Friday, August 5, 2011

Philly Live! Construction Update-- August 5th

Philly Live!

1100 Pattison Avenue

Ah jeez, here it comes. 
                     I don't even know why I'm bothering to talk about this highly unnecessary pile of dogshit. Philly Live! is a huge entertainment complex planned to fill almost the entire space between the Wachovia Center and Citizen's Bank Park. The part they're building now is "Phase One", which in Philadelphia, usually means "Only Phase".
Still waiting for Phase II
Stuck on Phase 1.5
                  Philly Live! grew out of the need for an entertainment venue that suburbanites who were too scared to walk around Center City could go to and spend money before and after games. Developers noticed that other cities who don't have whiny-ass civic associations up the ying-yang were able to build their stadiums downtown, causing local commercial establishments to reap the benefits of suburban visitors. The solution? Build a Downtown Simulator in the middle of that sea of surface parking that would serve as an attraction for before and after games.

The original plan from 2008. Notice they don't show a daytime scene.
                 The original plan was pretty ambitious and seemed to be absolutely massive. Many who looked at this wondered who the fuck was going to go to this thing, and even more stymieing, plans called for it to be open on non-game days as well. What is this? Gallery South? Pier 70: Landlubber Edition? I don't fucking get it.
                 When the economy started to tank, the plan got smaller.

They didn't even need to knock down the Spectrum for this one!
                        This is what we'll probably end up with if we're LUCKY and all the phases get built. The construction photo at the top of the article is for Phase One only, which is pretty pathetic-looking.

That's IT. There's no daytime rendering for a reason.
                       Face it, this will be the only phase that is built. I can't understand why in a million years they would ever want to build this thing. So it's a suburban half-stripmall with bars and restaurants and shit next to the stadium and it's called Philly Live!?!? What's with the exclamation point? There's no need for punctuation in the name of a building. Live? Live what? This thing will be dead from day one. There's nothing "Philly" about this. It should be called Greenwich Island Live!, since that's technically where the Sports Complex is located. Fucking morons.

Blank wall facing Pattison Ave. sidewalk. Dead trees.
No it won't.

Philly 2111-- August 5th

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Empty Lot of the Week-- August 4th **Our 100th Post!!!***

Jefferlot of Broken Dreams

Bounded by 9th, Sansom, 10th, and a big fucking parking garage

What the fuck? Corner of 9th and Sansom from Google.
                   This is a lot that shouldn't fucking exist. It represents the culmination of a lot of really bad decisions and broken dreams. Even the building that is on this lot is a sad disgrace. This is officially the longest period of time in the city's history that this spot has not been developed. What a fuck-up this Desert of Donkey Balls is.
                  The south 900 block of Chestnut Street has been nice since it was first developed. It was originally home to some grand row-mansions but spent most of it's developed life as a string of beautiful old commercial buildings.

1851. Click to see all the details.
                     Every time one of the buildings was demolished, a new beautiful commercial building replaced it. A few of the original ones from the drawing above survived all the way up into the latter half of the 20th Century.

                    When the 1990's rolled around, parcel after parcel started to mysteriously disappear. A Chicago-based company called Urban Growth was buying them up and knocking them the fuck down one by one. They finally sealed the deal in 2002 by buying up all the remaining spots (some of which were already empty lots) and taking out the legendary I. Goldberg building that the corner of 9th and Chestnut.

The Jefferlot, nearly complete in 2002. Don't worry, the mural got repainted elsewhere. Too bad there isn't an Underground Railroad for cool buildings.
                    This created a fully empty block right in the heart of Center City that sat completely vacant for nearly 4 years. Urban Growth knew that Jefferson Hospital had a ridiculously huge campus expansion plan that required lots of land and a big fucking parking garage. They were going to sell or lease the land to Jeff and make lots and lots of dollars.
                     The first part of this plan was parking. Jeff needed a new parking facility that would serve their current and future needs. They intended to knock down more city blocks and build an almost brand-new campus.

A later version of that plan but you get the idea. That gigantic blue blocks-spanning building was to be the new Ambulatory Care Center that would take up the rest of the Jefferlot.
                      They managed to get the 700-car parking garage at 10th and Chestnut built after a few years of zoning battles and negative press. Their primary excuse was that they would need the immense garage for their future campus plans. The compromises that Jeff made to get this monstrosity of a garage approved was to have a cool facade design and to include retail on the first floor. They also agreed to open up retail spots on the blank wall of the Gibbon Building. 
                      The garage, opened 2006, has been a failure. They had the facade designed by the same numbnuts who designed Dockside Apartments. The retail spaces took forever to find tenants and there is still one that remains empty. The Gibbon Building retails spaces NEVER happened, even though that was part of the agreement. The only thing it's been successful at is parking cars.

