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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.

GQ's latest city guide takes an in-depth look at Philadelphia

GQ details "Philly's awakening," describing the city as a hotbed of killer food, top-flight beers and accessible culture. Highlights include The Foodery, Modo Mio and Johnny Brenda's.

Philly has a rep as the capital of eighth-grade field trips and binge-drinking b-school bros doing their best Situation impressions, but this place has bigger ambitions if you know where to look. You'll find all the buzzy trappings of Brooklyn --pitch-perfect menswear shops in Old City, straight-shooting restaurants and microbrew-soaked nightlife in Northern Liberties --without all the Brooklyn smugness. Here's how to navigate the new Philly revolution.

Original source: GQ
Read the complete story here.

The Benjamin Franklin Museum gets a facelift

After two years under the knife, the Benjamin Franklin Museum has debuted its fresh new look. Gone are the outdated exhibits, in are interactive activities.

Franklin is Philadelphia’s icon, no less than Elvis Presley is Memphis’s. There is no shortage of Franklin impersonators who attend events and are willing guides to the city’s historic area. The city prides itself on its diversity, and Franklin is without doubt the polymath of his generation. Philadelphians particularly love him for his warts — his supposed womanizing, his love of drinking, his illegitimate son, his offbeat experiments, his sardonic aphorisms.

Dr. Talbott and Cynthia MacLeod, the superintendent of Independence National Historical Park, of which the museum is a part, say they believe Franklin would love modern Philadelphia and its residents as well. He would no doubt be rooting for the bedraggled Phillies and Eagles and holding court at its many sidewalk cafes.


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

The Atlantic asks tough questions about urban public schools

An effort to keep middle and upper-middle class residents in cities by getting them involved in their local public schools has produced mixed results. In Philadelphia, a growing Center City population has not mitigated the district's budget crisis, despite the Center City Schools Initiative. There are also race and class issues.

The areas targeted by the initiative (Center City and its surrounding gentrifying neighborhoods) were largely white and middle- and upper-middle class. Proponents believed that if these parents became invested in their local public schools, all of Philadelphia would benefit from higher property tax income, increased downtown revitalization as more affluent families continued to live and spend in the city, and—eventually—a better school system.

The marketing worked: According to my analysis of School District of Philadelphia data, by 2009 the number of Center City children enrolled in first grade in the three most desirable public schools had increased by 60 percent, from 111 to 177. Through fundraising and the activation of social and professional networks, these new families helped bring resources to the schools, including new playgrounds, libraries, and arts programs. But these Center City children weren’t taking empty slots. When they enrolled, they left fewer spots for low-income students from North and West Philadelphia, who had for years used those schools to escape failing ones in their neighborhoods. During this period, the number of first graders in Center City schools from outside the neighborhood decreased by 42 percent, from 64 to 37. Not surprisingly, this shift had racial dimensions: The percentage of white students in these schools in the early grades increased by 30 percent, and the percentage of African American students decreased a corresponding 29 percent.


Original source: The Atlantic
Read the complete story here.

Chinatowns gentrifying across the nation, and Philadelphia is no exception

Chinatowns are experiencing radical gentrification, speaking to wider trends in cities. Check out the infographics.

Restaurants are a good indicator of Chinatowns' ability to "serve local and regional Asian immigrants," the report says. Right now, just under half of the restaurants in New York's Chinatown are Asian; more than half are Asian in Boston and Philadelphia. But that's changing quickly, as these neighborhoods get gutted by gentrification.

The findings are based on a year of gathering data, block by block, on how space in the communities is being used, and by whom. Researchers say the neighborhoods are rapidly getting more expensive and less useful to the people who need them most. From 2000 to 2010, the share of the Asian population fell in all three Chinatowns. In Boston, it dropped from 57 percent of the population in 2000 to 46 percent in 2010; in New York, it shifted from 48 percent to 45 percent. In Philadelphia is fell from 49 percent to 42 percent.

Housing values and rents have soared; the average apartment in New York and Boston Chinatowns is now much more expensive than in the cities overall. High-end condos, businesses, and hotels have encroached heavily on places traditionally occupied by affordable housing, small businesses, and immigrant services.


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

Detroit can look to Philadelphia as a model of economic recovery

According to Bloomberg, Detroit can look elsewhere for models of recovery, including Philadelphia. In the near northeast, zoning changes paved the way for development.

The city also can promulgate new land-use rules to foster development, an idea demonstrated by Philadelphia, which in 1991 itself teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Take, for instance, once-blighted Frankford Avenue.

