About Philadelphia Apartments

Welcome to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania blog. This blog contains a wealth of information about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Apartment living, and housing opportunities in our great city and other metro areas of the U.S.. Learn about efforts at restoring architectural relics of the past - former factories, warehouses, schools, hotels, hospitals, train stations - into first-class houses and apartments, and in preserving these distinguished residential communities for future generations. Please enjoy your stay on our Philadelphia apartments blog and feel free to share your stories on life in Philly and the city of brotherly love. In addition, we welcome all commentaries regarding building remodeling, home remodeling, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and house hunting. Thank You!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Federal Funding Flow to Philadelphia Schools

Philadelphia Inquirer

The School District of Philadelphia was celebrating a windfall in federal funding this week.

The Department of Labor announced Wednesday that it had awarded the district $25 million to reduce violence and improve educational outcomes at four neighborhood high schools on the state's list of "persistently dangerous" schools, based on the number of violent incidents and assaults reported over several years.

And U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey announced that the Treasury Department and Department of Education had awarded the district $145.4 million in construction bonds that will help it obtain low-cost financing to upgrade and repair facilities.

"The Philadelphia School District has 320 buildings, and the average age is 63 years," said Michael J. Masch, the district's chief business officer. "We have a backlog of deferred maintenance of several billion dollars, and anything our partners can do to lower the cost of borrowing to make the repairs is welcome."

The Labor Department grants are going to Fels, Olney West, Frankford, and Edison High Schools. Each will receive $6.27 million for a range of projects including adult volunteer mentors, anti-bullying efforts, peer mediation, and alternative learning strategies.

The schools will work with the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

"While 'persistently dangerous' is not, on its face, a positive distinction, it merits significant funding for these four high schools so that they get the resources they need to bend the curve on high dropout rates and low academic achievement," Specter said.

The district also submitted applications for three other eligible high schools - South Philadelphia, Martin Luther King, and Strawberry Mansion - but the Labor Department did not select them, said Courtney Collins-Shapiro, the district administrator who oversaw the applications.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to designate schools that are "persistently dangerous" and to allow parents to transfer their children to other schools. All 25 schools on Pennsylvania's list are in Philadelphia.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Range Resources Poised for Pennsylvania Expansion

Pittsburgh Business Times

Local commercial real estate sources say they believe Texas-based Range Resources Inc., one of the first companies to enter the region to explore the Marcellus Shale for natural gas, is preparing for a gusher of an office expansion here.

The company, which leases about 100,000 square feet of office space in the Southpointe business park in Canonsburg, has asked several real estate companies for proposals on building a new regional headquarters of between 150,000 to 200,0000 square feet, according to Charlie Case, a principal of Scalo Case Development Inc., which manages one of the buildings Range occupies.

Case said Range requested a proposal for a new building from him and others a few months ago but that he has yet to receive a response. The company originally asked for a proposal for a 150,000-square-foot building and later increased it to 200,000 square feet, Case said. Case, who negotiated the leases with Range for one of its offices, said the leases are for two-to-four-year terms, suggesting the company will need to make a decision soon.

“I’d imagine they’d have to make a decision in the next year,” Case said, estimating it could take two years for such a project to be get permitted, designed and built. “How much space they need long-term is also up in the air.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stone Ridge Country Inn in Bucks County, Pa.

The Washington Post

New Mexico artist Ann Templeton stepped softly across the spotless concrete floor, careful not to break the concentration of the eight painters in the art studio. We were painting landscapes from photographs clipped to mahogany floor easels. Apart from the ping of raindrops hitting the window -- the reason we were working indoors that morning -- the only noise I could hear in the Bucks County Pennsylvania, studio was the scratching of paintbrush bristles on canvas.

Until Jackie Walker arrived.

The owner of the Stone Ridge Farm Country Inn burst through the studio door like a lit bottle rocket. "All right, everybody," she said in her booming, sandpapery voice. "Coffee break."

I paused. Did I, a city dweller living near an always-busy firehouse and late-night bars, really want to drift away from the rare silence I'd found inside the art studio on Walker's farm? Then I remembered from the day before what was waiting in the kitchen of the 19th-century dairy-barn-turned-inn just across the gravel driveway: Oversize, moist muffins, just plucked from the oven and exploding with fat blueberries. Ramekins of creamy butter. Hefty mugs of perfectly brewed coffee.

Easy decision: The creative process could wait.

