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Engaging Philly business owners on the issue of litter

Last week, we took a look at the ways the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and other members of the new Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) city-wide anti-litter coalition are tackling illegal dumping in Philly. Another important conversation revolved around encouraging business owners to be more active in combatting litter.

Beth McConnell, policy director of the Philadelphia Association of CDCs, Michelle Kim, a program officer at LISC Philadelphia, Director Alex Balloon of the Taucony CDC, Akeem Dixon of the People's Emergency Center and the Enterprise Center, and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Sharp participated in this discussion.

Participants noted possible best practices as well as existing challenges.

"There’s no cross-city litter program in the city," explained Sharp. "It’s incredibly siloed."

"We should not be afraid to say the City should be paying more money for these things," McConnell suggested.

Another theme was encouraging SEPTA to take a greater role in combatting litter by ensuring properly maintained receptacles at transit stops. Dixon expressed concern about plans for new surface transit shelters that don’t also include a nearby place to put refuse. Trashcans should be better aligned with transit routes, the group agreed.

"It’s not about cleaning. It’s about engagement," Kim said of reaching out to business owners who can help combat problems of trash block by block.

Or as Dixon put it, "The best app in the world is called talking to each other."

Participants pointed to the success of ensuring SWEEPs officers aren’t just enforcers, but a friendly face and resource in the streets.

Suggestions for helping businesses included amnesty from fines for any owner who calls 311 to report excess trash outside their building. Currently, many owners and managers may not make the call for fear they’ll be punished for the mess. Sometimes, participants pointed out, trash outside one business may not have come from that business at all, but been illegally dumped there or blown by the wind.

Attendees also said that Streets Department staffers could come to more neighborhood meetings, and that there could be higher-profile awards or incentives for business owners who consistently maintain a tidy street and sidewalk.

Balloon also pointed to an existing City ordinance that needs better enforcement: Take-out restaurants are required to have an external trashcan onsite, but many don’t follow the rule, resulting in piles of Styrofoam cast-offs nearby.

KPB leader Michelle Feldman, chatting with Flying Kite after the meeting, said January’s gathering drew just as many participants as the initial one in October 2015, though this time -- based on surveys following the previous meeting -- the discussion was more targeted and specific. She hopes a unified city plan will emerge from the coalition; the next litter convening will be held sometime in April.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Litter Convening members 

Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground works to get its due

Historic Fair Hill (HFH), a landmark burial ground on Germantown Avenue, houses the remains of some of America’s most prominent abolitionists and women’s rights advocates. After decades of neglect, the rejuvenated site is planning another year of programming growth under new executive director Jean Warrington.

A Philly native and current Chestnut Hill resident, Warrington got involved with the project over a decade ago. In 2004, the HFH board hired her as its part-time program director and as of January 1, 2016, she took on the role of the organization’s executive director.

The HFH site dates all the way back to the early 18th century. It was started by George Fox himself, founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the land’s original owner. According to HFH, his will asked that the space be used "for a meeting house, a burying ground, and a garden and grounds" for kids to play and learn.

The site’s adjoining Quaker meeting house at Germantown Avenue and Cambria Street was sporadically active from 1703 all the way until 1967, when shrinking attendance led the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to sell the property. Maintenance of the grounds -- the site of the graves of American luminaries such as Lucretia Mott and Robert Purvis -- deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, "it was the biggest open-air crack cocaine market in the city," says Warrington of the five-acre site. In the 1990s, a dedicated cross-cultural neighborhood coalition slowly reclaimed the site as a safe green space. Outreach to local Quaker leader Margaret Hope Bacon (a Mott biographer) resulted in renewed attention and eventually a nonprofit that raised funds to buy back the grounds in 1993.

"What we’re doing is using a historic site…to carry forward the values of the people buried there. We’re using the past to serve the present," explains Warrington of HFH’s current work, which hearkens back to Fox’s will by focusing on urban gardening -- both on and off-site -- and a reading program at the neighboring Julia de Burgos School.

There are currently 20 HFH "reading buddies" who volunteer in the classroom there and work to restore the school library that was closed down (along with many others across the city) in 2010. A large local Hispanic immigrant community means this kind of support is crucial: Many local kids have parents who don’t speak English, so bridging the English-speaking literary gap is important.

"The kids are so lovely," says Warrington. "They are respectful, eager, curious, bright. They’ve got to have a library. They’ve got to have books. They’ve got to have people who can read with them."

