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The Atlantic Cities asks why water infrastructure is so neglected; Philly is an exception

Water infrastructure has been neglected nationally in recent years; Philadelphia, with its Green City, Clean Waters initiative, is actually an exception.

On its 2013 report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. water infrastructure a D. Even the nation’s best water systems are ancient -- we have over 240,000 water main breaks each year -- and unprepared for a mix of current challenges that includes climate change, tightening budgets, growing urban populations, and pharmaceutical contaminants. This spring, after record-setting rains, Detroit had no choice but to pour several hundred million gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes...

Occasionally, the political stars align. In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter has turned a green infrastructure initiative designed to reduce combined sewer overflow -- the same phenomenon that has plagued Detroit -- into a quality-of-life issue and one of his signature achievements


Original source: The Atlantic Cities
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Comcast considering additional Center City towers

The city's iconic skyline could be getting an addition -- Comcast is considering another tower.

Details about Comcast's expansion plans are being kept under tight wraps, but the company appears to be focusing on constructing the first of several towers on a long, skinny, 1.5-acre site at 18th and Arch Streets, a block west of the Comcast Center. That building could eventually be part of a vertical campus including towers at 19th Street and Arch, and 18th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Tune in to see local musicians play with the All-Star Orchestra

Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra are among the 95 musicians chosen for a national All-Star Orchestra. The group's performances will be televised weekly on PBS.

Even skeptics will concede that this project offers an amazing roster of accomplished musicians from America’s leading orchestras, including many renowned principal players. About half of the musicians come from New York organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Orpheus, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and New York City Opera. The out-of-town ensembles represented include the San Francisco Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and more.

For the players, as several explained in an article in The New York Times last year, this experience was something like a camp reunion, where old friends from conservatory days reconnected and caught up. In the introduction to the first program, Robert Cafaro, a Philadelphia Orchestra cellist, clearly speaks for many players when he says: "I had no idea it would be quite this good. This is probably the highest-level orchestra I’ve ever played with."


Original source: The New York Times
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Shared Prosperity, a local poverty program geared towards transparency, gains national attention

Shared Prosperity offers "one-stop shopping" for poor Philadelphians seeking services. The program also hopes to create jobs and improve early childhood education.

But with an array of public and private agencies providing different services in different locations, many poor people here are not getting the assistance available to them that could help them find work or qualify for benefits.

In response, Philadelphia initiated an effort this summer that offers "one-stop shopping" in local outreach centers to help people get all the assistance they need — with food, housing, job training, financial counseling, child care and other services — in one place.

The effort, called Shared Prosperity, is a response to the recent growth in the number of poor people, many of whom are not benefiting from the city’s current economic recovery, said Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, which runs the program.


Original source: The New York Times
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Benjamin Franklin Museum opens on Independence Mall

A museum dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, one of Philadelphia's favorite sons, has opened on Independence Mall.

In an underground space originally built for the 1976 bicentennial, the 9,500-square-foot museum covers the life and times of the founding father, including his contributions to science, diplomacy and politics. It is next to Franklin’s original home, indicated by a skeletal "ghost house."

Extensive computer animation covers Franklin in aspects from active to reflective; for example, flying a rooftop kite to test electrical conductivity and writing his autobiography. Personal artifacts include a chess piece and the hand-carried "sedan chair" he used during the 1787 Constitutional Convention when he was too ill to walk. Matching games, touch objects and flip books encourage interaction.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.

Philadelphia launches new campaign to lure LGBT travelers

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) is making a pitch to LGBT tourists using a saucy new commercial.

The new video builds on the city’s memorable 2003 “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” campaign by showing the flamboyant female impersonator Miss Richfield 1981 touring some of Philadelphia’s best-known sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Dressed in a red-and-white striped skirt and a tight blue bodice, Miss Richfield poses with Betsy Ross — the Betsy Ross House is in the city — and runs the “Rocky Steps” at the art museum but is distracted by the muscular torsos of a quartet of young male joggers on the banks of the Schuylkill.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Legendary Philadelphia clockmaker profiled in new book

Peter Stretch, a renowned and visionary 18th century clockmaker, is the subject of a new book by Frank L. Hohmann III.

Peter and Margery became role models for Philadelphians. They gave advice to unmarried Quakers about maintaining "moderation or modesty" in budding love affairs. The couple donated money to widows, orphans and victims of house fires and kidnappings by Indians. For elite customers, Peter Stretch built brass clocks with multiple dials that tracked the time and moon phases. The dials were surrounded by metal cherubs and crowns. The carved wooden clock cases mostly came from the Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Head, a fellow English Quaker émigré. (Head’s account books, rediscovered in a Philadelphia archive in 1999, have page after page listing transactions with Stretch.)

The clockmaker’s workshop was so renowned that its address, at the intersection of Second and Chestnut Streets, was known as Stretch’s Corner. His buyers flaunted the clocks in their finest parlors, and the survival rate is high. A few of the antiques still belong to his clients’ descendants, and two-thirds of perhaps 200 made in Stretch’s career have been identified, sometimes with handwritten notes attached describing their travels over the centuries.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

The Economist praises foot patrols in rough Philadelphia neighborhoods

Foot patrols can be an effective tool in neighborhoods with high crime rates, forcing young officers out of their police cars and into interactions with the community.

