30 June 07: I can go for that

All righty then, Hall & Oates fans, Philly Skyline is gonna go celebrate some American Independence with Kohr Bros custard and the breeze of the Jersey Shore. Fret not, we'll be back in plenty o' time to head out to the Parkway and see the most successful duo in the history of rock & soul, our homegrown swoonin' crooners Daryl Hall & John Oates.

Between now and then, get in that Fourth of July spirit by turning off the embarrassing Phillies performance against those hideous New York Mets and instead checking out the Sunoco Welcome America schedule of events. (Yes, the official schedule for a multi-million dollar annual event sponsored by one of the world's largest oil corporations is not only not on its own blog/site/database, it's a super-low-res jpg on Webshots.)

To set the tone, we'll take a quick peak around town to sample the buildings who've gone red, white and blue for the Fourth.

Philadelphia Inquirer Building

Glaxo Smith Kline Building

And finally, your Philly Skyline Philly Skyline: Mellon Bank Center and the east side of City Hall tower, where it's always 7:15.

Take us on outta here, boys!

–B Love

30 June 07: Symphony Skinfunny

Readers of this web site need no introduction to Symphony House. The pink new thirty-one story condo tower at Broad & Pine has, shall we say, had its share of critics.

Pink, in spite of its success in recent years (Cam'ron, Thomas shirts, gay liberation), is apparently not a popular color for skyscraper cladding among those who notice these things. Many a Pepto Bismol joke has been made about Big Pink, going as far as paralleling the dosage cup and the mansard roof. This far along in construction, though -- residents have already begun moving in, and all work should be finished this fall -- it appears that the pink façade will age well.

Of course this tower is not architecture for architects. Symphony House is about luxury and luxurious things.

The design, commissioned by developer Carl Dranoff himself to BLT Architects, is an ode to the roaring 20s, explaining the setbacks and mansard roof. Had the Gatsbys been 21st century Philadelphians, it seems unlikely they'd live anywhere else but the upper floors with their massive terraces overlooking the Kimmel Center . . . save for maybe the penthouse at Parc Rittenhouse.

Never minding the design, or the fact the residences sit on top of a six story parking podium, this building is all about -- how's that saying? -- location, location, location. At Broad & Pine, it situations itself not near, but directly on the Avenue of the Arts. The Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music, the Wilma Theater, Arts Bank, Clef Club of Jazz, Prince Theater and all the restaurants their patrons dine in are all right up the street. Plus Symphony House makes its own contribution to A of the A with the new home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. And on the off chance that one of its new homebuyers is a sports fan, the Broad Street Subway is at the end of the block.

This is The Skinny: Symphony House.

  • NAME: Symphony House
  • CATEGORY: Residential
  • STATUS: Construction
  • DEVELOPER: Dranoff Properties
  • ARCHITECT: BLT Architects
  • ADDRESS: 440 S. Broad St
  • NEIGHBORHOOD: Center City
  • HEIGHT: 387'8" / 118.16m
  • WEB SITE: SymphonyHouseCondo.com

    And, at long last, we've organized our 79 Symphony House construction photos in a user-friendly gallery you can find HERE.

    –B Love

  • 29 June 07: Fightin' Friday

    Greetings, Skyline fans and Phillies fans alike. We're gonna go ahead and take the afternoon off to go watch the Phils take on the Mets for the first of four, having spent the morning recovering from the Jimmy Rollins / Chase Utley assault of the Cincinnati Reds.

    Today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline is from that game during the late innings when the sky got real mad, just before opening up a rainstorm that inspired a 10th inning victory to take the series. We'll be back with more Skinnys before we head downtheshore for a long weekend.

    We'll keep an eye out for our super awesome iphone lovin' mayor -- he is not a nationwide laughing stock at all! -- when we exit the subway.

    –B Love

    28 June 07: Inflation sensation?

    505'. Five hundred five feet? Listen . . . Ryan Howard is my most super favorite baseball player in the whole wide world, and I'll be the first person to defend him when someone tries to say that last year's production was a fluke or that he strikes out too much. I think the Phillies abuse him -- splash his face all over their advertising and merchandise and tickets, yet only sign him to a one-year, $900k deal when they could have made everyone happy by giving him a long term deal like Chase Utley's. But five hundred five feet?

    I was incredulous when they measured RyHo's homerun last year against the Marlins at 496', but 505'? Come on. I truly believe he can hit the ball that far. I don't doubt that for a second. Look at the ones he dropped into the Allegheny River at last year's Homerun Derby in Pittsburgh. (In your face, David Wright.)

    Remember that shot Jose Canseco hit into the fifth deck at Toronto's Skydome in the 1989 American League Championship Series? 484'. Willie Stargell hit the longest homer in the history of The Vet the first year it was open, off of Hall of Famer (and crazy Republican Senator from Kentucky) Jim Bunning. There appears to be no record of its distance, but if you remember The Vet, you know that the 600 Level is almost as far as one can hit it.

    It was no mistake that the Phillies and/or baseball would celebrate the homerun that made Ryan Howard the fastest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 100 homeruns -- he beat the next closest player, Ralph Kiner, by 60 games! Such a feat might even lead a team to want to exaggerate a number to make it that much more colossal, no?

    Baseball-almanac.com is one of a number of excellent resources on the history of baseball and the half-useful-half-meaningless stats its most rabid fans devour. One of the better reads on the site is this one, looking at the science behind tape-measure homeruns. With some evidence that makes sense, it even questions whether the longest homerun ever hit, Mickey Mantle's 565' blast in St Louis, was as long as it's claimed. Then again, with the far better technology (and juiced ball and juiced players) available in 1998, five of Mark McGwire's record setting homeruns surpassed 500' in distance.