In her new role as executive director, she wants to increase the number of reading buddies to 50 and expand the site’s existing gardening programs. Working outside "increases the peace," she argues. It correlates with better performance at school and is "just a good thing in this society that is so wired and pushy and loud and unjust."

Also on the horizon is increasing the site’s visibility with an improved website, better social media presence and monthly events. That includes an upcoming Women’s History Month tour on March 12 honoring the graves of leaders of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right’s convention.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jean Warrington, Historic Fair Hill

 

Your chance to join Philly's biggest anti-littering coalition

Anti-litter efforts are nothing new, but Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) Executive Director Michelle Feldman is hoping to take them to the next level in 2016 by convening the city’s most comprehensive forum on littering to date.
 
KPB is involved in the community outreach and educational aspects of neighborhood greening, sustainability and beautification, working with motivated local groups through micro-grants, workshops and classes.
 
Last October, Feldman helped organize the initial session of a new consortium: KPB is partnering with the Commerce Department, the Streets Department, the Philadelphia Association of CDCs and the Philly chapter of the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). 
 
"Heads of neighborhood-based organizations have meetings together all the time," explains Feldman, but they’ve never focused specifically on issues of litter. The long-term coalition aims to share resources, challenges and best practices while also looking to the future for a concrete joint project spearheaded by KPB.
 
"I want to form an advisory committee of folks who are on the ground in different neighborhoods around the city," she says. "I want to hear, what are the challenges in [for example] West Philly versus North Philly…and what are the ways that Keep Philadelphia Beautiful at a city-wide level can help to address those challenges."
 
The first meetings -- they aren’t branded yet, but Feldman is calling them "litter convenings" -- are already getting a big response. The October session at the Municipal Services Building (MSB) drew about thirty people. An invitation to the next meeting on Wednesday, January 20 (10 a.m. - 12 p.m. in MSB’s 16th floor Innovation Lab) quickly garnered a raft of RSVPs.
 
The January 20 agenda includes small group work on best practices in youth and business owner engagement, preventing illegal dumping, and examining existing data/metrics on the issue. All attendees will have the chance to see and comment on the top concepts from each breakout group.
 
"It’s going to dovetail nicely with a new administration and their focus on littering," enthuses Feldman.
 
Community stakeholders interesting in attending should RSVP to michelle@keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful 

 

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
 
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
 
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
 
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
  
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

On the Ground: Callowhill's W/N W/N shakes up the restaurant model

If I were running this business, what would I do differently? It’s a question most restaurant, café or bar staffers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers. Last year, a group of Philly entrepreneurs came together to answer it for themselves.

In summer 2014, six Philadelphians began to take a serious look at developing a cooperatively owned and operated bar and restaurant. One has since left the venture, but five service industry veterans remain to run Spring Garden Street's W/N W/N Coffee Bar: Will Darwall, Michael Dunican, Max Kochinke, Alden Towler and Tony Montagnaro.

The crew soft-launched the location at 931 Spring Garden in December of last year, and held a grand opening in late January 2015. Since then, the five coworker/owners have been experimenting with their model in a democratic government-by-consensus process (they have three additional employees who are not partners in the business).

Chatting with Flying Kite about their first year in business, Darwall says the ownership model is based more on "sweat equity" than the capital brought to the venture (that capital was treated as third-party loans, and does not entitle the owner-investor to a greater share of the profits). Each of the five owners works multiple shifts each week cooking, serving, bartending, busing tables or performing maintenance.

"What worker/ownership gives us is equal legal ownership over the company, which means a right to participate in decision-making and a right to accrue profits from the business," he explains. "The way that we pay out those profits is proportional to how much work we all do, counting the hours up.

"We thought that coming together and working as a cooperative, we’d be able to create a structure where we could support each other…and use our collective creative energy and potential to come up with good solutions to the problems we faced, rather than feeling frustrated about things that we thought could go better."

W/N W/N's menu features local, sustainably sourced foods, with a focus on canning, preserving and pickling. (Ed: Flying Kite recently held a meeting there and the food was phenomenal.)

The innovative business model extends to the customers: patrons can buy membership shares. They run $25, and each time the member buys something, 25 percent of their bill is deducted from that pre-paid fee – meaning that W/N W/N members infuse the business with $25 up front, and then receive that money back as they pay only 75 percent of the purchase price on any given item.

