Well now that's a regal purple, innit? Figured it was time for an update of the Calendar of Events graphic for the latest Calendar of Events. With spring in
full stride and a sunny-and-68 forecast for Saturday and Sunday, this one is a doozy with plenty to choosy. It look a lil' something like . . .
WHO CARES ABOUT FAIRMOUNT PARK: Philadelphia does! Greater Philadelphia Cares is teaming up with Fairmount Park on
Saturday to tend to the park. The all-volunteer morning of service -- cleaning, planting trees, weeding -- runs from 9 to noon and encompasses the entire park.
Some of the more interesting options include spring planting at Fox Chase Farm, sprucing up the 33rd & Diamond entrance to East Park (Fairmount Park's
'signature project' for the day) and rerouting the Yellow Trail in the Wissahickon.
For more info, see GP Cares HERE and Fairmount Park HERE.
SATURDAY, MAY 17: All across the city within the Fairmount Park system.
DELANCEY STREET IS WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Author Maurice Sendak personally chose the Rosenbach Museum to host his own
works due to its literary dedication and unique collections. This month marks the beginning of a year-long exhibit at the Rosenbach entitled Sendak on
Sendak, the largest such exhibition since Sendak's collections came.
This weekend, it comes to life as the Sendak in Spring Festival, with a focus on the exhibit as well as a workshop, book fair and performances of Wild Things
Whirligig. For more info, visit the Rosenbach's web site HERE.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY, MAY 17 & 18, noon-4pm, Rosenbach Museum, 2008 Delancey Street in Fitler Square.
SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Saturday and Sunday also mark the return of the Philadelphia Book Festival. Last year's inaugural
event was so successful that it warranted a bigger and better return. Guests this year include Gordon from Sesame Street (Roscoe Orman, talking about his
children's book Ricky and Mobo), Marnie Old and Sam Calagione, authors of He Said Beer, She said Wine, and . . . BabaWawa??? Aye, Barbara Walters
is a featured guest this year; she'll be talking about her book Audition: A Memoir and she becomes the interviewee with 6ABC's Tamala Edwards Sunday
The Library has a fully comprehensive web site on the festival HERE.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY, MAY 17 & 18, central branch of the Free Library, 20th & Vine, Logan Square.
KICKIN IT KINETIC KENZO STYLE: Elsewhere in second annual events, we find ourselves deep in the heart o' Kensington, up
Philadelphia Brewing Company way. The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, the all-human-powered (i.e. no stored energy, not gas, not solar, not anything) race
of things will run its route through traditional Kensington (Fishtown is and has always been a small part of the larger Kensington), making great use of
Frankford Avenue and Penn Treaty Park and finishing up conveniently at the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival. The race begins at 12:30 but the Arts Festival is all
For more on the Kinetic Sculpture Derby, see HERE, and for the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, see
SATURDAY, MAY 17, Trenton Ave between Norris and Frankford in lower Kensington.
BALTIMAPS, HON: Finally on this 'ere
Calendar of Events, a heads up from our friends 100 miles south, or an hour and five
minutes away via Amtrak. (10 minutes faster if you want to spend three times the regular price and ride Acela.) The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore's Mount
Vernon neighborhood right now has an exhibit called Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, which is easily the greatest collection of maps I have
The exhibit spans cartography from BC Egypt through Ptolemy's revolutionizing to modern day digital mapping. It includes originals from the likes of Leonardo da
Vinci, Hernán Cortés (the 16th century Spanish explorer and subject of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer"), and Gerard Mercator, whose 1569
cylindrical projection (part of the exhibit) has become the standard map projection, taking the round, spherical world and projecting it onto two-dimensional,
flat paper. (Basically, if you are a map geek, you know who Mercator is and you should be excited that his original, hand drawn map is an hour away in
The exhibit also features John Smith's map of Virginia, hand drawn maps by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, an original ARPANET map circa 1982, and Harry
Beck's groundbreaking simplified map of the London Underground.
Plus, the show at the Walters is merely part of a city wide Maps Festival across Baltimore. Call your friends down there and tell them to get the pit beef, crab
cakes and Natty Bo ready, you're crashing their couch for the weekend.
The Walters map show is found HERE, and the Baltimore Festival of Maps is HERE.
NOW THROUGH JUNE 30 in Baltimore. Head south on Amtrak or I-95 or Route 1 until you sense the entitlement surrounding the life and death of Edgar Allan
Poe, you can't miss it.
* * *
Finally on this Ides of May, score one for The Possible City. Good news fresh off the table of the Planning
Commission and their plan for Germantown and Wayne Junction indicates that Septa will in fact be saving the historic Wayne Junction headhouse, which they'd
intended on demolishing. Instead, they'll be knocking down a wall that wasn't part of the original structure to improve sightlines. Renovations to the
Germantown Avenue entrance will also include un-shuttering the windows to allow more natural light and adding ADA accessibility. I don't say this much here,
but: well done, Septa.
14 May 08: Philly Skyline Time Warp, 2002
Six years ago, I was a rookie third baseman in the Palumbo Softball League. (I have since retired.) At the time, I was competing for the position with a dude
named Scott, a financial investor who lived at the Sterling. One afternoon, in May 2002, I met him at the rooftop pool there for a drink and to enjoy the view.
At the time, I was following whatever news was available about One Pennsylvania Plaza and taking photos with a 70s-era metal-body Minolta 35mm camera.
Skyscrapers and neighborhood vernacular were my two main subjects of interest, as they were an easy way to get to know my new city. Before I finally gave in and
got a digital camera in September 2002, I filled about four Chuck Taylor shoeboxes with 4x6 matte paper photos of ornate rowhomes of West Philly, the red and
white checkered water towers in Northeast Philly, and just about any building in Center City 15 stories or taller.
One of these is seen above, 1650 Arch Street, built as the INA
Tower, or Two INA Plaza, an extension of the Insurance Company of America's offices next door in what is now the Phoenix condos. In the bottom left corner
of the photo is the top of the Public Defender Building, which would be demolished later that year.
The INA Tower was designed by Mitchell/Giurgola, the Philadelphia architecture firm which grew to international renown in the 60s and 70s for commissions such
as the Wright Brothers Visitors Center, now a National Historic Landmark,
and later the Australian Parliament Building, as well as local works like the United
Way building on the Parkway, the Philadelphia Life Insurance Company annex on North Broad Street (recently demolished), the Penn Mutual Building Annex (the
concrete modern one to the rear left of Independence Hall in most postcard photos) and the old Liberty Bell Pavilion. The 384', 27 story tower opened in 1975,
and almost grew to 29 stories in 1983 with a two-story penthouse addition that went unbuilt.
