News from around town.
City’s Clean Energy Vision Open for Public Comment
On Nov. 14, the city’s Office of Sustainability released a long-term vision for reducing carbon emissions 80 percent from 2006 levels by 2050. The plan, “Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia” is open for public comment through Jan. 31. Residents can take an online survey or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The plan is available online through the Office of Sustainability.
Cultural and Commercial Spaces Revamp Across City
In Old City, United By Blue opened a new flagship store and café at 2nd and Race streets. It is housed in the “Bridge” development project—a 17-story, mixed-use building with LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The United By Blue space is expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification for commercial interiors.
The Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia held an opening ceremony at its new Fishtown home Nov. 5, where members and visitors chanted, meditated and watched the creation of a sand mandala by Venerable Lama Losang Samten, the center’s spiritual director. TBC has had many homes over the years, the most recent being 9th and Spring Garden streets. The new location, at 954 N. Marshall St., will host spiritual, cultural and educational events, as well as volunteer projects.
Brandywine Realty Trust, in partnership with Drexel University, broke ground Nov. 8 on Phase I construction of the mixed-use Schuylkill Yards development in University City. The first phase of the $3.5 billion, multiyear project involves the creation of a 1.3-acre community park at the corner of 30th and Market streets to be known as Drexel Square.
Rebuild Announces Oversight Board, Public Meetings
On Oct. 25, Rebuild—the revitalization program also known as Rebuilding Community Infrastructure—announced its new oversight board, which will be responsible for reviewing the program’s progress and making recommendations.
Rebuild is a $500 million project to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreation centers, playgrounds and libraries. The oversight board will be chaired by Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, and comprises City Council members and other civic leaders, an educational consultant, the president of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the board chair of the William Penn Foundation and the CEO of Children’s Crisis Treatment Center.
Quarterly meetings will be held to serve as a public forum in which Philadelphians can learn more about Rebuild and ask staff members questions. The first meeting was held Nov. 1.
City Approves Kiosks for Free Wi-Fi and Phone Services
The Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems received approval Nov. 1 to install 100 free-standing kiosks that will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi; device-charging ports; free phone calls within the U.S.; 911 emergency calling; a touchscreen tablet to access city services and apps; and information on city events, arts and culture.
Construction Code Update stricter on Energy Efficiency and Safety
Legislation signed into law Oct. 26 by Gov. Tom Wolf authorizes Philadelphia, for the first time, to independently adopt the most up-to-date set of building codes available. The updated 2018 codes were released earlier in October by the International Code Council (ICC), which updates its model building codes on a three-year-cycle to incorporate advances in engineering, materials, construction science and safety.
“The 2018 ICC codes will make Philadelphia safer and better protected from man-made and natural disasters,” said Councilman Bobby Henon. “Updating the city’s energy-efficiency standards means improved sustainability.”
Before the legislation was enacted, state government had the sole authority to adopt updated building codes, and only on a statewide basis. The new legislation creates an exception for Philadelphia to adopt the new codes with respect to commercial construction. Pennsylvania never adopted the updated ICC codes released in 2012 and in 2015, so the 2009 codes are currently in full effect.
“Because the state is several code cycles behind in regulating commercial
buildings,” explained L&I Commissioner David Perri, “Philadelphia has been unable to benefit from many significant improvements in construction practices and materials for almost a decade.”
To become law in Philadelphia, the 2018 ICC codes must be adopted via a City Council ordinance.
Leadership TransitionS at Environmental Orgs
PennFuture—a watchdog organization for policy regarding Pennsylvania’s air, water and climate—announced a new president and CEO, Jacquelyn Bonomo, on Oct. 27.
Bonomo served previously as PennFuture’s executive vice president and COO, and she has leadership and executive experience at organizations including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy,
National Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society.
Scott Cooper will take the helm at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University the second week of December. Cooper most recently served as the vice president of collections, knowledge, and engagement at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada. He holds a doctorate in architectural history from Edinburgh College of Art.
Bridge to Connect Schuylkill River Trail to Bartram’s Mile
Conrail Crossing will be the new name of the Schuylkill River Swing Bridge, which will include a biking and pedestrian crossing to connect the Grays Ferry Crescent Trail to the Bartram’s Mile section of the Schuylkill River Trail system. Construction is projected to begin in 2018.
The city announced an agreement Nov. 1 with railroad company Conrail as part of a project to extend the Schuylkill River Trail into Southwest Philadelphia.
Conrail has agreed to donate the bridge to Philadelphia. The overall project cost is estimated at $12 million, with funding provided to the city by a $3.2 million federal grant and $10 million worth of funding from the state.