Comings & Goings

News from around town.

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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 sustainability@phila.gov. 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.

Comings & Goings

Fairmount Park Conservancy Hires New Director, Financial Officer

Jamie Gauthier was hired as executive director of Fairmount Park Conservancy on Sept. 13. Gauthier began working at the conservancy as senior director of public partnerships in January, and she has served as acting executive director since July, upon the departure of Rick Magder. 

Gauthier has a master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania and has served as executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. 

On Sept. 1, Gauthier hired the conservancy’s first chief financial officer, Cynthia E. Roberts, who previously worked as director of finance for the Children’s Literacy Initiative.

Organizers Host Statewide Actions Against Trump’s DACA Repeal

A statewide coalition of membership organizations called #paresist demonstrated at various cities in Pennsylvania to support the passage of a Clean Dream Act in response to the Trump administration’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—the immigration policy that had until recently enrolled almost
1 million “Dreamers.” 

Statewide participating organizations included Keystone Progress, Planned Parenthood, Women's March PA, PA Voice, Lycoming County Progressives and Rise Up Doylestown.

Council Member Introduces Green-Roof Legislation, Joins Sierra Club to Push for Clean Energy

City Council Member Blondell Reynolds Brown, chair of the Council Committee on the Environment, introduced an ordinance on Sept. 28 that will make utilizing the current Green Roof Density Bonus more uniform across development types.

This amendment provides clarity to two concurrent bills introduced in spring 2017, and ensures that the “Commercial Mixed-Use” designation gets the same bonus as residential developments that incorporate approved green roofs into the building design. Under the code, if a green roof is to be installed and meets certain conditions, then the total number of allowable units in the development increases by 25 percent.

“This measure establishes uniformity across districts,” said Reynolds Brown. 

In addition, Reynolds Brown introduced a resolution urging President Trump to affirm the Clean Water Rule, a 2015 regulation that clarifies water resource management under a provision of the Clean Water Act.

Reynolds Brown also joined the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter—along with clean air and clean energy advocates—to launch Ready for 100 Philadelphia, “a campaign to transition the city to 100 percent clean, renewable energy through equitable, community collaboration.”

So far, 45 U.S. cities have committed to the Sierra Club’s national campaign, including Phoenixville and West Chester in the Philly suburbs. 

The Sept. 28 campaign launch at the Philadelphia Ethical Society included representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the Office of Sustainability, as well as local leaders in sustainability.

Nonprofits and Businesses Team Up to Plant Near Parks, Schools

The Philadelphia Orchard Project and its partners planted trees and expanded community orchards Oct. 7 at Bartram’s Garden, Bartram High School and Tilden Middle School as a part of Boise Paper’s Project UP. The initiative was funded through sales of select office papers, and POP was joined by the Alliance for Community Trees (a program of the Arbor Day Foundation), employees from Office Depot and community volunteers.

“Community orchards are a powerful means to engage urban residents with spaces producing healthy food right in their own neighborhoods,” explained Phil Forsyth, executive director of the nonprofit POP. “We’re creating functioning ecologies that produce fruit and create opportunities for communities to reconnect with nature and the food system.”

Participants planted more than 50 fruit trees, 80 berry bushes and fruiting vines, and hundreds of perennial flowers and herbs. Philadelphia was the ninth planting sponsored by Project UP, which has helped to revitalize distressed parks and neighborhoods in Indianapolis, Baltimore, Miami, Toronto, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Cleveland.

Local Study Abroad Program Wins International Award

The GREEN Program, a Philly-based study abroad program, was among four organizations to share the #1 Education Abroad Provider award from the World Youth Student and Travel Confederation, held at the annual Global Youth Travel Awards on Sept. 28 in Montreal. 

The GREEN Program is in its seventh year and operating in multiple countries in three continents. Its educational trips take place during winter, spring and summer breaks and they last eight to
10 days.

Proposed King of Prussia Rail Seeks Support through alliance

The King of Prussia Rail Coalition—a group of business, civic and academic leaders—formed in October to support SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High Speed Line extension to King of Prussia, which would link the suburb to Philly. 

“When we look at King of Prussia and the wonders it provides in terms of economic growth... it becomes incredibly important to make sure we do not pass King of Prussia by, that King of Prussia becomes just as accessible as other parts of our region,” said Jerry Sweeney, president and chief executive of developer Brandywine Realty Trust. 

In October, Sweeney was named chairman of the King of Prussia Rail Coalition, which includes officials with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the King of Prussia District business association, and officials with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University, philly.com reported. The project anticipates completion in 2023 at a cost of $1.1 billion.