About Philadelphia Apartments
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
From eTaiwan News
When leaders from the Group of 20 nations met in Pittsburgh on Thursday, they found a city that has resurrected itself.
From the roof of the city's convention center - one of the G-20 venues - the dignitaries look out on the Allegheny River and perhaps see kayakers on a waterway that used to be a dumping ground for industry. And if the visitors are able to walk the streets, they might hear jazz or Mozart - without a smoke-belching stack in sight.
Yes, even though the football team is called the Steelers, city officials want the world to know that steel is no longer Pittsburgh's raison d'etre. The city with a sooty past is now exporting its medical technology. In rivers where waste used to abound, bass tournaments are now held.
Even as the United States struggles to exit the recession, the city boasts it has 25,000 unfilled jobs.
"People hear 'Pittsburgh,' and they think an older town; they think a dirty town," says Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who proudly calls himself the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. "And, of course, that's not the case."
In a statement Sept. 8, President Obama explained why he wanted to hold the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. "As a city that has transformed itself from the city of steel to a center for high-tech innovation - including green technology, education and training, and research and development - Pittsburgh will provide both a beautiful backdrop and a powerful example for our work."
Obama knows the city well, having visited it often last year during Pennsylvania's Democratic primary, which he lost to then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. While campaigning in Pittsburgh, Obama got a tour of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, proudly touted by city officials for its LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The facility, which hosts G-20 meetings, uses natural light to illuminate much of the floor space. It can turn off the ventilation and let in outside air for about 50 days of the year.
Most of the building's components were built within 500 miles of Pittsburgh. Yet another green feature: a rooftop herb and vegetable garden, which is used by chefs preparing food for events in the facility.
"This building was intended to be an example and a catalyst for future green efforts in the region," writes Mary Conturo, executive director of the Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the center, in an e-mail.
On Thursday, the visiting dignitaries dined at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, an elegant greenhouse that melds glass artwork with exotic plant life.
It was built in 1893 by Henry Phipps, one of Andrew Carnegie's business partners. The facility is described by its executive director, Richard Piacentini, as "an excellent example of the old Victorian mind-set that there were no limits to the amount of resources we could use and the amount of pollution we could produce."
But today, this place is more about conservation with a drought-resistant lawn, natural heating and cooling, and the purchase of clean-energy offsets to account for all the power usage.
"We have tried to make the facility more sustainable within the historic nature of the building," Piacentini says.
Pittsburgh is developing an "emerging conscientiousness" on green issues, says architect Christine Brill, who works on urban design and landscape. For example, the city is starting to value open space, she says.
"The idea is to take back open industrial spaces and repurpose them - perhaps build greenways and trails so people can get around the city in a green kind of way," says Brill, a partner in Studio for Spatial Practice in Pittsburgh. "A lot of people have left the city. Greening might be a way to bring them back."
This is not to say Pittsburgh is the paragon of environmental correctness. According to a May report by the Brookings Institution in Washington, Pittsburgh ranked 34th among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in terms of its carbon footprint.
"While Pittsburgh is doing a lot of proactive things, is being creative with green-energy innovation and building a cleaner economy, you can't discount that their energy is coal-produced - and that elevates the carbon footprint of every household," says Mark Muro, a fellow for the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.
Gateway to the West
Pittsburgh has a history of reinventing itself. In the 18th century, the city became known as the "Gateway to the West" because vessels could proceed down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, says Andrew Hannah, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh.
"But the opening of the Erie Canal changed that, since goods from Europe no longer needed to go through Pittsburgh," he says.
Instead, in the early 1800s, Pittsburgh became an industrial center, thanks to Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. Industrial giants such as Alcoa and U.S. Steel flourished.
But in the 1980s, the U.S. steel and manufacturing industries crashed. Large Pittsburgh-based companies, such as Westinghouse, stumbled into bankruptcy. The city had been the third-largest hub in the U.S. for corporate headquarters, but after large employers such as Rockwell International moved out, it had fewer than 10 Fortune 500 headquarters.
