Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tale of Two Waterfronts

The South Street Bridge is about to fall down. Scratch that. It is perfectly safe. In a quote destined to be a classic, PennDOT traffic expert, Rina Cutler, told the Daily News that the bridge is "safe" but remains "a serious public-safety issue." And that's the reason, says Council President Anna Verna, why the city can't spend any more time thinking about the bridge's design, which will give Philadelphia a wider span where cars can drive more quickly to I-76's most notorious entrance ramps. With Verna's encouragement, City Council yesterday moved the project one step closer to a 2008 start date.

For the past few years, Philadelphia's Schuylkill River has been the source of most of the progressive ideas about waterfront development. But since PennPraxis began its Delaware River study, the best ideas have been bubbling on the other side of town. Today five teams of architects and planners begin a three-day brainstorming session at the Independence Seaport Museum. The kick-off presentation for the charette starts at 6 p.m. After that the designers will lock themselves into work rooms and start drawing up plans. The public is welcome to eavesdrop on the work sessions. But if you just want to cut to the chase, then show up for the final presentation on Saturday, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Seaport Museum.

This last item has nothing to do with architecture, planning or design. But it is one of my favorite newspaper corrections of all time, so I thought I'd share it. It appeared in yesterday's Daily News . Here goes:

"A story in yesterday's paper about several mayoral candidates' visit to Central High School misstated their cheese-steak preferences. Chaka Fattah, Tom Knox and Michael Nutter all favor Pat's; Al Taubenberger and Bob Brady prefer Geno's."

Yes, but if elected, what guarantees does the public have that they'll stick with their stated favorites!


Blogger Bob said...

but the ironic thing is that even though it's on the fast track, it's following in true Philadelphia Fashion by being YEARS late. Once again, we are subjected to bad design because of poor planning. it will probably be even LATER then 2008...

2:12 PM  
Anonymous derbystinks said...

Inga - Has anyone asked H2L2 ARCHITECTS to defend their proposal ? Why is verna in such a rush to pass this obviously flawed plan? Are residents planning a meeting anytime soon ?

9:08 PM  
Anonymous VINCE DEAN said...


8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is in regard to today's column on the new CONVENTION CENTER......I got physically nauseous reading about the brutalistic impact of the new center. It defies all logic to think that a government intentially will desicrate a downtown urban neighborhood for the sake of conventioneers. Erasing historic streets, destroying historic buildings, putting blank walls, reducing walkability, etc. It's like a classic 'here's how to ruin a neighborhood'. Have they learned nothing from the awful, ruinous blunders of so-called 'urban renewal' efforts of the 50's and 60's, the likes of which have been undone at great expense here and there by cities everywhere in attempts to undo the damage? I guess not. And to add insult to injury, to think that this lamebrained project is financed in part by the casinos. The casinos are basically Philadelphia prostituting itself for cash because the economy is too anemic to provide money. Add to that a city government whose basic thought process must be 'well, what's the easiest way to generate some cash..we certainly don't want to put effort into creating and keeping good jobs, that's for every other city in the country to do, we'll just put up some crappy casino's on waterfront land and let the locals sink their money into slots, yeah, that'll do it'.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I'm sure they'll come up with a perfectly wonderful plan that account for usage, traffic flow and reconnect the river to the city in a meaningful way. I'm sure it can be done.

I'm also pretty sure the plans will be dropped off at City Hall and promptly ignored because one influential group or another won't get their "cut" from it.

Meanwhile, I've taken the Seaport Museum's yacht and I'm not giving it back until someone can explain to me how a river town can be a seaport. Yes, I know the Delaware meets the ocean, but all rivers do eventually. That would make Pittsburgh a seaport.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

From Inga's convention center article:

"The project will erase one major street (Cherry)

"Major Street"? Cherry Street between 13th and Broad is literally an alley.

"and leave two others (12th and 13th) as murky tunnels."

12th Street is already a tunnel. However, it isn't murky, just one of Inga's Ingisms.

"Race Street, a charter member of William Penn's original grid, has been rendered unwalkable between 11th and 13th Streets by the gaping openings of the center's loading docks and the roar of its ventilation fans."

An outright lie or an Ingism, take your pick. My wife and I have walked Race Street between 11th and 13th streets many times. I even parked my car at the metered parking area between 11th and 12th streets. Race Street on either side of the sidewalk is absolutely easily traveled by foot.

"Despite the center's orientation toward Market Street and the Gallery, the blight there won't quit."

I don't know what "blight" she is referring to, between and Gallery and Market Streets I see a lot of retail businesses and crowds of people everyday. It may not be the type of retail and people Inga prefers being around, but these businesses were there long before the convention center. They are not just going to disappear because Inga says so.

"A half-dozen important historic buildings will be vaporized to make room for the center."

These buildings are so "important" that they have been vacant or near vacant for years. But as I mentioned before, Inga and Ingbots have a love affair with old, vacant, rotting buildings.

"Will this be the creature that eats Center City?"

Will this be the Ingism that eats all Ingisms?

In the middle of her piece, Inga gives her opinion of the proposed new design. Here's a hint, "She hates it!" Surprise, surprise, surprise. But she provides no images to allow us to decide. But she also seems to love the desolate streetscape north of Broad. In fact, to boost her argument, she actually has the gonads to use the Kimmel Center. To wit:

"Big institutions tend to formulate their designs to satisfy their internal imperatives, regardless of how they infringe on the public realm. Philadelphia saw that scenario at the Kimmel Center, where blank walls make the concert hall appear as shuttered as a bank vault after hours.
Yet the Kimmel suffers from its isolationism. Had its facade been more inviting, it might have won the public's heart and become a true gathering place, with obvious benefits for its balance sheet.
Philadelphia's previous great hope for Broad Street was dashed before by a flawed design. It can happen again."

I almost fell off my chair laughing. For all of its designs flaws (and really there's just a few) the Kimmel Center is an absolute boon to the revival of South Broad Street. It is lovely inside and out and contributes greatly to the fabric of pedestrian traffic just about every evening on South Broad Street. A gem.

Compare South Board to North Broad and answer honestly: Where would you rather be?

Inga argues, with a straight face, that she would rather be around streetscape dotted by a few institutions flanked by vacant buildings, isolation and loneliness.

Go figure?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Im getting so tired of reading all the comments people leave to Inga's blogs that I am nearly about to stop reading her blog all together.

Seriously, get over it. She is allowed to write however she sees fit. Frankly, she makes valid points, whether you agree or not. It is important to think about how a 500ft long facade will effect Broad street, it is important to ask how the convention center will effect its immediate neighborhood. Im not one of the save every old building you can people, progress is every bit as important as history, but at the same time demolishing history just because its in a convenient place for a convention center is irresponsible.

And FANTE...

Just because you can physically walk down the street doesn't mean the street is walkable.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if all of you people you want to live in a city where there's no such thing as historic preservation and where developers have free reign why don't you move to dallas or atlanta? please.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

fante I agree with you 100%. You were dead on with everything. Oh and Anonymous who told us to move to atlanta, if you want to live in a place where nothing ever changes, there are no developers, and everything is preserved please do us all a favor and move far far away to some farm or some tiny town of 50 people.

1:01 AM  

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