Thursday, November 7, 2013

Results In Lieu Of PILOT's

Tom Ferrick is one of my favorite authors when it comes to good governance in Philadelphia. His thoughtful and thorough reporting continues to be invaluable as Philadelphia negotiates its latest education crisis. However, his latest crusade demanding that Philadelphia's non-profits in the robust "ed's & med's" sector contribute to city coffers via PILOT's - Payment's In Lieu Of Taxes. 

Partly in response to Ferrick's recurring critiques, some of these organizations banded together to create a report about all of the positive things that they do contribute to the city, from education and medical care to employment and economic activity. But I think there's a truism that these groups just can't state: the City Government is a bad investment. 

How could these successful organizations like Penn, Drexel, and Temple see PILOT's as a good investment? These schools and hospitals are successful because they're focused on tangible results, and frankly, the city government presents a pretty awful return on investment. 

Let's take Penn for example (since that institution is the reason that I became a Philadelphian in the first place). Personally, I am happier to see Penn support other organizations where there investments deliver real results. Why give money to the Sanitation Department when UCD will actually keep the streets clean? Why give money to the School District, when dollars spent at Penn Alexander produce what is inarguably the most successful elementary school in the city? Why subsidize the police department when their own police force keeps the campus and its environs one of the safest stretches of the city? 

PILOT's are throwing good money after bad. Penn, Drexel, CHOP, and the rest are obligated to invest the money that they earn in a way that serves those they've earned the money from. I'm happier to see dollars go to organizations outside of city government that actively, tangibly, produce a better city. 

Until these groups can see real results from money spent with city government, I think that they are right to invest where they see real results. Maybe that's a good potential outcome - just imagine - The Philadelphia Sheriff's Department, brought to you by the Fels Institute of Government. 

In the end, it's the same reason that you or I don't throw an extra few hundred bucks in with my property taxes every year, and instead give to non-profits in town. When I spend my money there, I see results and accountability, and we are all served with a better city. City Government just isn't giving me (or Penn) that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Graphic Design for Civic Pride Video & Slides

Here's the video of the presentation about the need for a new Philadelphia flag that I delivered at Fast Forward Philly a couple of weeks ago. The idea and my proposal were well received at the event, and there is great momentum for the idea of updating this important element of our city's brand. Hope that you enjoy!

NB: There were some audio issues at the event, and the slides are a little hard to see, so I've included them below. If you want to keep pace, you can click through them about one every 20 seconds.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fast Forward Philly 2013

Come to the Center for Architecture in Philly tonight to see a great slate of speakers talk about what's next for Philadelphia. I'm happy to report that I've been selected to speak, and will be discussing "Graphic Design for Civic Pride: A New Flag for a New Philadelphia.

Check back here after the talk, and I'll post my full slide deck, along with a little bit more about why Philly would benefit from a new flag and why I think I've come across a great solution! Hopefully my arguments will be even more cogent when not restricted to 20 seconds a slide.

Here's the event info for tonight, along with the full slate of presenters:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Last Look at Saint John the Evangelist of Pennsport


Back in May, with the rear garage already demolished, and the demolition equipment idling outside the sanctuary windows, I got to take a last walk through St. John the Evangelist Church, on the corner where Moyamensing, 3rd, and Reed meet. It was a quiet little tour around the place, with only a couple of glaziers working on removing the last elements of the churches rose window.

Over the next week the 1854 church and the later adjacent parish house both came down. Since, a full complement of off-the-shelf modern townhouse have flown up on the site over the summer, all with rear-access two-car parking. The conflict between the need for Philadelphia to provide new housing to meet resurgent demand and old buildings with uses that are no longer in demand is playing out across the city daily. While city has wonderful, architecturally-diverse churches, the population is increasingly secular, and the aesthetic value of churches is regularly seems to fall short to the monetary value of large lots in great neighborhoods.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Landing at SXM

Here's a quick .gif I made of a plane coming in to land at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten, famed for its proximity to the beach. We enjoyed a brief layover with a bucket of beers at a beach bar very near the airport as we wrapped up our honeymoon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Philadelphia's Urban Body Double: Glasgow

The just released trailer for next summer's zombie-blockbuster "World War Z" is seeing a lot of attention around Philadelphia today, as the city is Pitt's home in the film. In the last couple of years especially, Philadelphia has seen a lot of in-town filming, usually as a stand-in for New York. It's always entertaining to walk down Walnut Street and see MTA buses and NYPD police cars.


In a typically cruel twist of fate, despite actually being the setting for the film, all of the World War Z street scenes were shot elsewhere. And what city was chosen to be Philly's body double? Glasgow, Scotland. A friend of mine, Carlos Fornos, a New York architect, did a lot of work in Glasgow last year and reports that Glasgow seems like a sensible stand-in for Philadelphia. Glasgow is Scotland's blue-collar city, with a similar building scale and street grid. But to Fornos, Glasgow has, "a darker feel than Philly, with its Victorian architecture. Add in the wonderful climate of Scotland, and I guess that's why it made a good setting," for a zombie flick.

Carlos also sent along a set of photos from Glasgow during the shooting, all taken by Irish architect Jason Bell. The shots fly by in the trailer, but the photos allow one to take a good look at the props in Glasgow. It's interesting to see a view from the ground of what the Glasgow production team did to emulate Philadelphia. It's too bad that Philly missed out on a chance to star as itself for once, and enjoy the estimated 2 million pound economic boost that came with the filming.

Production trailers.
I spy a yellowtag! The Chevy Lumina taxi in the back looks to be about the quality of Philly's cab fleet.
Signs for the Vine Street Expressway.
I assume that this building is supposed to be a stand-in for City Hall, and I suppose that it does bear a passing resemblance to Philly's seat of power, prior to its past decade of cleaning.
This building is making its best effort to be the 1937 Robert Nix Federal Courthouse at 9th & Market, Art Deco signage and all. 
This signage isn't quite accurate, both in look and information. The places are just a jumble of Philadelphia landmarks, and there are most certainly not public restrooms and a first aid station in Rittenhouse Square. But the biggest miss here is the sneaky British spelling of "Centre City."
A very different version of the intersection of 16th & Arch. I guess this is supposed to be Love Park? Also, not to nitpick, but the street signs are missing there distinctive Liberty Bell and block numbers. Sloppy work!
Hmm... an MTA bus? Maybe this is a not to all the New York-set movies that are shot in Philly? How meta! Also, the Nix Courthouse is over here on 16th, across the street from Love Park.
Signage for a made-up exhibit at the made-up Philadelphia Philanthropic Foundation.
More signage. Glad to see that the Scottish break out their cameras at the sight of filming, just like us.

Here's the corner of 16th and JFK. I'm not sure that the building behind has a good analog in Philly.
A fine facsimile of a PFD Medic unit.

Looking up at 'City Hall" from Arch Street. This building is actually Glasgow's City Hall.
More of the Vine Street Expressway signage.
A food delivery truck, replete with a 215 phone number!
I don't think that they have the route number right, but I think this bus wants to be a Septa route 42 bus, on it's way from Penn's Landing to 61st and Pine.

This SWAT truck is clearly out of a movie. I mean come on, this is Philadelphia. This thing is basically a mail truck. Here's an actual PPD SWAT vehicle.
A final look at the Nix Courthouse body double, complete with Philadelphia City Flag.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Check out My New Project: The Philly Skinny

Go check out my new project - a rehash of the late, great Skinny from phillyskyline.com. Take a look and help document Philly's revival!