Thursday, April 10, 2014

GroJLartitorial: 5 Ways To Help Save the Great Wall of Pennsylvania (PA Convention Center)

In a massive cosmic co-incidence, this is both officially the third anniversary of Philaphilia AND my 500th writing! To mark this occasion, I bring you the first GroJLartitorial, where every few weeks I will give you my own low-integrity, grossly un-informed opinions about shit going on in Philadelphia. Enjoy! 

               After reading Legendary Philaphile Brad Maule's recent article about the abject, butt-blastingly horrible failure of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Expansion, I was immediately thrown into a fit of rage. Why did it all have to happen this way? I was pretty fucking excited about the expansion when it was first announced. It was going to eliminate some embarrassing decades-old empty lots, bring new economic growth to the city, enliven a dead part of North Broad Street, and show a new face of the city to the rest of the world!
              What did we get? Disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. Trash. A giant empty wall of fuck that hasn't done shit since it was built. Thanks, Nutter. Thanks, Rendell. Thanks, everyone else responsible that could have done something to halt the steady string of failures and dumbassery that lead to this fucking brand new empty building that I paid for. Thanks for wasting my money. Again.
              I am aware that the Convention Center has plenty of difficult-to-control-shit working against it. They've got six (6) entrenched obsolete dirtbag unions that make it a terrible experience to hold an event there. There's multiple methadone clinics, halfways houses, drug rehab places, and mental facilities within a two block radius. They're next to PREIT's failure of a Gallery at Market East. I get it, there are problems. That doesn't mean the Convention Center can't be the solution!
              Well, your old pal GroJLart is here is save you, shitty convention center. I, with my singular average-IQ'd brain, have come up with 5 ideas that will help save it. I had 6 originally, but one, which was to privatize the fuck out of the place, is already being attempted. That idea is in motion now that private management firm SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management has taken the helm as of December 1st, 2013. Perhaps they will have the nutsack capable of undoing the damage the Board of Directors (which mostly consists of a whole bunch of well-connected people with multiple full-time jobs that have almost nothing to do with running a convention center who have plenty of other shit on their minds besides a successful convention center) have done lo these many years. Sure, all the following ideas would cost millions of dollars, but you've already thrown $700 million of MY FUCKING MONEY in the goddamn toilet with the Expansion, might as well go for a few hundred million more.

1) Turn the Convention Center Expansion into a Casino

Just a shitty conceptual rendering hastily drawn over a photo from VITETTA
                Think about it.  The state is already forcing an unwanted second casino down our throats. How about instead of wasting time, energy, money, and a neighborhood on a second casino, we put it right here!?! A big empty building already paid for by the state on a block that doesn't have shit going on with it anyway, attached to the convention center and right off of 676! Its kinda between the Provence and Market 8 proposals, after all. The fucker is already built and just sitting there--thousands of square feet of perfectly good gambling floor doing nothing. Put it to good use!
              You can call it CasinoJLart. After all, there's a potential hotel space attached to the property! Speaking of which--

2) Buy 101 North Broad and Sell It To A Developer That Can Actually Finish Something

               A couple of years ago, Berwyn-based developer Realan Properties built that shitty Convention Center parking garage (that is incapable of filling its storefronts) and also purchased 101 North Broad Street, one of the only old buildings to escape the Convention Center Expansion's path of destruction. The whole justification for that ugly fucking garage was that it would support the new hotel they intended to install into 101 North Broad Street. They even got $2 million from Rendell's farewell cronyism gifting spree. A shitload of excitement was generated on what was to be an Aloft Hotel in a decades-vacant but beautiful building.
             Oh look-- its three years later and 101 North Broad is still an empty pile of shit. We shouldn't be surprised, of course. The same developer proposed the Philadelphia Gateway Center in 1988 and all they got done for that was the parking garage as well. They still have the balls to list it as an active proposal on their website!
            Getting 101 North Broad into use would add shitloads of density to a dead-ass block. Perhaps it would even convince the folks at the PA Convention Center to open one of its many Broad Street facing doors! Call it the GroJLart Hotel.

3) Turn the Expansion into an "Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art"

               Remember the mind-numbingly dumb idea to grossly misuse Eminent Domain to turn the mighty Divine Lorraine into an "Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art" that was proposed by a bunch of idiots that don't know shit about the Lorraine (or art)? That head-banging-against-the-wall, asinine-as-fuck idea would actually be a pretty good one when applied to the Convention Center Expansion. Lots and lots and lots of space available that can be divided up into galleries/classrooms/studio spaces/other bullshit required for such a venture. Instead of fucking with Willis G. Hale, who ain't nuthin' to fuck with, they could fuck with this, which simply ain't nuthin'!
              On top of that, its right across the street from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts! Finally, more arts will come to this stretch of Broad Street for the first time since 1876. They could even move Oldenburg's horrendous paint brush and poop pile in there, as part of the Monument to Dumbass Ideas that would have to be included into this project. 
             Call it the GroJLart Center for Contemporary Art.