    Again, I have no doubts that Ryan Howard can hit a ball as far as Mickey Mantle or Reggie Jackson or Mark McGwire. But there just isn't any way that ball off of the Cincinnati Reds' Aaron Harang went 505 feet. Have a look here.

    Pardon my Perez Hiltoning, but the red line is the trajectory of that homerun ball and the circle is a still of the ball from Phillies.com. (Click on "Howard's 100th homer" on the right.) Got that? Okay, then look here.

    Pardon the quality here. This full-resolution crop is from a wide angle shot of the entire ballpark -- the Opening Day Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, in fact, taken with RyHo at the bat -- in which you can clearly see a sign on Ashburn Alley marking 482' from home plate. It is well beyond where that ball landed, by the ice cream stand.

    Sorry Big Guy. #6 is #1 in my baseball loving heart and I'm going to both tonight's and tomorrow's games out of that love. But man, I'm calling BS on the Phillies' tape measure guy.

    –B Love

    28 June 07: It's peanut butter Skinny time

    Peanut butter Skinny with a baseball bat!

    At long last, here it IS. Well, the Phase-In phase of Skinny Three Point Oh anyway. The requests have been plenty: Bee Love, update your Skinny!

    The thing is, the first two versions of The Skinny took a metric shit-tonne of work to build, and even more to keep up to date. As you may recall, there was the original from May '05 which Philly Mag ripped off for its own feature in its October '05 issue. And then there's last year's improvement, a much more aesthetic approach to all the same information. Each one had its advantages and disadvantages. Version One had popup descriptions with background details, links to official sites and even our own ratings. Version Two was prettier to look at but a whole lot harder to maintain.

    Enter Version Three. Finally database driven, it will be muuuuuch easier to maintain (simple as changing a database entry) AND the information will all be sortable to your choosing (e.g. by floor count or architects or neighborhood or whatever YOU choose) AND it will go back to detailed descriptions while retaining fancy images AND it will have links to official sites AND galleries for each project. Basically, it's a marriage of the concepts of the first two versions, made even better. And it is very much attributable to one Michelle Schmitt, who in between a few major projects of her own and planning a summer wedding, has done so much of the back side work that will make it all possible.

    That's what we're working toward; that's what's taking us so long. That's also why, to get to that point, we're going to phase in the projects one at a time so that by the time we're through profiling them all, version 3 of The Skinny will be ready to roll. There may be days where we roll out five at once, there may be days where there are none at all. But it's really for real happening now. Here comes The Skinny. Okay? Okay!

    All that said, where else are we going to start but the project which is, as the Inquirer said, "already at home on Philly Skyline"?

    There were a number of ways we could have phased in the Phase-In -- start with big hopes like Mandeville Place or Bridgeman's View Tower, start with completed works like The St James or Cira Centre, start with obscure never-weres like 17th & Vine or Center City Tower -- but given recent media coverage of our web site coverage, all of it seemed like it would undercut our pig de resistance, Comcast Center.

    On the chance that this is the first time you've visited Philly Skyline, or you haven't seen any news in the past month, or you've been to Center City but haven't noticed anything new or imposing . . . well, there's a new kid in building town. It's called Comcast Center, taking its name from the cable television/internet/phone provider for which you see the commercials starring Cal Ripken, Mr T and animatronic turtles. And it was a long time coming.

    Liberty Property Trust, whose predecessor broke Philly's long standing gentleman's agreement to not build taller than William Penn atop City Hall in the 1980s with One Liberty Place, announced way back in late 2000 that they intended on adding a new tower called One Pennsylvania Plaza to the skyline at a property it purchased stretching from 17th & JFK to 17th & Arch. Architect Robert A.M. Stern's proposal for the site evolved from an octagonal glass tower with lots of setbacks to a 1000+ ft glass tower (which New York's as yet unbuilt Freedom Tower closely resembles) to a gorgeous 750' tower of the same stone adorning the Art Museum to a modified version of the same to the 975' all glass tower with a 120' winter garden being built as we speak.

    To get from One PA Plaza to Comcast Center, there were negotiations with a lead tenant (Comcast) and negotiations with the state to determine whether the site qualified for the Keystone Opportunity Zone tax break. It did not, but Governor Ed Rendell did award a state grant worth over $40M to kick start the project, a fair deal considering it embraces its place directly above Suburban Station by creating an entirely new go-to terminal for that station which had previously only been a cluster of underground passages and provides services in that same new corridor.

    Comcast Center not only gives Philadelphia a new tallest building after twenty years, it also meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards, the tallest building in the country to do so. (The new Bank of America Tower in New York is thirty feet shorter but has a 255 foot spire which makes its "official" height 1200'.)

    There has been debate whether Comcast Center is 57 stories or 58, as the media has continually reported. While all of the official literature states 57 floors, 58 is accurate, insofar as there are 58 floor plates, 56 of which are occupiable by offices and such. The 44th floor will feature a private gourmet cafeteria, while the 1st floor will house a new restaurant called Table 31 by Georges Perrier and Chris Scarduzio. Several retail tenants will occupy a new food court in the underground concourse leading to Septa's train platforms, which serve all seven regional rail lines and both the El and Subway.

    Ladies and gentlemen of Philly Skyline, The Skinny, on this landmark tower.

  • NAME: Comcast Center
  • CATEGORY: Commercial
  • STATUS: Construction
  • DEVELOPER: Liberty Property Trust
  • ARCHITECT: Robert A.M. Stern
  • ADDRESS: 1701 JFK Blvd
  • NEIGHBORHOOD: Center City
  • HEIGHT: 975' / 297.18m
  • WEB SITE: libertyproperty.com/comcast, comcast.com/comcastcenter

    So there you have it, the first of many many Phase-In entries for Skinny 3.0. Thank you for coming along for the ride, and check back soon for more.