(Special thanks to Nancy at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania for her helpful info.)
Meanwhile in May 2002, the Philly skyline was beginning to awake from its decade long slumber. Rumblings of a new apartment tower on Washington Square and the
continued speculation of One Pennsylvania Plaza were floating on the air -- and online, on the message board at Skyscraperpage, where I initially came into
contact with the likes of Steve Ives, Matt
Johnson and Joe Minardi, whose tour of his home Girard Estate neighborhood in South Philly is the
current feature exhibit in our photo department. Having taken lots of pictures of existing buildings and the sites of future ones, and as this was prior to any
free photo platforms like Flickr and Photobucket, I needed a place to host the digital versions -- tedious, time-consuming
flatbed scans -- of all these photos. So on May 14, 2002, six years ago today, phillyskyline.com was born.
At first it really was just an outpost for photos, but I knew that eventually it would be something like it is today. The format, graphics and such of the
current site launched in February 2005; prior to that, occasional photo essays would be added to the "coming soon" page. The Wayback Machine has a handful of
them archived HERE. It's safe to say that May 2002 was safely still within "Web 1.0"; no
blogs, no Myspace, no Google Maps, no Youtube, none of the features many people request like permalinks and comments and RSS feeds. But that is all
Sometime this summer, your six year old Philly Skyline will relaunch and have those things, better manageability and more content. The mission won't change, in
that there is no mission. Philly Skyline has been and will be about nothing else than life in Philly, be it architecture or development or the Phillies
or the government or whatever I like or whatever you like.
So, as always, thanks for stopping by.
* * *
One more for the road, your Philly Skyline 2002 Skyline, taken from the rooftop at 2041 Fitzwater in pre-G-Ho G-Ho.
13 May 08: Philadelphia, Girard City
Stephen Girard (1750-1831): merchant, financier, philanthropist.
Born in France, he came to Philadelphia in 1776. Girard gave strong support to both the First and Second Banks of the United States. Gentilhommiere, located at
present day 21st & Shunk in South Philadelphia, was his country house after 1797. Girard added the center and western section of the house and operated a 583
acre farm here. At the time, this area was part of Passyunk Township and was sparsely settled. When Girard died in 1831, he was the wealthiest man is America
with an estate valued at $6,000,000, a staggering sum in those days.
In his will he left his money to various charitable institutions but the lion share went to the city of Philadelphia on condition that they build a school for
poor white boys, which the city did. The classically inspired Girard College, designed by Thomas U. Walter, opened in 1848. Another stipulation in the will
states that the City could not sell any property, including Girard's house and farm. This restriction led the Board of Directors of City Trust the body
responsible for the oversight of the estate to create the development of Girard Estate as a community of rental properties in 1906.
The Girard Estate district, whose planning was loosely
based on the "Garden City" concept by Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), was envisioned as a low density, semi-suburban setting, with modest lawns and cottage-like
twin houses. The architect responsible for the varied housing styles found in the district was James H. Windrim (1840-1919), himself a graduate of Girard
College. In 1867, he opened his own firm and won the competition for the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, gaining him considerable notoriety. Collaborating with
Windrim on Girard Estate was his son John T. Windrim (1866-1934) who had joined up with his father's firm in 1882.
The earliest houses, built in 1906 and 1907 along the north side of Porter Street, reflect a late 19th century view of architecture. The stepped parapets and
the attachment of the bay windows show an attempt to create something new, but demonstrate the lack of modern vocabulary. Later homes, in which the Arts and
Crafts and Prairie styles are evident, represent a 20th century approach to house design. This shift of architectural style may illustrate the difference
between the work of father and son. A part of the self contained community included a public library (20th and Shunk) and a public school (22nd and Ritner) both
built in 1913. By 1916 the Girard Estate development had reached its full build. The Girard Estate development encountered hard times during the depression and
sought court approval to sell the homes to the public. In July of 1950, that approval was granted and the Board of Directors sold the first of the 481 homes
contained in the district for the first time.
The architectural styles of the homes within the district are varied and reflect the popular styles of the early 20th century. Predominant among them is the
Colonial Revival Style but others represent a wide variety of tastes. Some homes have an English influence with Jacobean and Tudor Revival styles. Some are of
the Mission style of the American West and the Prairie School of the Midwest. Arts & Crafts and Craftsman Bungalow are also represented. Still others have a
Mediterranean feel to them. Most of the houses have different elements of other styles incorporated in them giving a unique eclectic feel. Despite a few
historically inappropriate alterations and add-ons, most of the homes in Girard Estate remain fairly original and faithful to the father and son team that
dreamed them up a century ago.
The neighborhood itself is fairly stable with the biggest problem being parking. This early take on the streetcar suburb has abandoned the trolley for the
automobile long ago. Public transportation to and from Center City and points beyond is readily available via bus routes that run up and down the numbered
Take a stroll through this neighborhood in South Philly near where I call home. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
As someone who takes lots of photos of buildings and skylines, one of the things I always dig about being on the upper floors of those buildings is seeing the
places I take those photos from. A lot of people ask the best places to see a view of the skyline, and I usually offer the standards: South Street Bridge,
Belmont Plateau, Camden Riverfront, City Hall tower, Georges Hill above the Mann Center, Citizens Bank Park (presuming you can position yourself away from the
effin Phillies sign). But it's a unique reversal to seek these places out
from within the skyline.
There's a certain serenity to being up in high places with a vista. The mountaintop rewards your effort to get there with a view across the path you took, or
across a valley to the next mountaintop. Elevators make the journey to the upper floors of a skyscraper a little less rewarding, perhaps, but the views are
usually just as spellbinding. They can take you away from your work, if that's why you're there. I truly believe that Rick Mariano just wanted to get away from
everything and everyone and take in the view at City Hall tower . . . a circus was made of his visit there after his indictment, the media (and their
helicopters) speculating he was going to jump. If you've ever been to City
Hall tower, you'd know how near to impossible that would be.
In both cases, a select few get to enjoy the views. On the mountaintop, only the most determined hikers will make those last few steps to the clearing of trees
to the rock outcropping that looks out over the valley . . . unless there is an access road paved the whole way up the mountain with switchbacks and parking
lots. "This car climbed Mount Washington." In highrise buildings, only the top level executives (and their staff and security and overnight cleaning crew) and
penthouse dwellers will get off the elevator high enough to see the horizon above the next building . . . with the exception of public observation decks of
which, City Hall aside, Philly has none.
