Archive: November, 2008
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission this afternoon will again consider zoning legislation pending in City Council to allow a 1,510-foot skyscraper to be built at 18th and Arch streets. Hill International Inc. of Marlton, N.J. took over the project in September from the locally-based Walnut Street Capital.
The project, which would be 50 percent taller than the nearby Comcast Center, includes a 1,210-foot office tower topped with a 300-foot spire containing telecommunications equipment. It would be connected by sky-bridge to a 477-foot building with a hotel, stores, restaurants and other other retail uses.
Andrew Altman, the city's Commerce Director, also chairs the Planning Commission. He acknowledged this morning that big-ticket projects like this face an uncertain future because the costs for construction have been skyrocketing while the market for borrowing building money has taken a beating. "Which is why I think the questions about the American Commerce Center should not be about the project," Altman said. "The question before the Planning Commission is: Is this the appropriate zoning for the site? Because this project could come or go tomorrow."
Rina Cutler, the city's deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, this morning said she will "focus a great deal of my time in the next several years" on expanding and improving the Philadelphia International Airport. Cutler, speaking at a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said the airport should "Wow" people arriving to look at the region and also serve as an economic engine itself for the area.
"The airport as it currently stands is not adequate in size or scope to meet the expansion of the region," Cutler said. "It needs to be transformed into something that, when you show up there you say 'Wow,' not 'Where the hell is my luggage.'"
Cutler said the city will start hosting "visioning sessions" to consider what the airport should look like 30 years from now. She added that the region needs to get better at project development, citing the two-decade wait to rebuild the South Street Bridge as an example of slow progress. Cutler listed four areas that need improvement: Communications and preventing snags from putting projects on the "back burner;" the process of taking private property for projects; the question of who pays to relocate public utilities; and the "onerous" but important process of environmental review.
Catherine LuceyPhilly police officer killed in horrible late-night car crash.
Leadership roles in the state House of Representatives to be decided today.
Former girlfriend of state Sen. Vince Fumo testifies in his corruption trial about their high-flying lifestyle.
Catherine LuceyRemember the "Freshman 15" -- the 15 budget suggestions made by newbie council members Bill Green, Curtis Jones and Maria Quinones-Sanchez?
Finance Director Rob Dubow today responded to their ideas. He said in a letter that the ideas would save less money that the council members think, putting the estimate at $36 million in savings, compared with the $64.8 million they touted. Dubow also noted that nearly all the cost saving ideas were put in the budget plan before the Freshman press announcement.
You can check out Dubow's letter here.
Catherine LuceyFrom Chris Brennan, who's still at the City Council budget briefing:
Councilman Frank DiCicco just asked the administration to consider closing all city pools in favor of saving some library services.
The city plans to close 68 of the 81 pools and 11 of the 54 libraries to close a $1 billion budget gap over the next five years. DiCicco noted that closing the remaining 13 pools will save $2.9 million in fiscal year 2010. Most of those pools are open just six weeks in the summer.
Catherine LuceyThis just in from the Mayor's Press Office:
MAYOR NUTTER INVITES PHILADELPHIANS, VISITORS TO HELP POPULATE 3-1-1 KNOWLEDGE DATABASE
Philadelphia, November 17th - The City of Philadelphia is scheduled to begin operation of its 3-1-1 system at midnight on December 31st. Starting then, 3-1-1 will be the only number necessary to find out information on or to access a Philadelphia City service. To ensure that 3-1-1 is able to answer the wide range of questions of Philadelphians, Mayor Michael A. Nutter is inviting residents and visitors to help populate the information database. They can submit questions by going to www.phila.gov/311.
Catherine LuceyChris Brennan, who is currently covering a budget briefing for City Council members, reports that the Nutter administration plans to hold eight town hall meetings across the city from November 25 to December 18 to explain the budget cuts.
"The administration is prepared to go out to make sure we explain the actions we have taken to the community," said Nutter's Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister.
Mayor Nutter has announced substantial cuts to shore up a $1 billion gap in the city budget over the next five years. His plans include delaying tax cuts, laying off city workers and reducing some city services -- including shutting down 11 libraries and 68 pools.
Catherine LuceyOutside the Haddington Library in West Philadelphia, the city's top library activist today called on Mayor Nutter to delay his plans to close 11 branches for three to six months.
"We need time to gather the intelligence and financial resources that will generate a credible five year business plan to save our library system," said Amy Dougherty, director of the Friends of the Free Library. "I ask Mayor Nutter to give us three to six months to develop a credible long term solution."
Dougherty announced two new efforts to keep the libraries open. She wants to hold a summit with leaders from the private and public sector to come up with a business plan for the libraries. Dougherty's inviting bigwigs to a December 10 luncheon, dubbing the project "The Committee for Learning."