In January 1983, unem-ployment in Pittsburgh was more than 18 percent, with some 212,400 people out of work.
"When the steel industry all but collapsed, we in this city had no choice but to reinvent ourselves," Mayor Ravenstahl says.
Now, Hannah is CEO of a company that's an example of the new Pittsburgh.
Plextronics makes an ink that can efficiently conduct electricity. The chemical can be used to make inexpensive solar panels or extremely thin light fixtures.
A CMU professor, Richard McCullough, devised the ink and teamed up with Hannah seven years ago.
Their company is in a research park that includes other companies spun off as a result of other professors' discoveries. "The universities today are driving industry," Hannah says.
This is not to say the "old Pittsburgh" has just gone away. One steel mill is still within the city limits.
And 100,000 manufacturing jobs are still in the region, points out Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference, which encourages economic development.
But Yablonsky sees the G-20 meetings as an opportunity to showcase the city's progress and maybe entice more businesses. "We hope to attract corporate executives and say to them, 'Look at Pittsburgh,'" he says.
While Pittsburgh may show that cities can recover, Yablonsky says, it can't be done overnight. "In Pittsburgh's case," he says, "it's a 30-year transformation story."
Sunday, June 14, 2009
CHESTER — The new chairman and executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board gave their nearly three-year-old industry a clean bill of health during an interview Friday at Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack.
The state’s ninth casino will open in Pittsburgh in August and the first casino in Philadelphia is expected to finally arrive in spring 2010, according to PGCB Chairman Gregory C. Fajt, 54, of Pittsburgh.
Fajt, along with PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole and board Commissioner Gary Sojka, were given a tour of Chester’s casino by Harrah’s General Manager Vince Donlevie Friday morning.
Fajt, a 54-year-old from Pittsburgh, served as Gov. Ed Rendell’s chief of staff for two years before taking control of the state’s gaming board. Fajt said that even in its infancy, the state’s casino industry has greatly benefited Pennsylvanians.
“The gaming industry overall has generated $1.5 billion over the last two years in property taxes,” Fajt said. “It’s generated 8,000 living-wage jobs for Pennsylvanians.
“It’s created another 7,200 jobs in construction for the eight casinos that are up and running right now,” he said. “It’s given millions and millions of dollars to the host communities that have the casinos within their boundaries.”
Regarding the latter, he cited the 200-300 employees at the Chester facility who are city residents and others from surrounding areas.
Fajt said the industry has been a tremendous boon to the horse-racing industry. With the increased purses coming from slot machine revenue, people have come to the state to both breed and race their horses here because the purses are higher, he said.
“So we think that gaming when properly regulated — and we have set that regulatory bar very high in Pennsylvania — we think it’s a win-win-win for our citizens.”
Gov. Rendell signed the bill legalizing casinos in July 2004. The state’s first casino at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Luzerne County opened Nov. 14, 2006, with harness racing.
Harrah’s Chester Casino has raked in a ton of cash since it opened in January 2007, although in recent months there have been declines in revenue.
For the fourth month in a row, the gross terminal revenue of the waterfront racetrack/casino on the former site of a shipyard is down. In May of this year, it declined 6 percent compared to May 2008, but so did that of two other casinos: Mount Airy Resort & Casino, which saw a 9.7 percent decrease, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino, where revenue was off 4.5 percent.
Revenue at Harrah’s Chester was down 2.47 percent in April compared to the same month last year. In March, Harrah’s took in 7.36 percent less revenue. In February, revenue dropped 1.89 percent.
Even so, slot machines in the state generated $178.4 million in May — a nearly 18 percent increase over revenue generated by gaming in May 2008.
The casino ranked third in gross terminal revenue this fiscal year to date among the eight current casinos with $301.4 million. Philadelphia Park in Bucks County had the most revenue with $335.5 million and The Meadows outside Pittsburgh finished second with $245 million.
The total gross terminal revenue for all casinos for the fiscal year to date is $1.6 billion, according to the latest PGCB figures through June 8.