In the cases of the Residences -- at Two Liberty Place and at the Ritz-Carlton, respectively -- these views are Philadelphia's highest ever for those calling
it a night or waking up early or just kicking one's feet up with a glass of wine. When it opens this fall, the Ritz-Carlton will be the tallest residential
building Philadelphia has seen, at 518'. One block west, Two Liberty Place will offer even higher homes, that office tower's 20 highest floors having been
converted to condominiums over the past year.
To compare the views from both, have a look by launching each one's gallery by clicking below. Enjoy.
For more on the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, visit its official web site HERE.
For more on the Residences at the Two Liberty, visit its official web site HERE.
Special thanks to Justin at the Residences at Two Liberty Place and Amber at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton for time and their assistance.
* * *
Some additional thoughts on high spaces as well as those on a Keystone Clash for the NHL's eastern conference championship and some other new Philly
Skyline projects will be up next week. Regular posting will resume Tuesday . . . I'm headin' south for a long weekend. Y'all have a nice weekend out there.
8 May 08: New Views from New Residences, 2
All righty then . . . Let's go here:
. . . and have a look out here:
A forty-one photo spread of new views from the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, taken during a hard hat tour on Monday, can be found
8 May 08: New Views from New Residences, 1
Let's go here:
. . . and have a look out here:
A forty-one photo spread of new views from the Residences at Two Liberty Place can be launched HERE.
(Part 2 and both intro write-ups available shortly.)
8 May 08: Coming attractions New views from new Residences
Including those looking at each other, oh my! Two new photo spreads, later today.
* * *
Be sure to have a look at today's City Paper. Nathaniel Popkin's latest Slant takes a quick, and serious, look at what is behind the red, white and blue
bunting that have gone up, and do go up this time of year every year since 9/11, on the bike rack barricades around Independence Hall. Read it HERE.
Longtime readers might recall this as a subject near and dear to Philly Skyline. The August 2006
archive has a handful of essays about the proposed (then canceled via compromise) seven foot fence around the Hall and the 'temporary' bike rack barricades
7 May 08: Let's talk about the weather
. . . but only for about sixty seconds if we're doing it inside.
Get outside today. That is all.
6 May 08: Philly Skyline vs Penny Postcards:
The FDR Park Gazebo
I'm not sure which phrase came first, but "down-the-shore" once had -- and in a small handful of cases among South Philly's longest tenured residents, still
has -- an even more local companion, "down-the-lakes".
The Lakes was the loving local handle given to League Island Park, what we know today as FDR Park, for the two big lakes -- Meadow and Edgewood --
around which the park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, the son and stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind Central Park and Prospect Park in New
York and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. For as special a place as Fairmount Park and the Wissahickon are, they are still more of the au naturel species of
parks than landscaped destinations like Central Park or Atlanta's Piedmont Park, which those same Olmsted Brothers also designed. League Island Park was to be
very much of the latter variety, but well . . . Philly happened to it.
Believe it or not the park, as planned in the early 20th century, stretched from 11th Street to 20th Street, Pattison Avenue to the Navy Yard. Since that time,
the Sports Complex, the golf course, 20th century industry and I-95 came through and chopped it up into what we now know as FDR Park, which Wikipedia so
eloquently says is "best known as a place to park for Philadelphia Eagles games." Given that the Eagles play eight real games, two preseason games and at best
three postseason games a year at The Linc, that statement is borderline insulting to what is still a well used park, well used by . . . South Philadelphians
spending an afternoon in the sun, strolling the lakes or waxing their cars; Swedish descendants and tourists paying visits to the American Swedish Museum; ballplayers at Richie Ashburn Field; skaters at FDR Skate Park.
League Island Park, named for the island that once lied at the southernmost end of Broad Street, which ran across the back channel of the Delaware River via a
bridge to the island, became Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park after the depression-into-WWII president died in the 1940s. Two decades prior to that, in the
roaring 20s, the park had its moment in the international sun . . . and it kind of blew it. It wasn't so much the park's fault, of course, but the
Sesqui-centennial Exposition, which sought to duplicate the success of the 1876 Centennial fifty years prior in Fairmount Park, was largely a failure thanks to
poor weather, poor attendance and poor press.
Philly politics delayed construction and that caused a shrunken budget which disallowed for full recognition of the original plans; although much of what was
built was at the hands of a young Louis Kahn, the senior draftsman of the Sesqui-centennial. Among that which was constructed for the 1926 expo on the grounds
of the park were the John Morton Memorial Building (now the American Swedish Museum), the first significant replica of the Presidents House from 6th & Market, whose reconstruction is still being debated to
this day, Sesqui-centennial Stadium (which was later called Municipal Stadium and finally John F Kennedy Stadium, longtime home of the Eagles, the
Army-Navy Game and Live Aid), and the 80 foot replica Liberty Bell arching over Broad Street at modern day Marconi Plaza, the one pictured on the cover of
Thomas Keels' Forgotten Philadelphia. Of these, only the American
Swedish building still stands.
Prior to even the Sesqui-centennial, League Island Park's design included the outlook gazebo seen in the postcard above (and the photo at right). While much
of the construction for the expo was, as with Fairmount Park's Centennial expo before it, demolished, this gazebo survived.
Built in 1914 as part of the Olmsted Brothers' original design, the gazebo rests upon on an outlook above Edgewater Lake. It was incorporated into the
Sesqui-centennial's Japanese Pavilion, next to the gothic boathouse that was the Russian Tea House for the expo's duration. (The boathouse also still stands
and is popular with fishermen.)
Of the many many postcards issued during the Sesqui-centennial expo, those of the municipal stadium are probably most common, and also most sought after by
sports and stadium collectors. The one above of the 'outlook', though, is maybe my favorite of the bunch. The "two million dollar stadium" is no longer there,
of course, demolished in the 90s to make way for the Corestates-then-First Union-then-Wachovia Center.
The Center is not visible in the contemporary view, thanks to the infill of trees. It's even hard to believe that that building is 12 years old, but
there it is, home to Comcast-Spectacor and Comcast SportsNet and the 76ers and the Flyers, about to embark on their quest for the Eastern Conference
Championship against their cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
FDR Park's gazebo -- League Island Park's outlook, if you will -- is still a great place to walk hand in hand with your S.O. on a Sunday afternoon, or picnic
with the kids, or kill a 30 pack of Busch Light before an Eagles game. It is all these things, and you will find it HERE.
To compare the League Island Park Outlook penny postcard with a contemporary photo of the FDR Park Gazebo, please click HERE.
As well, there are 5 additional photos of the gazebo, which you can launch HERE.