    For other Philly Skyline coverage of Comcast Center, please also see:

  • Construction photos (updated regularly)
  • Timeline (a chronological history leading up to groundbreaking)
  • Model (Photos of the official model)
  • Hard Hat Tour 1 (13 December 06)
  • Hard Hat Tour 2 (8 March 07)
  • Hard Hat Tour 3 (8 June 07)
  • Topping Off (Photos from the topping off ceremony)

    One last note: if you haven't done so already, pick up this week's print edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal. It's got a supplement called Philadelphia NOW that outlines a number of the projects The Skinny will address, including Comcast Center and several pictures of it that will be familiar to readers of this site.

    –B Love

  • 27 June 07: PA to Pennsylvanians: we shall regulate your breathing

    With thanks to that lovable juggernaut Daph Subfusk for the heads up, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a warning statement that today, ye olde humpe day, is an 'air quality action day' pretty much across the state, but especially in areas of urban heat island like metropolitan Pittsburgh, the Susquehanna valley (Harrisburg to York and Lancaster), and of course greater Philadelphia.

    Sez the state:
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standardized air quality index uses colors to report daily air quality (green signifies good, yellow means moderate, orange represents unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive people, and red warns of unhealthy pollution levels for all). Air quality action days are declared at orange and red when fine particulate matter reaches unhealthy levels.
    Today is a code orange -- unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter -- as you may've surmised by today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, taken this morning at about 6:45 from the new standard, the corner of Girard & Berks in Fishtown. (Canvas Coffee Company has indeed become the staple -- the iced coffee is great and the prosciutto/fresh mozz/roasted pepper sandwich is to die for -- but Dunkin Donuts is open 24 hours, meaning before 7am, and their iced coffee comes in big gulp.) Anyway, click-n-large the above photo, hold your breath and try to make out the skyline less than three miles away through the smoggy early morning air.

    What exactly does the state ask of you on this air quality action day, which more accurately is an air quality inaction day? Well . . .
  • Ride the bus or carpool to work;
  • Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials;
  • Wash dishes and clothes with full loads; and
  • Save energy -- do not overcool your home.
  • "Ride public transit" might have been a better suggestion instead of just "ride the bus or carpool". It's next to impossible to convince people who drive solo to work to not drive, let alone stand outside in the unhealthy heat to wait for a bus. At least most trains have a shaded platform and run on a relatively reliable schedule. To ride a bike would be to subject yourself to the concentrated pollution in the worst way, much more if you live near the Southwest Philly refineries or the treatment center in Bridesburg. Really, we think you should just stay inside.

    But back to the air quality warning itself: it comes but a single day after the state Senate passed an amendment 29-21 which enables a statewide smoking ban -- a smoking ban which undermines the smoking ban already in place in Philadelphia. It does so by offering several exemptions in the name of statewide uniformity, something the bill's sponsor, Republican Senator Stewart Greenleaf from Montgomery County, opposes. But in order to pass a personal-freedom-sensitive bill in the still-Republican-majority Senate, Republican Senator Chuck McIlhinney from Bucks County felt that it was important to establish certain exemptions, especially when -- here it comes -- measured against Philadelphia's already-active smoking ban, written by then-Councilman Michael Nutter.

    Which brings us back to something we first wrote about here in detail two years ago: Pennsylvania love. Many residents of rural PA would just as soon see Philadelphia annexed by New Jersey. Many Philadelphians couldn't care less about the so-called Pennsyltucky lifestyle beyond the King of Prussia Mall. Pittsburghers tend to hold a disdain for Philly like Philly holds a certain disdain for New York; likewise, any time I try to extol the good that the Burgh offers and encourage visiting that fine city, the same asshole emails me and says to stop writing about Pittsburgh, nobody cares. He's wrong (we got a number of emails after the Southwest-Amtrak-Greyhound-Turnpike to Pittsburgh comparison), and he exemplifies the Philly side of the problem.

    I've been on both sides of this PA divide and think that each one is off base. This is also not to say that there is a standardized hatred or distrust of the other; my friends back home were pleasantly surprised by my tour of Philly (and that they made it back home without getting shot), some friends here have loved Pittsburgh upon visiting for the first time, and several of us head for the hills several times a year, whether hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. It's like anything: trying to see the other side is the only way to bridge that divide.

    Philadelphians should take Governor Ed Rendell's advice and take a scenic drive on Route 6 or spend a weekend in Pittsburgh. Check out PNC Park if you want to see what Philadelphia could have had with good leadership in City Hall and in Phillies management; PNC is the best ballpark in baseball, and it has spurred activity immediately around it, something Citizens Bank Park has not and almost certainly will not do, thanks to its location. Plus the architecture in downtown Pittsburgh is astonishing. The proud industrial city has three corporations whose towers showcase their product: Alcoa's aluminum tower (Harrison & Abramovitz, 1953), PPG's neogothic glass castle (Phillip Johnson, 1984, seen above), and the tallest in the Steel City, the US Steel Tower (Harrison & Abramovitz, 1970).

    Likewise, people on the northern, central and western ends of the state should buck up and see this big city as something other than where people are murdered and where they send their cable bill. Hello, Liberty Bell? PENN-sylvania?

    Open up. Think. Love. All so simple, yet so hard for so many. Also hard: balancing a uniform oneness and realizing there are different needs, like smoking bans and transit and gun control. Can you have it both ways? Can Philadelphians love rural Pennsylvania if rural Pennsylvanians don't allow Philadelphia to regulate guns within its borders? Can Altoonans respect Philadelphia if they have to pay tax premiums that help bail out Septa? Like the divide itself, there are probably two sides to the answer of that question.