Sandy Salzman says that even though she promoted the idea, she doubted the thoroughfare in the New Kensington and Fishtown neighborhoods would become an art corridor when it was proposed in 2000.

“It didn’t even have a coffee shop,” said Salzman, director of the New Kensington Community Development Corp. “Now we have a ton of coffee shops. We have art galleries.”

The transformation will get additional support from the first zoning changes in half a century, which make it easier to convert abandoned industrial areas to residential or commercial uses, urban gardens and farms or allow artists to have a shop next to their homes, said Eva Gladstein, who was the executive director of the commission that developed the changes.


Original source: Bloomberg
Read the full story here.

New York Times reviews new Fernand Léger show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The New York Times takes a look at "Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis," a group show disguised as a single-star vehicle.

The exhibition includes numerous mediums: painting but also film, stage design, posters and several forms of printed matter. Orchestrated around “The City,” Léger’s great clangorous mural-size ode to the metropolis of 1919, it situates his art among that of about 40 of his contemporaries. They include like-minded painters, sculptors, writers, graphic designers, filmmakers and architects who were often friends and with whom he collaborated on all sorts of projects outside of painting.

In the end, only about a third of the 180 items on view are actually by Léger (1881-1955). But even as the show quietly subverts the convention of the monographic exhibition, his work almost never gets lost — it is formally too robust, or as he might have put it, too viscerally plastic. An added benefit throughout is that the show is studded with unfamiliar works, both by him and by others from home and abroad.

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

Gov. Corbett finally releases school funds

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett finally agreed to release desperately needed funds for Philadelphia schools.

Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday that he has agreed to release $45 million for the Philadelphia schools as the district goes through its worst financial crisis in memory and questions swirl about a student’s apparently asthma-related death after attending a school without a nurse on site. Mr. Corbett, a Republican, said the Philadelphia school superintendent, William Hite, had convinced him that district officials had made enough progress toward the governor’s educational and financial goals for the district. Mr. Hite said the money would allow the district to restore sports and music and rehire about 400 people, including guidance counselors, assistant principals and teachers.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here; click here for the Inquirer's coverage.

Temple's new president announces ambitious $50 million plan

In his inaugural address, new Temple University president Neil D. Theobald announced an ambitious 5-year plan that should improve the city and ease the debt burden on students.

One proposal calls for Temple to become more involved in helping the city solve its problems, such as the Philadelphia School District's funding crisis. Theobald, a professor, researcher, and expert in education finance, will participate in an afternoon symposium on funding. The $50 million for research, which Theobald touted as the largest-ever investment in the university's academic program, will be used to bring in new faculty to explore problems deemed most pressing in the city and state, he said. The research will be carried out across disciplines, he said.

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

Curbed compiles a map of the '17 Projects That Will Change Philly in the Next Few Years'

Curbed Philly's new interactive map features development projects that have the potential to transform the city (and the neighborhoods where they will arise). A bunch of Flying Kite-featured plans made the cut, including ReNewbold, The Granary and the University City Science Center.

Original source: Curbed Philly
Click here to check out the map.

A New York Times interactive feature takes a closer look at Old City

The New York Times took a deep dive into four square blocks of Old City, noting the rise of galleries, boutiques and condos, and the continued resilience of historic sites and wholesale businesses. Click through to check out the in-depth video and graphic elements of the interactive piece. 

Things took a turn for the better around 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, when interest flared up in Philadelphia’s federal past. "There was a sense of a reconnecting with the earliest history of the city," said Nathaniel Popkin, a local urbanist writer and the editor of the Web site Hidden City Philadelphia. Mr. Popkin believes that the term "Old City" was coined in those days. "It had an 'e' on the end of 'Old' originally," he said.

Today, Old City's narrow brick buildings house an assortment of design and fashion boutiques, along with some remaining wholesalers of textiles and heavy-duty kitchen equipment. Factories are now condominium complexes with names like the Castings to acknowledge their manufacturing heritage.


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

Fishtown's 'creative renaissance' draws ambitious travelers

The New York Times' travel section shines a light on the "creative renaissance" in Fishtown, with a focus on ever-evolving Frankford Avenue. They highlight five businesses, including Bottle Bar East, Adorn and The Parlour.

The southwest end of Frankford Avenue is becoming an artisanal avenue, with design shops, a small publishing press, restaurants and coffeehouses moving in to this former manufacturing district. Neighborhood pride is palpable; graceful metal sculptures line one stretch of sidewalk, and a wooden sign in a community garden reads "Welcome to Fishtown: Stop and smell the roses." First Fridays, the free open gallery nights along Frankford Avenue, are also drawing newcomers.

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