Darwall estimates that about 10 percent of the café’s customers have bought into the membership model, and that’s fine for now -- as the founders tinker with their business plan and assess what worked and what didn’t in their first year, they’ll continue to explore what kind of cooperative model might thrive going forward.

W/N W/N will be scaling back its food menu beginning in January, though food service will still be on offer. It currently opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closing at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2 a.m. The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Will Darwall, W/N W/N Coffee Bar

How will extending SEPTA rail to King of Prussia benefit Norristown?

Earlier this month, we took a look at a new report on the projected impact of SEPTA's proposed expansion of the Norristown High Speed Line to King of Prussia, the first direct rail service to this sprawling retail and business center. The "Connecting KOP" analysis -- a collaboration between SEPTA, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the non-profit Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions, Inc. -- was about a year in the making.

The Economy League's Nick Frontino marvels over KOP's history: It was a quiet residential and farming community as recently as the 1970s. But an industrial park turned business complex and the famous Mall, a destination for shoppers throughout the region, turned the area into "the largest economic center in Greater Philadelphia," explains Frontino. "[But] it’s really limited in its infrastructure capacity, particularly its transportation capacity."

A look at the impact of direct rail to KOP isn't complete without acknowledging the potential effect on Norristown across the Schuylkill River.

"Norristown could stand to benefit from this investment as well," says Frontino. Despite being a city with "a great downtown core" and "great housing stock," many residents find quality local jobs just out of reach. Though KOP’s commercial powerhouse is just a few miles away from Norristown as the crow flies, "a lot of its residents have a hard time accessing economic opportunities today."

Those without a car who rely on current transit services often have to set aside up to 45 minutes each way for the commute. But an extended rail line could cut that trip down to as little as 15 minutes. This would really open up the door to economic opportunity in Norristown, as well as spurring increased demand in the residential market.

Practical next steps for the extension proposal, still in its draft environment impact statement phase, include SEPTA’s work with the Federal Transit Administration and local stakeholders. Each new draft of the statement will identify a tighter and tighter number of possible routes for the new rail. That number will drop from 40 prospective routes to 15, and then to five, and then a top locally preferred route, which will be the focus of a final environmental impact statement. Next come the engineering and design, contracts and construction -- the new rail likely wouldn’t be operational until at least 2023.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nick Frontino, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

New analysis of projected rail line to King of Prussia is big news for the whole region

Imagine shaving over thirty minutes off of the commute between Center City and King of Prussia (KOP), the region’s greatest economic center outside the city limits.

That dream will take a while to become a reality, but a new "Connecting KOP" study released in early December -- through a partnership between the non-profit Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions, Inc. -- has some noteworthy numbers. The analysis has been in the works for about a year, with the help of SEPTA and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. 

Economy League Managing Director of Strategy and Operations Nick Frontino calls King of Prussia an "edge city," meaning that people who work or shop there outnumber the people who live there. About 20,000 people call the area home, while about 50,000 work there and 25 million visit the KOP Mall annually. It’s a natural hub of economic activity at the convergence of four major highways: the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Schuylkill Expressway, Route 202 and Route 422.

"I think you’re beginning to see the evolution of a lot of these types of automobile-centric, very suburban business and commercial centers into more mixed-use, denser, more accessible communities," says Frontino.

SEPTA’s proposed extension of its existing Norristown High Speed Line to KOP is probably at least eight years away due to rigorous federal processes for new transit initiatives, but the fresh analysis nevertheless offers some exciting news for the region.

Simplifying and expediting the commute to KOP from areas like Center City, Upper Darby and Norristown – both in terms of easier transit access and less congested roadways – will have significant outcomes for the whole region. According to the Economy League, direct rail transit could result in 17,000 to 29,0000 new jobs in KOP over the next 20 years, alongside up to eight million square feet of new development. The trip from Upper Darby could be reduced by at least ten minutes, while the commuting distance from Norristown could be cut by over 20 minutes. Add in that extra half hour taken off the commute from Center City, and that could mean up to 2.1 million hours per year saved by local drivers due to the reduced roadway congestion alone.

The study also projects that improved KOP access by rail could generate up to $1.3 billion in economic activity in the greater five-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, Frontino hopes this analysis of the project -- which is still in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement phase -- will alter the conversation about transit in the region which often "focuses on the price tag, and not as much on what the associated benefits might be…On a national level, money allocated towards transit is talked about as spending, while money allocated towards highways is talked about as investment."