    The best I can do is offer up my love of Pennsylvania and hope that others do the same. Presque Isle State Park in Erie is the only place in PA where you can watch the sun go down over water like some California movie sunset. Cherry Springs State Park alleges to have the darkest skies east of the Mississippi, and after seeing first hand the billions of stars even through a hazy sky, I can't argue with that. If Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater doesn't seem like good enough a single reason to visit southwestern PA, make it a whitewater rafting weekend on the Youghiogheny. Pop into CC Peppers to see how State College makes a cheesesteak and follow it up with a Peachy Paterno at the Creamery. Slopes too crowded in the Poconos? Lace up for the Appalachian Trail instead. The York Fair. Raystown Lake. PA Grand Canyon. Ricketts Glen. Punxsutawney. Hersheypark. Minor League baseball in Reading, Scranton, Altoona, Lancaster, State College, Williamsport and soon Allentown. It's PA love man, it's all love.

    Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another. Right now.

    Or nominate a square designate a driver and make a beer trip to any of the state's amazing breweries: Stoudt's in Adamstown, Victory in Downingtown, Rolling Rock in Latrobe, Tröegs or ABC in Harrisburg, Lancaster in . . . Lancaster, Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre (responsible not only for the increasingly popular Lionshead brand, but also the 'Olde Philadelphia' line of sodas you see in gourmet delis), and grandaddy of em all, Pottsville's pride, Yuengling. The D.G. Yuengling & Son plant is, as we all know, the oldest operating brewery in America. It dates back to 1829 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, tours are given twice daily, they are free, and they come with free beer at the end. The freshest Yuengling on the planet (outside the brewery, that is) is served at Maroons Bar & Grille in downtown Pottsville. The bar takes its name and centers its business around the memorabilia of the Pottsville Maroons, the controversial champion of the 1925 NFL season: controversial because though they had the best record in the league, the NFL recognized the Chicago Cardinals -- whom the Maroons defeated -- as champions because the Maroons violated NFL franchise rights by playing a game in Philadelphia against someone other than the Philadelphia team at that time, the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Plus if you can make it a Tuesday, Maroons Bar has dollar Yuengling pints (Premium is the longtime Pottsville staple, but you can get Lager and sometimes Porter on draught) and a dozen wings for five bucks.

    In conclusion, Philadelphia: love your state. And Pennsylvania, if you're out there reading this site: come visit us. We hear it's more fun when you sleep over. Just be careful when you breathe the air out there; best to smoke indoors today.

    –B Love

    26 June 07: It's coming . . .


    –B Love

    25 June 07: There's no more 3200 block of H Street

    The K & A: Konspiracy & Arson? saga continues. Filmmaker/musician/producer/artist Jamie Moffett takes the aforementioned Simple Way's first hand look at last week's seven alarm fire in Kensington, follows it up with street interviews, puts it to music and humanizes it in the most powerful segment put together yet.

    25 June 07: The weekend: IT WAS NICE!!!

    That's the actual triple-exclamatory heading meteorologist Dave Roberts gave this past weekend in review on last night's 11 o'clock Action News. Is there anyone who would disagree? It truly was about as perfect a pitch as Ma Nature could throw us. She had no control over a murder which put us at 195 (18 ahead of last year's already horrible pace), nor over the Phillies losing Jon Lieber for the season despite a great series win in St Louis. (The Inquirer's Todd Zolecki observes that with Lieber joining Tom Gordon, Brett Myers and Freddy Garcia on the DL, 31% of the Phillies payroll is inactive.)

    But the weekend, it was nice. Shall we talk about the weather? No! Let's talk Skinny.

    This right here is a screencap for the non-believers. As promised last week, your friendly Philly Skyline is going to phase in the latest greatest version of The Skinny one project at a time, some of them refreshers, some of them stagnant, some of them all new. We'll have all the info and images you're looking for. But that image above? That's what the phasing in is building up to. Michelle, our senior vice president of geographic information, is putting together a package that basically laughs at earlier editions of The Skinny. That won't be ready until later this summer, but it's the goal we're working toward with the individual entries that start later today.

    * * *

    A quick word of thanks to everyone who sent their comments about the K&A situation. Accompanied by powerful photographer April Saul, the Inquirer's Michael Matza had a piece in Saturday's paper that was equally impressive and heartbreaking. The Simple Way's web site has been updated since the fire and, all things considered, sounds pretty positive. Go there to see their first hand account (both commentary and stunning photos) of the fire that destroyed their facility and seven families' homes. The site has information on charities you can donate to to help get all the affected lives back on track.

    * * *

    But back to the amazing weekend just passed whose breathtaking perfection this Monday morning's mist only affirms, we here at Philly Skyline seized the moment. In fact, what with summer solstice just having passed, sunrise is at this time of year at exactly 5:33am. No reason that should prevent you from, let's say, rising at 4:45am and hanging out in Camden. You'll find the results of this, plus views from Port Richmond and West Philly, in our Comcast Center section, updated with 22 new photos (mini-Philly Skyline Philly Skylines, basically) and a current diagram.

    Wrote a song about it, like to hear it, here it go:

    –B Love

    22 June 07: K & A: Konspiracy and Arson?

    Click that image there to enlarge it. It's not that we want this kind of damage to be the subject of a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline -- far from it. It's just that a bigger image is the only way to really grasp the scope of the devastation Wednesday morning's seven alarm fire at a Warehouse just off of Kensington & Allegheny -- "K & A" -- inflicted. It took 170 firefighters to put it out, and some are still at the scene to continue containing it.