• "The Outlook, League Island Park" postcard published by John D. Cardinell as part of a series for the Sesqui-centennial Exposition, 1926
• Postcard was not mailed
• Contemporary photo taken by B Love, 3 May 08
5 May 08: And now, springtime at Bartram's Garden presented without comment
Bartram's Garden, Southwest Philadelphia, Friday May 2nd, 2008. Clickem, enlargem.
5 May 08: The Zoe Strauss Experience
"I was simulating eating a giant cupcake."
Eight years . . . in one sense, it's a long time; in another, it's nothing. Eight years measures my time in Philadelphia, but it kind of feels like I've been
here forever. Eight years also measures the current running time of Zoe Strauss' annual Under I-95 art show, and it makes you think, "holy crap, it's been
eight years already???"
Zoe is the unmatched matriarch of photography in our corner of the world. Her work has shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she's the subject of a
documentary, she's got a book coming out, she's been written about by about a million people and my words won't do her any justice so I'll stop at "she's
Yesterday couldn't have been a more perfect day in South Philly. It was 70 and sunny, FDR Park was packed, the Phillies were about to pull out another dramatic
win while the Flyers watched their forthcoming opponent set the stage for a Keystone State eastern conference championship, and above all else -- or under, I
guess -- Under I-95, version 8. I'm a little embarrassed to say that yesterday's was the first one I have attended, but this from someone who just visited the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for the first time two weeks ago. (Worth noting: a thank you to James in Manayunk who corrected me last week: admission to
PAFA is not free, it is $7. I guess I just got a pass the day I went . . . it's still half of the admission at PMA.)
There's no admission under I-95, either. The Under I-95 show gets ten years, rain or shine, anything but a nuclear holocaust, to borrow from Zoe herself. The
support columns for the interstate at Front & Mifflin in South Philly (the stretch parallel to Target) are the gallery walls for her amazing photos one day
a year, the first weekend of May, each of the past eight years and with two left.
Albert Yee and I were discussing at the show that you could
do an entire photo series just on Zoe's show. The harmony of the support columns with the pentagonal center; the skaters and the freaks; the hundreds of people
(many of whom are photographers themselves -- some of my Philly favorites like Albert and Steve Ives and Steve Weinik and Andi Pantz were there), and two
hundred thirty-seven ink-jet photographic prints, affixed with a sticker-like adhesive that makes a
velcro-like ripping sound at 4 o'clock, when people are allowed to claim the photos for themselves and their walls at home when the show is over.
Photography as art is hard to explain, and usually isn't worth the time trying. Like obscenity, you just know it when you see it. Mathew Brady and RK Bonine . . . Ansel Adams and Alfred
Stieglitz . . . Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Liebovitz and Terry Richardson . . . every one of them has a different approach to, different reason for, and
different result of their photography, but the success they had with their craft is indisputable. Zoe Strauss, in having these same differences, is no
different. The gal is brilliant. An indisputable success.
If you have never seen her work, run don't walk to her web site HERE. If you have never been
to one of her Under I-95 shows, you
have two more chances, next year and then 2010's grand finale.
PS: With all this photo talk, I guess I should really get crackin' on the back log of new photos myself. Coming soon: more springtime, more Comcast, more penny
postcards, more high views.
3 May 08: PAT
It took five years, but by golly it finally happened. The self fulfilling prophesy of the original renderings of Citizens Bank Park have at last self fulfilled:
HOME RUN Pat Burrell Phils WIN!!!
Gee, Cholly, see what can happen when you don't pull your starting leftfielder for "defensive purposes"? God only knows why Brian Wilson kept throwing fastballs to a
known fastball hitter, but he did. (See also: Wagner, Billy.)
The Giants closer was 9 for 10 in save opportunities coming into last night's game at the ballpark, and
when Aaron Rowand went deep to break a tie in the top of the ninth, souring his Philly happy homecoming for everyone but himself, it set up save #10 for Wilson. With
Chase Utley on first, Ryan Howard got his second terrible third strike call of the evening from the home plate umpire, leading to his ejection and a two out,
right-on-right situation for Pat the Bat. Running the drama as high as possible, fastball after fastball, Wilson and Burrell ran the count full. 5-4 Giants lead. Two
outs. Three-two pitch.
Home run Pat Burrell, Phils win! Mike Schmidt literally raised a toast to the man
on Comcast SportsNet last night.
As my memories of the Phillies go -- about eight years worth, now -- Pat's walk-off homer last night is near the top. Let's say top five. As Pat Burrell memories go,
this one probably can't be beaten.
And as Pat Burrell memories go, there are plenty. Pat's time with the Phillies more or less parallels my time in this city. I moved to Philadelphia in 2000, the year
that Pat was called up to the majors to fill in at first base for the injured Rico Brogna. He had a solid rookie season at The Vet, finishing a few votes shy of Rafael
Furcal for Rookie of the Year.
After a respectable first full season in 2001 (in which he moved to leftfield and also starred in an interview with Penthouse magazine, telling them of his crush on Britney Spears), he broke out in 2002 for a .282, 37 and 116, earning himself a
legendary Ed Wade contract and legendary expectations. After Scott Rolen was run out of town, manager Larry Bowa said the Phils were Pat's team to lead. The
Phillies used their young slugger to the fullest, posing him for photos shirtless and curling weights (the famous "Man or Machine" shot), sprawled out on a pink
Cadillac (at left), and in a muscle shirt with construction workers at the groundbreaking of the new ballpark.
Both Burrell's Babes and Burrell's Girls popped up next to the Wolfpack at The Vet. He and his Miami University buddy Jason Michaels were unashamed of their bottle cap
baseball prowess. His was the unanimous best butt in baseball.
But then 2003 happened. He just barely squeaked above the mendoza line at
season's end, with tons of strikeouts and tons of stories in local press about his Center City bar exploits. Photos in the Weekly of him drunk-dancing at Bar Noir.
Stories of girls asking if they could buy him a drink at the Irish Pub near his Wanamaker House apartment and him responding "does a one legged duck swim in a circle?"
(Who knows if that is true, but it's pretty awesome.)
With The Vet gone and the new ballpark open, his 2004 season was nearly identical to his 2001 season, but after the 2002 splash and 2003 letdown, it wasn't enough to
bring most of his fans back. His 2005 output -- .281, 32, 117 -- was enough for 7th place in MVP voting but went virtually unnoticed thanks to a surging young buck named
Ryan Howard. In 2006, Pat's numbers were totally consistent with his career averages, but with Howard's and Chase Utley's numbers in front of him in the lineup, Phils fans --
and coaches -- expected more. He was switched out of the five-hole for Jeff Conine. Charlie Manuel pulled him out of nearly every game in the later innings for a
faster defensive replacement (a practice that has continued into this season for the likes of So Taguchi and TJ Bohn, each of whom has made errors in Pat's place).
