31 August 07: SKYSCRAPERS: Truth, Fiction or Hearsay?

Hot diggitty dog, what an action packed Friday to lead into your Labor Day weekend.

FACT: Cira Centre South is as real deal as JD Durbin, boy, it is a GO. Check the post directly beneath this one, or go see what the always-awesome Natalie Kostelni has to say about it over at the PBJ.

But believe it or not, Philly Skyline skyscraper news doesn't stop there, nor does our Natalie namedropping. In the latest print edition of the same paper, Miss K is the first to name names in this particular RUMOR: the building at 21st & Market that AAA vacated for new digs in Wilmington (which you can see in our Wilmington photo essay*) and which Bob Brady's mayoral campaign called home was built with the idea that additions could be made, creating a tower catercorner to the Murano**. World Acquisition Partners, famous for not building the New Market Hotel and for pissing off the Logan Square neighborhood association with its concept for Philadelphia River City, is considering "construct[ing] an addition that could reach as high as 53 stories" . . . To read the full article, you need to buy the print edition, but a preview is HERE.

* - To the folks from Wilmington who were disappointed by the Wilmington photo essay: well, sorry. I understand that there are other parts of town -- Little Italy, the Brandywine River, city parks, Market Square downtown -- but you can only fit so much into one afternoon. I did my best. (And plus come on, you're Delaware. I kid.) The Bob Marley connection was especially of interest for this trip, as was the Christiana Riverfront, and that should come across in the photos. Keep in mind: if you're up to the challenge and can take good photos, you're always welcome to contribute a photo essay of your own, in which case gimme a shout at photos AT phillyskyline DOT com with "photo essay idea" (or something) in the subject line.

** - The Murano section is now up to date with 22 photos for August, including a few from the beautiful blue day on Tuesday. So are Comcast Center and Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, for that matter.
FACT: 10 Rittenhouse Square is full steam ahead, or shall we say, full concrete below. Over the weekend, the city temporarily closed down 18th & Sansom, and it took two companies to pour the foundation of the 33 story tower. Reminder: once this building surpasses street level, yr Philly Skyline will have a dedicated 10 Rittenhouse section.

A shout to Oona Walsh, who kindly sent in this action shot of the foundation's pour taken by project manager Antoine Rotival. Click to enlarge.

RUMOR: Here's a nugget if there ever was a skyscraper nugget: test borings were being performed at the southwest corner of 18th & Arch yesterday, and a fellow named erjon posted on Skyscraperpage that he'd heard that Wachovia was looking at the enormous parking lot (seen in so many Comcast Center photos) for the potential of building a 1300' tower.

Now, while that is one juicy rumor, I have a few opinions after discussing it with a pretty good source . . .
• Wachovia is based in Charlotte, a banking city, and it seems unlikely that they'd build any sort of signature tower in a city like Philadelphia.

• However, a tower of this magnitude (300' taller than Comcast Center) could signal a forthcoming merger, and Wachovia's stock hasn't done well over the past year or more, so that's a possibility. In fact, with many people already laid off at Wachovia's offices at 5th & Market and at One South Broad, a merger/buyout seems like the only sort of growth Wachovia would extend in Philly right now.

• Also, if Wachovia were to merge or buy someone out right now, wouldn't it seem in their better interests to move west and look at someone like Wells Fargo or WaMu?

• Let's say a mid-sized bank with a strong presence in Philly like PNC or Commerce were to merge with a larger institution: both Bank of America and Citi are growing in Philly, and neither has a major physical presence, where PNC has its own mid-range tower (a fine building by SOM overshadowed by Liberty Place right next door on either side) at 16th & Market, and Commerce's corporate offices are in Cherry Hill. Bank of America and Citi, should they be looking to set up shop, could look to build a large tower.

Again, these are all ideas on this RUMOR, nothing is too substantiated. If YOU have something substantiated you'd like to share, give us a shout.
WEIRD FACT: Is it weird to think this is weird? Today's New York Daily News reports that Atlantic City's skyline is extending northward with two new 48 story casino/hotel towers . . . developed by Morgan Stanley. The investment firm and retail broker has created Revel Entertainment to build this new, as yet unnamed casino to open in 2011, and it includes plans for AC's first destination wedding chapel. Hmm.

So, glancing around AC, the Trop has expanded with the Quarter, Harrah's is expanding, Borgata is expanding, the Taj is expanding, and Resorts is expanding. Plus, The Sands is a-coming down to make way for Pinnacle, and MGM is building "City Center East" on the massive open space on the marina between Borgata and Harrah's. It'll be interesting to see if, five years down the road, Atlantic City's economic disparity hasn't grown along with its skyline.