    I'm really surprised this fire hasn't made a bigger dent in local news outlets and blogs. Well, I suppose it's hard to look past a news story involving SIX MURDERS in a SINGLE DAY. That's okay though -- in between cutting a ribbon at Symphony House, writing a letter on behalf of the owner of the collapsed Pier 34 which killed three people urging the judge to not sentence prison time, and touting Operation Safer Streets to great praise in Northeast Philadelphia, Mayor John Street has assured us that this -- six murders in one day -- is a "problem across the Commonwealth, and across the nation." (We're sad that in one day, Erin O'Hearn went from Philly Skyline to covering a double murder in Kensington.)

    So what happened at K & A? A fire, a really big fire. A warehouse with brick walls and a wooden interior went up in flames and took seven houses with it. Seven Kensington families are out of a home and approximately 140 are at least temporarily displaced because of this fire. Fortunately, there is a Red Cross branch literally down the street from this location and they have graciously taken in the affected families.

    What do we know about the fire itself? Here's where it gets interesting, and today is but day three of what will surely be a long investigation. There are enough parties and reports involved that keeping them all straight is quite a chore.

    During CBS3's initial newscast, one of the residents whose home burned said that she and other neighbors had tried to have the building demolished, as it had been abandoned for decades and stood on the same block as their homes. The Department of Licenses and Inspections actually had the building sealed off at the requests of its neighbors a year ago, but within a few months time, vagrants were able to break in and had set a handful of small fires. That same newscast listed the warehouse's owner as the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID), a financing arm of the city that helps negotiate city-related deals. Mayor Street is on the board of PAID, but is not associated with this property per se. His office had no comment about the fire.

    So did PAID own the warehouse? City Managing Director Loree Jones says no, not technically. The Daily News' Bob Warner has a good background on the handling and failed transitions of the property in today's paper. A summary goes: in 1973, PAID became the nominal owner of the property in order to facilitate tax exempt financing for a company that would go bankrupt, the guy who then became the technical holder of the mortgage skipped town years ago, and since then unpaid taxes have accumulated to a current balance of nearly $325k, more than the warehouse is even worth.

    That seems like a long time to let unpaid taxes go uncollected, sure, and the city did attempt to put it up for sheriff's sale. However, at the behest of the Commerce Department, the sheriff's sales were each postponed because an organization led by Steve Culbertson, who had done good work for the Frankford Community Development Corporation, wanted to buy the property and convert it into a senior housing development. Financing for that project was never secured, L & I last month declared the building unsafe, and the building was to have finally gone up for sheriff's sale . . . on Wednesday. The day of the fire.

    The Fire Department has listed the fire as suspicious. But who set the fire? Not PAID, because what is there to gain from selling a lot that at best would cover tax liens and the cleanup of a massive site? Obviously not the neighbors on the blocks of H and Westmoreland Streets or the many businesses in the very busy K & A area of Kensington.

    That's the big question. Who knows who set the fire besides he who set the fire? The burnt out warehouse is now in such imminent danger of collapse that the Fire Department has as yet been unable to enter the building to investigate.

    Needless to say, this is a story whose development is worth watching, and thus far, CBS3 appears to have been on it the best. The building will have to be demolished, and the silver lining to all this is that an empty lot -- a blank slate -- will be easier to sell at sheriff's sale than an old, outdated warehouse.

    In the meantime, several Kensington families have to get their lives in order. The Simple Way, a non-profit organization involved in after-school and arts programs, lost its nearby facility because of the fire and has a chilling first-hand look at it on its web site. They also have information on how you can donate money to help toward the care of the displaced families.

    I was speaking with Nathaniel this morning, and he and I agreed that K & A is as Philadelphian -- as vital to the city -- as let's say Broad & Pine, where Symphony House was celebrated on Monday, and where the first residents begin moving in this weekend. Kensington & Allegheny is a whole world of different than Broad & Pine. But it's vibrant, active, central. It's home, for a lot of people. Septa's El station there is one of the better ones in the city.

    Whether lower income or not, the K & A corridor will thrive because it needs to thrive; its residents need it to thrive. Once this warehouse's charred rubble is finally cleared and the highest bidder wins an empty lot, a new opportunity to contribute to this community will be recognized. Just look at the size of this lot. Let's hope someone more ambitious than Rite-Aid or Dunkin Donuts steps up to the plate.

    To end this all on a positive note, your Friday Philly Skyline Philly Skyline enjoys the view from that same platform, the Allegheny El station.

    * * *

    Heading into the weekend, we'd like to turn our attention even further north, State Representative Dwight Evans' turf to be exact. You may have seen the ads during Phillies games or caught the news blips in the papers, but we've been looking forward to the West Oak Lane Festival for what seems like months. The lineup is amazing, and even more amazing: it's all free.

    The 7100-7299 blocks of Ogontz Avenue are transforming into perhaps the greatest concentration of music this city has seen since Live 8 this weekend. The Ohio Players, War, Pat Martino and Philly great Bootsie Barnes are among those taking the stage, but the can't-miss performance of all of them is the legendary Roy Ayers. Known largely for his work on 70s blaxploitation soundtracks and for the hip hop songs which sample his work ("We Live in Brooklyn, Baby" alone has been sampled by tons of artists, most notably Digable Planets, Gang Starr and Smif & Wessun), the virtuosic vibraphonist has been laying tracks so thick that neither jazz nor funk nor soul is fair as a singular label to his work.

    Roy Ayers plays tonight from 9 to 11 at Stage 1, Ogontz & Middleton Avenues. We'll yank on YouTube to follow up our Roots "Proceed" post from a few weeks back -- this is Proceed 2, a rooftop Roots-Roy Ayers collaboration from 1995.

