendly Skyline? George Costanza, if you're out there, drop me a line and let's talk. I want this to happen. We were on the right track with the City Toilet but then the city overstayed its contract and it was removed. There are no public toilets in the city (but for the port-o-potties for special events like the Fourth), and that is straight up stupid.

Anyway, PSFS. What sets PSFS apart is its views. Being at the top of any skyscraper is fun, and as our city's only observation deck, City Hall is a special place. (I got married there and all.) But, you don't get to see City Hall when you're in City Hall. If high up skylines are your thing, PSFS' is The One.

This Philly Skyline Filly Skyline was taken Sunday, near high noon, when it was about a million degrees outside. With 10 Rittenhouse peaking up in the distance behind PNB there, the skyline has now grown its fifth addition in the last four years, just from the view in this picture. Let's toss an American Commerce Center in there and make it an even six.

–B Love

21 July 08: A statement regarding recent events

Composite image © R.B. Maule, 2005. Rendering of Comcast Center used with permission by Liberty Property Trust; rendering of Mandeville Place used with permission by Bedrock Group.

In the interest of disclosure and issuing a personal point of view about the news that Solomon Leach broke in Friday's Metro, I want to go back ten years.

From summer 1997 to summer 1998, I lived in Shippensburg's College Park apartments, the slummiest of slumlord-run off-campus apartments for students. Over the course of that year, on at least three different instances, my place was burgled, and among the things stolen were a camera, a VCR, a tower of CDs (remember those?) which had all my best Coltrane and P-Funk CDs, and a brand new Sony Playstation. I had no recourse, and being victimized was in no way fun.

On Memorial Day of '98, I'd driven to Orky's Bar in Shippensburg to buy a friend a beer for her 21st birthday. I left my backpack on the floor of the passenger side of the car, and in it were my 35mm SLR camera, a couple rolls of film and a textbook. It was Shippensburg, what could possibly happen? I left the bar around midnight and found out when the feeling of frustration and helplessness burst right back as I noticed the passenger door ajar. I ran to the car to see if the backpack was there, and it was not.

Before I could even scream an obscenity, I noticed a man up the street walking with a backpack in his hand -- not wearing it, but carrying it. I started running after him immediately, and he ran too. He turned up King Street, the main street in town, where lots of people were out for the holiday. I caught up to him half a block later and tackled him onto the street. A cop was outside the Uni-mart right up the street, so he rushed right down. He asked what this was all about, and I basically told him the above story. When we wrapped up the police report, for which I had to inventory everything in my backpack, the cop said -- I lie to you not -- "thanks for the help on this. We could use a few more citizens like yourself."

I don't tell this story to pat myself on the back, but effectively to show proof that what goes around comes around.

That's where the infringement lawsuits I've filed come into play. In '97 and '98, I was stolen from several times before it came to a head and justice was served. (In that case, I only got my backpack back -- the VCR, Playstation and CD tower were long gone.) In '07 and '08 (and probably before that), I was stolen from several times before it came to a head. This time, we'll see what the courts' interpretation of justice is.

In each of the cases, the offender lifted real photos first published on this web site and used them for their own gain, two of which had been previously sold and licensed to other clients. Those clients are one of my motivations for this action. This image theft is not only unfair to myself, but it's especially unfair to my paying clients.

More over, I'm doing this for photographers everywhere who may or may not know their rights. I've spoken with several photographers who have had their work lifted. I'm not talking about seeing their photo on someone's Myspace page or an HP inkjet print hanging in someone's cubicle -- I'm talking about photos being run, uncredited and without permission, in ads or in the media.

It's amazing to me that professional organizations can allow such a glaring oversight; what's the chain of command? Did an unpaid intern lift the photo and insert it into a graphic or story? Did that person's editor not ask if the photo was subject to an agreement and/or license? Did they just not care?

These are the questions asked by far too many a modern photographer. Flickr, Picasa, PBase and Photobucket all exist solely for photographers to show and share their work. But just because they're on the internet, it doesn't make these artists a bottomless well of free material.