RUMOR: My man HughE, who last month broke the William Penn Wax Job story, now has even more bad news: apparently, the City has hired a non-union carpenter team to do work inside City Hall, and that doesn't sit well with the Philly carpenters union. Ergo, they are picketing at City Hall, and according to HughE's story, the union carpenters hired to assemble the scaffolding which will apply Billy's wax job will not cross the picket line. So guess what, City Hall Tower fans: you get to wait even longer to enjoy the view, because now, the tower is closed indefinitely. HOORAY PHILLY!

FACT: The Barnes Tower Parkway 22's web site is officially under construction: Parkway22.com. The site rightfully celebrates the proposed building's proximity to the Art Museum (see if you can count how many times the word "art" is used), but the photo of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker is mad old, showing a patina that hasn't been there in at least 8-10 years. The residences, floor plans and amenities aren't live yet, but you can fill out a form for more Parkway 22 info. Or, you can stop by their office on 20th Street across from Whole Foods -- it's the one marked "Barnes Tower".

FACT: KYW's Mike Dunn reminds us that the Philadelphia Parking Authority's controversial empty lot at 19th & Walnut is still an empty lot, and PPA is unloading it to Castleway Properties. While Castleway officially has not taken a stance on how it will proceed with the lot, suffice it to say they'll probably NOT propose a giant parking garage with a Riverview-like cinema complex, as PPA had tried to do. It would behoove them to coordinate with the Center City Residents Association, who compiled their own master plan for the Ritt-Fit area, with special attention that very lot. You can download the PDF of that master plan HERE -- check out page 76 for their study of that lot.

And now for some fun time celebrity RUMORS FACTS, wheee! True story: Zooey Deschanel, the 27 year old Hollywood starlet of Elf and Weeds fame, is currently in town for the filming of The Happening, M Night Shamalamadingdong's latest feature. Well Zooey must have caught the New York Times' T Magazine on Sunday, because she took a break from filming to pop into Conspiracy Showroom for some shopping. And I don't know about you, but if the dresses, jewelry and bags at Conspiracy are good enough for Zooey, then sister, they're good enough for me.

Not entirely UNrelated (ok, entirely unrelated), Mos Def will be hanging with Mix Master Mike Nutter in West Philly tomorrow afternoon, for this year's Neighborhood to Neighborhood Festival. Head out to 50th & Baltimore for the free show, check out the redone Cedar Park, and pop into the brand new Dock Street Pub while you're out there.

FICTION: Jose Reyes is better than Jimmy Rollins. Pish posh! Despite what Chris Wheeler would have you believe, Jose Reyes is hardly a better shortstop or all around player than J-Roll. Perhaps still stinging from watching the St Louis Cardinals win the pennant at Shea Stadium last October, the New York Mets and their fans have had Jimmy Rollins in their crosshairs all season long, after he confidently declared the Phillies the Team To Beat in the NL East.

Well, all season long, Jimmy has put his money where his mouth is: in fifteen games against the Mets this season, he's batting .364 with 6 homeruns, including a 9-for-19 in the four game sweep completed yesterday. (My god that was amazing.) Reyes was 1-for-15 in the same four games, and currently, a comparison of the two player shows the following for the entire season:

Yellow denotes league leader. Rey-ass may lead the league in steals, but he also leads the league in been-caught-stealing, and what good are all those SBs if they don't generate runs? (In fairness, Reyes is third in the league in runs.) Also worth noting, Rollins and Reyes have identical fielding percentages, and Rollins has turned ten more double plays.

FACT: This here Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, at sundown on Girard Avenue Bridge over the Schuylkill, goes out to my man Cortez, who shared this sunset view with me. Hope you're out there, homie.

Oh, and HEYNOW: it's Labor Day weekend and the beginning of September, and that can only mean one thing in Philadelphia: FRINGE, BABY, FRINGE!


–B Love

31 August 07: Today, it's official:

(Image by Brandywine Realty and Pelli Clarke Pelli)

The 14-acre Cira Centre South project, which includes a 40- to 50-story office tower on Walnut Street and a 25- to 30-story residential tower on Chestnut Street, will be developed by a partnership of the university and Brandywine.

Penn and Brandywine will officially make the announcement this morning. Suzette Parmley has the whole story in today's Inquirer HERE.

This is huge on so many levels:
• It solidifies reuse of the Post Office Building (for the IRS's move from Northeast Philly), as the post office continues its transition to Southwest Philly.

• It continues the westward extension of the skyline and gives the city two new Pelli towers. By the looks of things, the taller office building could push as high as 700 feet.

• It generates more life in an area that can use it, conveniently located across the river from the site of Mandeville Place.

• It kickstarts Penn's eastward expansion in a major way.

• More importantly, it begins the Center City - University City blending that should have happened years ago. In our lifetime, we will be able to walk from Rittenhouse Square to The Green and not feel like we're traveling from one to the other . . . it'll just be one long neighborhood stroll, with a Stern, a Meier, a Pelli and a Piano to take your scenery upward.
It's a good day for Philadelphia. (PLUS OH MY GOD THE PHILLIES SWEPT THE METS!)

