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Drake building recording studio at Strawberry Mansion High

The recording artist (and notable Canadian) Drake has committed to funding the construction of a recording studio at Strawberry Mansion High.

The rapper and singer said that after watching a Diane Sawyer special about the school which ran last May, he wanted to help: "by the end of it I was so heavily affected that at the end I started questioning like major aspects of my life."

Drake surprised students at Strawberry mansion high during a taping of a follow-up to the original ABC special. He told them that "over the next few months," he would build a recording studio there. He said, "This about you. This about your principal. This about your future. I love you. I care about you. I want to see you succeed."

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.



Philadelphia's German-inspired Christmas Village is up-and-running

The grand tradition of lights and booths and hot drinks has once again arrived at City Hall.

The seasonal bouquet permeates the air of the Christmas Villages in Baltimore and Philadelphia, a pair of German-inflected colonies featuring crafts, local and Deutschland foods, toe-warming beverages and decorative lights as bright as a diamond tiara. The special events, which run through Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, respectively, transport the glee — and the glühwein — of the German Christmas markets to the East Coast.

"It’s the spirit of the traditional Christkindlesmarkt," said founder Thomas Bauer, a native of Nuremberg, which holds one of the largest and most celebrated markets in Germany.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Christkind the Christmas Angel even flew in from Nuremberg to officiate over the festivities, which are in their sixth year for Philadelphia and the first for Baltimore. Bauer chose the City of Brotherly Love as his original site because of the region’s German heritage and significant Amish population...In Philadelphia, the elfin structures occupied by more than 60 retailers encircle the 38-foot-tall Christmas tree in Love Park.


Original source: The Washington Post
Read the complete story here.

World's first selfie taken in Philadelphia?

A local photography pioneer turned the camera on himself:

The above self-portrait (that’s apparently what selfies used to be called), which resides at the Library of Congress, was taken by Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia in October 1839, 174 years before Jim Gardner would post a selfie. The first-generation American, born to Dutch immigrants, is considered a pioneer of photography. He took the photo–a daguerreotype–while standing outside of his family’s Philadelphia lamp store. Experts say that Cornelius had to remain still for several minutes to obtain the final product.

Written on the back of the photograph: "The first light picture ever taken. 1839."


Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete story here.



Transit-oriented development Paseo Verde dedicated in North Philly

Paseo Verde, an exciting community-supported project in North Philadelphia, was recently completed. It is hopefully a standard-bearer in transit-oriented development.

Paseo Verde, a super green, mixed-use, mixed income community hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning. The complex is the country's very first Platinum LEED certified Neighborhood Development, a distinction that it earned by creating an eco-friendly, transit focused project with the goal of "providing a healthy living environment for residents through sustainable practices, as well as cost savings through effective reduction in energy use."

Even Paseo Verde's most expensive apartments wouldn't fall into the luxury price range, but it does seem that they'll be offering quite a few luxury amenities: residents will get access to a fitness center, community rooms, a technology center, gardening plots, and green roofs.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

Inventing the Future: Researchers at Monell tackle the roots of obesity

Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in University City, is at the forefront of research into how eating habits during pregnancy and infancy impact obesity.

The Monell researchers have identified several sensitive periods for taste preference development. One is before three and a half months of age, which makes what the mother eats while pregnant and breast-feeding so important. “It’s our fundamental belief that during evolution, we as humans are exposed to flavors both in utero and via mother’s milk that are signals of things that will be in our diets as we grow up and learn about what flavors are acceptable based on those experiences,” said Gary Beauchamp, the director of the Monell Center. “Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”

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

Martin Luther King High School emerges from school closings turmoil with success on the gridiron

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on the absorption of Germantown High School's football team into that of rival Martin Luther King High School. Despite the heartache of the merger, the team had a triumphant season.

Martin Luther King High School had one victory in 2012. And that was by forfeit. This fall, a $304 million budget shortfall in the Philadelphia school district forced a merger with archrival Germantown High. Many doubted the merger would work...