    See you on the flip Skinny side.

    –B Love

    20 June 07:

    Man, this has been a good week here at da Skyline, in spite of our not yet keeping our Skinny promise. (More on that shortly.) Following the topping off ceremony at Comcast Center on Monday, I had the pleasure of talking skyline stuffs with CBS3's Pat Ciarrocchi, who you may have noticed out of nowhere in our always growing Comcast Center construction photo section (which has been Comcast Corporation's official documentation for a good year and a half). Five seconds of that ten minute interview made the cut; Pat's entire segment on our changing skyline is found HERE. Last night, Channel 6's Erin O'Hearn paid us another visit in her Right Now on the Net segment. Then today, the ever frustrating Philly.com gave us the nod above.

    Philly.com currently has a reader survey. I figure, "ok, surveys are helpful and I don't mind answering survey questions when Gallup or Keystone or whoever calls, so I'll help out a web site I read all the time. It's the least I could do, what with never buying the paper." Well, my apologies to Mr Tierney, but when I got to the sixty-fifth question and it was about auto parts and tires . . . my man, I kinda lost interest. 65 questions and I'm only 61% done? How long IS this survey??? Homie, I understand you're trying to make a better web site, and for that we all commend you. But a survey of 100+ questions is about as fun as taking the SATs.

    (WARNING: SEGUE) That said, here's a heads up and a request of you, our faithful Philly Skyline reader. (No, we don't want your money.) We too will have a survey in the next week or so that will help flesh out the numbers of visitors we check in on regularly and which seem to rise after each visit to Comcast Center. (Yo Erin O'Hearn.) We're in the process of trying to make Philly Skyline better for everyone: better organization (blog software -- still debating between Wordpress, Joomla and other options), expanded features (buildings, architects, neighborhoods, photo essays), continued contributions (Popkin, Ives, Johnson and more), keeping old promises (Rittenhouse Square, cheesesteaks, garages), and -- here it is -- an all new Skinny.

    My personal B Love apologies for not delivering on Skinny 3.0 this week, but Comcast Center, Symphony House and -- just in time for a new Skinny -- the Western Union Building have all postponed that till next week. And, there's an important staff meeting this very evening about said Skinny. So it's coming, just please bear with us.

    In the meantime, our Comcast Center section is up to date with new views from North Philly, Logan, Kensington, Old City and a night shot that was almost killed by the 15 trolley. Aaand finally, a summer solstice Philly Skyline Philly Skyline to tease that Western Union Building, the view from the 12th floor terrace.

    –B Love

    21 June 07: Here it is: a groove, slightly transformed

    Summer, summer, summertime. Ooooh, summahtime. Sixteen years since Will Smith was a Fresh Prince and dropping anthems you'd still be playing sixteen years later . . . wow. But what has the rapper done for me lately? Right now, it's the DJ's turn.

    A few weeks ago, DJ Jazzy Jeff released Return of the Magnificent, a record the Weekly's Craig Lindsey described as Prince Paul-esque in its production and MC assemblage. It's true: Posdnous from De La Soul, CL Smooth and Method Man are all there over soulful beats, its album cover is a nod to Deodato 2, and the key track on the album is J Live's "Practice", which samples the greatest press conference in NBA history, Allen Iverson's "we talkin' about practice", of course.

    It's worth checking out for the summer barbecue at which you'll also be rocking Ween's Friends EP. Check out DJJazzyJeff.com for info on Return of the Magnificent and for a nice mix with Meth & Mary, Jay-Z, Jeru the Damaja, the Pharcyde and others, and of course Jazz cuttin' up the wheels of steel.

    * * *

    It's summertime, man. You gotta get outside. At 2:06pm, precisely, for your summer solstice.

    It's also summertime in the Logan Triangle, the subject of the above Philly Skyline Philly Skyline. Our own little Centralia in North Philly, the Logan Triangle is seventeen square blocks (which thanks to Roosevelt Blvd on the south forms the shape of, uh, a triangle) of semi-permanent emptiness where there once was life. While Centralia has an ongoing underground fire that may or may not collapse what's left of the town, the Logan Triangle witnessed hundreds of homes demolished because they were sinking and falling in on each other . . . because they were built on top of coal ash infill in the Wingohocking Creek.

    It is uncertain what, if anything, will become of the Logan Triangle, but plans which have come and gone include a new high school, a new shopping center and an extension of Hunting Park, just on the other side of the Boulevard. Until then, it is what it is: a street grid with stop signs, power lines and jersey barriers that serve no one but the rats and possums inhabiting the overgrown lots.

    –B Love

    20 June 07: Music From Big Pink, or,
    Tuning up the Avenue of the Arts

    Five years ago, the southwest corner of Broad & Pine was a gravel parking lot with a giant billboard sticking out of it. Five years before that, it was a gas station. Neither of these points was missed in Carl Dranoff's speech to officially open a packed and really hot Symphony House last night.

    With a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Governor Ed Rendell, Mayor John Street, '07 Democratic Mayoral Nominee Michael Nutter, Kenny Gamble, Suzanne Roberts and others, Dranoff Properties inaugurated the latest residential addition to its greater Philadelphia portfolio which also includes Locust on the Park at the Locust Street crossing of the Schuylkill River Park, the Victor in Camden, Venice Lofts in Manayunk, and University City's Left Bank, in which its corporate offices reside. It's also the first major opening along South Broad Street since . . . well really, since Ed Rendell left the Mayor's office and its Avenue of the Arts momentum behind.