SNL.com has a PDF of Brandywine's Cira South plan HERE.

–B Love

30 August 07: SWEEP: Amazin'



Just wow.

5-0 Phils, then 5-5, then 8-5 Phils, then 10-8 Mets, then Wagner, then Burrell, then Werth, then Iguchi, then Utley, then play at the plate, then Iguchi is safe, then 11-10 walkoff win.

Wow wow wow.

That was very possibly the greatest baseball game I have ever seen, and if the Phillies make the playoffs, I'll have to say with certainty that it was.


Phillies 11, Mets 10:

Mets Blog, HAW HAW

–B Love

30 August 07:
Haw Haw, Hey Hey, Rock and Roll is Here to Stay

You'll have to forgive all the sports talk this week. The Phillies playing -- and beating -- the Mets at home is extremely significant, as it's something they haven't really been able to do with any regularity. It keeps the New York invaders quiet, and most importantly, it's kept the Phillies in the thick of the playoff race just when it looked like they could have given up.

Last night's victory was as dramatic as the previous night's, this time with déjà vu working in the Phils' favor: last week when interference was called on Carlos Ruiz for deliberately taking out second baseman Marcus Giles, it cost the Phils a run and ultimately turned the tide in that game, as the Padres went on to embarrass the Phillies and win the series. When Shawn Green hit a slow roller to short with one out in the 9th last night, it should have scored Endy Chavez from third and tied the game, but Marlon Anderson deliberately and indisputably went after Tadahito Iguchi -- with his hands -- and the second base ump called him on it, costing the Mets the tying run and ending the game with the third straight Phillies win and another save for Brett Myers.

One more time now: HAW HAW. Phils go for the sweep at the BPS at 1 o'clock.

That photo there was taken from Jerry Lodriguss' photo spread of the game for the Inquirer, found HERE.

* * *

Meanwhile, sailing down the river go the Capitol Years. I got an email from the band with the subject line "we're playing on a boat" and a body of "wanna come take pictures?" Yes.

TCY played two short sets at Urban Outfitters' party celebrating its one year anniversary at the Navy Yard, hundreds of pretty babies came out for the free music, free food and free booze, and a good time was had by all. With all the planes on their landing approach toward the airport, you'd think every other song was going to be "Back in the USSR" . . .

If you are in a rockin' mood and haven't seen a good rockin' show at Johnny Brenda's, well is tonight your night or what? The Capitol Years and Bitter Bitter Weeks take the stage this evening, building up the party for the A-Sides.

The A-Sides are riding a wave right now. Tonight's show is the release party for Silver Storms, their first on Vagrant Records (home of the Hold Steady and Paul Westerberg). Philebrity is streaming the record as we speak, and I'd reckon you can purchase it at the show tonight. They're hitting the road in September to tour the record, and the tour includes separate dates with Pinback and Ted Leo.

But tonight, at 8, at Frankford & Geerahd in Fishtown: A-Sides, Capitol Years and Bitter Bitter Weeks at Johnny Brenda's.

Back over to the Navy Yard . . .

You might remember Inga Saffron's story for Metropolis Mag about Urban Outfitters' move to the southernmost south end of South Broad Street, down south at the Navy Yard. The article features excellent photos by Lara Swimmer that are representative of the new digs. Urban occupies five Navy Yard buildings totaling 250,000 sq ft, where they'd had roughly 80,000 on Rittenhouse Square.

It's kinda fun to think of so many young people whose jobs are to look good and make people look good sharing work space with sweaty men building ships and defense contractors working for the US military. Urban will soon add bakers to its list of neighbors, as the Navy Yard will grow by one company when Tasty Baking moves in. It's unlikely, though, that the bakers and the clothes kids will see much of each other, since Tastykake will be across the basin from the main part of the Yard.

Tastykake is of course moving from its long time home on Hunting Park Avenue in North Philly, a loss for the Nicetown neighborhood to be sure. Still, it's hard to argue that Tastykake didn't need an upgrade of its outdated facilities, and it is getting that with a 345,000 sq ft new -- and green -- building at the Navy Yard. There's more info, including renderings by Liberty Property and Synterra Limited HERE.

That facility should be completed and fully operational by 2010, but to end this 'ere Thursday post, have yourself a few Philly Skyline Philly Skylines from the Navy Yard, if you would please. Just watch out for the dude in the Pirates hat climbing the mast of the ship.

–B Love

PS: Happy 30th Birthday to Mark and Suzanne!

29 August 07: Moon shot

Ryan Mother Effin Howard. The Big Man did not want to play any more baseball last night, so he ended it the way he knows how to end it: a no-doubt-about-it blast to beat those New York Mets. So good. The Inquirer's Jerry Lodriguss has a nice gallery of the game HERE. (Brett Myers does not in fact think RyHo is a retard.) With that victory, the Phils are again down to four back of the Mets in the NL East and three back of the Padres in the Wild Card.