4) Make that Big Fucking Roof into a Big Fucking Green Roof Attached to the Reading Viaduct Park

My crappy rendering of a Convention Center Green Roof is already superior to the existing roof. Aerial from Google.
              I'm not the only one that has thought of this (Brad Maule mentioned it from the beginning), but I may be the only one who has thought of connecting it to the future Reading Viaduct Park. This thing is by far the most costly of my ideas but it has the most potential for a big turnaround, in my grossly un-informed opinion. By my extremely rough calculations, you can fit about 13 or 14 acres of park on that big-ass roof. 
              How will this help the Convention Center? Because it will help everyone involved. It will be a new tourist attraction for the city. It will provide a cool gimmick for potential convention bookings. It will connect to a park that has already generated a lot of buzz despite being years away from completion.
             It would be like Independence Mall, but WAAAAY better. There won't be streets full of cars barreling through it. There will be a great view of the skyline. It could be used as event/concert space. It would almost replace the Convention Center as the main attraction of the neighborhood. Think of all the development it would spawn. 
            Call it GroJLart Park. 

The view from the top according to Google Earf. Tell me this wouldn't be the shit!!


              Why not? Our money is already wasted. Doesn't anyone remember the Chinese Wall? We got rid of that giant motherfucker because it was taking up absolutely perfect real estate while doing absolutely fucking nothing. It also separated whole parts of the city despite having pass-throughs at every street, just like the Convention Center does today. Just call it quits now before the PA Convention Center fully becomes the next Chinese Wall. Then, like what happened 60 years ago, all that valuable land could be sold bit by bit and a new Commercial Business District could be born.
              We could put this whole Convention Center thing behind us and maybe even get some of that wasted taxpayer money back. Conventions aren't even cool anymore and this particular convention center can't even book simple shit like Star Trek Conventions, the Philadelphia ones of which are done in Cherry Fucking Hill because the company that runs them won't touch the PA Convention Center with a 10-foot-pole. 

 6) All of the above

              Ok, I lied, I have 6 ideas. This one is to take all the suggestions I just wrote and do all of them at once. I'd be willing to bet that all 5 of my ideas put together would still cost less than the Convention Center Expansion. Do my ideas seems stupid to you? Too outlandish? Impossible? Well, I'm sure those arguments can be made. However-- at least I'm fucking trying. The goddamn Convention Center Expansion is a failure that cost all of us a lot of money. Let's get the ball rolling on salvaging some kind of use out of that unnecessary pile of shit.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fill This Front: The Murano

2101 Market Street

Taste the Rainbow... of shit!!!
             Is there something going on here that no one is aware of?  This barren bastard has been sitting here, looking exactly like this, for the last SEVEN YEARS. Back in the day when the Murano was first built, people gave this front a free pass. They saw how all the surrounding blocks were full of horsetrash so it was understandable that this 7,500 square foot storefront would stay empty.
             All that shit changed in 2012, when 2040 Market (less than a block away) had both of its storefronts filled on its opening day. Worse yet, Commerce Square next door renovated their plaza and were able to get most of their fronts filled. SO WHAT THE FUCK IS THEIR EXCUSE!?!?! If I was a rich motherfucker who bought one of those condos in the early days before the auction, I'd be pretty fucking pissed off that the storefront directly under my expensive-ass condo was sitting empty for 7 fucking years.
                So who's responsible? Well, at least currently, the space is managed by Metro Commercial Real Estate, who have failed miserably at getting this big-ass space next door to a supermarket located one block from a trolley stop and accessible by some bus lines. Also, foot traffic. Oh, the foot traffic. Again, WHAT FUCKING EXCUSE DO YOU HAVE? Is the location cursed? Ghosts? Rats? Roaches? Invasive vines growing through the floor!?!? What is it?
              Well, Metro Commercial-- I'm here to help you. Even though you'll never thank or pay me, I will now sell this storefront, no doubt getting a commission for whoever hasn't been doing their job getting this place filled. Here we go...

           This is the Murano Condominum singular retail space at 2101 Market, located at the northwest corner of 21st and Market in Center City, Philadelphia, PA, United States of America, North America, Earth, Sol System.