In wagers received for the fiscal year to date, Philadelphia Park again topped the list with $4.7 billion, followed by Harrah’s Chester, $3.7 billion, and The Meadows, $2.9 billion.
The PGCB chairman said the casinos, like many other segments of the economy, haven’t escaped the effects of the recession.
“As with all businesses, the gaming business is not recession-proof,” Fajt said. “Gaming is entertainment for people and just as restaurant, cars, movie theaters feel the pinch when there’s a recession, so does the gaming industry.”
But the overall picture for Pennsylvania gaming is “a great picture” and revenues are up, he said.
“It’s happening the way we thought it would happen,” Fajt said. “We are taking money away from border states. People aren’t going to Atlantic City — they’re staying in Pennsylvania. They’re not going to New York, they’re staying in (Pennsylvania). They’re not going to West Virginia, they’re staying in western Pennsylvania.
“The governor when he was pitching this bill said there’s no reason for Pennsylvanians to fund education in New Jersey, or roads and bridges in West Virginia,” Fajt said.
“Let’s keep that money home; let’s use the money for property-tax relief — and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he said.
As the economy tightens, people don’t want to travel as far, instead of traveling to Atlantic City, he said.
With the opening last month of the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Northampton County, and the proposed opening of the Sugar House and Foxwoods casinos in Philadelphia, there would be five casinos in the four-county region. When asked whether this would siphon customers away from Chester or vice-versa at the other locations, Fajt said the market will dictate whether there’s too many casinos in this area.
In these tight credit times, there are people out there lending money to these casinos, Fajt pointed out.
“And they are a lot smarter than you and I on the financial side of things,” he said. “They would not be lending money to build casinos if they didn’t think that there was a longtime prospect for casinos — especially in these tight times when credit is tough to come by.
“So the fact that the credit markets are saying they think that long-term gaming has a future in Pennsylvania, I think bodes well for the state,” Fajt said.
There is the possibility of the addition of table games at casinos in the future, he said.
House Majority Whip Bill DeWeese, D-50, of Greene County, is once again drafting legislation that would allow table games in Pennsylvania casinos. A spokesman for Rendell said the governor currently believes it is too soon to expand gaming beyond the slot machines.
However, Rendell has favored legalizing video poker machines in bars and clubs to fund tuition relief for students at state universities and colleges.
Fajt said there are “serious discussions” in Harrisburg on whether to add table games to Pennsylvania’s casinos.
“I think we’ll know the answer to that, whether that passes or not, before the Legislature breaks for the summer,” he said.
They are in budget negotiations now with a June 30 deadline, which usually extends beyond that, he said.
The Senate wants to pass a reform bill for the state gaming act, but the House on the other hand is pushing table games, said Fajt.
“I think it’s a 50-50 prospect right now,” he said.
The PGCB is “very happy” with where the Harrah’s facility is right now, in view of nearby competition such as Delaware Park, Fajt said.
“They are exceeding the numbers that they based their projections on,” he said. “They are exceeding the numbers that we based their projections on.
“So we think they are doing a great job here and it’s a first-class facility,” Fajt said.
Fajt, who was appointed to a three-year term that expires July 2011, earns a salary of $150,000 a year. Kevin O’Toole, of Harrisburg, oversees an agency of 275 employees and earns $180,000.
The news comes, coincidentally, as the city of Philadelphia's 3,000th mural was being dedicated on Sunday at 2pm in West Philadelphia - a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen.
KYW's Karin Phillips reports the wall-sized mural is on 39th Street facing south toward Chestnut and, in a series of blues, greens, and browns, shows the African-American airmen performing their many tasks. A lot of it is three dimensional. Sixteen-year-old Melanie Johnson of the Girard Academic Music Program (right) especially liked working on that part of the project:
"It's like a plane coming out toward you and the propellers, we worked on that. And on the propellers (it) has different symbols that we think that they fought for. Like on the one that I worked on, there were chains and a lock and war tags and things."