A general FYI as of the morning of Wednesday, August 29th: Chase Utley leads the league in batting average (.337), Ryan Howard leads the league in RBIs (108) and is third in homeruns (35), and Jimmy Rollins leads the league in runs (113), triples (15) and at-bats (572).

* * *

Speaking of moon shots . . . the same full moon that gave the rest of the country an eclipse but left us early rising east coasters out of luck made an encore across the clear evening sky, seen here from Dragon Country in a full moon Philly Skyline Philly Skyline:

This shot is one of a number taken on the rounds last night. Your Philly Skyline Comcast Center, Murano and Residences at the Ritz-Carlton sections should all be up to date by the end of the day.

That reminds me: progress is a-progressin' at 10 Rittenhouse Square. The foundation has been poured and a crane is being assembled, so within the next few weeks we should see it start to grow out of the ground, at which time we'll roll out a 10 Rittenhouse Square section like the others.

A general construction photo update is in the cards too, but how's a general rundown for an Umpdate sound?
101 WALNUT: One of BLT Architects' better designs, Front & Walnut's 12 story building of shiny blue glass and big balconies looks great -- from the front and sides. The blank rear wall, like the Beaumont's just up the block, is unfortunate. If air rights dictate that not even windows can occupy that space, wouldn't a mural -- or even some patterned concrete or masonry, like you see in a lot of New York buildings without air rights -- look better?

22 FRONT: Further up Front Street, just past where the city okayed the demolition of the historic four story maritime buildings, stands this 7 story brick and glass addition to the Old City skyline. Interior work is finishing up, while the exterior's masonry is pretty well finished and the large glass is installed.

AMERICAN LOFT: Northern Liberties' 10 story, two-tone weirdo (the good weird) is topped off and mostly clad. You can see it from Center City if you're high enough, though if you're high enough you can see a lot of things.

CU257: The condo formerly known as Blu made like a Hypercolors t-shirt and changed to Copper (chemical element Cu). It's at 257 North 2nd Street . . . mix em up real good and you've got Cu257. The 6 story concrete building overlooking I-95 appears to be topped off.

CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION: All that's left of Buck's hardware is the asbestos in the lungs of passersby. It's gone, and the Gilbert Building, the Metzger Building, and the Race Street firehouse all have a wrecking ball in their near future.

HOTELS: The Convention Center's expansion will bring new hotels, three of them in its immediate vicinity. Sheraton's Four Points is already full steam ahead, converting the 12 story building at 12th & Race formerly home to Polly Esther's Culture Club as we speak. The W, a block over at 12th & Arch, has not started construction but will soon, and will rise 30 stories. A brand has not yet been selected for the Broad & Race site across the street from what will be the front of the expansion, but surely Hahnemann's ER next door is a strong selling point for the industry which exists for people to sleep.

11TH & LOCUST: Construction junction! The Western Union Building has been at the very tip top of the Skinny Phase-In to-do list for about a month now, and in that same time, Cecil Baker's black and white brick pattern has taken shape above the original four story art deco building. Across the street, Thomas Jefferson University's six story Dorrance Hamilton Building replaces the old plaza-above-a-parking-garage with a medical-education-building-with-a-plaza-above-a-parking-garage. Both buildings are topped off.

ARIA: The former Lewis Tower which reigned its terror down on Applebee's has removed the construction fencing along 15th & Locust Streets, a sign that major construction is done? Whatever the case, my GOD I cannot believe they painted that building. Treat it, sure, but paint a stone building? Yuck.

SPRING ARTS POINT: Haven't been by there to see it myself yet, but reader Sonja says it's past groundbreaking and is officially under construction. (Thanks Sonja.)

To end on another note of architectural observation, let's turn it over to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. As this week marks the second anniversary of Katrina's assault on that beautiful bayou city, the Picayune's NOLA.com has a Two Years Later feature including "Architectural soul of the city at stake."

Comparably speaking, writer Doug MacCash says, New Orleans lost far less of its architectural heritage than Chicago during the 1871 fire and San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. The French Quarter and Garden District were relatively unharmed.

However, much of its everyday architecture -- neighborhood homes -- was destroyed. Think of it this way: if Katrina had happened in Philly, Center City and University City would have been spared, but South Philly, North Philly and the River Wards would have suffered so much damage that its three story brick rowhomes with Italianate cornices and bay windows and signature stoops -- Philly's everyday architecture -- would have been destroyed and razed.
The city estimates 105,000 buildings were severely damaged by storm and flood, representing a $14 billion residential loss.

. . .

"We've lost a good deal of our 20th century city," said John Magill, a historian with The Historic New Orleans Collection. "What we have truly lost is our slab city. It's been decimated, and it's hard for that to come back."

. . .