Jefferlot with massive parking garage from the corner of 9th and Chestnut. There's not enough crappy building wraps in the world to make you look good, you fuck. Image from Google.
                     Jefferson's plan for the rest of the Jefferlot was to be a huge multi-phase Ambulatory Care Center. It would fill the Jefferlot and then later get expanded to wrap all the way around the Edison Building, as you can see in the rendering a few paragraphs above. Construction was to begin in 2010. Obviously, it never fucking happened.
                     As the building of the Wocka Flocka Flame Center suggests, Jefferson has scrapped this huge master plan... but hope still exists for this lot and the Ambulatory Care Center. I found this little rendering lying around in the internet labeled as "New Jefferson Hospital Ambulatory Care Building" and it appears to be at the corner of 9th and Chestnut.

Not exactly a looker but better than what's there now.
                      Don't get your fucking hopes up. The agenda for the June 28th 2011 Washington West Civic Association Meeting of the Zoning and Government Affairs Committee had an application for an extension of the 3-year "temporary" approval of this shitty surface lot. We're just going to have to wait this one out and probably for a long fucking time. Jefferson still hasn't completed it's 1966 Master Plan.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lost Building of the Week-- August 3rd

Philadelphia Record Building

917 Chestnut Street

Willis G. Hale ain't nuthin' to fuck with.
                  I don't know if there are enough words in the English language to describe this motherfucker. Just take a good long look at this thing. It looks like the Castle of the Sasquatch King. Check out the rounded corner that addresses the post office next door that is set back from the street. Only Willis G. Hale would make a corner in the middle of a block. Are those triple columns around the doorway? The tower at the top was iron, 137 feet off the ground. It was so intricate that you would need to be climbing the side of it to see all the details.
                  William James Swain was the spoiled brat son of William Mosely Swain, one of the founders of the Public Ledger, one of the many newspapers in Philadelphia. After being educated by private tutors and travelling the world, Swain returned to Philadelphia and worked for his dad's paper. After a few years, he said, "Fuck this shit and fuck my pop!" and started his own paper in 1870 called the Public Record.
                  It was more or less a cheap imitation of the Public Ledger and didn't sell that well... until 1877. In that year, self-made millionaire William M. Singerly bought the paper and decked it the fuck out. He was in touch with the people and knew what they expected from a paper. He streamlined the articles into an easy-to-read basic format that fit on less pages. Singerly sold the daily for one cent and filled it with anti-Republican and anti-city government sentiment. The paper was renamed the Philadelphia Record.
                  Within 3 years, the paper was so successful that it had higher circulation and home delivery than all other Philadelphia papers combined. It was so victorious that the other papers reported on how fucking insane it was that this dinky little paper took over the whole goddamn city. By 1881, Singerly decided that the Record needed a building to match it's kickassedness. Who could possibly design a building of such grandeur? Willis G. Motherfucking Hale.
                  I mean really, he went balls to the walls with this shit. This building looks like Hale fucked a granite mountain and gave birth to this motherfucker 9 months later. It opened in 1882 and immediately became a landmark due to how fucking crazy-looking it is. One paper called it "one of the finest buildings in Philadelphia".  Architecture critics fucking HATED IT. One architecture book refers to it in a chapter called Architectural Abberations and says "...but only in Philadelphia that [Hale] would attempt to body it forth in actual stone." and describes the iron tower as "very terrible".
                   Fuck those critics; they're dead. This Granite/Human Hybrid is the real shit. See that lamp sticking out from the front? That was 1882 Philadelphia's most powerful lamp. People called it the "rival of the moon". Hale really knocked this one out of the park.
                  The paper's success continued well into the 20th Century. They grew the fuck out of their building and moved into the old Packard Motor Car factory at Broad and Wood. The kick-ass Record Building was unceremoniously demolished to make way for a New Deal redevelopment plan that still stands on the 900 block of Chestnut to this day. The Record Building only stood for 50 years. What a drag.
The Record Building awaits its execution, flanked by two other kick-ass lost buildings in 1932.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week-- August 2nd

Fisher Translational Research Center

3300 block of Civic Center Boulevard

                   This piece of shit hasn't even fully finished construction yet and it already looks like ogre ass. Looks like there might have been an overstock of white Legos in Denmark and they sent them all here. How else do you explain such a shitty design? I mean really... this is one of Philly's latest buildings and it just makes you want to puke when you see it. The worst part is that it is now the most prominent building on the HUP/CHoP mini-skyline.
                The reason that Penn Hospital and CHoP have been building shit like gangbusters along this block is because it just recently became available. Many new Philaphiles are unaware that this area was briefly Philly's cultural and commercial powerhouse. The Philadelphia Convention Hall and Commercial Museum were cool-ass buildings that were part of the five-building Philadelphia Civic Center. Once the Pennsylvania Convention Center was built, these buildings became useless. They were knocked down in 2005.