Such patrols work best if officers return to the same street several times in each shift, says Jerry Ratcliffe, director of Temple’s Centre for Security and Crime Science. A good officer will soon know everybody on his beat. It is important to "spend time just standing on a street corner, chatting to people, getting a feel for the tempo and rhythm of a place." Foot patrols work best in dense neighbourhoods, says Mr Ratcliffe, where many people cannot afford air conditioning and so socialise on the street. Drunken disagreements beget violence. “Half the people shot in Philadelphia are shot within two blocks of their address,” he says.

Original source: The Economist
Read the complete story here.
 

Technorati talks Philly's uptapped tech talent

Rich Gorman talked to Technorati about the great potential for startups in Philadelphia.

You can get a lot of bang for your buck in Philadelphia. It’s considerably less expensive to start a company in Philly versus NYC or San Francisco. Rent, salaries, vendors, shopping, and entertainment are a fraction of what you would pay in more common tech start up areas. cost of living among the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas in the 3rd quarter of 2012, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association.
 
"In Philadelphia, there’s a TON of talented people that are competing for a great career," Gorman continues. "In places like Silicon Valley, it’s the exact opposite; it’s cut throat in competing for talent." This, he explains, is why Silicon Valley startups are forced to take outside capital. In Philly it’s easy to bootstrap a company with no outside capital, preserving your shares early in the game.

Original source: Technorati
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Mt. Airy named among best big-city neighborhoods

CNN published a list of the best big-city neighborhoods, and northwest Philly's Mt. Airy made the list.

Mount Airy pairs a racially and religiously diverse population with a neighborhood packed with historic homes and leafy streets.
Germantown Avenue, which divides East and West Mount Airy, is the backbone of the nabe and home to shops, art centers, and restaurants. Houses here start at about $200,000, roughly 30% lower than in neighboring Chestnut Hill (though you can easily pay $500,000 in the tonier parts of West Mount Airy).


Original source: CNN
Read the complete list here.

The New York Times highlights Philly school woes

The Philadelphia School District's financial crisis has drawn national attention, including a front page feature in the New York Times.

The situation is not as dire yet as Detroit’s. There is no talk of resorting to bankruptcy. But the problem is so severe that the city agreed at the last minute on Thursday to borrow $50 million just to be able to open schools on time. Even with that money, schools will open Sept. 9 with a minimum of staffing and sharply curtailed extracurricular activities and other programs.

"The concept is just jaw-dropping," said Helen Gym, who has three children in the city’s public schools. "Nobody is talking about what it takes to get a child educated. It’s just about what the lowest number is needed to get the bare minimum. That’s what we’re talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation’s biggest school districts."


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

On the Ground Redux: Shining a light on an amazing Germantown renovation

Nicole Juday's jaw-dropping renovation of a derelict Germantown home is highlighted in a gorgeous New York Times feature. Click through the slideshow and prepare to drool.

It wasn’t abandoned, but it may as well have been. A fire had destroyed much of the second floor, and raccoons were living in the attic. In the backyard was the marshy remains of what had once been a swimming pool, a cesspool that parents worried their children might fall into...

So in 2010, she and her husband bought the seven-bedroom house and all of its contents from the elderly owner for $125,000.
Even at that price, it was no bargain. “I think the house was possibly condemnable,” said Ms. Juday, 43.

It took another $400,000 and thousands of hours of labor to make it habitable. That included rebuilding it from the studs out, with new wiring, plumbing, roofing and plaster, and installing historically accurate windows and millwork. Beams were added to shore up the structure, and the brick exterior was repointed. The swimming pool was filled in, and an old caved-in Chevy was hauled out of the side yard.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Green development Folsom Powerhouse comes to Francisville

Postgreen Homes is teaming up with Equinox Management & Construction LLC to build the Folsom Powerhouse, a 31-unit mixed-income green housing project in Francisville.

Postgreen and Equinox are also aided by ISA Architects, who designed the project, and Studio Bryan Hanes, who is responsible for the landscaping. The development will feature energy efficient design, with solar power, green roof technology and advanced storm water management practices. It’s proximity to public transit, nearby shops and the Francisville community center will give residents great access to amenities and necessities.

"Our proposal adapted Folsom’s fabric and the City’s best practices in urban planning," explained Chad Ludeman, President of Postgreen Homes. "The Powerhouse name is indicative of our commitment to extreme energy efficiency, giving residents the power to live with community and environmental consciousness in mind."


Original source: Inhabitat
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Stogie Joe's pies earn national praise

Passyunk Square's Stogie Joe's Tavern was included on Thrillist's list of the nation's 33 best pizzas. The sauce-on-top square pies have a loyal following. 

"Red-sauced bakery pies are as much a South Philly staple as being ejected from a Phillies game, and, just like Phillies fans, Stogie Joe's takes it to the next level, serving their square pies upside-down with their signature spicy-sweet tomato sauce floating above the cheese blanketing a Sicilian-style crust."

Original source: Thrillist
Read the complete list here.

School closings create strange bedfellows on the gridiron

The closing of Germantown High School sent players to rival Martin Luther King High School. The New York Times took a close look at the blended squad.

What was once unthinkable to many players had become intimate and binding. Most of King’s current roster played last season at archrival Germantown High School in northwest Philadelphia. Few could have imagined the schools merging, the teams playing as one.

When King last defeated Germantown in their annual Thanksgiving Day game, in 2010, the players brawled with fists and helmets. The police intervened.

But austerity has trumped rivalry. Facing a $304 million budget shortfall, the chronically troubled Philadelphia School District closed 23 schools in June. The closings included Germantown, one of the nation’s oldest high schools, which opened in 1914 and closed a year shy of its centennial. Most of its students would now attend King. The two schools were about a mile apart and shared a tense history.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
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