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A Capella: The Next Generation

The New York Times shines a light on the rise of next-generation a Capella -- notably at University of Pennsylvania. 

The a cappella craze showcases a tradition that dates back decades — or longer — at some schools: The Yale Whiffenpoofs were founded in 1909.

Off the Beat started more than 25 years ago at the University of Pennsylvania with audiences of fewer than 100 people, said junior Jasmine Barksdale, the music director. Now the 15-member group performs in an auditorium that can hold about 1,000, she said.

"There are people I meet randomly who are like: 'Oh my gosh, you're in Off the Beat? I've been to every Off the Beat show since I was a freshman,'" said Barksdale, an economics major at Wharton.

The success of "Pitch Perfect," based on a book about the small but robust a cappella community, has led to the planned May 15 release of "Pitch Perfect 2." Two days before that, the Pop cable network debuts "Sing It On," a documentary-style series on this year's ICCA competition. Grammy winner John Legend — a former a cappella singer at Penn — is the executive producer.


Original source: The New York Times
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Commonwealth housing market remains strong

According to a new report, housing sales climbed 10 percent throughout all of Pennsylvania in March, and home prices are up, too.

There were more than 3,000 more closings, 28,111 vs. 25,400, in the first quarter of 2015, according to a report released Monday by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors. Median home prices also are up from $155,000 a year ago to $158,000 in the first three months of 2015.

"We're seeing healthy activity in markets throughout the commonwealth," said Pennsylvania Association of Realtors President Ron Croushore in a statement. “While each local real estate market is unique, I think most markets are looking positive and will see a healthy increase in 2015. Consumers are showing more interest in buying homes, and sellers are often receiving multiple offers on listings."


Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
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Philadelphia named 4th most walkable city in the country

As Wired reports, the City of Brotherly Love has been named the fourth most walkable city in the country by Redfin.

Cities that make life easier for pedestrians are, to many, better places to live. Studies have shown that walkable urban areas are healthier, wealthier and safer (perhaps in part because wealthy people can afford to live in nicer places)—and anyway, who doesn’t want to go outside every once in a while?

If getting around without a car appeals, you should head to New York City or San Francisco (if you can afford either). That’s according to a new ranking of the most walkable large US cities by Redfin, a real estate analysis website and brokerage.

The site uses something it calls Walk Score, an algorithm to measure how convenient it is to do daily errands without wheels, on a 100-point scale. It doesn’t take into account public transit systems (there’s a different score for that), but looks at things like the walking distance to schools, restaurants, and grocery stores, from any given point.


Here's whole list:

New York: 87.6
San Francisco: 83.9
Boston: 79.5
Philadelphia: 76.5
Miami: 75.6
Chicago: 74.8
Washington, D.C.: 74.1
Seattle: 70.8
Oakland: 68.5
Baltimore: 66.2

Original source: Wired
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Philly named one of the world's most romantic destinations

In a list of the world's most romantic cities, Philadelphia comes in at No. 9.

While you may already be considering known romantic destinations like Paris or New Orleans for your next trip, the truth is there’s a lot of beauty out there just waiting to be untapped. Those places will always be there, but enjoy these below spots before they get on everyone else’s radar as well...
 
Amazing food in beautiful, historic locations makes this city perfect for a romantic weekend getaway and a few special meals, says Perrie Hartz, Associate Editor at Fodor’s Travel. Areas like Rittenhouse Square and Old City have a quaint feel to them, and during the summer, festivals along the waterfront and at the Ben Franklin Parkway make for beautiful nights out under the stars.

Original source: Bustle 
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Newly discovered Cezanne sketches to be displayed at the Barnes

Recently discovered sketches by a master will be displayed at the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway. 

A pair of previously unknown sketches by Paul Cezanne will be displayed in Philadelphia following their recent discovery on the backs of two watercolors.

They'll be on view at the Barnes Foundation in double-sided frames, with both sides visible, from Friday through May 18. One sketch is in graphite, the other in watercolor.

The art institution says the images were uncovered during conservation work on two Cezanne paintings depicting the landscape of southern France.

Officials say the sketches haven't been seen since at least the early 20th century.


Original source: The New York Times
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The Sixers woes are a story unto themselves; a reporter hits the road with the team

The Sixers' terribleness is almost a thing of beauty. A New York Times reporter hit the road with the floundering squad.

