Stationery Building Isn’t Going Anywhere

This six-story building at 1525 Chestnut is waiting for a new tenant and a new purpose, but thanks to the Philadelphia Historical Commission, it at least has a new designation. The A. Pomerantz & Co. building, designed by the Philadelphia firm Simon & Bassett, is one of 14 new sites on the city’s Register of Historic Places, added by the Commission in June. An early example of a reinforced concrete skeleton, the building was completed in 1917 for Pomerantz, a purveyor of stationery and office supplies. The company still exists and is now owned by former Phillies centerfielder Garry Maddox, its logo a mimic of the iconic sign on the façade of 1525 Chestnut. At present, tentative plans for a boutique hotel in the building are developing.
For more on this story, visit Hidden City Daily, hiddencityphila.org.

A River Runs Through It: Escape onto the water without leaving the city

Our rainbow flotilla set off downstream from the Walnut Street dock, each of us in a brightly-colored kayak. I’m not sure four Schuylkill Banks staff were needed to escort photographer Jen Britton and me, but when you get a chance to leave your West Philly office and get on the water for work, you take it.

Next time you see someone with a canoe or a kayak on top of their car heading out of town, keep in mind we have a great river right here. This is not to say that you should never launch out on some scenic upstate waterway, but you can also push off into the current and trail your hand in cool water with a much shorter commute.

Read More

Off the Rack: Bike rack competition seeks designs that blend art and functionality

As the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities gears up to introduce its new bike share program to Philadelphia, their colleagues in the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy are coming up with artistic solutions to deal with the resultant increase of bicycles. In conjunction with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the city recently launched a competition for artists and designers to create bike racks that will double as public sculptures.

David Byrne's "The Ladies Mile," on 5th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets, in front of Bergdorf Goodman“We’re really trying to succeed on both fronts,” says Gary Steuer, Philly’s chief cultural officer. “We want these to be functional as bike racks, but also to be beautiful and engaging and interesting as art.”

Read More

Big Wheels: Design Logic’s workhorse Phat Bikes are for more than just work

For Lance Portnoff, research and development doesn’t happen in a laboratory or a tech facility. The Fairmount-based bike designer prefers to do his research on two wheels, pushing himself against his closest competitors.

In 2010, he entered the Motor Assisted Bike Death Race in Tucson, Arizona on a cargo bike he had designed himself. He placed ninth out of 50 contestants in the race, and further developed that prototype using what he’d learned during the race. Soon after, Portnoff earned a patent for the design of his retooled bike, which was shortened, stiffened, braced and tuned from the racing prototype. He christened the bike “Da-Bomb,” and it served as the foundation of his new company, Design Logic. “Racing, you learn what works and what doesn’t, what breaks and what holds up,” Portnoff says. “It’s a starting point to figure out what’s going to eventually work in the real world.”

Read More

It’s a Bike World After All: Philadelphia joins more than 500 cities around the world with bike share programs

The first bike share program in the world was the White Bicycle Plan, the brainchild of the Dutch anarchist group Provo. White-painted bicycles were placed at locations around Amsterdam in 1965, intended to be used for a single trip and left behind for others to use. Within a month, the bikes were gone, either stolen or chucked into the city’s canals.

Other free bike systems were tried in France and the U.K. over the next few decades, with varying degrees of success. The first important “second-generation” bike system was implemented in 1995 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The city’s ByCyklen program, which continues today, required a refundable deposit to unlock its bikes from their stations.

Read More

Vicious Cycles: “Share the Road” begins at home

illustration by Steve StreisguthLet’s face it: bicyclists are better than everyone else. 
No carbon emissions —  unless you’ve just had a particularly nasty slice of pizza. No gas pumps. We keep the trouser clip industry alive. You can practically hear the crank and chain and hub and wheels going sustain-ability, sustain-ability as you pedal along.

I’ve been riding my bike around Philadelphia for years now, just about every day that it hasn’t been monsooning or snowing (remember snow?). And as the city’s cycling culture continues to grow — more bike lanes, more bike racks, more bike shops, more Share the Road signage, more cab drivers shaking their raging fists — it feels good to be part of a community. There are times when you’re moving along Pine Street in Center City, on Walnut in University City, across Spring Garden, all around town, when you find yourself in a virtual peloton of fellow commuters, café-goers, students, medical residents and nurses still in their scrubs and clogs, moms and dads with kids on bike seats or perched on those wobbly trailers, restaurant workers — everybody doing their bit to help the environment, keep their bodies fit, save money and get to where they’re going quickly, neatly, on a beautiful brainstorm of an invention. Two wheels, a frame, handlebars, a seat — genius!