Convention Hall going down. I'll be telling you more about this mothefucker some other time. Pic by Matt Blaze.
                  Penn and CHoP jumped all over the idea of being able to expand onto this newly empty property. The new buildings they first threw down aren't half-bad looking, but then you get to the Fisher Translational Research Center.
                 It's like the architect, the firm of Rafael Vinoly, chugged a bottle of vodka, huffed a bunch of nitrous and went apeshit with some styrofoam blocks the night before they needed to present the design to Penn. The next morning, they grabbed their styrofoam and scotch tape model and went straight to their presentation. Penn should've known what they were getting into. Just look at the renderings:

The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine isn't too bad looking.. then you get the Fisher Translational Shitcastle on the right. What the fuck were they thinking?

This is not something someone should be proud to present.
                         I find it hard to believe that whoever was in charge at Penn was like "Sure! That looks like it's worth the $300 million dollars to build!". I mean really... how the fuck did they sell this design? Just look at that side view. It's like they couldn't decide what the fuck to do. It's six ugly buildings mishmashed together.
                         I'm not sure what the fuck Translational Research is but I do know that it'll probably end up saving lives. I guess it's better to have an ugly building that saves human lives than a nice looking building that kills people.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- August 1st

Smith Chapel Baptist Church (a.k.a. Northwestern National Bank I)

1828 Ridge Avenue

Still kicking ass and taking names after 125 years.
                    Here's a building that most Philaphiles don't even know about. It's a triangular old bank building that stands as a memorial to the greatness of Philadelphia's northwestward expansion of the late 1800's. It was even called the Northwestern National Bank, since this was the most Northwestern edge of residential development in the city at the time. The neighborhood it's in is pretty grimy nowadays but was one of the nicest places in America when this monster was built. Though very Furnessian-looking, this beast's architect is truly a mystery.
                      In the last few decades of the 19th Century, Philadelphia was going through a rapid expansion. New-money super-tycoons who were rejected by the trustafarian hipster establishment at Rittenhouse Square had established their own community on North Broad Street. Over the next few decades, those rich motherfuckers expanded their nice-ass neighborhood to the north and west, taking advantage of extended streetcar lines. Gigantic residences and commercial buildings blew through the area. The diagonal-streeted Francisville section got completely overpowered.
                     By the 1880's, all of that development started to reach the Northwestern edge of anywhere a human would want to be. Back then, the large industrial area in what we now call Brewerytown smelled like shit. A person could smell and sense the nasty factories all the way to Girard College, which was then in the middle of nowhere. The Girard/Ridge ave. corner became part of the northern edge of the good-ass neighborhood.
                    In 1882, some nice-ass supermansions were built surrounding one of the old buildings in the 'hood, a crappy halfway-house/hotel building at the Girard/Ridge corner. The rich motherfuckers were not too happy with the undesirables sleeping next door and found a simple way to get rid of them out, knock the motherfucker down, and build a badass bank. They found the mystery architect and had this motherfucker built by 1886.
                    That's right... this buildings' architect is a fucking unknown. It is credited to early Philaphile Otto C. Wolf, but no one knows for sure if he was the one who did it. If this is a Wolf, it is completely different than his other buildings, which are mostly factories and brewery buildings.
                    You see, Otto Wolf was a badass. He was a mechanical engineer, architect, and banker. He not only invented 19th century cold storage techniques but also designed cold storage warehouses. Many of the breweries in Brewerytown were his designs. He also invented coin-stamping technology that he sold to the Japanese government. This guy did everything! On top of all that, Otto was the goddamn Vice President of the Northwestern National Bank, which probably explains why people think he designed it.
                    Otto Wolf or not, this little building kicks ass. It can't be easy to pull off a good design on a triangular-shaped lot. You got to love the massive entranceway, like you're going to enter Valhalla every time you go to the bank. Impressive that this Generator of Jeet Kun Do Jawbreakers has managed to keep most of its original details, despite being all fucked up.
                    Once the 20th Century rolled around, things changed. Those rich motherfuckers were more easily able to transport back and forth from much greener pastures, so they moved out to the country and left the neighborhood behind to rot. Northwestern Bank stayed in business and moved over to a new building at Broad and Fairmount. The Ridge/Girard building sat boarded up and in disrepair... what else could you do with a triangular stone fortress? Make it a church!
                    In 1969, Smith Chapel Baptist Church moved in and still conducts church services in that location to this day. The super-awesome mansions from the same era as the Northwestern Bank still stand surrounding it. Did I mention that those mansions were designed by none other than Commandant of Badass Motherfuckers Willis G. Hale? Massive improvements in the Francisville section as of late may bring new hope to this forlorn corner. Future development will hopefully bring this spot back to glory.

Northwestern Bank in 1968, right before being altered into the church.
After alteration.