There has never been a professional sports team quite like the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers, a roster of basketball castoffs and drifters that could be the least capable assemblage of players ever to suit up for an N.B.A. game. The franchise — widely believed by those who follow pro basketball to be deliberately in “tank mode,” in order to lose games and get a top pick in this summer’s N.B.A. draft — has offended sensibilities, provoked curiosity, inspired bizarre mathematical theorems...

A Philadelphian, by birth and temperament, I followed the Sixers off and on for months this season, trying to understand how the team’s quixotic plan was progressing. Oddly, the basketball team the Sixers put on the court was not uninteresting. On their better nights, they were not unwatchable. At all times, they were illuminating. I felt as if I were looking in on a strange social-science experiment: Throw together a group of marginal, overmatched professional athletes and give them a shot at their lifelong dream. The results were both inspiring and heartbreaking. 


Original source: The New York Times
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Philly exports its culinary legacy: Cheesesteaks, water ice, Wawa and soft pretzels

A couple Philly mainstays -- Rita's, Tony Luke's, Philly Pretzel Factory, Wawa -- look to take over the world.

The man intent on taking the Philly cheesesteak global saw a familiar sight from home on a recent trip to Florida: a Wawa.
The hoagie-making, coffee-brewing convenience and gas chain from the Philadelphia area is pushing hard into the Sunshine State, opening more than 60 stores since 2012 with another 25 planned by the end of the year.

Albie Misci, sales director at cheesesteak chain Tony Luke's, knows the idea.

He's helping take Philly's most famous culinary treat to Florida, California and even the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain.

Other staples from the City of Brotherly Love, including its beloved soft pretzels and water ice, are also going global, as their Philadelphia-based purveyors aggressively expand into national - and international - chains.


Original source: Associated Press
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Family takes epic journey from Argentina to Philly for Pope's visit

A family embarks on an epic journey from South America, aiming to arrive in time for the Pope's visit to Philadelphia. 

As many as two million people are expected to be in Philadelphia for the visit by Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families in September. But it’s unlikely any of them will have a journey as long — or as remarkable — as one family from Argentina.

Packed in a 1980 VW minibus are Noël Zemborain; her husband, Alfredo Walker (nicknamed ‘Catire’); and their four kids: Carmin, 2; Mia, 5; Dimas, 8; and Cala, 12.

“It’s a very big family,” says Noël. “A very intense family experience.”

That’s putting it mildly.

In March, mom and dad ditched their jobs, drained their savings, and told their three girls and one boy that they were about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

“We are traveling all through the continents toward Philadelphia,” says Noël. “We are meeting people, we are learning things about them, and getting to know other ways of living.”


Original source: CBS
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Petty Island fantasy courtesy of the Better Philadelphia Challenge

Could an overlooked island in the Delaware connect Philadelphia and Camden?

Can an obscure, uninhabited, 292-acre island that sits in the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden be knitted into the urban fabric of those cities? One team of designers recently concocted a long-term development plan that would take rural cues — and also considers challenges such as food insecurity and rising sea levels — to do just that...

The group won the annual Better Philadelphia Challenge, which is presented by the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and open to university-level students. The competition looks for a solution to an actual urban-design issue in Philadelphia, with the hope that the resulting ideas could be applied to other cities. This year, applicants were asked to imagine ways to develop Petty Island, which most Philadelphians aren’t even aware exists but which claims a colorful history.

Hanifin and his teammates Akshali Gandhi, Li-Yu Pan, Chen Sun and Lishutong Zhang — all master degree candidates in either landscape architecture or regional planning — came up with a thoughtful vision for both short-term and long-term development of the island and the facing Philadelphia waterfront, with a focus on addressing issues of food insecurity, urban farming and agricultural education. The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger estimates that in 2013, 22 percent of city residents experienced food insecurity.

The team’s winning multiphase proposal, dubbed “Delaware Valley Foodworx,” includes an agricultural college, seed bank, sky farm, discovery center and farmers’ market on the island. 


Original source: Next City
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Big drama on the Eagle Cam: Eaglets are born!

An eaglet is born live on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wildly popular Eagle Cam. Check out video and images here!

Original source: Philadelphia Magazine


 

Philadelphia continues to gain population after decades of decline

The city continues to gain population, a promising reversal after years of decline -- but there are still big concerns. 