This is where I want to be perfectly clear: there is a huge difference between Fair Use and copyright infringement. Fair Use -- basically what allows web sites and blogs to do what they do, legally -- is based on the Copyright Act of 1976, which says: "reproduction . . . for purposes such as criticism, comment (and) news reporting . . . is not an infringement of copyright." The Copyright Act of 1976 is available at 17 U.S.C. 701 et. seq. (Read more at FindLaw.com.) Three examples of Fair Use here on phillyskyline.com:
  1. Philly Skyline's Calendar of Events. See HERE for an example. In each case, the copyrighted image is used for news reporting purposes, and in most cases with the Calendar of Events, each case is used from a site affiliated with the event being promoted and is cited within the item in that Events listing.

  2. Philly Skyline vs Penny Postcards. See HERE for an example. In each case, the copyrighted image is used for comment purposes, specifically where I take a contemporary photo and compare it against its historical predecessor.

  3. Philly Skyline Skyline graphics review. See HERE for an example. In each case, the copyrighted image is used for criticism purposes, specifically to review the graphic in question's adaptation to the real life skyline.
I see it this way: providing a link and citation to graphics and stories is the modern equivalent of citing sources in a bibliography, be it APA style, Chicago style or what have you. Fair Use not only allows for this, but it's what makes the internet the inter-network of information it is.

But stealing a photo and using it, for example, in a full-page newspaper ad selling Dodge cars is not OK. Nor is, for example, a newspaper stealing a photo for use on its front page, to accompany a story that the very web site whose image was stolen had scooped four days earlier (including a weekend when the same newspaper could have sent one of its staff photographers out for a skyline photo). It's even more insidious when the images stolen have been intentionally cropped where there were watermarks reading "phillyskyline.com".

There's playing Fair, and there's playing unfair. These lawsuits are the result of the latter happening by organizations who absolutely know better.

* * *

I've chosen to file these suits for two reasons: photographers rights and accountability. There are far too many photographers who have seen their work used without permission or payment and not been able to do anything about it. I am fortunate enough to have an attorney, and good friend, on my side. Secondly, this should not have even happened. Any graphic designer worth his or her salt has a stock of images at the ready, and when that stock does not fulfill the need, he/she will contact a photographer to negotiate a deal for the desired image's use. An image's appearance in Google image search results does not constitute a photographer's permission.

At the bottom of nearly every page of this web site is a row of links which includes one to our legal terms, which read:
All contents copyright R. Bradley Maule and phillyskyline.com 2000-2008 unless otherwise noted (namely from submissions and contributions, where attribution is cited). You may save photos to your desktop if you like, but please don't use them for business endeavors or repost them online without my permission.

All photos are available for licensing or for purchase, except for those copyrighted by third parties (such as architectural renderings) and copyrighted brands (such as photos of professional sports). Feel free to contact me HERE.
And that's that. Phillyskyline.com exists as a platform to share the views of and around Philadelphia expressed by myself and the site's contributors, including written essays, photo essays, and various forms of commentary. I very regularly make large images available for free download, as desktop wallpaper or to print out and hang, because I believe in Fair Use. I have no intention of changing that. As well, I have great relationships with a number of clients, and I have no intention of changing that either. To them I say, very sincerely: thank you.

Finally, to everyone who has offered their support, both now and over the years: thank you very, very much.

* * *

Are you a photographer or graphic designer who's had your photography or designs ripped off for commercial gain? If so, Philly Skyline would like to hear from you. Our contact form is HERE.

Are you an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and copyright? If so, Philly Skyline would like to hear from you. Our contact form is HERE.

So concludes this bit of unpleasant, but necessary, business. I hope you're having a nice day, and we'll resume our regular Philly Skyline goodness shortly.

–R. Bradley Maule
As edited by J. Conor Corcoran

21 July 08: Our semi-regular visit to the Remaining Three

Hi dilly ho, Victorinos, a fresh cuppa coffee to you and yours. In the time since this web site has been in its current format (since January 2005 or so), I don't think I've had a new month go 21 days without some sort of construction update until now. Sorry about that, I was out getting married and honeymooning and floating in and on and around the Delaware River. And here we are, twenty-first July and ready to gander out yonder, in order of finishedness.

