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What happens to the buildings when schools close?

The Atlantic Cities asks one of the big questions about the scheduled school closings: What happens to the buildings? Philadelphia is closing 23 schools.

One of the thorniest issues (in what is a veritable forest of mess) is what to do with those school buildings once they're empty. Often, the facilities are in poor shape, with promised renovations put off quasi-indefinitely. Many are located in depressed neighborhoods. And there are only so many developers with the know-how and resources to convert classrooms into condos or a community center.

Then, there are often complex laws that limit who may or may not take over city-owned property. Some cities ban charter schools from moving into empty traditional schools (officials know that moving a new school into an old school can foment frustration with the district); others require time-consuming input from the community. Laws like these can tie school districts' hands and slow re-development.


Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the complete story here.

Cira Centre's 'Pong' transformation garners national attention

As part of Philly Tech Week, the north-facing wall of the Cira Centre will be transformed into a massive, functional version of the classic arcade game Pong. MTV has the scoop.

Dr. Frank Lee, a teaching professor in Drexel University's College of Engineering and co-founder of the Drexel Game Design Program, is the man behind the event. He'll be turning the building into his own personal game console thanks 1,514 LEDs lights that were installed on the building during its construction in 2005. He's also getting some help from Technically Philly (who founded Philly Tech Week), Brandywine Realty Trust, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Knight Foundation.

"This is something I’ve been envisioning for quite a while," Lee said. "Not only is this something that’s just fun for anyone who’s ever played a video game, but it’s also a uniquely interactive art installation. One of the main goals of this event is to inspire wonder and creativity in anyone who sees it, especially kids."


Original source: MTV
Read the complete story here, and stay tuned for more Philly Tech Week coverage from Flying Kite.


Yahoo! showcases five Philly properties made famous in film

Inspired by the recent news that the rowhome featured in Rocky II is for sale, Yahoo! put together a list of five local properties made famous in film. My personal favorite is the Graduate Hospital house featured in The Sixth Sense.

In the 1999 movie "The Sixth Sense," Haley Joel Osment's character, Cole Sear, saw dead people in his house on the of 2300 block of St. Albans Place in Philadelphia. But this haunted movie house and its surroundings also shined a new light on the City of Brotherly Love. The movie's colorful shots of Logan Circle, Rittenhouse Row, and the St. Albans Place garden block made filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan a hometown hero, who, according to Philly.com, later donated $1.5 million to improve the South Philly area that played such a big role in "The Sixth Sense." Shyamalan recounted his first sight of the red brick block, saying, "It could have been anywhere … It looked like it had been built by immigrant hands. For some reason, I was meant to be here, and we were meant to do this."

Original source: Yahoo!
Read the complete list here.

New York Times takes on 'Being White in Philly"

The New York Times covered the controversy surrounding Philadelphia Magazine's recent cover story, "Being White in Philly."

Controversy clearly can be good for business. The magazine, whose circulation has declined nearly 10 percent in the last five years, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, had a minor boom in sales from the issue. Tom McGrath, the editor, said the article generated 1.4 million page views, a milestone for the site. The article has over 6,000 comments online, and Mr. McGrath said several vendors told the magazine that they sold out of the issue and wanted more copies.

But the issue’s notoriety may have a downside. The Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller criticized the article’s author, Robert Huber, for providing anonymity to all of his interview subjects and painting a portrait of a city devoid of any voices other than white residents.

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

Curbed Philly highlights the city's most stunning abandoned buildings

Curbed Philly put together this great compilation of the city's most intriguing and breathtaking vacant landmarks. The Divine Lorraine was robbed.

Check out photographer Laura Kicey's amazing shots of the Beury Building:

Dubbed “North Philadelphia’s Skyscraper,” it’s more well-known locally as “Boner Forever,” thanks to the graffiti on its north and south faces. Its art deco beauty is falling apart in front of our eyes despite its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Check out the complete list here.

Local notable Buzz Bissinger generates national, er, buzz with a piece on his strange addiction

Local resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger (writer of Friday Night Lights and Prayer for the City) sparked national headscratching with a confessional essay in GQ detailing his intense shopping addiction. Prepare to be amazed/confused/enthralled/disturbed.

The approximate amount I spent on the four-day trip is $51,000. That is equivalent to roughly a full year's tuition at my son's college, Kenyon. I think about that. The self-indulgence is obvious. But it is my money, and I have paid his tuition for four years so he will not be saddled with any loans when he graduates this spring. None of which is really the point, anyway: 

I can't resist for the very reason I can't resist. 

Original source: GQ
Read the complete story here.

The Atlantic Cities examines Philly's class divide

The Atlantic Cities is taking a look at how class and geography intersect in American Cities using data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey. This week, they tackled Philadelphia, finding a creative class concentration in Center City, huge swaths of service class-dominated space and a shrinking working class population. Check out the interactive map for an eye-opening look at our city.

Strikingly absent from the map (with the one exception of Juniata Park) are significant working class concentrations, identified on the map in blue. This is startling in a city that was an early manufacturing powerhouse, a center for ship-building, railroad manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, not to mention manufacturing capabilities in beer, candy, and even brooms. One historically blue collar enclave is Fishtown, to the northeast of Center City. The area is rapidly gentrifying, as the economist and blogger Adam Ozimek reminded me, but it still retains much of the Irish working class character that led Charles Murray to use it as the blue collar foil for creative class Belmont, Massachusetts, in his book Coming Apart.

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the full story and check out the map here.

Story on hometown hero museums shines a light on Mario Lanza

The New York Times takes a look at museums dedicated to hometown heros. Some of these folks are now relatively obscure, including South Philly crooner Mario Lanza.