Once the dairy barn of Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, the inn sits within walking distance of the historic estate, outside the town of Perkasie, where Buck penned many of her 1,000 writings. Creative inspiration is ingrained in these surroundings -- one reason Walker decided to turn an old machinery garage into an art studio and offer workshops seven months out of a year.

"The scenery around here really inspires you," said Walker, a Chicago transplant and accomplished oil painter who shows her work at area galleries. "The stone farmhouses, the barns, the Delaware River. I think if I were still living in Illinois, I wouldn't be so inspired."

Walker purchased the 1818 farm a quarter-century ago. After renting out the double-story barn for years, she and her husband plotted a major renovation to convert it and the adjoining horse stables into a bed-and-breakfast, which opened in 1999.

"I was afraid someone would want to buy it one day and would tear it down," she said.

It's a good thing no one did, as I learned during a five-day stay there late last summer, when I participated in a Templeton-led plein-air painting workshop, looking to expand my painting subjects beyond the ubiquitous fruit-and-napkin still lifes I set up at home.

The inn's walls are of coursed fieldstone, and original hand-hewn beams cross the soaring ceiling in the parlor. The building is filled with the requisite overstuffed chairs, antiques, Oriental carpets atop planked floors and coffee tables piled with art books and magazines.

The 10 guest rooms are similarly decorated, with simple furnishings and an inviting, well-worn feel. Most rooms have access to a deck that runs the length of the building and face either an English-style garden filled with whimsical sculptures or the pasture, where six horses graze.

As true to character as the inn and its rooms are, however, the studio is the picture of modernity. Walker designed it to be top-notch. It's the only art studio I've ever been in where all the easels are functional, the taborets don't wobble and the shelves of still-life objects aren't covered in dust. Walker's art adorns the walls. Perfectly positioned windows pull in natural light.

The inn is not just a respite for those who sign up for three- or five-day workshops with such nationally acclaimed artists as Templeton. It's also a great base for exploring Bucks County's small museums, historic mills and many covered bridges.

We spent several days traveling to picturesque outdoor painting spots within 30 minutes of the inn. One day we drove, caravan-style, along curvy country lanes and across the Cabin Run Covered Bridge before arriving at the historic Stover-Myers Mill. On the National Register of Historic Places, the mill dates to 1800 and at various times produced flour, livestock feed and lumber. Its textured stones and burnt-red walls made a lovely subject for a painting, but it was just one of many to choose from here.

Most of my fellow artists staked a claim on roadside spots within sight of a massive red barn across the street. I found a nook along Tohickon Creek, set up my easel and spent hours dabbing away at an acrylic-on-canvas rendering of the water and surrounding trees.

Later, a few of us took a late-afternoon outing to visit art galleries in Lambertville, N.J., and have dinner along the canal in New Hope Pennsylvania. No matter where we went, we were surrounded by art.

Once I returned home, though, I relegated the five paintings I'd done that week to storage under my bed. I'll be the first to admit that they're not my best work. But as is the case in so many creative pursuits, the process, not the final product, was the point.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bill Shouldn't Uproot Families

The Gloucester County Times
Should New Jersey's public employees live in the state? State Sen. Donald Norcross, D-5, of Camden, thinks so, introducing a bill last week that would require all public employees who work in new Jersey to live in New Jersey.

The residency requirement would cover state, county, and municipal employees as well as public authorities, agencies and the educational system, including state colleges.

 "If you want a paycheck from New Jersey, you should live here and pay your taxes here," says Norcross, D-5 of Camden. "It is blatantly unfair for our public employees to collect salaries and benefits from the taxpayers of New Jersey while paying taxes to another state."

Philosophically, the measure makes sense. Some municipalities and counties in New Jersey already have residency requirements.

Practically, though, Norcross' bill needs more real-world consideration. In fact, it would be a better bill if it were prospective. That is, make a move to New Jersey a condition of employment for new hires, and for current public employees who change public-sector jobs.

Under the legislation as proposed, S-1730 would give current public employees who live out of state an overly generous 2 years to establish a principal residence in New Jersey. New employees would be required to establish New Jersey residency in just four months.

Allowing the extra time for current employees to make the move is necessary because of the distressed housing market, the senator explained: "I want to do this in a way that will not create any needless hardship."

Trouble is, requiring employees to uproot spouses and settled families can be a hardship in itself. We're talking about requirements that kids change schools, sports teams, etc., and that people sell their homes just to keep jobs they already have.