Then something wonderful happened. Defeat became liberating. Desperation forged unity. Coach Edward Dunn, 27, embroidered a team from a ragged collection of players. Each game became a kind of playoff and King went more than two months without losing.

The Cougars won nine straight games and their first Public League championship. Quarterback Joseph Walker was named the league’s most valuable player. Delane Hart became the league’s career leader in receiving yards (1,932) and the first with more than 1,000 yards in a season. He sometimes wore socks with a Superman logo and little red capes that fluttered as he ran pass routes.


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

Science reporter sparks tough conversation about women in STEM

This might not be as Philly-centric as our usual Buzz posts, but Flying Kite has written extensively about efforts to engage women in STEM fields, so we thought we'd share this awesome video from Emily Graslie. Speaking from the Field Museum in Chicago, Graslie addresses the strange internet conversationt that often errupts when women enter the conversation on scientific topics. As she demonstrates, we have a long way to go. From an NPR story on the video:

Many of the folks who write her, write not about the science, but about her body, her looks, her clothes, and do so without any apparent embarrassment. She's a science reporter who happens to be a young woman, and her woman-ness is the thing they focus on. The science, to her chagrin, often takes second place.

Original source: NPR
Check out the video here.

Hot Stuff: Sriracha plant coming to Philadelphia?

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, what once sounded like a joke -- the beleaguered Sriracha factory moving to Philadelphia -- is gaining some traction. Now that's some spicy news.

Philadelphia Councilman at-Large Jim Kenney is hoping to entice the company to move its plant to Philadelphia. When he heard that Huy Fong Foods was facing backlash from its Irwindale, Calif. neighborhood, Kenney made some headlines by saying the plant would be welcomed with open arms here in Philadelphia.

But now his invitation seems (at least a little bit) more serious. A judge ordered a partial shutdown of the Huy Fong Foods plant because of the stinky odors it emits into the neighborhood. In response, Kenney said he's looking for potential sites in the area where they can make sriracha sauce without the smell bothering neighbors.


Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
Read the complete story here.

Rust Belt cities often prefer to demolish than to rehab

Cities like Baltimore, Cleveland and, yes, Philadelphia, have often adopted a policy of razing blighted neighborhoods as opposed to rebuilding. Philadelphia's vacant land policy also enables neighbors to take over adjacent vacant land.

Today, it is also about disinvestment patterns to help determine which depopulated neighborhoods are worth saving; what blocks should be torn down and rebuilt; and based on economic activity, transportation options, infrastructure and population density, where people might best be relocated. Some even focus on returning abandoned urban areas into forests and meadows...

Philadelphia, which has 40,000 vacant lots, has promoted the benefits of lower-density living by allowing people in largely vacant neighborhoods to spread out to the lot next door — where a neighbor’s home once was. The city has been studying a plan to sell $500 leases to urban farmers. One such farm, Greensgrow, which was built on a former Superfund site, sold $1 million in produce in 2012.


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

The District puts vacant schools on the market

After shuttering dozens of local schools this fall, the Philadelphia School District has placed many of those buildings up for sale. Quite a few have serious residential development potential -- Passyunk Post reports on the buildings in its purview, including Bok, Vare and Smith.

Bok Technical, an imposing art deco monster, is 338,000 square feet over eight floors on a 2.2-acre site. The information provided notes its proximity to Passyunk Avenue and the Snyder Avenue subway stop (about half a mile each). "Surrounding the Avenue is a surging residential and development market." True.

The New York Times 
also covered the school properties:

But Drexel University has said it wants to buy University City High School for an undisclosed price, and restore it as a public school. Temple University has expressed an interest in the former William Penn High School, close to its Temple campus on the north side of central Philadelphia. Buyers interested in the eight properties undergoing an expedited sale have until Dec. 17 to respond to a request for qualification, the district said. For the other properties, buyers must submit an expression of interest by that date.

Original source: Passyunk Post
Read the complete story here.