  • MURANO: The blue bullet of Market Street is this close to taking down the last of its barriers and shedding its growing pains to permanently be a part of the Center City streetscape. Though the chain link fences are still up, the sidewalks are accessible to pedestrians. Also, the parking garage is not fully operational yet, but the passageway between 21st Street and Trader Joe's is, as is Murano's main entrance off Market Street. Both of those were well used by TJ's shoppers in the fifteen minutes I spent around the site yesterday.

  • RESIDENCES AT THE RITZ-CARLTON: Maybe it's just my imagination, but I don't think the glass has risen any higher on the Ritz condo tower since before I left for Canada. Iunno. The bare concrete backside of the building is now being outfitted with its metal sheath, though. That sheath may or may not reflect the sun into the units at . . . 1441 Chestnut? Remember that? Natalie Kostelni reports in the latest PBJ that Mariner Commercial Properties is moving that project, which would be taller than the new Ritz, right along and that they've bought out the old lease formerly occupied by the Sharper Image on Walnut Street for a sales office.

  • 10 RITTENHOUSE SQUARE: Back here at 18th & Sansom, Lombardi's Pizzeria has sprouted a 33 story tower that's about 20 high and that's starting to grow faux-brick skin. One aspect of 10 Rittenhouse I never noticed before was how it cantilevers out over the Alison Building (the Barnes & Noble building). As the tower rises upward from the Sansom Street side of the lot, it also steps outward toward Rittenhouse Square.

    For your photographic enjoyment, please have a look at . . .

    Residences at the Ritz-Carlton § Murano § 10 Rittenhouse Square

    –B Love

  • 18 July 08: Seeking the source, or,
    At the end of this story is Nathaniel Popkin's bare ass

    Finding the headwaters of the Delaware River was not a particularly easy task. Well, let me back that up. In our internet age, it was a hell of a lot easier than it would have been ten years ago. But it was still challenging by modern standards.

    Poking around online in hopes of finding an essay about some spiritual enlightening at the place where the water bubbles up from the ground to begin the Delaware River's 360 or so mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean, I came up relatively empty. I found a photo of a New York state historical marker for Utsayantha Lake, an unassuming small lake near Stamford, NY. But in looking at Google Maps' satellite imagery (and better, the terrain feature), it's clear to see that that lake is fed by a small stream (the Delaware) coming from further upstream.

    Popping over to Wikipedia was the best option yet. It lists the source as being near the town of Jefferson in Schoharie County, in the northwest area of the Catskill Mountains. Closer still, the Wiki entry for the Delaware's west branch (the longer of the two, so the furthest point from the mouth, therefore considered the source) includes the source's lat/long, 42.4537° & -74.6070°, marking it on an unnamed pond.

    Knowing our route home from the honeymoon in Montréal to Tyrone would take us along I-88 through the Catskills, I convinced the wife that stopping through here would be a good idea. Strictly for research purposes for the Summer of the Delaware, y'understand.

    After following New York state route 10 across the rolling hills of the western Catskills and passing maybe one other car, we came to the stop sign at the main intersection in the town of Jefferson, population 1,285 (2000 Census). Jefferson was founded in 1803 and named for the nation's president at the time. It has a village green with a gazebo, a still-standing one-room schoolhouse, and a general store right out of the wild west.

    About three miles deeper into the woods, we find Velley Road, a public road that dead ends on a private farm. Knowing we were coming close to the end, we could see the unnamed pond through the thick green trees as we approached a clearing near the farmhouse.

    There's a pond out there. It's almost the headwaters of the Delaware.

    Up in the Catskills, there was a refreshing, cool summer mist. In the time it took me to check out the scene and see if the land was posted (it was), the wife stayed in the car and an old man emerged from the farmhouse about 100 yards up the hill. She pictured a "get the hell off of my damn lawn" scenario with buckshot fired into the air; I was hoping for a conversation with someone who knew. As I came nearer, I waved and introduced myself as Brad from Philadelphia. He shook my hand and said, "I'm Otto, from right here. You're looking for the Delaware, aren't you?"