These neighborhoods were built at a time "when we were out looking for the American Dream, with carports, a TV room and enough bathrooms," he said, and even if the slab homes -- what one architect called "one-story brick-veneer dreams" -- were more or less indistinguishable from developer-driven clones found from coast to coast, they meant a great deal to the people who lived in them.
It's an interesting read, especially if you've ever spent any time in New Orleans, and the full text is found HERE.

–B Love

28 August 07: Haw Haw

Four game losing streak be damned and forgotten! A 9-2 assault is one hell of a way for the Phillies to open a four game series with the first place Mets and welcome the much missed Chase Utley back onto the field.

While that shellacking was great (and perfectly sealed by Tadahito Iguchi's audition for third base pinch hit homerun), it's important to remember that the Mets' starter was Brian Lawrence and the next three games see Tom Glavine, Oliver Perez and El Duque, who has been nearly unhittable in the past month and who has shut the Phils down both times he's faced them this year.

Still, the 9-2 victory was a boost to team confidence, and it stuffed a big fat L in the mouths of the as-usual many Mets fans at Citizens Bank Park. Not too many "let's go Mets" chants last night. JD Durbin pitched extremely well (and was removed too early, but amazingly the bullpen held up), Pat Burrell and Iguchi went deep, Ryan Howard made a few great defensive plays, and Chase Utley drew "MVP! MVP!" chants with his three-for-five night including a homerun.

Click these two graphics to pop open photos of that game, and Sunday night's Eagles-Steelers preseason game in Pittsburgh.

The weather was a perfect 10 so Conor and I cruised around the Burgh and generally enjoyed our stay. A Pittsburgh photo essay in the name of Pennsylvania Love will be up some time in the next couple days.

* * *

A big congrats goes out to the lovely ladies of Conspiracy and all the other fashionable folks from Northern Liberties and Old City (yo Arsenal, hey Vagabond) name dropped and profiled in the New York Times' T Magazine (their Style quarterly) over the weekend. Reprazent, ladies.

Also reprazenting, forever reprazenting all things Toynbee, is my homeboy Steve o'er Dovate way. Check him out for a photo essay revisiting the existing Toynbee tiles with Resurrect Dead documentary dude Colin Smith.

–B Love

27 August 07: I just drove in from Pittsburgh

And boy is my butt tired. I'll tell YOU what, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is long, boy. 287 miles from the Pittsburgh exit (which is 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh) to the Valley Forge exit (which is 20 some miles from Philadelphia). Rest stop Starbucks (what choice do you have if you like/want/need coffee), sheep farms that smell funny, tunnels through the Appalachians, eighteen wheelers, Corvettes going to a Corvette convention, white line after white line after white line. Whooooooosh!

Oh, and there was a football game last night too. That photo there is one of about half a million I took from the 40 yard line in the second row behind the Eagles bench. Those and some other collective shots from the last few visits to the Burgh will comprise a new photo essay some time this week, with priority given to dem Iggles. Until that happens, please enjoy this view of Pittsburgh Skyline Philly Skyline as seen from Heinz Field about 20 minutes before kickoff. Steelers 27, Eagles 13, but it's preseason so who cares?

Back tomorrow with that Philly Skyline you love and deserve, dear friend.

–B Love

25 August 07: Misty Morning

Friday was the day summer came back. I was hoping for an unseasonably cool, perfectly clear morning so my visit to Wilmington, Delaware could end with a 25 mile view of the Philly Skyline from Fox Point State Park, but the soupy summer haze was not to be reckoned with. That's okay though, for what better condition could there be to get into a reggae mood, praise Jah with a rastafarian sacrament in the midday sun and dip into Bob Marley's onetime home?

In the early 1960s, Ciddy Booker and her son Bob Marley moved from Jamaica's rural hills of Nine Mile to the Trenchtown area of the capital, Kingston, where Ciddy was offered a job at a bar owned by Taddy Livingston. Ciddy and Taddy became romantically involved and had a child, but when she discovered he was already married with other children, she took her daughter and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where she had family. Teenage Bob stayed behind in Jamaica to live with Taddy and another one of his women and her son, Bunny Livingston. Bob and Bunny spent their free time jamming with a friend named Peter McIntosh and a singer named Joe Higgs, who proved very influential to the other three, who would eventually become the Wailers. (Higgs wrote the song "Stepping Razor", which McIntosh made famous as Peter Tosh.)

As the Wailing Wailers, they recorded a number of songs including "Simmer Down", "One Cup of Coffee" and "Where Is My Mother", which Marley wrote as his living situation with Taddy and his wife grew uncomfortable. Though the songs did relatively well in Kingston, they were paid next to nothing, so Bob moved to live with his mother in Wilmington in 1966. He lived there for a little over a year and saved money he made working in a Chrysler factory.

When Marley returned to Jamaica, the Wailers had a fallout with their manager and ultimately teamed up with producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry, who refined their sound in the short period they worked together. The collaboration produced Soul Rebels, which many consider Marley's finest work, and served as a catalyst for the Wailers' signing to Island Records, where they became worldwide legends.

