Philly’s exploding in front of us, and 2014 brought a variety of news in development and projects that make us excited to see how the city moves forward. Between the redevelopment of some of our favorite city staples to news that Comcast’s new tower will be the city’s highest yet, there’s been plenty of news to go around.
Market East redevelopment kicks off
Could the Market East area become Philadelphia’s Times Square? OK probably not, but it’s heading that way. Market East is in the process of being transformed into East Market (lol) as developers are adding mixed-used space, high-end stores and videos boards to change the afterthought area into a priority. Demolition to kick of the $500 million project began earlier this month, and you can expect the areas around East Market, Market, Ludlow and Chestnut between 11th and 12th Streets to be a lot taller and more vibrant.
Comcast Tower II will be v. tall
Earlier this month, concrete started to be poured to build the massive foundation for the new Comcast Innovation and Technology Center being built in Center City. The 59-story skyscraper at 18th and Arch streets will surpass Comcast Tower Sr. in height and is expected to become the tallest building the city. King of Prussia-based B. Pietrini & Sons is handling the development of the massive project, which is expected to have a huge spire coming out the top, AKA a giant middle finger to West Philly. OH, AND THERE’S GONNA BE A SLIDE.
Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk lets you walk on water
Philadelphians can now walk on water, as a 2,000-foot long segment of the Schuylkill Banks Trail (dubbed the boardwalk) opened in September, allowing users to experience a 15-foot-wide “linear” park. The project was simple: It was an $18 million meandering walkway created without the use of an architect and was managed by the Schuylkill River Development Corp. And Inga Saffron says it’s as cool as New York’s High Line. So that’s good enough for us.
#SaveLittlePete’s is a thing, but getting rid of the diner might not be
First Little Pete’s was a Center City institution, then everyone thought it was shutting down and cried about it, and now… it might not be? The breakfast staple has sat at the corner of 17th and Chancellor for 34 years, and news broke in October that it was going to be razed to make way for a new hotel. A social media campaign to #SaveLittlePete’s exploded. But the diner’s been saved… for now. The plan to build the 12-story hotel was put on hold after Councilman Kenyatta Johnson pulled back a rezoning bill for the property. The bill won’t be heard again until early next year, likely in January or February.
LOVE Park developers want your ideas
The city is ready to renovate one of its most recognizable public spaces — LOVE Park is getting a makeover. According to PlanPhilly, the park’s redevelopment includes more green space, concessions, a “diagonal” flow of foot traffic, fewer steps and new water features. PennPraxis partnered with the Philadelphia Dept. of Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy to gather ideas and feedback from community members on what LOVE Park can become. Some of the best ideas? Food trucks and a playground.
New casino coming to South Philly
There will be a second casino in Philadelphia, and it’ll be within spitting distance of the stadiums. The decision came down after a brief meeting in November at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The winner of the city’s second casino license went to Cordish Company’s Live! Casino and Hotel Project, but it’s safe to say SugarHouse, the gambling spot based in Fishtown is pissed. Along with a bunch of people who live in the area and are sick of drunk partiers hanging out all the time. The addition of a second casino in the city fuels fears that the southeastern part of the state is already saturated with more gambling options than people need (read: Atlantic City is falling apart.) The estimated cost of the new project? A cool $400 million.
The new Dilworth Park opens
Billy Penn is now looking down upon greener spaces — the old, gray Dilworth Plaza re-opened in September as Dilworth Park, a greener and friendlier iteration of the Center City space. You’ve seen the Rothman Ice Rink take over the area around City Hall through the winter. But there are other reasons to be totally stoked for the park: Think 120,000 square feet of public space, an 11,000 square foot fountain and a super-cool public art installation.
Spruce St. Harbor Park and all of the pop-ups
If you were at the Pop Up Beer Garden on South Street, Spruce Street Harbor Park or Independence Hall Beer Garden over the summer, you were part of the city’s newest outdoor-drinking pop-up craze. Each of the spaces was designed by the Groundswell Design Team and David Fierabrand, who told Billy Penn recently that the success of Morgan’s Pier in 2012 got his group thinking about creative ways to use outdoor spaces. According to Fierabrand, Spruce Street Harbor Park was a space that was virtually inactive, and saw about 100 people a week. After being developed, the park saw 30,000 people this summer.
Divine Lorraine construction *still* hasn’t started
The redevelopment of the 120-year-old Divine Lorraine Hotel was supposed to start this fall. It didn’t. That’s because it isn’t just about revitalizing a 10-story, dilapidated building. Developers, investors and the city hope renovating the hotel will be a catalyst for reviving the rest of the North Broad Street Corridor, especially above Ridge Avenue toward Girard. Billy Penn found the answer to what’s holding up the much-anticipated project — it’s simple, really. Money and permissions.
School district sells a bunch of buildings
The School Reform Commission voted in September to sell 11 school buildings that were shuttered as the Philadelphia School District faced financial crisis. The schools that were to be sold, including Germantown High School, would net only about $2 million for the district. But those sales come into addition to the $11 million brought in after it sold the large William Penn High School to Temple University. Community groups in North Philadelphia pushed back against the sale, saying there’s a lack of high schools in the area to serve students. But the Supreme Court over the summer struck down their challenge and ruled that the district may move forward with the sale.
Developer runs for Council
Millennials across the city have been looking for a council candidate they can hang their hats on, and Ori Feibush claims to be that candidate. Running on a millennial-centric platform, Feibush, a prominent Point Breeze developer, is running for the city’s 2nd district seat on Council, which is currently occupied by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. Since 2008, Feibush has invested in and helped revitalize more than 200 properties in the blighted Point Breeze neighborhood in South Philly. But his presence there is controversial — longtime residents worry about gentrification and being priced out of their own homes. Oh, and there was that one time Philly Mag ran a story titled, “Philadelphia is Ori Feibush’s World, We Just Live In It.” Development, meet politics.