People called for his head, wanted him traded. It might have happened, if not for his no-trade clause.
So, last year, Pat changed his tune . . . from Ronnie James Dio's "Holy Diver" to Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" -- kick em when they're up, kick em when they're
down -- but got off to another slow start and the boobirds kept raining down. Something clicked in July, though, and since then, he's been a straight up masher.
Since the first of July last year, Pat Burrell is hitting .308 with 31 homeruns. Thirty games into the 2008 season, he leads the league in RBIs and batting average with
runners in scoring position, is second in homeruns (behind Chase Utley), and the Phillies are in first place. Pat the Bat has been clutch, but none more than last
night's extra inning walk-off homerun.
That homerun will without a doubt be used in Phillies marketing for the rest of this season, Harry Kalas' voice looming: "long drive, it iiis . . . outta here! Pat
Burrell! Pat Burrell!" (The 700 Level has Redlasso'd video HERE.) Kinda like
Rowand's face-smash was used last year. Like Rowand was last year, Pat is in his contract year this year, so here's hoping he keeps putting up contract year numbers.
Rowand cashed out and went to last-place San Francisco. His return last night brought a lovefest that I took no part in. He opted for the money over his place in a playoff
Pat Burrell? Well . . . We'll have to see how this season plays out. Even if he hits .350 with 40 homers and 130 RBIs, it's very unlikely that Ruben Amaro and his clan
will re-sign Pat for Ed Wade money. Who knows if anyone will? Other teams, especially those in the American League in need of a solid DH, will probably offer him more
than the Phillies do. We know the Phillies management . . . they're not going to offer him $14 million next year. Not a chance. But I hope, I sincerely hope, that they
give him a chance.
If nothing else, keep The Swing in town. Right handed hitters seldom have a fluid, graceful swing, unlike left handed hitters in the vein of Ted Williams or Will Clark
or Ken Griffey Jr. It's a little funny to think of the word 'graceful' to describe Pat Burrell, but even as it can appear a little cumbersome during a strikeout, it's hard to
think of that full-chest, long-arm extension swing of his as anything but graceful when it connects on a blast.
Pat Burrell is, like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, a homegrown Phillies talent. He paid his dues in Clearwater and Reading and even The
Vet. He loves Philadelphia, enough to actually live in Philadelphia. Aaron Rowand lived in Delco. Pat Burrell lives at 16th & Locust and walks his dogs in
Rittenhouse Square. He's a Philly guy and told the Daily News in the preseason he hopes to stay a Philly guy. I hope he stays one, too.
* * *
Some trivia about that homerun last night: it was Pat's first walk-off homerun since April 7th, 2002 at The Vet. It was also his 227th career homerun, good for fourth on
the Phillies 125-year all-time list. By the end of this year, he could very well be second, behind only Mike Schmidt.
But never mind the numbers, never mind The Swing, never mind Schmidtty's endorsement. There is no better reason to keep Pat Burrell a Phillie than for one reason: the
man is a bona fide Met Killer. That's how we'll end this PB lovefest: with a Philly Skyline Mets-Killin' Skyline, taken during one of his four homeruns against the Mets
in last August's sweep.
For at least the past fifteen May firsts, I've taken a moment to observe May Day in my own way. Not with some international workers observance, nor a recognition of
immigrant rights protests, nor a celebration of a cross-quarter day, the approximate halfway
point between the equinox and the solstice (which in short means it's high springtime right now).
No, I think back to the hard days of my childhood on the mean streets of Tyrone PA, where in my senior year of high school, 1994, Ice Cube's Lethal Injection was
the soundtrack that got me through, and "Ghetto Bird" was the anthem, cranked to 9.5 in the '92 Grand Am: "I can't wait till I hear you say, 'I'm goin' down, mayday
mayday,' I'm gonna clown." Indeed. Is there any worse sound than the constant, LOUD whir of a helicopter hovering over your neighborhood? Car alarms? Gun shots? Your neighbor
cursing at his kids and calling the austistic one a "fucking retard"? Take your pick, this city's got enough noise to go around. (B Love, you better check yo self
before you wriggity wreck yo self.) OK.
Back to May Day, we find ourselves bending the nonexistent rules of Philly Skyline to forge a first Big Four update for May, and the first at all in 18 days. Sorry 'bout
that. So what we're looking at in this new batch o' pics technically taken the last two days of April but who's counting anyway:
COMCAST CENTER: This construction photo
section's days are numbered as Liberty/Commerz and Comcast count down the days to their
grand opening. Also counting down the days are Godiva Chocolates, which appears to be this close to opening its doors on the western side of the plaza, chef Chris
Scarduzio, who has been on site checking the development of both the trellis café and Table 31 restaurant he and Georges Perrier are opening, and Govberg
Jewelers, who are opening a store in the underground marketplace and who sent out wedding-like invitations to its opening celebration this past Friday that included an
eight foot styrofoam-and-cake likeness of the building. Drew Lazor posted some photos by City Paper's Nick Norlen and Lindsay Snyder HERE.
Imma chargin mah Lazor also reports that two blocks away, the totally dead corner at 20th & JFK on the ground floor of the totally dead Kennedy House (you see what I did there)
will come alive beginning May 27th, when the latest chain of steakhouses, Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, opens there. Drew's post includes a rendering which he points out
is straight outta Grand Theft Auto.
MURANO: Take back your sidewalks, Philadelphia! Er, we're getting there anyway. Murano's protective scaffolding along Market
Street has been removed, and the jersey barriers still remain, but by this summer the sidewalks along both Market and 21st Streets will be open again. The ground floor
glass has been fully installed, and a second sheath has been applied to the garage in the back, but it's still hideous. Ivy, red neon LEDs and access to
JFK Boulevard are the only things that can save that garage at this point. But hey, the condo building is super sharp.
RESIDENCES AT THE RITZ-CARLTON: Goin' up, way up. The Residences inch(es?) near their (its?) tentative topping off on May 9th
(next Friday, give or take some days and some weather) on the way to 48 floors. The glass is up to 31 floors and is now visible from Rittenhouse Square and Citizens Bank
Park. The first Residences residentses move in in November of this year.
10 RITTENHOUSE SQUARE: Lookie there, Ten is up to eleven now on the floor count. The tower which may or may not resemble Symphony
House upon its completion may or may not resemble Symphony House at a similar stage, minus the ugly
podium garage. Over on the Walnut Street side of things, the steel bracing of the Rittenhouse Club has been fully removed, but the fencing around it remains, presumably
until that part of the project is outfitted and glass is installed, so expect a summer long sidewalk squeeze between Barnes & Noble and 1845 Walnut. Take back your
Please find each here:
So concludes this Take Back Your Lethal Injection Sidewalks, Philadelphia! edition of Big Four Update. Where Ghetto Bird was the drivin' around anthem of 1994, the song
yanked from the YouTube below was the party anthem that same year. Please enjoy.