Marley kept his Wilmington ties, living there on and off for the better part of 12 years. The house his mother bought still stands at 2312 Tatnall Street, one block off of US Route 13 (Market Street in Wilmington), and his widow Rita still owns property in the neighborhood, the Ninth Ward. Strangely -- no, sadly -- there is nothing there to depict or commemorate Marley's time in Wilmington, and the park across the street (behind the fence in the photo at right) is overgrown with weeds and tagged up with graffiti.

Wilmington makes up for it every summer, though, with its annual Peoples Festival. The reggae event has been running for 13 years, has featured performances by all of Bob's musician sons: Ziggy, Damian, Steven, Julian and, this year, Ky-Mani. The Peoples Festival is held at Tubman-Garrett Park, the riverfront park named for Underground Railroad icon Harriet Tubman and railroad stationmaster Thomas Garrett.

The train station is still in the same location (so you can literally get off a Septa train and walk into the festival), and the building that houses its (Amtrak and Septa) train service was designed by Frank Furness. The station is sort of the northern anchor of the Christina Riverfront, which has undergone an incredible transformation in the past 5-10 years alone that includes restaurants like Conley Ward's Steakhouse and an Iron Hill Brewery, Frawley Stadium (the 6,000 seat ballpark for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals), a number of apartments and condos under construction, and a noticeable banking presence. Surprisingly, the bar-restaurant-arcade-music-venue Kahunaville that was one of the Riverfront's earliest and most successful pioneers, closed its doors in November, and its enormous deck sits vacantly. So, rather than supplementing your Christina Riverfront stroll with say an Allman Brothers freakout or Disco Biscuits jaaam, maaan, you'll have to settle for the squawking of herons and the putt-putt-putt of the river taxi.

Back to Wilmington's banking presence. Delaware is an extremely business-friendly state and is a renowned financial center, particularly for the credit card and insurance industries. MBNA, the world's largest independent issuer of credit cards, called Wilmington home until it was bought out by Bank of America two years ago. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and ING Direct all have large operations downtown. Chase Manhattan Centre, by Skidmore Owings Merrill, is the tallest building in Wilmington at 330' (good for 42nd in Philadelphia). On a very clear day, you can see it and the tops of a few other buildings from 25 miles away in Philly:

Wilmington, Delaware: a city of 72,000 in a region of 500,000 well aware Delawarians. It's the southern contingent of Philly's six million plus metro. It's where Senator Joe Biden commutes from via Amtrak to DC every day. It's where WHYY is officially licensed. (That's right, Philly's PBS and NPR affiliate isn't even based in-state.) It's where AAA moved its mid-Atlantic headquarters to from 21st & Market. It's where DuPont processes its chemicals to make plastics and teflon and kevlar and tyvek. It's where the world's longest twin suspension bridge, the Delaware Memorial Bridge (2,150' span, 10,765' total length, 417' towers) takes you to Jersey for free.

It's Dela-where? It's Delaware! (Groan.)

That there is your Wilmington Skyline Philly Skyline. Customers who bought that also enjoyed the lazy, hazy, crazy Wilmington photo essay, accessed by clicking


Wilmington, it's not a bad little city. It's a place to be somebody. If it's good enough for Bob Marley, it's good enough for me. Lively up yourself . . . can you dig it?

Peace to my man Markus Christoph, peace to the memory of Robert Nesta Marley, and peace to Junior Marvin, who goes off on his guitar in this Marley moment yanked from YouTube.

For further Wilmington reading . . .

Address Wilmington, like Philly Skyline but for Wilmington
Delaware Memorial Bridge @ PhillyRoads.com
History of Wilmington @ Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau
Riverfront Wilmington
Peoples Festival

– Could You B Love

24 August 07: Imagine being able to be
magically whisked away to . . . Delaware

What a unique weekend this shall be!

Since its inception, Philly Skyline has been all about Pennsylvania Love, and this weekend, football fans will join Philly Skyline fans to celebrate this love of all things Keystone State as the Eagles head to Pittsburgh to battle the Steelers in the last "meaningful" preseason game of the NFL season. Surely the Governor will be on hand, as he was on November 7th, 2004, when the Steelers beat the Eagles 27-3, ending their quest for an undefeated season, but more memorably, beginning the end of the Terrell Owens-Donovan McNabb lovefest. That was the game where TO followed Donovan around on the sidelines screaming at him.

It's a little sudden to be talking football, I realize, and I've held off as long as possible, putting all hope, faith and support behind the Phillies. But when Cole Hamels goes on the disabled list and Fabio Castro is so awful in one start that he's demoted back to Ottawa immediately afterward and reality sets in that your starting rotation goes Moyer, Lohse, Kendrick, ? and ?, and your bullpen is -- to borrow from Beerleaguer -- a "revolving door of pitching futility" . . . well, it's tough to keep puffing up that hope, faith and support. But root for the Phillies we shall, in spite of getting spanked in two of three games against the Dodgers. The Phils' destiny is in their own hands right now, with three games at home against the team two games ahead of them in the wild card race, the Padres, followed by four against the stinkin' New York Mets. I have a feeling these next two series will determine whether I honor this invoice for playoff tickets.