What about a couple living in, say, Bucks County Pennsylvania, where one partner already has a job in Pennsylvania with a residency requirement, and the other works for the State of New Jersey? The proposed rule would mean one partner would have to quit his or her job or they'd have to live separately.

It's doubtful that making families split up is what Norcross intended. Why not "grandfather" New Jersey workers who stay in their current jobs? And, split the difference on the move-in grace period for everyone else. Make it one year, enough time to get out of a rental lease, or to sell a house.

That still leaves the issue of tax justice. Norcross is right that public employees who stream across the bridge pay significantly less in property taxes, and may pay lower income taxes.

Our state's taxpayers should be able to get some benefit from "grandfathered" interstate commuters who take a public paycheck. If it's legal, what about a non-resident surcharge on these employees' health benefit contributions, or some kind of "payment in lieu of taxes"?

State workers are already being asked to make a number of sacrifices on behalf of a distressed state budget. A forced sale of their homes should not be one of them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Than 50,000 Lose Power After Storm

Fox 29 News

More than 50,000 people outside Philadelphia and in central New Jersey are without power on Sunday after a nasty storm with high winds hit our area.

The storm heavily damaged part of Bucks, Montgomery, Ocean and Monmouth counties.

PECO says 32,000 residents in Bucks county have outages. A handful of outages was reported at non-PECO suppliers in the Pennsylvania suburbs.

More than 20,000 people in Monmouth and Ocean counties, about 650 in southern New Jersey and about 200 in Delaware.

The storm, which battered parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut on Saturday with gusts of up to 70 mph, struck about two weeks after heavy snow and hurricane-force winds left more than a million customers in the Northeast in the dark.

More than 500 passengers on a New Jersey Transit train were stranded for six to seven hours because of power supply problems, spokesman Dan Stessel said Sunday. Amtrak service between Philadelphia and New York was suspended for hours before limited service was restored, spokesman Cliff Cole said.

In Atlantic City, the horizontal arm of a boom crane plunged 47 floors at the Revel Casino construction site. Debris went flying and crashed through the driver's side window of a police cruiser; the officer suffered minor injuries.

Parts of southern New Jersey say nearly 4 inches of rain, while nearly 3 inches fell near Philadelphia.

Winds topped 40 miles per hour in some areas. One gust was clocked at 67 miles per hour at Philadelphia International Airport.

At Merion Station, strong winds and rain caused a tree to fall on top of a Septa R5 regional rail train. It

Passengers on the train say the weather has made using the rail line almost impossible. About two dozen people were on the train at the time.

Flooding and strong winds are caused problems in parts of Bucks County.

The normally calm Tookany Creek looked more like a raging river. The Neshaminy Creek was also expected to flood.

Flood warnings are in effect for the Schuylkill River and other local streams and rivers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Delaware River Deepening to Commence

Delaware Online

The first stage of a multi-year, $310-million deepening of the Delaware River main shipping channel will start early next week, the Army Corps of Engineers reported this afternoon.

Corps spokesman Edward Voigt said the agency plans “nothing extraordinary” when a contractor begins cutting the shipping channel to 45 feet from its 40 foot depth at a starting point near the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

A Nofolk-based company already is at work dredging away silt that has made the current channel bottom shallower than the 40-foot minimum depth along a 12-mile section between the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the canal.

“They’ll just go further down,” Voigt said.

Port and shipping interests said the deeper channel is needed between Philadelphia and the Atlantic Ocean to keep local ports and businesses competitive with others along the Atlantic.

Remaining sections of the 103-mile channel will be deepened over the next three years.

Work will begin, however, in the shadow of three separate court challenges.

New Jersey and a coalition of environmental groups have sued to block the dredging in two actions filed in New Jersey’s U.S. District Court. The environmental organizations also are appealing Delaware’s loss of a similar federal court challenge late last month.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin P. O’Mara said late Thursday talks are continuing with the corps on an agreement in lieu of a permit on state environmental protection priorities during the work.

A federal judge agreed to let work on the first section start without a formal Delaware underwater construction permit, over state objections that the dredging was entirely inside Delaware and subject to state environmental protection laws.

Critics have charged that the corps failed to meet or ignored a range of environmental protection requirements in pursuing the deepening.

Recent purchase of air pollution reduction “credits” cleared the way for work to begin on the $310 million project, said Edward Voigt, spokesman for the agency’s Philadelphia regional office. Details on the cost and number of credits purchased were not immediately available.