Students from the Philadelphia School District, working with a muralist, researched the project and interviewed local Tuskegee Airmen, who's images are also displayed inside the Rotunda at 40th and Walnut Streets.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, will host a standup comedy contest June 16 in the center’s Commonwealth Plaza to celebrate Jerry Seinfeld’s performances which are scheduled for June 19 and 20 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
Contestants may sign up at 5:15 p.m., and the contest will be held from 6 to 7:15 p.m. The first 75 people to sign up will take the stage to perform one minute of their favorite Seinfeld bit for the chance to win a prize.
Participants will be judged on dress, delivery, comedic timing and choice of material.
Contest will also award prizes for winners of: Seinfeld trivia and best character lookalike.
Prizes include: First, four tickets to see Seinfeld at the Academy of Music and a $200 gift card for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse; second, four tickets and a $50 gift card to Helium Comedy Club; third, intern at Kramerica Industries; and fourth two tickets to “Spring Awakening” at the Academy of Music June 23.
For contest information, visit http://www.kimmelcenter.org/mail/yadayada.html.For tickets to Seinfeld’s performances, call (215) 893-1999 or visit
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
GREENE TOWNSHIP -- Federal economic stimulus money could add nearly $5 million to a list of projects already under way at Letterkenny Army Depot.
Prior to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, five construction projects worth more than $40 million were moving along at Letterkenny -- everything from a missile electronics shop to a child care center.
The arrival of stimulus checks would fund six additional projects -- more office space at the vehicle shop, improvements to a missile shop, better handling of hazardous waste, three houses, improvements to two existing homes and an industrial wastewater line.
"We've had projects before, but never this many at one time," said Glenn Trego, deputy director of Letterkenny public works. "It hasn't been this busy since I've been here. I started here in 1981."
Most of the projects are to be under way this year, all within two years.
Rodney Gettig, director of Letterkenny's public works, is not worried about finding enough contractors.
"That won't be a problem," Gettig said. "We have several contractors that work for us."
The stimulus funding has moved quickly, he said. Just a couple of days after the bill was signed, Letterkenny was asked to submit projects within a day. Gettig drew from a list of priority projects ready to go.
Less than three weeks later, U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, and Robert Casey, D-Scranton, announced some of the projects for Letterkenny.
Their list did not include three projects on the list that Gettig submitted.
The Army tells him stimulus money will be coming to pay for all of them:
- $749,000 to add a second floor to the main administrative space at Building 350. The construction should move offices out of the production area.
- $749,000 to alter a missile maintenance shop.
- $200,000 to repair the bathrooms and install new furnaces at the commander's home and the sergeant major's home.
Specter and Casey announced $3 million for three stimulus projects:
- $1 million to build three houses for military personnel.
- $1.25 million for sewer line from the generator shop (Building 37) to the industrial wastewater treatment plant at the other end of the industrial area. The contract is to be awarded in August. Letterkenny stopped using the existing 37-year-old pipe when it was found to be leaking, according to Letterkenny Deputy Commander John Gray. When parts currently are steam-cleaned, the water drains to a 20,000-gallon vat. The vat is pumped into a truck that hauls the water to the treatment plant.
- $749,000 to expand and enclose a hazardous waste staging area. The construction would free up space in Building 350 where hazardous materials are stored temporarily, Gettig said. The hazardous waste includes paint chips, old solvents, solvent-coated rags and leftover paint.
"I don't have any of (the stimulus money) yet," Gettig said. "All I know is what I asked for."
Here are depot projects already in the works and funded through sources other than the economic stimulus package:
- Lobar Construction, Dillsburg, won the $11.4 million contract in February to construct an Army Reserve Center. Site work has started on the project costing a total of $15 million. Completion: June 2010.
- A design contract was awarded in February to put wider doorways on ammunition igloos. The construction contract for the $7.5 million is to be awarded in September. Completion: October 2010.
- A $10.5 million theater readiness facility is under construction. Patriot missile electronics will be tested there in October. More than 100 people are to work there in September 2011. The mission transferred to Letterkenny as a result of base realignment in 2005.
