Archive: July, 2008
A panel of architectural and traffic experts convened this week by PennPraxis unveiled this morning the rough drafts of plans to redesign two proposed riverfront casinos. The results will be presented in final form on Aug. 8 to Mayor Nutter, who last month asked for the casino study after declaring that the current designs for casinos do not fit into the city's long-range plan to redevelop the banks of the Delaware River.
The redesign plans, drawn by architectural designer Tim Magill of 5+Design in Hollywood, Calif. after more than 18 hours of panel work, suggest significant changes in how the casinos would look. The panel suggested removing grand "porte-cocher" entrances from the front of the casinos, replacing them with courtyard-style arrival points in the center of the two properties. That has the effect of splitting down the center the casinos -- SugarHouse in Fishtown and Foxwoods in South Philly -- to create a pedestrian friendly passage from the street to the riverfront. Those passages would be used by drivers to drop off passengers and enter parking garages. The redesigns also offer alternative entrances to the garages and direct access from parking to the riverfront without the need to pass through the casinos.
As for the garages, the panel says SugarHouse and Foxwoods should conceal them from view. Foxwoods parking would be set behind retail stores and condos while SugarHouse would be concealed by condos and restaurants. Both casinos had planned parking garages in their first phases of construction, to be followed by retail, condos and hotels. The panel says those "mixed-use" parts of the projects should be built at the same time as the casinos and garages.
Catherine LuceyDistrict Attorney Lynne Abraham this morning announced plans to file charges against nine people in the death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who wasted away from starvation and neglect two years ago.
Kelly weighed just 42 pounds at the time of her death and was found on a filthy bed lying in her own waste. After an extensive grand jury investigation, her parents are being charged in her death, along with two workers for the city's Department of Human Services, who are accused of failing to provide proper care for Danieal and for then trying to cover up their poor work.
Also charged are two employees of a private health firm under contract with DHS, also assigned to work on her case, and three friends of Danieal's mother who allegedly lied to jurors about Danieal's health.
Catherine LuceyExperts continued to discuss casino problems yesterday, finding few that can't be fixed.
Take a scary look inside "pet prison."
New crime plan unveiled in violence-riddled Camden.
PennPraxis calls it the "Casino Vision Matrix" -- a list of more than 80 questions about the designs for two proposed riverfront casinos. The matrix questions whether the designs fit into the PennPraxis plan for a redeveloped riverfront. The casinos scored well in some areas, poorly in others. They got the worst PennPraxis grade -- "Can't be fixed" -- on three questions about parking. The academic group, part of the University of Pennsylvania, found both Foxwoods in South Philly and SugarHouse in Fishtown failed to remedy the "auto-dominated landscape" and planned large parking garages that cut off views and access to the riverfront.
PennPraxis is holding a three-day discussion this week at the behest of Mayor Nutter, who last month said the casinos "as currently designed simply don't fit" into the city's riverfront plans. But a panel of five architecture and traffic experts see opportunities where others see problems.
Architectural designer Tim Magill, countering talk of having the casinos move garages off-site, said parking could be a "catalyst" for riverfront redevelopment if Foxwoods and SugarHouse would allow anyone to park even if they weren't casino customers. Magill added that the casinos should provide direct access to the riverfront from garages so that drivers would not have to walk through the casinos. Traffic engineer Walter Kulash said concerns about casino traffic may be overblown since the projects would bring in about the same number of cars as a "run of a mill" shopping center. Kulash said the casinos will help bring people to the riverfront. "Let's calm down," Kulash added. "This is really manageable traffic use."
Catherine LuceyHere's an interesting item from Harrisburg Patriot-News Washington reporter, Brett Lieberman, about Sen. Bob Casey probing the electrocution deaths of military serving in Iraq.
According to Lieberman, Casey will testify today before a House committee on the electrocution deaths of servicemen. He started looking at the issue because a Pennsylvania staff sergeant died earlier this year after being electrocuted.
Casey Goes After Military Electrocutions [Harrisburg Patriot-News]
Catherine LuceyA group of architects and traffic experts conclude that the casinos aren't compatible with the city's longterm waterfront plans.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy introduces a bill that penalizes companies that try to raise interest rates for soldiers serving in wars.
Environmental group says developers are destroying Jersey shore.
Catherine LuceyThe cast of one of our fave shows "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" appeared at Comic-Con 2008 in San Diego over the weekend, screening an episode from the new season and dishing about what's happening next with the gang.
According to zap2it, they'll be flashing back to 1776 for an episode about the historical significance of Paddy's Pub. And they'll also be tackling the topic of cannibalism in "Mac and Dennis: Manhunters," the episode screened at the convention.
During a panel discussion, show creator Rob McElhenny said no subject is off limits for the show. "If you guys keep laughing, we'll keep doing it," he said.
Penn Praxis, the academic group asked by Mayor Nutter last month to study whether two proposed riverfront casinos fit into the city's plans to redevelop the banks of the Delaware River, gets to work on that task tonight. The group, part of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design, will hold a working dinner with a group of five experts trying to answer this question: "Do the casinos as currently designed comply with the goals, values and principals of the Civic Vision?"
To the casino developers, that's a rigged game. Foxwoods in South Philly and SugarHouse in Fishtown have refused to participate, citing comments from Penn Praxis executive director Harris Steinberg and Nutter last month that were very critical of the casino plans. Steinberg notes that he has never said casinos can't exist on the riverfront, just that they don't fit as they are currently designed. The Penn Praxis study continues tomorrow and Thursday.
Nutter has embraced the Penn Praxis vision for the waterfront and hopes to radically change the Penn's Landing Corp., a secretive non-profit set up by Philadelphia to manage city-owned land along the riverfront. Following through on his plan to convert the agency into an "open, transparent and accountable waterfront manager," Nutter issued a call today for people interested in serving on its board. The agency is being renamed the Delaware Waterfront Corporation and expanding its focus to the riverfront from Allegheny Avenue to the north to Oregon Avenue to the south.