PlanPhilly mulls ambitious project at 30th Street Railyards

The 30th Street rail yards could be ready for a big change.

Bounded by the Schuylkill on the east, JFK Boulevard on the south, 32nd Street to the west and Spring Garden Street to the north, the rail yards are the most significant piece of real estate in the city. The parcel sits astride the booming high-tech education-and-medicine hub of University City and the ready-to-pop potential energy of West Market Street. Falling more than 80 feet in elevation from Powelton Village to the river, the site accommodates Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the Penn Coach Yards (a service yard for the railroad) and SEPTA's Regional Rail tracks.

This dusty, noisy, obstructed remnant of the industrial age is poised to be reimagined. Amtrak, along with Drexel University, Brandywine Realty Trust and other partners, will receive bids Monday from professional teams vying to prepare a master plan for the rail yards and environs. They are to be applauded for tackling this project.


Original source: PlanPhilly
Read the complete story here.


Local venture capital at a five-year high

Venture capital in Philadelphia is on the upswing, especially compared with national trends. 

Nationally, the number of venture capital deals has decreased, according to a joint report released last week, yet Philadelphia is defying this trend. Philadelphia saw a 17-percent increase in total financing deals in 2012, while the national number of deals declined by 3 percent with an 18-percent decrease in total dollars invested. During the past 18 months, $1 billion has been invested in the Greater Philadelphia region companies by venture capitalists, angel funds and seed funds... Philadelphia’s status as a mecca for pharmaceutical and biotech companies as one impetus for venture capital firms to be interested in investing in the city. This years-long trend is making way for more venture capital investment in other fields as well.
 
Original source: The Daily Pennsylvanian
Read the complete story here.

Philadelphia Magazine profiles the city's 20 'coolest' startups

Philadelphia Magazine put together a great list of the area's "coolest" startups. Flying Kite readers might recognize, well, most of them from our coverage of Philly's entrepreneurship scene.

Something big is happening. It’s not obvious, and it’s nothing tactile—but it’s most definitely a shift in the way we normally do things around here. It’s spurred on by a group of people who, above all else, want to create something that is their very own. With a whole lot of passion and tireless energy, they’re dreaming up new uses for technology, coming up with problem-solving products, and sketching out websites on napkins at coffee shops. Our research turned up more than 100 start-ups (whittled down here to the 20 coolest) that are happening right now. And while those companies may be small, what they’re part of is something huge: They’re changing the way business and culture look in Philadelphia. They’re ushering in an era in which our city is suddenly smarter, hipper, younger, more communal, more energetic and more creative than ever before. And this is just the beginning.
 
Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete list here.

Local nonprofit music program Rock to the Future featured in the New York Times

Rock to the Future, a local nonprofit after-school music program for underprivileged children, was recently profiled in the New York Times as part of a trend piece on "giving cirles."

[Rock to the Future] received start-up financing of $15,000 in 2010 from Women for Social Innovation, a nonprofit philanthropic "giving circle" with a membership of around 20 women, providing seed money to social innovators seeking to help women, girls and families in the Greater Philadelphia area. Such giving circles are on the rise. Members pool their money to make grants to local nonprofit groups, realizing that one hefty contribution can have an immediate influence in a community. Rock to the Future, for example, has expanded to 35 after-school students from 13. It expects to work with 300 students this year via additional weekends, summer workshops and a pilot mobile unit, with an operating budget of $204,980.

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

GPTMC revamps as Visit Philadelphia

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) has enacted a long-needed rebranding -- they will now operate under the moniker Visit Philadelphia.

"The name Visit Philadelphia focuses on the relationship between our destination and the visitor. It’s a strong call to action that tells people exactly what we want them to do — visit Philadelphia," said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the newly renamed company. "Visit Philadelphia is also more in line with one of our strongest assets, visitphilly.com. And, it is increasingly how people are referring to us." 

Last year, the region had 38.8 million visitors — 12 million more than 1997, when it had its first year advertising campaign.


Original source: Philadelphia Business Journal
Read the complete story here.
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