Next Philadelphia

We're Getting Warm: We predict the future so you don't have to.

By Philadelphia Weekly Editorial Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 22, 2006

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Photographs by Jeff Fusco

The weather's been getting to us.

First we have weeks of unseasonal springtime warmth and sunshine, then outta nowhere our faces are falling off from the cold.

Schizo weather patterns like these could make anyone crazy.

Not mad-as-a-hatter drug-fueled crazy. Not even Eagles-in-the-Super-Bowl crazy. (Hell, that'd be downright delusional these days.)

No, we're talking seeing-things crazy.

While we don't want to call what we're having visions, they're definitely a tiny glimpse into the local and immediate future.

We wish our clairvoyance stretched further and wider-then we'd give you a whole issue on how to end poverty in Philadelphia, how to stop the war in Iraq, how to reverse global warming and how to tilt the Supreme Court back toward sanity.

But instead you'll have to settle for learning about the next Hollertronix and the next place to get great pho.

What our crystal ball lacks in distance, though, it makes up for in breadth. The following 20 pages hold our predictions for the next year for everything in news, music, nightlife, politics, food, fashion, sports and more. Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron tells us what the city will look like. R5 Productions' Sean Agnew tells us what it'll sound like. And we've got foresight into everything from the next hipster hobby (better trade in those knitting needles for a weedwacker) to the next death of a daily newspaper (what's black and white and read nowhere?) to who our next U.S. senator will be. (Jesus promises it won't be the incumbent.)

Predictions about damn near everything but the weather. Because some things are best left a surprise. (Jeffrey Barg)


Next Kelly Drive: North Delaware Riverfront

On the heels of the Industrial Revolution, the North Delaware riverfront bustled with manufacturing facilities and ports. For 60 years Philadelphia Coke processed coal, Dodge Steel churned out railroad and automobile castings that were shipped to factories worldwide, and the Tacony Iron & Metal Company achieved immortality by constructing the giant iron statue of William Penn that crowns City Hall. While these industrial plants helped Philadelphia thrive, they all eventually closed, leaving behind a legacy of toxic pollution and blight. As a result, the North Delaware riverfront has sat underutilized and neglected for decades. But now an 11-mile stretch of the shoreline, from Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown all the way north to the Bucks County line, is slated to become a greenway for recreation and habitat restoration. The $80 million master plan for the project calls for hundreds of acres of parkland and privately owned open space. For every dollar invested in the greenway initiative, $10 in economic benefit will flow into the community. The parkway is jogging toward reality now that Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has secured $16 million in funds for the completion of trails, as well as for a roadway linking them to the neighborhoods. Sen. Arlen Specter acquired an additional $8.5 million for breathing life back into the North Delaware riverfront. Schwartz calls this greenway initiative vital to bringing life back to this section of the city. "These bicycle and hiking trails will not only help connect the river to the surrounding neighborhoods, but will draw in visitors," she said during a boat tour of the waterfront. The trail will be an extension of the National East Coast Greenway, a 2,600-mile continual on- and off-road trail stretching from Maine to Florida. The Delaware River section of the trail loops from Trenton to the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and back to Morrisville, N.J. In January Mayor Street slashed funding for his "New River City" plan from $500 million to $125 million after City Council rejected a massive investment. The funds are slated to pay for extending sewer and water systems to the vacant riverfront properties, in the hope of enticing developers, although they don't seem to need any bait. Transactionable Property Solutions (TPS) and Kaplan Companies are building 500 new townhouses and condos on the former Army warehouse site. TPS has also announced its intention to renovate the Northern Shipping site into 1,700 new residential units, a hotel and wellness center, and a 200-boat marina. Finally, Westrum Development Corp. has optioned the Philadelphia Coke site-which requires environmental remediation-for another 900 residential units and retail space. But a couple wildcards could affect all these development plans. Philadelphia Gas Works proposes to build a liquid natural gas terminal and storage facility along the North Delaware waterfront in Port Richmond. Critics say the project poses major environmental threats and would be a prime target for terrorists. "How attractive is the riverfront if a heavily guarded, 1,000-foot highly explosive tanker lumbers by periodically?" asks Evan Belser, program organizer for Clean Water Action. The other factor is the potential for a nearby slots parlor. Two of the five sites under serious consideration are on the North Delaware waterfront, just south of where the greenway will begin. The old incinerator is at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden, while the Sugar House is on Shackamaxon Street in Northern Liberties. (Gwen Shaffer)


Next Development Disaster: The Convention Center

Unconventional wisdom: Art institutions that have long anchored the community will be gobbled up by an expanding Convention Center.
Philly may not always be the most ambitious of cities, but pitch some misguided urban design, and the city can barely contain itself. Look at 95, Penn's Landing and the Vine Street Expressway-mammoth projects that obliterated swaths of downtown density and divided the city from a resource that's been the cradle of many a successful urban renewal effort elsewhere. And it's clear looking at plans for the Convention Center's expansion that while we lament those previous fumbles, we're on the fast track to create an entirely new one. The expansion-which will extend the complex west from 13th to Broad Street-will leave in its wake businesses and institutions that civic boosters tout as magnets for the incoming empty-nesters and young couples seeking walkable, vibrant city living. The Penn View Grille and an independent hardware store will close, and the artistic stronghold of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Vox Populi, Highwire Gallery and the Asian Arts Initiative will break up, its members forced from their accessible digs at 13th and Cherry streets. A dull, pedestrian-unfriendly monolith will replace the valuable collection. Proponents justify the expansion-an increase from 624,000 to 1 million square feet-by citing the potential economic benefit larger and more frequent conventions will bring the city and region. But there's evidence that the demand for convention space that can accommodate a large number of attendees may be plummeting. Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center, for example, ballooned to 1.4 million square feet in 2002, but has seen attendance drop from 900,000 in 1995 to 400,000 in 2004. But that evidence isn't preventing city and state officials from forging ahead with their $632 million slots-funded gamble-the largest capital project in Pennsylvania history. Forget that SEPTA and the School District are both in dire need of adequate funding. Who cares about mass transit and education when there's a new Applebee's to fill? (Jesse Smith)


Next Cool Shore Point: Atlantic City

As the rest of the shore's grand old homes fall to developers building plastic-columned Barbie dream condos, Atlantic >City's weathered buildings-some as old as the resort town itself-remain the last great inexpensive hope for restoration-minded speculators. (Lauren McCutcheon)

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