Pennsylvania Love is about to cross borders. This weekend, your Philly Skyline is dipping south of the Mason-Dixon (err, well, sort of) for a look at the southern side of Greater Philadelphia: Wilmington, Delaware. Admittedly, a good deal of 2007 has been spent watching Comcast Center rise, but we haven't forgotten about our neighborhood tours and the rest of the region (and for the love of god, The Skinny). If you like, dip back into the archives for peaks at Chester, Camden, Camden again, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Trenton.

So yeah, Wilmington, the home of Dupont and credit cards, the famous Wayne's World punchline, the one time home of Robert Nesta Marley. All this and more are coming your way early this week. Also on the immediate future agenda are our report from Heinz Field, new observations at Independence National Historical Park, more Skinny Phase-Ins as we head toward Skinny 3, an end of the summer sale at Conspiracy Showroom, and for no good reason at all . . . this ELO yank on YouTube.

–B Love

23 August 07: Fore for four

Some weather we're having.

It may seem like the sun hasn't shone (outside of those fifteen minutes this afternoon) in weeks and it may seem asinine that you've been wearing a hoodie for consecutive days in what should be peak heat summer, but it was only two weeks ago that those dog days of August were keeping us stuck to the furniture. Naturally, the law of averages dictates that this month of August is right on par with every other August, says CBS 3 meteorologist Maria Larosa on her blog, Doppler Diaries. (That's a hell of a risqué name for a blog about weather, innit?)

If you've been following our Comcast Center construction section for the past two and a half years, you've like us watched the men and women of many trades build Philly's new tallest building in all kinds of weather, from overnight concrete pours to welding in fog so thick you can't see across the street, to ironworkers performing a balancing act on beams 900 feet in the air with driving wind gusts socking them in the face. Those guys smile and keep going.

Atmospherically speaking, my visits to the work site have also run the gamut. In December with the liquid mass damper engineers, it rained hard in the morning and settled off into a thick, cool, misty fog. In March, as the guys from Madison Concrete were finishing up the tower's core, it was perfectly clear, with that day-after-a-snow frigid winter air. In June, when I tagged along with the City Planning Commission, spring was sick of being spring -- past Memorial Day after all -- and socked us with a 90 and humid, making the skies white and the visibility low.

This 4th time, on August 7th, Nathaniel, Steve, Albert, Scotty and myself took to the summer, summer skies to check in on the progress, kindly escorted by John from Liberty Property Trust. Fifty-five stories up, surprisingly, it wasn't as bad as bad as you might remember that day. The air was dead and there was no breeze, but it didn't feel like 95°. Visibility wasn't prime, but it wasn't awful, either.

As before, this set of photos -- 48 this time around -- is a combination of the work itself and the views from the top of Philadelphia's new tallest skyscraper. Of note in the construction itself is the progress on the grand staircase, the secondary staircase (along Arch Street), the fitting out of the offices, and -- TA DA -- waterless urinals!

Comcast Center is on schedule, the plaza is shaping up, and the first tenants will move in on September 21st while work continues on the upper floors. A ribbon cutting ceremony will occur in the spring, marking the official opening of the building.



–B Love

PS: as with the glider photo essay, captions may be installed if demand is there and time allows.

23 August 07: Middle Eastern Greetings

Dear Philly Skyline,

Greetings from Philadelphia . . . well . . . a much further and older Philadelphia. These pictures come from Amman, Jordan, which was actually the first city to be called Philadelphia before it was renamed over 1000 years ago during the Ghassanian Era. However, they still managed to stick to their roots and keep the cheesesteaks on the menus, murals on the walls and Phillies memorbilia in the restaurants, no joke! Just like our Philadelphia this one is also a stone throw away from other great cities and natural sites such as Jerusalem, the ancient city of Petra, which has recently been voted in as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the Dead Sea. So thank you Philly Skyline for all the photos you've provided us from our great city. These pictures of this Philadelphia are just a token of my appreciation.


22 August 07: Use it for the common good

by Nathaniel Popkin
August 22, 2007

"Now these are scary thoughts, they are -- that [Clinton], or some Democrat, can take your money and they're going to use it for the common good." So said Rudolph Giuliani after the May 15 Republican presidential debate, as reported by Peter Boyer in last week's New Yorker.

Pretty standard stuff, right? The simplified marking of ideological territory, like Giuliani's own use of the Nixon-era "socialized medicine" to refer to any government intrusion into the health care system.