He wants a new perspective on how improved non-automotive transit can benefit a state and city’s bottom line. And what about the projected effect of the rail line on Norristown just across the river? Stay tuned for a look in our next issue.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nick Frontino, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

Wharton study finds that socially conscious investing can also be profitable

Do people investing money in companies geared for social or environmental good have to give up the prospect of market-rate returns in exchange for working towards a better world?

No. At least according to the first systematic academic research to address the young but extremely broad field of "impact investing," the Wharton Social Impact Initiative's (WSII) new report, "Great Expectations: Mission Preservation and Financial Performance in Impact Investments." In some arenas, socially or environmentally conscious investors can see their returns hit market-rate performance.

"It’s difficult to talk about the report because there is so much nuance in it," explains co-author Harry Douglas, a full-time impact investing associate at WSII, who continues to follow the data of this growing field. However, he hopes that the findings will be accessible enough to spread the message that, contrary to longtime perceptions, impact investing doesn’t "necessitate a concessionary return."

What does that mean?

Investors who choose to put their private equity dollars into companies with missions like micro-finance, healthcare in low-income regions, education technology or green energy don’t have to accept smaller returns than folks who put their money into more traditional profit-driven avenues.

The study tracked the performance of 53 impact investing private equity funds that represent 557 individual investments, and debunks the widespread assumption that lower investment returns are inevitable when investing in socially focused funds.

How do we define impact investing? According to the Global Impact Investing Network, the receiving company’s intentionality of impact (meaning their bedrock commitment to the good outcomes they espouse), the measurable impact the company makes, and the expectation of a financial return.

So since impact investing is such a broad field, with many investors valuing a specific social interest over maximized profits, how did WSII identify a stable of funds to follow? WSII asked participating fund managers to self-identify in one of three categories: those seeking to simply preserve the capital invested, those seeking below-market-rate returns, and those pursuing market-rate returns.

"Our report doesn’t make any type of value judgements about what’s appropriate there, because there’s important work to be done in each of those three segments of the financial expectation," says Douglas. But this study focused only on the latter group of investors: those whose fund managers were seeking market-rate returns.

They did this because they wanted to get the best understanding possible of what the industry’s going to look like over the next couple of years, given the typical five-to-seven-year life cycle of a private equity investment. Funds launched around 2010 are nearing the time that fund managers will exit the companies involved. So there are the questions of whether those investments will prove profitable, whether the companies' missions continue after the exit, or if fund managers seeking higher returns abandon the ideals when mission protections aren’t built into the language of exit agreements.

"We focus on this market-rate seeking segment because we felt the tension would be greatest in this group," explains Douglas. "They would be trying to balance these competitive market-rate returns with preserving portfolio company mission."

This research is just the beginning.

"We’re really hoping to grow this sample size, so we can make more definitive statements about the industry," adds Douglas. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Harry Douglas, Wharton Social Impact Initiative 

Kensington Quarters celebrates one year; owners bringing new dining spot to Point Breeze

A year after launching Frankford Avenue's Kensington Quarters -- a restaurant with its own on-site butcher shop sourcing whole, sustainably and humanely raised animals -- owner Michael Pasquarello has been pleasantly surprised. (Here’s the Flying Kite look at KQ’s opening.)

"What’s been really awesome is the butcher shop has performed better than we expected," he says of the front corner of the space.

Pasquarello worried that his goal of reviving an old-fashioned butcher’s counter in the age of the supermarket would be tough, but a dedicated customer base has materialized. Thanks to that success, KQ offers a growing roster of locally sourced retail products including pickles, produce, dairy, cheese, salts and olive oil. With help from butcher Heather Marold Thomason, Pasquarello plans to expand this part of the business over the next year, "so people can come through and put their meals together."

He also hopes to better utilize the upper floor, which already hosts a range of cooking and butchering classes and events. KQ Executive Chef Damon Menapace plans on more collaborations with top local chefs, including one in November with George Sabatino.

The demonstration space has already hosted Rob Marzinsky, executive chef of 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group's latest venture Buckminster’s, a "neo-bistro" slated to open in November in Point Breeze. The resto group -- owned and run by Pasquarello and his wife Jeniphur -- also operates Café Lift (their first restaurant, opened in 2003), Prohibition Taproom and Bufad

Buckminster's -- which will boast design elements that honor local science legend Buckminster Fuller of geodesic dome fame -- aims to capitalize on a dining style that’s especially popular in Paris right now, with young chefs giving their own spin on small plates of casual bistro food. But according to Pasquarello, Buckminster’s menu isn’t defined by French cuisine. It will focus on locally sourced goods, with a seasonal menu changing every couple of days and complementing the beverages on offer. Plates ($2-$21) will join eight beers and six wines, along with specialty cocktails.