- A $4.9 million Child Development Center has funding approval from the Army and Congress. The center on Georgia Avenue could care for 144 children of depot employees.
- Improvements to the industrial wastewater plant costing $2.75 million would bring the depot into compliance with environmental regulations. The design/build contract was awarded in September, Gray said. The contractor is testing biological treatments before starting construction in late spring. In November 2006 Letterkenny's industrial discharge water violated accepted levels for suspended solids and oxygen depletion. Within two months, Letterkenny and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had developed a plan to correct the problem.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Cherry Hill Mall, the oldest enclosed shopping center east of the Mississippi, is poised to show off a glamorous $218 million makeover.
The 48-year-old mall has undergone a cosmetic face- lift, as in marble corridors, wood-wrapped columns and leather seating groups, as well as voluptuous enhancements, as in a wildly anticipated Nordstrom and a bistro row of restaurants.
"We think the work we've done at Cherry Hill will make it a trophy property," said Joseph Coradino, president of services for Pennsylvania
In a challenging retail climate, the project is the most expensive and expansive mall redevelopment PREIT has taken on. Coradino said the upgrade was necessary in order to maintain Cherry Hill's status as South Jersey's marquee mall.
"The pieces of the mall were solid but time had passed it by," he said. "It was dreary, run-down and utilitarian."
Nathan Isbee, an analyst who covers PREIT for Baltimore-based Stifel Nicolaus, said Cherry Hill has built a powerful customer base over decades.
"Even before the redevelopment, it was the best mall in PREIT's portfolio," he said. "Most of the dominant malls in any market are older malls that have evolved."
The key component of Cherry Hill's transformation is the opening of a 138,000-square-foot Nordstrom on Friday. Nordstrom will anchor the two-level, 144,000-square-foot Grand Court with a soaring atrium, skylights and an opulent mosaic floor in a cherry blossom motif.
Retailers will include a 12,000-square-foot Urban Outfitters, to debut in July, as well as J. Crew, expected to launch in April. Coach, the Gap, Steve Madden, American Eagle and Johnston & Murphy will expand their existing stores and relocate to the wing.
There are a few nips and tucks, as well. The food court, relocated to the JCPenney wing, is leaner, down to 10 planned eateries from 13.To enhance customer service, mall managers have cross-trained security personnel to double as ambassadors of goodwill, Coradino said, "giving directions, helping customers carry packages to their cars."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
As the fight over Philadelphia’s casinos drags on, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is warning that he would have to “weigh heavily” any legislation that would cut off Philadelphia’s share of tax relief funded by slots revenue.
Rendell prefaced his remarks on Monday by saying that he took a vow after leaving office as mayor of Philadelphia not to comment -– either negatively or even too positively -– about goings-on in the city.
But he admits he’s disappointed at Philadelphia’s two casino projects’ failure to launch:
“And if the legislature came to me with legislation saying, ‘Philadelphia’s not cooperating, they’re not participating, they’re dragging their feet, and we’ve all done our bit -– the counties and municipalities are all up and running –- why should Philadelphia get any of the tax relief?’ I would have to weigh that heavily.”
The governor says he would not simply veto such legislation just because of his ties to Philadelphia, although he adds he’s hopeful that there will be action soon to break the logjam over the city’s slots venues.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Wondering where to invest your money in a shaky economy? The answer could be as close as your kitchen.
Remodeling the kitchen means more than new cabinets - it can enhance the value of your home. But like most investments, there are tips to follow and traps to avoid. The key to a successful kitchen remodel, experts say, is planning. An effective way to improve the value of your home is to invest in Hamilton Beach Appliances. Hamilton Beach is a trusted name in kitchen appliances and they are always developing new and improved Hamilton Beach Kitchen Appliances.
"I can't emphasize enough on the planning of the kitchen project. The better the planning of the project, the less issues and delays you will run into during construction," says Johnny Chao, a certified kitchen designer in Tustin, Calif.
