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For You Philly-philes

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Based on earlier recommendations, I took in Philly on the Fourth. Yes, I was impressed. Center City is as ideal a downtown as you can get -- small, walkable blocks and relatively narrow streets. Squares and plazas that people actually enjoy (JFK Plaza was a scene to behold, with the fountain, Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture, and the awesome vista of Benjamin Franklin Parkway). Sufficient sidewalk space. Districts with real personality differences. Mixed-use throughout, with first-floor retail and restaurants that are topnotch. Good public transportation.

What I found myself marveling at the most, though, was the juxtaposition of the old and the new. The Liberty Place towers cap the city nicely -- a nice update from former star City Hall. Philadelphia does adaptive re-use as well as any city I've seen. My favorite example is the Banana Republic store on Broad St. Housed in the former Manufacturer's and Banker's Club, it's columns make the building look really like a seat of government.

Once again, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was truly awe-inspiring. Makes me want to fight in the next heavyweight bout. :)

Seeing it all made me wonder: how did Philly avoid the destruction of Urban Renewal? Or if it didn't, how did it recover? How does it manage to turn back market forces that dictate larger blocks for larger buildings?
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
oulevin said:


Seeing it all made me wonder: how did Philly avoid the destruction of Urban Renewal? Or if it didn't, how did it recover? How does it manage to turn back market forces that dictate larger blocks for larger buildings?
Glad you enjoyed your visit, but I'm not too sure I understand what you're asking?
 

PlannerGirl

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
6,377
Points
29
Philly from what I understand untill about 1990 or so had some pretty tight development regs (hight and mass) My ex is from Philly and its development was a topic we chewed over many times.

The city did not seem to get much of the 80's crap and thus did not start to truly renew until the 90's. By then folks had understanding of history and preserving what was there.

Philly is IMHO the poster child of how to do it right. It will be intresting to see the city in 5, 10 and 15 years as the renewal seems to still be going on.


PG a big fan of Philly
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
As far as the height goes, up until Liberty 1 and 2 were proposed everything had to be lower than Billy Penn's hat (now hows that for a standard?

Not too sure I understand what you mean by the 80s crap? But if we didn't get it, it's because we are between DC and NYC and all the "80s crap" went there and bypassed us?

Philly isn't all the bed of roses that downtown portrays though, there are miles and miles of vacant warehouses, run down hoods, etc. Philly does a nice job of hiding it I guess though.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Philly did a good job of keeping its blocks small and buildings easy on the neck and eyes. Very Main Street-ish. Cleveland, on the other hand, sometimes looks as if the blocks are really just footprints for its massive structures. Urban Renewal hit Cleveland and OKC hard, and both are still recovering from its devastating effects.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
oulevin said:

Seeing it all made me wonder: how did Philly avoid the destruction of Urban Renewal? Or if it didn't, how did it recover? How does it manage to turn back market forces that dictate larger blocks for larger buildings?
First of all I guess it depends on your frame of reference. If you are coming from some place like St. Louis then i guess Philly seems really intact.

Philly does have great, intact neighborhoods in every part of the city and a lot of other 'hoods that could be put back together with minimal investment.

If you look around a lot of the smaller streets have been vacated to make way for parking garages and larger buildings.

A few Frank Furness bldgs. have been torn down recently around Rittenhouse Square to make way for larger condo buildings. The city breaks its own curb cut rules all the time for parking facilities on the tree streets (Vine-Pine.) A huge monster of a parking garage is going up between Chestnut and Sansom at 9th St. - it will take up the entire block.

That whole Ben Franklin Parkway was one big urban renewal scheme. It just happened to take place 50 years before it was cool. Market St. west of City Hall is no stranger to the wrecking ball. All those glass office bldgs. weren't built on greenfields. The Gallery Mall that sits above Market East Station is about as urban renewal as you can get.

along 10th St. between Spring Garden and Girard you'll find the most suburban HOPE VI project you're likely to find in any city.
Like Mike D. said - huge sections of this city have been leveled but mostly due to abandonment. Mayor Street's NTI program is more or less Urban Renewal without the grand vision. It's a kinder, gentler destruction.

You also don't have to get too far out of center city to find the strip malls and fast food drive-thru's either they just pop up a lot slower.

To get more at your question, though, i think that urban renewal never really took off here for the same reason that everything else takes so long to happen here. By the time the stars lined up for the demolition crews everybody had realized what a bad idea it was.