                This is a massive 7,500 square foot space that could hold anything from a high-end clothing store to a car dealership. The interior boasts super-high ceilings and, due to being encased entirely in glass, is brightened with sunlight throughout the day. There are 302 residential units directly above the space, filled with upper-middle class to dangerously upper class people with oodles of disposable income. There are also hundreds of residential units in the surrounding blocks, all filled with people that have plenty of dough burning a whole in their pocket, itching to get out!
                So its shaped a little weird. So is the whole building! Stop being such a wanker about it. The odd shape of the space could lead to your store being one of the most unique in the city! That's not all... directly next door is the most overcrowded Trader Joe's on this side of the Mississip. Sometimes the line just to get in the door wraps around the block! Take advantage of these customers with your own store that can serve a need that Trader Joe's doesn't!
                 Not only is this space visible by the loads of foot traffic that passes by, but about 21,000 cars, trucks, and buses pass this location each day. That's 21,000 customers you haven't reached yet! Also, five trolley lines stop one block away from this location, serving 120,000 people per day. Throw a little ad up in the 22nd Street stop and your customers will beat their way off the trolley and up the stairs just to come running into your store! Make sure to re-enforce the giant glass walls to make sure none of them come running straight through your windows-- because they'll want to!!!


               This is Metro Commercial's site for the space. After looking at it for a grand total of five seconds, I see why some out-of-towner who saw this listing wouldn't want it. The photos shown in the listing are renderings from before the building was even built. Outsiders wouldn't even be sure if the building got built or not. Maybe it would help if they actually put up a price point instead of just "negotiable", but what the fuck do I know?
               C'mon, MetroComm. Put in a little more effort into getting this and your many many many other vacant CC storefronts filled. You need me, some random shitbag architecture and development nerd, to sell these spaces for you pro bono on his own damn blog? Well, I will. I will because I care more about having a vibrant Center City Philadelphia than you guys do. Step it up.

Not pictured: Your store!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Butt-Fugly Building: Wanamaker House

2020 Walnut

                  I'm pretty sure this is what Lieutenant Commander Data's hydraulic penis looks like. Fucking ugly as shit. A big rectangular turd in one of the city's best neighborhoods. A mismatched piece of asstrash surrounded by beautiful architecture from many ages, almost making it seem worse through the juxtaposition. Then there's the name. Wanamaker House. 1) Its not a fucking house, its a building! and 2) That's not John Wanamaker's House!
            This building, if you can call it that, started because of a fire. In 1978, the Scott-Wanamaker House at 2032 Walnut Street, which had just been head-to-toe renovated five years earlier, went up in flames. Much of the interior was burned up but the facade was left intact. After three years, the hulking remains of the house still stood empty and was slated for demolition. Even after the house was completely prepped to come down and with machinery and shit on site, preservationists were able to save the old place.
            That same year (1981), WH Venture out of Chicago came along with plans to build a badass condominium building that would not only fill the huge empty lot next to the Scott-Wanamaker House, but make use of the old mansion as well. It would be named Wanamaker House after the mansion. Since it was the early 1980s, badass meant a cement and steel piece of shit that looks like Voltron's favorite dildo with goofy-looking townhouses on each street-facing side. The Walnut Street-facing houses look totally out-of-place, mostly because they are nowhere near as tall as the old row-mansions that fill the rest of the block. The shitty design came from Barancik, Conte, and Associates out of Chicago.

The rendering. Someone actually PLANNED for it to look this bad!
          By the time the first units were on sale at the end of 1981, they didn't sell well. 300 out of the 333 units (basically everything that wasn't a townhouse or penthouse) was leased as apartments instead. In 1984, WH Venture defaulted on their loan on the asscastle and their bank foreclosed on it. Later that year, the bank failed and the FDIC took ownership. Sounds like this pile of Duplo dogshit is pretty bad luck. It went up for sale in 1988 and was sold for $36 million to Unity Capital Partners of Great Neck, NY. They converted the apartments back to condos and sold the fuck out of them. Condos were hot at the time and the only other new condo building in the same hood at the time (the Rittenhouse) was stuck in half-built construction limbo.

Robo-Cock. Rise!!
                All these years later, Wanamaker House has aged horribly for being a 33-year-old building. It looks dated enough to guess a construction date of the early 70s instead of the early 80s. As implied above, it sticks out like a sore taint above all that other great architecture that surrounds it. Where were the NIMBYs when this shit was built? Oh, and thanks for the three huge garage doors on the 2000 block of Walnut. Way to fit in, shitty building! Feh!

Again, thanks.