The first step is to hire an interior designer or certified kitchen designer - without them, mistakes can be costly.
"I've seen million-dollar homes where you can't open the refrigerator door all the way because it bumps into the kitchen island," says Louise Farrar-Wegener, principal owner of Tigard, Ore.-based Z-3 Design Studio. "Or the dishwasher is not placed correctly, so you can't stand comfortably and load and unload it."
Not only can an interior designer help you avoid such pitfalls, they can also help you plan your budget. If you live in a Charlotte Condo, then you should also consider upgrading your kitchen.
"People need to be careful to not over-invest in a kitchen or they will never recoup the investment," Chao says. "The average amount to spend in a kitchen remodel is between 12 percent to 18 percent of the value of the house. If you spend more than 18 percent of the value of the house, your investment return begins to diminish. If you go below 12 percent, you will begin to lose value of the kitchen due to inferior workmanship or product." In order to combat this, invest in Kitchen Design and for the bathroom, Bathroom Design. Aslo make sure your bathroom is a safe bathroom with Bath Safety Products.
When considering a contractor, seek recommendations from friends or designers. Contact the contractor's clients and ask how well they liked the contractor's work.
Another planning tip: Check out magazines and Web sites for appealing kitchen designs, then hop in the car.
"To really feel the quality of the product, visit a showroom and physically touch the product," Chao suggests. Improving the value of your home can be as easy as investing in Organic Lawn Care of Natural Lawn Care.
When it comes to cabinets, Farrar-Wegener says, "the long-lasting trend is wood cabinetry, specifically maple and cherry woods, but we are seeing birch and beach becoming popular. The big thing with cabinetry is to get the best you can afford. And be sure the style is appropriate with the architecture of the house. If you've got a limited budget, there's some very nice laminate cabinetry coming on the market now, such as Wood Mode and Canyon Creek."
"When looking for cabinetry that has a strong resale value, make sure you select a 'neutral' wood and color," Chao suggests. "Maple, alder and cherry are popular wood species. Neutral-tone finishes are safe, like linen to dark mocha. People need to be able to imagine themselves using the kitchen. Special colors and finishes may not work with most people."
And as kitchen appliances go, Farrar-Wegener says, bigger is not necessarily better.
"Do you really need a six-burner stove?" Farrar-Wegener asks. "Unless you're cooking for 14 people or [you're] a budding cookbook author, most people don't need those kind of things."
Farrar-Wegener suggests Energy Star appliances, as well as induction cooktops for your stove, which are more efficient than electricity or gas.
"Another thing people might want to consider is having a water filtration system installed at the sink rather than having water delivered," she says. "It's less costly and much friendlier to the planet in the long run."
"I strongly encourage clients to test the new appliance that they are interested in," Chao says. "Almost all 'pro' style appliance dealers will offer free demonstration or classes. The other good source is Consumer Reports. Good, quality appliances will always be on the top of the list and it's a good indication of the longevity of the machine."
For countertops, Chao suggests the homeowner ask him/herself what is more important: maintenance or look? Granite benefits from the beauty of natural stone, as well as being resistant to scratches, heat and impacts. The drawback is care and maintenance, as all stone products need to be sealed.
Quartz countertops, on the other hand, do not have to be sealed and some combinations, like Silestone and Caesarstone, are just as resilient as granite, but without granite's natural look. Recycled glass countertops are also becoming more popular, Farrar-Wegener says.
Keep in mind, Chao says, that "trends come and go, and it's best not to design the kitchen following a trend if you are planning to sell the house later."
Perhaps the best reason to go ahead with a kitchen remodel, if you have the funds, is that it can be more costly to wait.
"Prices of materials and appliances are going to go up, not down," Farrar-Wegener says. "Suppliers have a lot of inventory they are trying to move, so there's a lot of deals to be had, especially with appliances. The real estate market is going to turn around. It is going to come back. Why not put that money in your home, where you know you are going to get it back? Who knows what the stock market is going to continue to do?"