Philadelphia's population grew for the eighth year in a row in 2014, and surrounding counties were mostly stable, according to new census data, but the picture was not quite as rosy at it may have seemed in the nation's fifth-largest city...

While Philadelphia's increase was undeniably good news, the uptick was fueled by an increase in births, rather than an influx of residents, which raised demographers' concerns.

More people left Philadelphia for elsewhere in the country than moved in last year. Had it not been for a high number of births, and an influx of immigrants, the city's population would have fallen, the data showed.

And given people's tendency to flee the city once their children reach school age, Thursday's numbers were all the more sobering, especially in light of ongoing turmoil surrounding the chronically underfunded School District.

"We still have more people leaving the city," said Temple University demographer David Elesh. "It suggests that as people have children, they may be likely to consider a suburban home instead of a city home."

The data underscore the need to repair Philadelphia's public schools. Failure to do so could counteract what has become, in recent years, a younger population.


Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Paste Magazine drinks its way across Philly's craft beer scene

Paste highlights 10 Philadelphia breweries, including some of our favorites. 

Philly Beer Week is swiftly approaching, but if you cannot wait until May, quench your thirst at the storied pillars of Philadelphia’s craft brew scene any time of the year. Philadelphians are as proud of their beer as they are of monuments like the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House and the Rocky Steps. Nothing could possibly go better with a Philly cheesesteak than an ice-cold brew.

Original source: Paste Magazine
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Could the Broad Street Line extension to the Navy Yard finally happen?

As PlanPhilly reports, PIDC is pushing forward with the idea of extending the Broad Street Line into the Navy Yard.

The Navy Yard is booming right now, adding about 1,000 jobs per year. New buildings are fully leased before construction on them can even begin. Plans for adding 1,500 residential units over the next few years are in the works. And the streets connecting the Navy Yard to the rest of the city are reaching capacity. According to Agate: “You have to find ways other than by strictly automobile to bring 1,000 more employees per year into the Navy Yard.”

“Frankly,” said Agate, “it’s a race against time to make sure that the infrastructure … is keeping pace with the growth the Navy Yard wants to experience.”

Right now, the BSL ends at AT&T Station near the sport stadiums. PIDC hopes to extend the line another 1.5 miles and to add one or two stations in the Navy Yard.  


Original source: PlanPhilly
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Grab a Cold One: PA beer distributors can now sell 12-packs

In a boon for partygoers everywhere who don't want to haul a whole case of brewskies, the state's beer distributors will now be allowed to sell 12-packs. 

The PLCB’s Office of Chief Counsel issued a legal advisory today “informing brewers that they may sell ‘original containers’ as long as the container contains at least 128 fluid ounces — for example a 12-pack — to distributors that may be resold ‘as is’ to consumers.”

For years, beer distributors have been able to sell beer only by the case or keg, while groceries, bars and convenience stores have gained the ability to sell six-packs, 12-packs, and individual bottles for consumption on premises.  

State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins and ranking minority party member of the House Liquor Control Committee, called the PLCB opinion “a step in the right direction to provide consumer convenience.”


“By allowing these 12-packs to be sold at beer distributors, customers get another choice in their beer selections,” he said. “It provides family-owned distributors more options in their product line [and supports] our breweries in Pennsylvania, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Check out the complete story here.

Inquirer publishes in-depth report on East Market development

The Inquirer takes an in-depth look at an essential section of Center City Philadelphia and its latest chapter.

If Philadelphia were a basketball court, Market Street East would be that inexplicable dead spot on the floor, the place where the ball just doesn’t bounce.

The eight-block corridor has four Dunkin’ Donuts and two Subway sandwich shops — but no outdoor cafe. A McDonald’s sits in what used to be a porn emporium...

For years, when people like Paul Levy pitched the route’s potential to developers, they answered, “Yeah, I get it, but nobody goes to Market Street.”

Now that’s changing — fast.

People involved in massive construction plans say that, finally, Market East is poised to become the worthy, prosperous connector of Center City’s two great icons, City Hall and Independence Mall.

“The pieces are in place,” said Levy, president of the Center City District, the marketing and planning agency. “’Inevitable’ may be too strong a word, but, ‘Very highly likely.’”


Want to learn more? Check out this Flying Kite feature from 2013.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.
 
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