Federal Clean Air Act terms required puchases of credits to offset increased pollution emissions during the dredging work. The credits are sold by the ton by other businesses or activities that have reduced or eliminated other types of air pollution.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philly Flower Show Goes Global

Delaware County Times

If ever there was a year to think spring, it’s this snow-shock winter and offering a sense and scents of well-being this weekend is the Philadelphia International Flower Show.

A Philadelphia tradition begun in 1829, the floral show now annually draws tens of thousands seeking the warmth of blooms and buds, awesome and winsome displays, interwoven music and great ideas for the gardener or anyone looking for what to do with that backyard dirt patch or empty corner.

For 2010, the message is a worldly one, as the show officially adds International to its name and is themed “Passport to the World.”

The flower show will run from Saturday, Feb. 28 to Sunday, March 7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Philadelphia Horticultural Society President Jane Pepper, a Delaware County resident, has said there are several firsts for the show, including offering downloadable tickets online.

Pepper, who is bowing out as president after 29 years of leadership, also pointed to a Family Fun Pack, which offers families a package price and savings.

The PHS president has promised this show will offer great entertainment with support from the Philadelphia Zoo and upbeat music, a solid educational base, and an emphasis on sustainable living and being “green” —- a point to which the PHS has always been committed.

By the way, Pepper’s departure will not go unmarked. A PHS gardeners group that goes by the name of “Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” will salute the retiring president with a tribute garden that was to be unveiled just before Saturday’s opening day.

Pepper is not the only Delaware County thumbprint on the show. Major exhibitors Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Stoney Bank Nurseries, J. Downend Landscaping and OuterSpaces Inc. will all show their incredible handiwork.

And as if that were not enough, Lansdowne’s own musical duo of Brazilian music, Minas, will be featured throughout the show. Orlando Haddad and Patricia King will offer a taste of Brazil with their unique South American sound on the Explorer’s Stage.

Looking back, looking ahead

Visitors to this year’s worldly presentation will experience Amazonian splendor and some colorful surprises.

Guests will be greeted by a 28-foot-high hot-air balloon, covered in more than 79,000 dried flowers, that towers over the Explorer’s Garden. The Victorian-era display, filled with varieties of plants like those collected through the remarkable Wilkes Expedition (1838-42) and more recent finds from Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum, the University of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Botanic Gardens, harkens back to the show’s roots as a showcase for new plant discoveries.

Giant pads of floating Victoria water lilies and blooms introduced to America at early shows will fill the much larger-than-life cases throughout the display. Daily musical performances include classical and contemporary Indian dance led by celebrated Bollywood choreographer Rujuta Vaidya.

Six Showcase Gardens take visitors on a trek to an Indian wedding, with soaring palm trees, golden columns entwined with jasmine, lotus-filled pools and elaborate ropes of marigolds.

From here, 100,000 flower bulbs will bloom in an authentic Dutch canal garden created by Robertson’s Flowers. Working with design colleagues from South Africa, the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) will provide a tangible artistic presentation of the Zulu culture. Hand-thatched huts, live drummers, a chandelier of floral birds, and sculpted wildlife provide an enchanting entry to a walk-through display that invites visitors to inspect tribal headdresses and masks that depict the vivid colors and patterns found among the native people.

Deep into the dense ficus growth of Brazil’s Amazon jungle, visitors will encounter a plunging waterfall, indigenous plants such as heliconias and bromeliads, and a hungry caiman created by Burke Brothers Landscape Design. Officials of the Philadelphia Zoo will bring the display to life with “Rainbows in Flight,” demonstrations that feature the skill and natural beauty of tropical birds.

Singapore, the “Pearl of Asia,” will be represented by Waldor Orchids in a luminescent tribute to the orchid. The tiered fountains and formal design are inspired by Singapore’s renowned botanical gardens.

The rugged beauty of New Zealand will be captured by Stoney Bank Nurseries of Glen Mills in three designs that depict traditions of the native Maori and the alluring plant life found in exotic New Zealand. The Aura Garden, with its thermal pools and sculpted dragon created by artist Greg Leavitt, presents an appropriate setting for the native plants of this northern island. Giant tree ferns, hand-carved Maori tikis and flax rope complement the landscape that includes a bog Garden of English and Scottish tradition, and the Kiwi Garden, which showcases New Zealand’s popular calla and Casablanca lilies.

An event for the world

“Passport to the World” is a truly a grand celebration of the world’s flowers and gardens and an appropriate debut for the newly renamed Philadelphia International Flower Show, the oldest and largest indoor show of its kind.