We've also always had a good rail system so there wasn't much need to tear down neighborhoods to make parking lots.

There was also a lot of opposition to freeway projects. South St. was supposed to be the other half of the Vine St. expressway and together they would make a downtown loop.

PennDOT had bought all of the properties east of Broad St. , tore down quite a few, and started renting the other properties short-term while the project made it's way through the courts. The folks west of Broad, and even those east of broad, especially along Lombard and Pine fought tooth and nail and could afford the high-priced lawyers. Needless to say, they won. And South St. is what it is today because of it.

So i guess as well, you could say that the upper-class was/is still living in the city and care somewhat about its urban form.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
i just re-read your question and well, the blocks are only as big as they are so developers don't really have much of a choice. I don't know if you went out to university city at all but you would have seen a lot more of what you are asking about.

The other thing is that housing in philly is almost 75% owner occupied. Apartment living isn't that big and it's only starting to gain a foothold in center city with the conversion of a lot of the old office buildings into condos. When developers look to build new housing it's mostly infill on existing lots. I don't like the sunken front doors and garages but aside from that the new stuff usually fits in pretty well.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,482
Points
44
I too was in Philly for the 4th. I had a great time just walking around. The thing that I loved the most was old city with the row homes, and the flower baskets hanging from the light posts, and the ballast block streets, and even the true cobble stone circle. I was disappointed that SEPTA told everyone that they where running on a Sunday schedule. Well… it was modified. We missed the fireworks because we thought we had to catch the train to Norristown at 11:25. But it did not leave till 12:10. OH what fun.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
my office sits right in the middle of Independence Park and going out for lunch reminded me that this is our great urban renewal project of that era. This neighborhood was largely gutted in the late 60's early 70's and replaced with the green oasis for tourists that exists now.

I'm not complaining because i enjoy all the trees and grass on my lunch breaks but most of the "historic" buildings are phonies. fakes. replicas. "interpretations". Carpenter's Hall, the First Bank - all the buildings on that block are reconstructions.

Independence Hall, the Second Bank, and the Philadelphia Exchange are the few buildings that are legit. There are a lot of really old buildings outside of the park area but most of them are private residences, churches, and in the case of the Philly Contributionship - office buildings.

Ed Bacon was wrangling with the park service back in the day over what Independence Mall should look like and 30 years later - he won. Building the Constitution Center, the new Visitors Center, and moving the Liberty Bell are all exactly as he said it should be.

http://www.nps.gov/inde/ppmaps/acf1b.pdf

our office are in the Bourse, which is only 110. From the pictures you can see that the bricks above the first three floors are a lighter color. The upper floors were added in the last 30 years.

http://www.ushistory.org/tour/tour_bourse.htm

http://www.jellesen.dk/webcrea/places/america/web/plm.html
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Yes, the creation of Independence Mall is an urban renewal project of sorts. Still, the massive commericial/health care/educational allowance characteristic of UR's latter years doesn't seem to have had as much an emptying effect as it did in other cities.

Interesting about the 'fakes'. I don't remember seeing any disclaimer of sorts on Carpenter Hall's marker that it is a duplication. Also, I enjoyed lunch at the Bourse and never would have guessed the upper floors were erected in the last 30 yrs. I was impressed by its interior modernization.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
I was thinking about this on the way home last night and:

demolition did happen on a massive scale in University City. There's not much between 30th&40th streets that pre-dates the 50's unless it was some historic building associated with UPenn.

It didn't happen on a grand scale in Center City (although i think the Independence Park project was a pretty big deal) because Ed Bacon didn't like the idea and because it wasn't necessary.
While urban renewal was claiming to remove blight I hold that it was to make room for cars. With a subway and rail network that spreads out in 20 different directions Philly has never had a problem getting people downtown.

oulevin said:
Seeing it all made me wonder: how did Philly avoid the destruction of Urban Renewal? Or if it didn't, how did it recover? How does it manage to turn back market forces that dictate larger blocks for larger buildings?
and that's just it . . . market forces don't dictate larger blocks for larger buildings. They are only possible with massive subsidies. Absent the 'heavy hand of government' the market is unable to bear the cost and they just don't happen.

So while Philly is no stranger to knocking down beautiful buildings I think you'll see a lot more rehabs/conversions than you will demolitions. Besides, history sells, so does brick and mortar. Balloon frames and particle board aren't cutting it.
 
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