Pasquarello hopes that Buckminster’s (coming to 1200 S. 21st Street) will open sometime in November offering dinner seven nights a week, with brunch and lunch hours to follow as the restaurant finds its feet.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Pasquarello, 13th Street Kitchens Restaurant Group

On the Ground: One city block yields almost 6,000 pounds of produce

When Flying Kite moved into our new On the Ground digs in Parkside, we didn’t know how close we were to Neighborhood Foods Farm, one of the city’s most productive urban farms.
 
Operating under the umbrella of Philly’s Urban Tree Connection (UTC) and its Neighborhood Foods program, the site at 53rd and Wyalusing is the size of one city block, or about three-quarters of an acre.
 
Rachel deVitry, agricultural director at UTC, has overseen the farm since spring 2014, but it got started around 2010, when local block captains approached UTC founder and executive director Skip Wiener about the space.
 
"It used to be a parking lot with a factory across the street," recalls deVitry. "Ownership of the lot just lapsed and it became a chop shop," and a hub for drugs and prostitution. The block captains invited Wiener to take a look, and plans for the farm got underway, beginning with a major clean-out of the accumulated garbage. Then came the break-up of the cement that covered most of the site, and the application of thick layers of leaf mulch and mushroom soil.
 
These days, the farm yields rotation crops such as lettuces, arugula, kale, collards and chard, along with radishes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and heirloom tomatoes.

Neighborhood Foods also operates three other urban farms in the neighborhood -- one adjacent to the First African Presbyterian Church at 4159 West Girard, another next to Ward AME Church at 43rd and Aspen, and a new four-acre site on Merion Avenue near Girard.
 
Though not the largest, the 53rd Street farm is the most productive site -- so far this season they've harvested 5,850 pounds of produce.
 
Some of that goes to neighbors who volunteer a few hours per week in exchange for fresh vegetables, and some goes to the Saturday Neighborhood Foods Farm farmers' market, which runs on the site from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. May through November. (The market also features produce like fruit and potatoes purchased from other local growers.)
 
The farm operates with the help of two full-time and two part-time staffers, as well as neighborhood volunteers and young apprentices hired after successful runs in after-school programs.
 
The farm stays open in the winter months thanks to "high tunnels," unheated structures that keep plants such as cold-friendly kale, collards and lettuce from freezing.

"We did grow through most of the winter last year," says deVitry. "And [we] hope to grow through the whole of the winter this year."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rachel DeVitry, Urban Tree Connection 



Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

The Center for Architecture unveils Kahn Coffee -- designed by you?

This year, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture's DesignPhiladelphia event (October 8 - 16) will feature a small but energizing twist: a contest to create branding for a new coffee blend open to designers of all stripes. The buzzy brew will be available exclusively through the Center and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Philadelphia, courtesy of a new partnership with Philly Fair Trade Roasters.

DesignPhiladelphia attracts over 150 partners each year for public programming on 21st-century design, technology and collaboration in the business world.  

AIA and Center for Architecture Executive Director Rebecca Johnson says the beverage brainstorm came about as the Center worked on some renovations in advance of the AIA Convention in May 2016, which will bring 25,000 architects to our city. The team started thinking of fun ways to improve the space -- a place to grab a local pick-me-up made a lot of sense.

"There’s always meetings here, so we want to have a sense of a hub of activity for the design community," explains Johnson. "Coffee just kept coming up. For the Convention, I thought that would be a really fun thing."

The name Kahn came up due to the Center’s annual Louis Kahn lecture.

"Do people know the significance of Louis Kahn to the entire world?" asks Johnson. "He’s a huge influencer. And he’s a Philadelphia architect."

And then the idea went a step further: Bring the local creative community in on the process. Running during DesignPhiladelphia, the contest is open to everybody: architects, artists, laypeople. The finished branding doesn’t necessarily have to feature Kahn -- if participating designers have another idea of someone to feature, they should go for it.

The deadline for entries is September 30, and the concepts will be on display at the Center during DesignPhiladelphia. The public can vote on their favorite. (For formatting guidelines and other instructions, click here.) Everyone who votes will get a free sample cup of the new coffee.