Now Tuesday's New York Times reports that average income fell 1% between 2000 and 2005. Actually, the Times' headline was "Average incomes fell for most (my italics) in 2000-5." The real story here is widening income disparity. Remove the massive gains among the top quarter of one percent of earners and real income fell even more for the vast majority of Americans. Times writer David Cay Johnson goes on to cite a report by Citizens for Tax Justice that shows the impact of President Bush's tax cuts on investment income. Millionaires reaped 62% of overall tax savings; the super-rich enjoyed $1.7 million each in savings (the 90% of Americans who earn less than $100,000 a year were rewarded with an average $319 tax reduction).

It's easy, of course, to muse about the ways government might use the $21.7 billion the federal government gave the richest 11,433 Americans in 2005. If only we could decide what problem of the common good to attack first -- infant mortality, life expectancy, crumbling infrastructure, mine safety, public transportation, education, global warming, hell I'll even add in port and chemical plant security -- and maybe some extra security x-rays at Philadelphia International Airport. Here we've crystallized a point of ideology. What ought to be more important to society -- gratuitous private consumption or the general well-being? You, with your cheap tickets to Santo Domingo ($119 one-way!), standing in an endless security line -- and not grumbling -- at PHL, do you see the connection?

Yet for us here, the discussion of income disparity and tax policy ought to be more nuanced -- ultimately, it points to interesting tensions between America and the rest of the West. Suffice it to say that what we're all interested in -- the Philadelphia built environment -- has benefited substantially from Bush tax policy. The three major residential projects currently under construction -- Murano, 10 Rittenhouse, and Ritz-Carlton -- will tap right into that $21.7 billion. Indeed, from smallish developers like David Grasso to major institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, with its enormous trove of super-rich donors, Philadelphia is amassing treasures of the current gilded age. Corporations, too, are benefiting from the Bush program -- Comcast Center and the future Comcast 2 are almost certainly made possible by low taxes (and some subsidies) on corporations.

All this investment -- just try to get your arms around what has taken place since the mid-nineties, it is mind-boggling -- has made Philly nicer for many. More money at the top makes Di Bruno's and Capogiro and Foster's home store possible; it means PMA expands, the Barnes moves in, the Jewish Museum arrives. It means, at long last -- thanks to some strategic public investments -- there is real possibility in all that long-elusive and yet tantalizingly palpable potential.

This is no small thing. During the Bush years Philadelphia -- after thirty years of small but not insignificant investments in certain neighborhoods -- finally adopted a new outlook. The city looks good, feels larger, seems livelier (the thousands of sidewalk tables help). Out-migration continues but immigration has increased. Now immigrants finally comprise a significant portion of the population, a key indicator of health for an American city. People are coming here again and that, in turn, further alters the narrative. Would this have happened without tax policy that favors the rich? It's a difficult question, of course, but the way I see it, low taxes freed up a lot of money to pay architects, designers, and builders, who in sequence benefited from the tax cuts.

But more money at the top also means social and economic injustice continues; that's the real crux of the ideological trade-off. When we don't take your money the common good suffers. It surely is suffering today -- so much so that a desperate fatalism seems to have descended on so many Philadelphia streets; and like a low pressure system, it just sits no matter the proclamations. Much of the city is indeed a wreck. Septa fights to survive (certainly not to expand as it should); the Governor wants to sell the Turnpike; DHS struggles to address the intricate pain of poverty; the School District is some $100 million in debt. To make it worse, because there just isn't enough revenue to run the city properly, let alone solve some of these more intrinsic problems, the casino -- or rather the slot warehouse, that colossal FU to the progressive Philadelphian -- is tapped to make up for the shortfall. So he who wishes for justice, above all, and then, secondly, for a decent, stimulating urban environment is taking it twice. So that those who are already profiting from the income reallocation will profit some more. And your aunt Marie, who already spends too many Tuesday nights in Atlantic City, can lose it all just a few feet from her stoop.

It is a complicated equation. The rest of the West isn't burdened with defense spending or a weekly $2.4 billion war bill, or with the mythic imperative of individualism. Europe makes its public investments; the rich, like everyone else, benefit. Even Italy, in constant political instability, provides efficient health care for its citizens. Should a Democrat win next November it is likely she is going to take some of your money for the common good. Taxes will be raised substantially. So is there a third way -- some manner of restoring the common good while continuing to entice investment in the city's still-built environment?

The answer depends on many factors of course, not the least is our ability -- and that of other cities -- to reinsert city life into the narrative of America. European cities don't fight suburbs (or each other, largely) for resources. Their value goes without saying. Assuming a Democratic counter-reallocation of income, we're going to have to persuade suddenly less-flush investors that the future is in West Philadelphia and not West Deptford. The best way to do that will be to make visionary public investments in infrastructure and the built-environment. Large, inventive projects will draw private dollars -- and maybe, thinking broadly of course, we'll find true synergy between individual, entrepreneurial action and the widest possible common good.

–Nathaniel Popkin

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