30 April 08: Long time coming
The Wayne Junction companion piece
Ahh, the good ol' days. Remember when gas was $3.05 a gallon? That must've been fifty cents a gallon, five months or another Exxon Mobil record profit ago, whichever one
was longest. According to the timestamp on the photo, it was November 16, the day yr Philly Skyline Wayne Junction fixation officially switched on.
Nathaniel, whose essay yesterday brought us up to date on goings on at that most vital of Septa train stations, and I met at Market East Station that morning and caught
the first train outbound. I don't remember which line we took, but it doesn't matter since six of the seven go through Wayne Junction.
We'd heard about Septa's plans to give the station twenty million dollars worth of severely needed renovation (PDF, page 23), which will improve the inbound and outbound platforms, add two elevators,
improve safety . . . and demolish the Wayne Junction headhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Patrick Moran, president of the Germantown
Historical Society, had an excellent editorial about why this is unnecessary, and wrong, last week in the Germantown Courier.
We also knew about the Planning Commission's Germantown and Wayne
Junction Transit-Oriented Neighborhood Plan, the planning process expected to be completed this summer. The neighborhood master plan is seeking to bridge the divides
between North Philly and lower Germantown with development emphasizing the five extant rail stations -- Queen Lane, Wister, Germantown, Chelten and Wayne Junction --
within the district.
That's the back story. Now here are the back photos. Nathaniel and I took a good three hour walk around the circumference of Wayne Junction station, and photos are
• GERMANTOWN: the old, old neighborhood of history and hard times. The photo essay from 29 May 2004
was the first real neighborhood tour on a burgeoning Philly Skyline. In this small slice of it, we find amazing rowhomes on streets with names like Pulaski and Zeralda,
Fairmount Park's Loudoun Mansion, and the heart of Germantown Avenue.
• NICETOWN: You rarely hear it without a "Tioga" suffix. Those two adjacent
North Philly neighborhoods were part of an October 2004 tour, but for this visit we stayed along the main Germantown Avenue corridor and underneath .
• ROOSEVELT BOULEVARD: The Boulevard/Route 1/Roosevelt Expressway flies overhead through Wayne Junction and surroundings like so many interstates. Nicetown's CDC
is looking to turn the unused areas underneath the Expressway into green space.
• ROBERTS AVENUE: Meanwhile, on the other side of the railroad viaduct from Nicetown, Roberts Avenue runs an interesting, short path from an 1885 mill, skirting a
heavy residential area with lots of developable areas, overlooking a Septa stock yard to an intersection with Wissahickon Avenue at . . .
• FERN HILL PARK: Your typical park of the hidden gem variety. Straddling -- nay, passing under -- the expressway, Fern Hill Park is your standard
neighborhood park with baseball fields and woods and picnic areas and Bob Will Reign.
• STATION NEIGHBORS: This deserved its own sub-category just on the old stock of buildings alone. This is what you'll find on Berkley Street, running between
Germantown Ave and Wayne Ave on the north/west side of the station and platform.
• WAYNE JUNCTION STATION: Finally, and most obviously, the station itself. Have a look at the endangered headhouse, the states of the multiple platforms (it's easy
to see why it needs renovation), and keep in mind all the connections this single station has.
Matter of fact, I'd recommend starting the tour of these November 16, 2007, fall foliage crazy photos there, found by clicking HERE. Don't forget to check out Nathaniel Popkin's accompanying Possible City pieces:
Meanwhile, back at Wayne Junction station, it's $3.55 a gallon at the Coastal gas station pictured above. Everyone but the biggest oil companies have had to adjust
as gas prices rise and drive everything else up because of it, but at Wayne Junction, the price of gas is not the problem. That a train station that serves nearly every
commuter rail line in the city has a gas station tacked onto it is a clear mark of our priorities of the past, oh, four decades or so. The station shows its neglect, and
that's why it's being paid some attention now by both Septa and the Planning Commission. The next step in the process is a meeting hosted by Septa on Monday, May 12:
Please attend a SEPTA-hosted community meeting on Monday, May 12th, 6:00 pm at St. Francis Assisi Church's Community Room, 4821 Greene Street and hear SEPTA's most
up-to-date plan on their Wayne Junction Station renovation project. The project includes historic rehabilitation of the station, improved amenities for passengers,
construction of a high level platform, installation of elevators, complete ADA compliant ramps, among other station improvements.
Best believe: the future of the historically designated Wayne Junction Headhouse is at the top of the agenda.
Image of Stenton Park and mansion from City Archives, taken 12 April 1910. Collection ID: Public Works-3946-0, accessed at PhillyHistory.org today.
Stephen Hague stands on the open back porch of Stenton, the modest English estate built in 1730 by James Logan.
Logan, a polyglot Quaker, managed William Penn's colony, negotiated with Native American leaders, and grew Pennsylvania's first substantial library. Hague has been
Stenton's executive director for seven years. He has sandy hair, and an easy but precise demeanor. His diction is slow, careful, his words modest. But after spending
an hour on a luminous April morning discussing the framing of history -- its uses, limits, challenges, and hopes -- in the context of uncertain North Philadelphia, his
diction has quickened. It isn't history that has excited him. Rather Hague seems inspired imagining a future for Nicetown and Lower Germantown. "There is a lot of
opportunity here," he says then pauses. "And a lot of opportunity for missed opportunity."
Stenton sits on a small parcel within a park and playground managed by Philadelphia's Department of Recreation. Stenton's three acres (shrunken from the original 500),
are separated from the recreation center by a fence and maintained by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which
took over the property in 1899 as one of the nation's first house-museums. The house was never severely altered from its original configuration so it looks and feels
much as it did in the middle of the 18th century. Indeed, one of the pleasures of Hague's tour is the realization that the rooms don't use electric light. As we come
to a dark room, Hague enters first and opens one or two shutters, drawing light inside.
Logan's 2,681 volume library, so critical to the intellectual development of the New World, was in a large second floor space that was also used for bedrooms. Logan
left the books to the City of Philadelphia and today they are in the collection of the Library Company. There is only one surviving bookshelf (of possibly 20) on
display. Yet the room in its raw proportions speaks. "This is what we call 'the wow moment'," says Hague of the room's power to articulate the combination of Quaker
modesty and ambition that was so intrinsic to the formulation of America.