    He'd done this before.

    Otto Geiger tells me he's lived on this farm since 1943, and that a couple times a year, cars will stop short of his property, like I did, and people will get out of their cars to look curiously across his land, like I did. He's been there long enough to remember when National Geographic magazine sent a writer and photographer to the farm to take a photo of his uncle and cousins standing next to its sap house. NGM's July 1952 issue featured a 30+ page spread called "Today on the Delaware; Penn's Glorious River" and its souvenir map was that of the Delaware River basin. (My efforts to track the issue down before this writing have proven unfruitful -- the Fishtown Branch of the library doesn't have it and I haven't been to the central branch, but suffice it to say there are tons of photos in the article, including a great one looking across Camden's port pre-Walt Whitman Bridge at the 50s Philly Skyline.)

    Pointing out to the pond I'd come to see, he says, "that's not even a pond, really. Beavers made that dam about thirty years ago. The spring is about a hundred yards up into the woods." Then he jokes, "I've been threatening to shut off that river for years."

    His name is Otto and he likes to get blotto.

    But as with any joke, there's a little truth to it. Otto and his wife Lisa, who graciously pulled from their library a copy of the National Geographic and a book called "Once Upon a Memory: The Upper Delaware" (published in 1987 for the Equinunk Historical Society), tell us that while they certainly appreciate living on such an important piece of land, it also comes with an enormous cost. Labeled as the "Delaware Head Farm" by the New York state department of conservation of natural resources (whose office, it turns out, is directly across the road from Lake Utsayantha, downstream about two miles), the farm is subject to extreme rules and regulations any time they make any changes to their property -- on their own dime.

    It stands to reason, considering the Delaware's watershed not only covers over 13,000 square miles, but it also provides the drinking water for 17 million people, including those from New York City (who get their water from two reservoirs in the Catskills), Allentown, Trenton and of course, Philadelphia. "The watershed has been unfair to locals like us," Lisa Geiger tells me with nary a hint of self pity. Bigger than just the Geigers' farm, she says, "New York City has been able to convince the state that it needs the land along the banks of the upper Delaware for reservoirs," explaining that eminent domain has claimed the best farmland in Schoharie and Delaware Counties since, of course, the most fertile farmland is that closest to water.

    Still, the Geigers are perfectly happy with their home where the end of Velley Road marks the beginning of the Delaware River. I relate that my new wife and I live in a home just three blocks from the same river that starts in their back yard. I ask if they've ever been to Philly, which they're quick to answer, "just last year. That's some traffic you've got there . . . and then the parking. By the time we were able to park our car, we were ready to leave," Lisa jokes.

    "I like Philadelphia," Otto says, somewhat to my relief. "But I was ready to leave." Fair enough, I thought, and by this point I think my wife and I were ready to do the same, else we wear out our welcome in the generous strangers' home.

    "Don't you want to see the spring?" Otto asks.

    "I do," I tell him, "but let's save it for next time."

    * * *

    Something I'd loosely planned on doing when I found the Delaware was . . . well, let's put it this way. I thought it would be funny and/or a little therapeutic to find the headwaters of the Delaware, strip nude and get a photo of myself from the backside jumping into it. This was all before I met Otto and Lisa Geiger, of course. I thought it would be a little weird to ask a nice elderly couple if they'd mind if I ran naked across their property, so I didn't.

    Well, what do you know.

    I returned from my honeymoon and vacation to a new story from Nathaniel Popkin, his take on his Summer of the Delaware. It included some nice photos of the Delaware Water Gap, the island he camped on, and his kids having fun frolicking in the water. And, well, this consolation prize, which I sincerely dedicate to longtime Philly Skyline reader Maureen.

    –B Love

    PS: A very big Philly Skyline thank you to everyone who made it out to the Product Placement party last night!