“The Flower Show’s new title raises it up on the world stage, and it is an invitation to gardeners everywhere to join us in Philadelphia for this fabulous show that does so much to highlight the best of horticulture and design,” said Pepper.

The change reflects the increasing participation in recent decades of horticulturists, designers and partners from other nations. Since the 1980s, the show has welcomed presentations by gardening experts from Asia, Europe, Africa, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

But the show is not just about flowers.

The show draws in fashion with a whole category showing off elegant dresses inspired by many countries and created by fashion students at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Visitors should plan in advance to attend any of the more than 150 gardening presentations held throughout the week, as well as dozens of educational displays that explore the most popular new trends for home gardeners.

Learning to garden from the experts is a highlight of the visitor experience. Students, faculty and professional horticulturists explore a variety of today’s trends in gardening and sustainable landscapes in exhibits, including “green walls,” vertical and roof-top gardens.

Shopping is a mainstay of the show, and this year a whole crop of new vendors will offer visitors a chance to take home memories of the show. The Marketplace offers an array of products to get the garden started; the Flower Show Shoppe has keepsakes in celebration of the show theme; and the World Bazaar provides exotic crafts and gifts for the well-traveled shopper.

What about food you ask?

This year, a Dessert and Coffee Bar is offered by Sweet Streets on the Show Bridge. In the Grand Hall, the Pa. Wine and Spirits Store will offer an expansive, international selection at the Wine & Spirits Garden and will include free tastings served by the vendors. DiBruno Bros. also will hold court in the Grand Hall with an authentic Italian menu.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wynn Outlines Plan for Foxwoods Casino

Philadelphia Inquirer

Stephen A. Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, said yesterday that he would go to Harrisburg Wednesday to outline to the state Gaming Control Board his plans for a Philadelphia casino that he said would be "the cutest casino you have ever seen."

Wynn discussed for the first time his ideas for reviving the Foxwoods project in South Philadelphia during a conference call with stock analysts after the release of the Las Vegas company's year-end results.

Wynn Resorts confirmed Tuesday that it had signed a letter of intent to take control of developing and running the struggling Foxwoods Casino project. But the deal is contingent on approval from Pennsylvania gaming regulators. The Foxwoods project is at risk of losing its license for repeated delays since winning one of the city's two slots licenses in 2006.

Wynn said he would not build a hotel on the Columbus Boulevard site but would focus on developing a "straightforward casino" and not a "destination resort." The original plan for Foxwoods called for eventually building a hotel on the site.

He only offered a general idea of what he had in mind, saying it would be a one-story casino with two or three levels of parking on either side.

Asked how much Wynn Resorts would spend on the waterfront site, Wynn did not directly answer, saying only it would not be "an earth-shaking number."

He said he had spent "eight to nine hours a day" for the last several weeks trying to work out the details of developing a Philadelphia casino.

"I'm happy to say we're feeling very good about it," Wynn told analysts. He said the building "will not look like slots in a box."

"It will have all the bells and whistles of a good-looking casino," including 3,000 slot machines, table games, a poker room, an Italian restaurant, a steak house, and an Asian restaurant, he said.

Wynn, 67, was enthusiastic about the project site on Columbus Boulevard and that it was blocks from the Italian and Vietnamese neighborhoods of South Philadelphia.

Wynn called its proximity to Society Hill and the Walt Whitman Bridge "a dandy."

He said the area was "all full of my old friends - the Italians and Jews and every conceivable type of ethnic group that likes to play craps and gamble - and they're only 10 minutes away."

"I love the proximity of the Vietnamese neighborhood, and I'm going to put in a Vietnamese restaurant for them," he said.

If regulators approve the project, Wynn said, he hoped to be "out of the box as quickly as we can."

He said he knows the region, having operated the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City from 1980 to 1987.

"We dominated the Atlantic City market," he said. "We love the South Jersey market and we like Philadelphia."

He said the company's Las Vegas properties could benefit from ties to Philadelphia.

Yesterday, Wynn Resorts reported 2009 net income of $20.6 million on revenue of $3 billion.

Wynn Resorts would take over developing and managing the project from the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which operates the flagship Foxwoods Casino in southeastern Connecticut. The tribe, as well as local investors, would maintain an interest in the project, but not a majority stake.

The project has faced intense neighborhood and political opposition. The investor group tried to move the project to Center City but failed. Regulators in August ordered them to use the original waterfront site.