Read More

Cucumbers: Cuckoo for Curcurbits

story and photos by Emily TeelSummer is an amazing time of year for locally grown produce in Philadelphia. Tomatoes are the divas of the farmers market: basket after basket of luminous heirlooms in every shape and shade are fawned over by a similar variety of fans, who pack the tomatoes’ delicate heft home for salads. Next to them, bouquet-sized bunches of basil crowd squeaky eggplants in every possible purple, and zucchini and summer squash have not yet worn out their welcome with eager overabundance.

But by the bushel, aloof — perhaps even cool — the cucumbers are the heroes of every summer salad.

Nutrition 101
Though they’re not the first superfood that one might think of, cucumbers are especially nutritious. They’re full of water and (as long as you leave the skins on) high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and silica, which promotes joint health. There is also some research to show that the lignans contained in cucumbers may reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers, including breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.

What to look for
Look for cukes with even coloring and firm texture, especially at the ends. Small cucumbers are often better than especially large ones, as they tend to have a crisper, more solid texture. Larger, more mature cucumbers tend to have larger seeds and a more bitter flavor.

Read More

Philadelphia says it is ready to have a world class bike share system. (Again.)

When Grid launched in 2008, the prototype issue’s cover story about Philadelphia’s newly-proposed bike share system cautiously declared that “momentum for a bike sharing program in Philly was looking good.” 

Five years and more than 50 issues later, Grid can report that, well, momentum for a bike-sharing program in Philly is looking good. Again. 

In April, the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) hosted a public forum on bike sharing in Philadelphia featuring officials from Boston, Denver and Washington, D.C. Mayor Michael Nutter took to the streets on a bright yellow bike alongside vendors who’ve built other cities’ systems to promote the plan. Andrew Stober, chief of staff for the MOTU, says, “We plan to bring a world-class bike share system to Philadelphia by the fall of 2014.”

Read More

We Got "Soak It Up!" Covered

Grid #52 is on its way to you, and included inside it is the Soak It Up! insert, with lots of great images and information about the Soak It Up! design competition, a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and the Philadelphia Water Department that challenged teams of design professionals to come up with cool, smart and innovative design solutions to the challenge of managing stormwater runoff. Coming up with a cover for the insert that did justice to all this design innovation was a challenge in itself. Here’s an animated preview that shows how that cover came to life. 

#52 Pick-Up

The August Grid, issue #52 — The Bike Issue — is on its way to a newsstand near you, and while we certainly hope you will pick up a copy, we don’t want you to have to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary, so you can check it out right here. As this is The Bike Issue, we have several bike-centric stories of interest, including Philadelphia’s proposed new Bike Share program, as well as Design Logic’s Phat Bikes, a cool new Bike Rack design contest, and a great Dispatch column by the Inquirer’s Steven Rea, as well as several great stories that are totally unrelated to bikes (except in that Kevin Bacon once made a movie about bicycling and we are all somehow related to him). 

Also in this issue is a great insert covering Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! an exciting design competition that challenged teams of designers to come up with smart, creative and innovative green design solutions to deal with the issue of stormwater runoff. This national, interdisciplinary design competition was created by the Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Community Design Collaborative to inspire innovation in green stormwater infrastructure for Philadelphia. Many of the design ideas may be implemented as part of PWD’s Green City, Clean Waters 25-year green infrastructure plan. We hope you will be as impressed by these design ideas as we are.

We also hope you will join us for Grid Alive on Thursday, July 18 at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, as hosts Alex Mulcahy and Nic Esposito welcome guests Gabriel Mandujano (founder of Wash Cycle Laundry Inc.), Beth Miller (Executive Director of Community Design Collaborative), Joanne Dahme (Public Affairs Manager of Philadelphia Water Department) and musical guest Birdie Busch.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. The Academy of NaturalSciences is located at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This month is FREE but, space is limited! Reserve tickets in advance at gridalivejuly.eventbrite.com

Read More