This sort of magic is why we visit a place like Stenton. What's interesting is that the magic isn't produced by an historical purity. Despite what Hague calls the
site's high level of "authenticity," Logan's library, for example, is interpreted in part as a pair of 19th century bedrooms; the formal garden is a 20th century
Colonial Revival interpretation of an 18th century plot (Stenton hosted the inaugural meeting of the Garden Club of America); the wild hyacinths that adorn the lawn
merely suggestive of a more graceful period. Stenton, in the brochures one of the earliest American colonial estates, is really a window onto almost three centuries of
change. The view through the window includes a neighborhood mostly built between1880 and 1920 for skilled factory and railroad workers and foremen that today fits the
archetype of urban decline. "How do you think about an historic site in a deflated part of the city?" was a question Hague was asked to consider when he took the job.
"Stenton was widely regarded as a special place in Philadelphia," he says, "but at the same time there is a big fence around it -- a house built by a white man who had
enslaved Africans living there."
Hague's first response was to reevaluate the history told at Stenton; curators have since begun to amplify the story of women who lived there, particularly the early
Philadelphia historian Deborah Norris and Dinah, a freed slave who is credited with saving the house from destruction during the American Revolution. The next step was
to reinforce ties to the community. A Pew-funded grant from Heritage Philadelphia enabled the development of the History Hunters Youth Reporter Program, a collaboration
of Stenton and Wyck, Johnson House, and Cliveden in Germantown. With the goal of making local history relevant to neighborhood children, History Hunters uses
Germantown's demographic history, streetscape, public places, and historic houses to teach writing, math, history, business, and critical thinking.
History Hunters led to further collaboration with other historic sites; among the 14 organizations that comprise Historic Germantown Preserved there is as Hague notes,
"an incredible richness, the capacity to tell all kinds of stories." Collaboration also creates economic power. "Historic sites are devices," he says, assets that
until now haven't produced an ample return to the neighborhood.
So Hague has committed Stenton to an active role in neighborhood planning, much of which revolves around the intended $20 million renovation of the Wayne Junction
regional rail station (as I reported in December, the station project is the centerpiece of a concurrent transit-oriented development study being undertaken by the City
Planning Commission) . "For us, [really good] public transit would be terrific," he says. One look at a city map tells why. In addition to Wayne Junction, three
blocks away and served by every regional rail line but the R6, Stenton is served by two Broad Street Subway stations and the most-traveled bus line in the city, the 23.
Accessibility isn't at issue. Rather, of course, it's the perception and reality of decline and crime (there were three homicides in the vicinity of Stenton in 2007 but
none directly between it and Wayne Junction).
Safety, above all, drives the station renovation, says Septa project manager Rusty Acchione, a veteran agency engineer who oversaw the Wayne and Gulph Mills station
renovations. Acchione, who grew up in Germantown, is gregarious and straightforward. He wears a Villanova class ring and neatly trimmed hair. He explains how his view
of the project changed when standing on the station platform he witnessed a murder just below near the entrance to Septa's Roberts Avenue maintenance yard. "The
neighbors are telling me, 'We love our station, but we're not comfortable using it.' We want people to use the station."
Thus, in addition to making Wayne Junction ADA compliant and installing an elevator, raising the "inbound" platform, integrating the "outbound" R7 platform, renovating
the stationhouse and ticket office, Acchione wants to make the five station entrances and the walkways to the platform feel safe. That means cutting four to five foot
site lines, improving lighting, and in the case of the Germantown Avenue entrance, removing the historic headhouse, a brick and stone building with carved relief and
terracotta tile roof.
Acchione's hope is that by removing the headhouse, he'll vastly improve the experience of entering the station; it will feel safe. And, he says, where possible Septa
will re-use parts of the building throughout the station renovation. The engineer also justifies his approach by citing the cost of renovating the headhouse, which he
puts at $750,000. "What can I do for the station with that money?"
"But," he continues, "I understand [preserving the headhouse] is a preference." Jennifer Barr, the city's liaison to the station project and the lead planner on the
Germantown-Wayne Junction transit-oriented-development study, thinks that demolition of the headhouse is the wrong approach. "I suppose removing the head house would
add to the perception of safety for passengers entering the inbound tracks from Germantown Avenue," she says. "But is that worth it? The walk up the stairs will still
be dark and partially enclosed, just like all the other entrances. My main purpose is to reflect the needs and desires of the community. At this point, preservation,
rather than demolition, is the community's consensus."
Noting that the station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stephen Hague agrees. "There's lots of ways of addressing safety and security besides
knocking down a beautiful building." Hague sees the headhouse as an opportunity -- potentially to bring retail life to the station -- one which is irreversible once the
wrecking ball arrives.
Acchione thinks retail on the station platform, raised high
above street level, would be a difficult challenge. (Barr and community leaders are exploring the idea of placing vendors on the Windrim Avenue sidewalk in front of the
station. Although the city has agreed to repave the sidewalk, it is owned by the railroad CSX, which hasn't returned Acchione's calls.) But his idea of using parts of
the headhouse seems a stretch. Careful demolition is expensive. Moreover, though he says Septa builds to last, the agency is incapable of constructing anything as
elegant or graceful as the current headhouse. Recently erected headhouses, including one at 30th Street Station, are shamefully, almost laughably, poor.
Philadelphia's awareness and interest in historical preservation goes back to the early part of the 19th century, when the City purchased the old State House --
Independence Hall -- to prevent its demolition. Ever since and all at once, we've proven to be careful stewards of architectural heritage, habitual backward-thinkers
stuck in the past, neglectful of worthy jewels, sloppy and imprecise renovators, forward-minded soldiers of Modernism, and mean-spirited, eleventh hour bunglers. John
Gallery, the city's first housing director and present executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, underscores the schizophrenia. He
estimates that this past decade while NTI wreaked havoc on the industrial streetscape, the Civic Center and the buildings in the way of the Convention Center expansion
were demolished without public debate, and acres of row houses were lost to poverty and lack of resources, $3 billion in major preservation was completed. But Gallery,
who has had a hand in much urban policy in Philadelphia these last 35 years, and who still retains a New England accent, says it's time for Philadelphia to develop and
implement a preservation plan. Only a plan, with a careful historic context statement and a comprehensive survey of neighborhoods, would properly allow officials and
community members to make an informed decision about a project like Wayne Junction. Does the station support an historical theme? Is there a context for preservation
in Nicetown/Lower Germantown? Are there other station headhouses in Septa's inventory of equal or greater historic value?