Beyond simply offering a new amenity for the many people who use the Center, the organizers hope to get the community even more engaged with the interdisciplinary space that also houses the Community Design Collaborative. Johnson hopes Kahn Coffee (or whatever the brand turns out to be) and the contest will be one more way to spark the kind of conversations AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture aim to foster.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rebecca Johnson, the Center for Architecture and AIA Philadelphia

Mt. Airy's Make Art, Grow Food connects kids and elders thanks to a new grant program

This summer's news about the impending loss of their lease didn’t deter Mt. Airy Art Garage leaders and supporters from celebrating the September 9 dedication of their new Make Art, Grow Food mural and garden. The project has transformed MAAG's backyard from a blank wall and a tangle of weeds to a vibrant art piece and rows of fresh vegetables.
 
The project was made possible by a grant of about $5,000 from the East Mt. Airy Neighbors Association (EMAN) Community Fund, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation. It’s EMAN’s first year giving these grants, and Executive Director Elayne Bender says Make Art, Grow Food was a natural fit for their mission.
 
The mural was developed via a months-long collaboration between a specialized class of autistic sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the nearby Henry H. Houston School, the elderly day residents of Homelink, Inc. (an adult center and MAAG neighbor), and MAAG member artists and educators. According to Bender, this inter-generational aspect in particular appealed to EMAN.
 
Illinois native Daisy Juarez, a painter and MAAG member, spearheaded the mural portion of the project. The participating kids and elders drew their own designs for the wall, and Juarez worked them all into one piece. The design was projected and traced onto primed paper pieces. The students and adults then painted in segments on tables inside MAAG; these paper segments were then mounted and sealed on the wall.
 
"It’s the first time we did a project here with this many people," explained MAAG co-founder Arleen Olshan at the dedication, which was attended by the kids, the elders, Bender and representatives of other supporting groups such as Valley Green Bank, Primex and Mt. Airy Animal Hospital.
  
For the garden portion of the project, a local Home Depot donated plants and gear, including tables and hoses. MAAG volunteers are helping to maintain the space.
 
The proud kids (along with a few parents) and elders got their first look at the finished mural on the wall at the dedication. Wherever MAAG lands, Slodki promises that the mural will follow, with a large photograph of it converted into a giclée print.
 
Bender says the project was a particularly emotional one for her: She cried upon seeing the finished mural in August. 

"It’s joy on a wall," she enthuses.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Elayne Bender, East Mt. Airy Neighbors

Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company

 

New dollars for WINS send Philly's science-loving girls across the world

Since 1982, The Academy of Natural Science's Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program has been making science exciting and accessible to Philly’s high-school girls. Now, Academy Vice President of Education Jacquie Genovesi is excited to announce that the program has finally been recognized with a national award.

Flying Kite recently took a look at WINS' exchange program, which welcomed youth from Mongolia to Philadelphia, and then organized a reciprocal trip for Philly WINS girls to Asia to study ecology and the impact of climate change on different sides of the world.

In August, the WINS E-STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math through "projects involving real environmental problems") received a $50,000 Innovative Education Award, given through a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

Genovesi, who traveled to the UL headquarters in Chicago in early August to receive the Academy’s second-place award and network with other honorees, says the contest drew almost 150 applications from 40 states and three Canadian provinces.

The new dollars will boost the WINS program by opening up paid internships and field experience for WINS girls.

"We actually just put out a call to all of our scientists, saying, 'Ok, what kind of fun projects do you have coming up in the next  year?'" says Genovesi. Internships could last a summer or -- depending on where they’re located and cooperation from the student’s school -- up to eight months, in the lab and in the field.

"They could be almost anywhere," she adds. The Academy has scientists working in the Greater Philadelphia area, but there are also researchers stationed in Brazil, Vietnam, Jamaica and Mongolia.

"Not only is it about STEM and about young women, but it’s about supporting the entire person," muses Genovesi. The WINS program stands out among other STEM programs, which often recruit kids who are acing their classes, love science and are already college-bound. WINS instead focuses on "in-between" students who may be interested in science, but don’t know what they’re going to do with their lives and aren’t at the top of the class. Many come from low-income households. "We give them that extra boost to say, you know what, anybody can do science…And not only can you do science, but you can stay in school, you can go to college, and you can really succeed in life."

“We can’t afford to throw away any creative youth," she adds, especially the girls, who are "so underrepresented" in these fields.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jacquie Genovesi, The Academy of Natural Sciences

An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative
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