Though millions saw his movies and bought his records (“Be My Love,” “Arrivederci Roma”) in the 1940s and 1950s, Lanza, who died in 1959 at age 38, is virtually unknown to the general public today. On a good day, perhaps 10 or 15 people visit to look at costumes, publicity posters, old photos and other items while his songs play in the background.

The Lanza Institute is one of countless small shrines in the hometowns or the adopted towns of native sons and daughters who went away to become famous, though some of the stars are barely remembered today. These museums are mostly special for their focus and usually reflect an undying care for their subjects by true keepers of the faith.


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

Momofuku hosts Zahav for pop-up dinner

Middle East meets East as Philly chef Michael Solomonov takes Zahav's modern Israeli cuisine to Momofuku Ssam bar for a late-night dinner.

After teasing us earlier this week, we now have confirmation: Momofuku Ssäm Bar will be hosting Zahav for the first in a quarterly late night dinner series at the East Village hot spot. Tickets are $85 per person for the 11 PM dinner, inclusive of food, drink and gratuity. No word on menu yet, but looks like at least some of the drinks will come from Singapore brewery Tiger Beer. Reservations are available via e-mail only, and the likelihood is they’ll sell out quickly (if they haven’t already).

Eater Philly had more details:

Solomonov said that David Chang & Co. requested an all-Zahav menu, so they're going all out with the "Mesibah" option that includes his legendary lamb shoulder (which is almost as famous as Solomonov himself). As for dessert, the Federal Donuts crew is whipping up a special fancy doughnut created specifically for the event, as well.
 
Original source: Zagat
Read the complete post here.

AP showcases Vetri's 'Eatiquette' school lunch program

Chef Marc Vetri is bringing his 'Eatiquette' school lunch program to the People For People Charter School.

It sounds more like a restaurant order than a school lunch menu: baked ziti with a side of roasted fennel salad and, for dessert, cinnamon apple rice pudding.

But that's one of the meals offered in the cafeteria at People For People Charter School in Philadelphia. And it's served family-style. Students pass serving dishes around circular tables, where they eat off plates, not cafeteria trays, and use silverware instead of plastic utensils.

People For People is one of four schools participating in the "Eatiquette" program, which was designed by local chef Marc Vetri to provide nutritious, low-cost lunches in a setting that reinforces social niceties and communication skills.


Original source: The Associated Press
Read the full story here.

Mark Bittman looks to Reading Terminal Market for inspiration

The New York Times' Mark Bittman wishes his city could cultivate a large indoor market modeled after Philly landmark Reading Terminal. He's eyeing the former Fulton Fish Market.

There is nothing like a grand urban food market, which can anchor a neighborhood and even a city. Think of the 120-year-old Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia; the Ferry Building in San Francisco, which 10 years ago helped revitalize the Embarcadero; and the ever-popular Pike Place Market in Seattle. Even much-maligned Los Angeles has a permanent mid-city market, in business since 1934.

New York … well, the grandest market “we” have is 80 miles away, in Philadelphia.


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

Philly airport lures New York-based travelers

PHL has become an attractive departure point for New Yorkers, drawn by the low prices and the presence of Southwest Airlines.

Airfares have been dropping faster in Philadelphia than in any other big city, fueling a boom in traffic at the congested airport there. Despite its reputation for delays and baggage difficulties, Philadelphia International is now attracting more passengers for domestic flights than any of New York's three major airports - La Guardia, Kennedy International or Newark Liberty International.

Transportation officials say they do not know how many of those travelers are being lured away by lower fares, but they concede that New Yorkers are not immune to what is known in the travel industry as the Southwest effect. When Southwest Airlines, the king of the low-fare carriers, arrives in a new city, it drives down airfares and adds traffic.


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

High speed rail is great fit for Philly and its neighboring cities

A recent conversation about the potential of high speed rail led a Slate writer to argue that converting a few key corridors would be more efficient than a nationwide system. The northeast corridor (and Philadelphia) made his list.

Corridors that couldn’t attract sufficient numbers of riders would likely detract from the potential economic and environmental benefits gained from the more sensible routes. “If newly built high-speed rail services do not attract projected ridership over time, they will not only fail to deliver their promised benefits but they may waste energy, resources, and require excessive operating subsidies,” the America 2050 report concluded.
 
Experts who study light rail often mention a “sweet spot” of between 100 and 600 miles for high-speed rail corridor trips. Shorter than 100 miles, and a rider is more likely to want to take a conventional train, a car, or a bus. Longer than 600 miles and a rider is better off flying.

Original source: Slate
Read the complete story here.

Philly cracks Saveur's 50 Best Donuts list

These days, if there's a donut list, local favorite Federal Donuts will earn a spot. This Saveur run-down of the country's 50 Best Donuts is no exception.

The donuts at this ambitious newcomer include the Appollonia, served hot and rolled in cocoa and orange blossom powder. The other specialty? Fried chicken.

Original source: Saveur
Read the complete list here.

The New York Times analyzes school closings in Philly

The School District recently decided to shutter 23 Philadelphia schools. It's a heartbreaking decision, and the New York Times spent some time parsing the reasoning and the reactions.

Around the country, districts including Chicago, Newark and Washington have been echoing that rationale, with officials citing budget gaps as they draw up lists of schools to close at the end of the school year. District officials also say they need to close underperforming schools so that students can move to schools where they have a better chance of succeeding.

But critics say that while the spreadsheets or test scores might say one thing, even lower-performing, underused schools can serve as refuges in communities that have little else.

"The school is one of the foundations of the community," said Rosemarie Hatcher, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, which represents local home and school associations. "It’s like a village. The schools know our kids and they look out for our kids."


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