The Preservation Alliance, along with its partners the Historical Commission, Penn's School of Design's graduate program in Historic Preservation, and the Planning
Commission, have reached the second phase of a pre-plan study. This phase is funded in part by the William Penn Foundation and Heritage Philadelphia (a grant of
$100,000 was just awarded), with additional funding sought from the Barra Foundation. In a short time, a steering committee will be formed and the Alliance will
expand the project's realm of community partners. An historic context statement, which Gallery says is critical to a meaningful plan, will be devised and associated
historic themes developed. Frankford will serve as a test neighborhood for the development of survey methodology.
Historic preservation, so fraught with nuance (for a review of some of the intangibles in preservation, see a Philadelphia-esque story in today's New York Times), is never on sure political footing. Gallery says his
greatest present concern is that the Historic Commission is not adequately funded. Beyond that, he'd like to expand the number of city historic districts -- Parkside
has been proposed -- but even those lack teeth. He says Diamond Street in North Philadelphia, an historic district that includes the Church of the Advocate, is
literally falling down. Only some 20,000 buildings in Philadelphia are protected; still, neighbors across the city fearful of gentrification oppose historic
designation. Meanwhile, the greatest preservation crisis we face, the slow, steady deterioration of row house blocks across much of the city, continues unabated without
a policy solution.
One of the shortcomings of the Wayne Junction project is caused by Septa's infamous bureaucratic divisions. Acchione is charged with repairing the station. Someone
else is in charge of Regional Rail scheduling (does it make sense to run more trains to and from a revamped station?), someone else oversees bus operations (is there a
strategy to move riders off the slow 23 and onto fast regional rail?), someone else manages the three neighboring maintenance yards, someone else promotions and
advertising, someone else station maintenance (Wayne Junction is notoriously dirty and there is no maintenance plan for the station once it is renovated), someone else
again ticket office operations. All of these separate functions inform the overall project, but in the community's hopeful scenario each function would follow a
larger vision for the station as an economic engine.
"This is not pie-in-sky," insists Stephen Hague, but if vision -- and not bureaucratic division -- is to lead it will require more than a philosophy change at Septa. A
renovated station will be a nice community asset. Ridership at the station will increase (it already has -- by 27% 2005-2007). But as an envisioned economic engine,
Wayne Junction ought to be the gateway to historic Germantown -- for its richness of themes and sites one of the most compelling historic destinations in America. Once
that vision is articulated the question of whether to save the station headhouse doesn't have to wait for a preservation plan in order to be answered. The still-used
1885 Glen Echo Mills just behind the station gains protection; the evocative and shuttered Loudoun mansion, just above the mill, becomes the Germantown historical
interpretive center; and the massive abandoned industrial complex at 18th, Windrim, and West Courtland Streets that was once in part a gun factory and is now a community
trouble spot, is razed to create a visual and pedestrian connection between the station and Stenton.
Then, as one reader recently proposed, return the classic trolley to the 23 by dividing the line into sections with already built-in turnarounds. In this case a
Germantown section meets the North Philly-Center City section at Wayne Junction reinforcing the train station's hub status. The reader, who requested anonymity,
recommends returning the classic PTC trolley to the Germantown section, extending preservation into the realm of tourist-friendly experience.
Acchione says that he is hampered by limited resources -- despite the promise of dedicated funding, the Market Street Elevated reconstruction continues past schedule and
over budget. The El may or may not be the ogre in the room but Acchione's point is valid; under current funding formulas visionary ideas and ambitious preservation
plans can't be implemented. This might cause us to examine the way we'd like local government to work.
John Gallery wants preservation to provide a frame for neighborhood renewal. He doesn't use far-fetched economic analysis to qualify the success of preservation rather
he would argue that Philadelphia's greatest and most unique asset is its urban fabric. It's irreplaceable and therefore needs to be protected. We might call his a
capital intensive approach to urban policy. Everyone benefits when the physical environment of the city is nurtured. Large projects employ lots of people; a more
attractive city attracts smarter and better educated people. The above-vision for historic Germantown becomes possible with a capital intensive approach.
Starting in the 1960s, with economic and racial justice as municipal goals, city planners began to question the sustainability of this approach. Resources ought to be
invested in people instead -- and the notion of human capital was invented. Educate, train, and nurture people, raise their income-potential, and they'll make
the city better. This notion held sway among academics well into the 1990s. Mayor Rendell understood the drawback of this approach: it failed to produce physical
symbols -- landmarks -- of change and so he preferred to build (repeating the strategy at the state level as Governor). Now, a decade into a building boom, we're
enamored again of capital-intensive physical projects that promise to make the city more fun and attractive to investors, businesses, and tourists. Mayor Nutter is
faced with more ideas for projects than he could build with unlimited resources in a 100 year term. But Nutter's resources are severely limited, in part because we
still expect local government to follow both strategies. Thus his budget increases funding for Fairmount Park (capital) and Community College of Philadelphia (human
capital). And there are many observers, including my longtime friend Len Ellis, who support a much stronger human capital approach. Ellis wrote three weeks ago in the
Daily News that Nutter's education goals fall far short of what it will take to
increase Philadelphia's income potential. Noting that Philadelphia ranks 92 of the largest 100 cities in college attainment, he says the best thing we can do for
Philadelphia is get more people to go to and graduate from college. A smarter workforce will attract better firms.
Public sector spending follows the dual-strategy approach. Philadelphia's proposed 2006 $3.5 billion operating budget designated $830 million for social service
programs. (Approximately $2 billion, 58% of the 2006 budget, was to be spent on salary, pensions, and benefits, arguably a stabilizing investment in human capital.)
Among the city's Capital Program Office ($50+million), the Airport ($100 million), and Septa ($426 million), Philadelphia spends less than $600 million on capital
projects each year, leading us to believe that if there is an imbalance it favors the human capital approach (the state of our sidewalks might offer useful evidence).
But no true comparison between human services and capital is possible; much of both types of spending is hidden throughout the budget. The two approaches employ
distinct sources of funds -- tax revenue for human services and bond revenue for capital -- meaning that it's impossible to borrow from one approach to bolster the
other. Government programs are also vertically connected federal-state-local, so no city controls its revenue or its spending, which is shaped in part by mandates. Nor
can we sincerely imagine abandoning either one. So we'll have to look ahead to a change in federal government philosophy, to one that would exchange lower taxes for
higher quality of life. It has been ages since Washington took a leadership roll addressing the nation's infrastructure. Some prognosticators think global warming
might change that, in which case dreams about Wayne Junction won't seem so pie-in-the-sky.
For more on The Possible City, please see HERE.
For Nathaniel Popkin archives, please see HERE, or visit his web site HERE.