    (Well okay, the Kimmel Center opened in 2001.) Dranoff thanked the Gov for his A of the A initiative in the early 90s and recognized Ron Rubin's efforts for his restoration of the Bellevue ('91), which helped to kick start the development of South Broad Street which would also eventually include the Wilma Theater ('94), Clef Club of Jazz ('95) and Kimmel Center ('01). (And Govinda's Gourmet to Go, which has the best vegan cheesesteak you ever will eat.)

    After brief speeches by Governor Rendell, Mayor Street and A of the A director Karen Lewis, invitees and guests were treated to hors d'oeuvres, champagne and a tour of the eighth floor fitness center, where twenty-somethings in bathing suits sat poolside and a dude with big muscles worked out next to the gal doing the treadmill.

    This hot tub will of course be ready shortly for residents who begin moving in next week. Guests were also given a sneak preview of said units with a tour of the ninth floor's model units.

    Out on the balcony, a proud but kind Carl Dranoff explained to me that it was important to him to differentiate Symphony House's design from what he described as glass boxes that anyone can do. He wanted to pay a tribute of sorts to the roaring 20s, which explains the multiple setbacks and the mansard roof. He said that part of the building will be fitted with a plexiglass installation next month, but is as of last night already lit up on the skyline. The finials atop the roof reach to 387' 8", a foot shorter than the nearby Lewis Tower and three feet taller than the PECO Building, making Symphony House the 28th tallest building in the city.

    The two 32nd floor penthouse units will be ready soon, and residents of lower floors move in beginning next week. The Philadelphia Theatre Company will begin residency at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre with an October 26 - November 25 run of Unusual Acts of Devotion, written by Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally and starring Kathy Bates.

    The Dranoff-Gamble team has other plans for South Broad Street in the works including the previously mentioned 777 South Broad and a newer midrise tower for Broad & Fitzwater. Governor Rendell joked about a Symphony House 2 and expressed interest in the as yet unrecognized R&B Museum and district.

    We're in the process of compiling and chronologizing our Symphony House construction photos. Meantime, turn up the Beethoven's 5th, peel open the best Hershey bar out there and let the almonds and toffee get stuck in your teeth, and enjoy this Hump Day Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, Symphony House View Edition.

    –B Love

    20 June 07: A time for friends

    The awesome sound of New Hope, Bucks County is new again. Brothers Ween -- Dean & Geen -- have this week released their first new music in four years with the Friends EP, available exclusively on Chocodog, their merch web site. Says Deaner:
    I'm pleased to announce the first new Ween release in a long while; "The Friends E.P." will be released exclusively on Chocodog Records on June 19. You can now buy the record (and a cool t-shirt) via pre-order by clicking above. It features 5 brand new songs, none of which will appear on the new full length Ween album scheduled to be released this fall on a "real" record label, not Chocodog. We have recorded a lot of new material the past year and we wanted to give you an appetizer for the summer. It is the ultimate party record, filled with good beats and good times. Perfect for your barbecue or doing bong hits or whatever it is that you guys do. You really need to buy multiple copies through this website. If you download it or burn a copy from a friend your karma will be so f*cked that you will be reincarnated as a tumor on a rat's ass. We put a lot of time into this, like 4 years. What is that 9.5 months a song or something? You're gonna buy it on I-tunes? No way. Seriously though, you're gonna love it.
    You can't buy The Friends EP at a.k.a., F.Y.E., or i.t.u.n.e.s. -- you gotta go straight to the source. Support these guys; they've been putting out solid music for nearly twenty years, and they're just upstream on the dangerous Delaware River. Deaner's even a Flyers season ticket holder.

    Also, for what it's worth, Ween is headlining this weekend's Paul Green School of Rock Music Festival in Asbury Park. The legendary Philly rock kids that inspired a Jack Black ripoff movie now get their own festival. Several incarnations of the School of Rock all-stars take on their favorite bands -- Philly does Radiohead, Cherry Hill does Hendrix, Buxco does Floyd -- and the general lineup is pretty outta site: WEEN, Bad Brains(!), Lucero, Bouncing Souls, Stinking Lizaveta, The Weakerthans, and lectures by Jello Biafra and Skunk Baxter. Plus it gives you a reason to head to the north Jersey Shore and see what The Boss was talking about. But you should go to see what Deaner was talking about.

    –B Love

    PS: Let's yank on YouTube for about three minutes and fifty-five seconds here. I'm not normally a fan of the homemade videos that major media outlets think people use YouTube for, but this one, though slightly predictable for certain segments, is a really great rendition of 2003's "Zoloft".

    19 June 07: The top-off jump-off

    As 2004 wound to a close, the secret that Liberty Property Trust was trying to land Comcast as a lead tenant for its One Pennsylvania Plaza project at 17th & JFK was such a bad secret that not only did the Center City Building Owners Association line up against Liberty, claiming it was trying to bilk the state out of taxpayer money for Keystone Opportunity Zone designation, but also against Comcast, going as far as making a web site keepphillycompetitive.com (which linked to a Comcast watchdog site). The rest of the state seemingly had the association's back.

    In November of that year I attended the Eagles game in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers had the previous week defeated the New England Patriots, leaving the Eagles the only undefeated team in the NFL. While rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 27-3 defeat of the Eagles, a small-engine plane circled Heinz Field and the tailgaiting parking lots with a sign that said "TAX BREAKS FOR ALL PENNSYLVANIANS, NOT JUST COMCAST." It was present because die-hard Eagles fan Governor Rendell was of course at the game.

    In the end -- or the beginning, I should say -- a KOZ designation was not awarded. Instead, in January 2005, Liberty announced that it had in fact landed a lead tenant named Comcast, and Governor Rendell managed to pull off a $45M state grant to kickstart the project, which I've always said is a fair compromise considering the public works aspect of the project.

    Two months later, in March 2005, Liberty and Robert A.M. Stern held an opening ceremony on site at what had become a very deep pit. Liberty's reps, Mayor Street and Bob Stern himself spoke about what this new building could and would represent to the city, and that Liberty and Comcast marched to the beat of a different drum. They commemorated this concept with three different drum troops and a souvenir pair of drumsticks enscribed with "Comcast Center". There was a six foot ice sculpture of the newly reconfigured tower, and the beef tartar was simply out of sight.

    Fast forward over two years, nearly a thousand feet, and two thousand Philly Skyline photos later and we're at the top, the very top. On Monday, June 18th 2007, Liberty and Comcast marked the topping off ceremony of its tower with a ceremonial beam with the traditional evergreen tree and American flag. This beam was different and represented more. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts honored his father Ralph (who founded Comcast 45 years ago) and paid respect to the late Willard Rouse, Liberty's founder, by recognizing that tomorrow, June 19th, would have been his 65th birthday and that he would rather kick off a major project than retire. More to point, though, this beam had a certain . . . figurine, if you will.

    Comcast took it upon themselves to rectify what Rouse and Liberty may have offset twenty years ago, the so called Curse Of Billy Penn. Recognizing that no Philly sports team has won a championship since Liberty's One Liberty Place opened in 1987, Roberts announced that they would include a sculpture of William Penn on the beam to be placed at the highest point in the city.

    Here are 30 photos from the topping off ceremony.

    –B Love

    18 June 07: Eye in the sky

    Today's the day, Monday the 18th of June, 2007, that after twenty years Philadelphia, really for real, officially gets itself a new tallest building. Comcast Center will be topped off in a ceremony thrown by Liberty Property Trust in honor of its project that will replace its previous gentleman's-agreement-breaker as the city's tallest building. A beam will be hoisted into place at approximately high noon today, marking the highest point of the new building at 975', thirty feet higher than the tip of One Liberty Place's spire.

    The Inquirer's John Tierno and Robert West have made a nice Flash graphic that illustrates the city's tallest buildings over the years and compares them against the world's current tallest buildings (minus Burj Dubai). You can find that graphic HERE.

    If you're at home, be sure to catch the 12 o'clock newscast. If you work in a nearby highrise (especially Mellon Bank Center or one of the Liberty Places) and manage to get some photos of the event, we'd love to share them (with credit, of course). If so, drop us a line. We'll have our own report this afternoon and then we'll get down to Skinny business as promised.

    –B Love

    17 June 07: Happy Fathers Day

    The view from the Top of the Tower is good, especially around sundown on the Saturday night Angela & Woody tied the knot, tied tied the knot. If you're into seeing some views similar to this high up Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, be sure to check out the latest addition to our Comcast Center section.

    And if you're into high up views of AND from Comcast Center, pick up today's Sunday Inquirer, which features a number of photos by Barbara Johnston of the Ironworkers Local 401 doing their thing. The Inquirer has made a 24-photo slide show of Barbara's photos and commentary HERE.

    But don't spend too long doing either, because today is your dad's day and you should hang out with him, barbecuing or golfing or fixing a '67 Chevy or some other stereotypical dad thing you'd see in a commercial for prostate cancer medicine. Raise a cold one to and with your pop, and go Phillies!

    –B Love

    15 June 07: YoYoYoYoYoYo . . . Darkroom

    This fabulous Friday is a happy day in the extended Philly Skyline family. From the days it was a little hole-in-the-wall shop on 15th Street to its always technologically advancing expanse at 1909 Chestnut, we've printed our photos nearly exclusively at CBOP, now Photo Lounge. (Please note: in this post, where we say CBOP, we of course mean Photo Lounge, but we'll always call it CBOP.) They're locally grown (as opposed to say Ritz Camera), but the pudding is in the proofs: their product is simply unmatched. The color, the matte paper, and the dedication to staying on top of everything digital photography related has made CBOP Philly Skyline's official photo shop.

    Now in its tenth year, CBOP and its mastermind Ravid Butz (pictured above with Sherry Wiernik) are opening a few other doors, but one in particular this evening at 6 in an ivy covered nook of Logan Square: Yo Darkroom.

    Yo Darkroom is . . . well, how best to describe it exactly? It's an experience, but the one word that hits closest is community. Where CBOP is a retail store where you can have your digital photos turned into 4x6, 8x10, 11x14, 20x30 and larger prints, buy a camera, buy a frame, make a photo book and so forth, Yo Darkroom is a get-your-hands-dirty-with-your-friends kind of place. It has -- well duh -- a darkroom with seven stations including the enlargers and chemicals (you bring your negatives and whatever paper you want to print on), a classroom where you can take classes which range from taking better pictures to the philosophy of photography as art, a customizable studio, and gallery space. The gallery space includes a main gallery for established and gifted photographers which will rotate out monthly and lots of wall space for all of Yo Darkroom's members. Where there is space, there shall be hung art.

    Really though, it's hard to explain without being there. Tonight's the night at 113 N. 23rd St (on 23rd just above Arch, across the street from the massive, hideous parking lot that should be bold, beautiful, Schuylkill River condo towers). Go say hey to Ravid and Sherry, have some wine, and enjoy the opening with photos by In Liquid's Susan Arthur-Whitson.

    * * *

    Well it's Friday night and you just got paid. Really though: check out the show at Yo, then go to the Ho to flow some mo', bro. Whoa. Drew Lazor's got some pointers in this week's City Paper, should you be looking for a night out in G-Ho. And you should.

    That's where we'll leave it for this week, but next week . . . next week is the one. New views, new milestones, new Skinny. Stay here, won'tcha?


    –B Love