Late last week, just before Sandy’s wrath broke over the Northeast, Bart Blatstein unveiled his proposed North Broad mega-casino and resort, the Provence, to local politicos, powerbrokers, and the press. Ambitious in scale, it is nonetheless relatively unambitious in amenity, seeking to replicate a Vegas Strip-type development on North Broad. And as such, an introverted design seeking to lure customers in and up, rather than one seeking to connect what is currently a relatively empty area between Center City and several major neighborhoods, it falls prey to significant urban design and architectural failings.

In the past, Blatstein has shown he does not truly grok urbanism, but that he can be coached by those who do to produce intensely-urban designs; the Piazza, generally considered his greatest success, began life as a strip mall design like his movie theaters on the Waterfront and in Manayunk: it was gradually coached into its final form as a collaboration between he, the developer; Scott Erdy, lead architect of Erdy-McHenry; and Matt Rubin et al. of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association. As neither Blatstein nor Erdy are natural urbanists*, we can safely say the Piazza’s urban design is largely the NLNA’s work.
Blatstein did not produce this by himself.

The fact that Blatstein has learned more a facsimile than a reality of the Piazza’s lessons shows in the Provence. It has not one, but several notable urban design issues, which, taken together, fail to capitalize on the site’s existing assets, and worse, fail to ensure strength beyond a single life-cycle.

(via Crossing the Lines: A Provincial “Provence”)


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PSoP 150th Anniversary Exhibition, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Three of my “Urban Landscapes” images will show in the 150th anniversary exhibition of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia.

Five opening receptions are scheduled:

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: FOP helps raise $ for cop videotaped hitting paradegoer

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: FOP helps raise $ for cop videotaped hitting paradegoer

WHYY story about area around Divine Lorraine!

[From the Callowhill Neighborhood Association]

Good morning Callowhill Community
Below is a link for a WHYY story that aired last night and this morning about the area around the Divine Lorraine.  Some home and business owners are worried because developer Eric Blumenfeld’s map does not include the buildings where they now live/work.  He says the map is just a set of ideas that can be changed.
They are also putting together a special half hour show for air on WHYY and posting on next month, about the history of North Broad Street and its future. 
Please share and circulate this or post it on an appropriate message board/ list serve. WHYY is trying to get readers/listeners to send  their comments, questions, memories about North Broad so they can answer them:

A Philadelphia developer’s ideas for the area around the Divine Lorraine Hotel on North Broad Street are much bigger than just the historic building he’s renovating. The map of big dreams stretches across and around the old hotel: covering four blocks along Broad Street. (See map below.) Some current residents are wondering why their buildings aren’t on the map.

Imagine looking at a map of the block you live on — and not seeing your home. Instead, the map shows a new building.

“I first saw that drawing last Thursday.  When I saw that my house was obliterated — that I was not expecting at all and that was quite a shock,” said Susan Crawshaw.

(via North Broad neighbors worry they will be pushed out by Divine Lorraine project — NewsWorks)

[Once again, a rampant example of the Eraserhood transformed to Disneyhood mentality.]

The fact is, North Broad Street is in the midst of a tremendous turnaround and is poised to take the next step with the (hopefully) upcoming renovation of the Divine Lorraine. Removing the casino aspect, Tower’s proposal would clearly be a tremendous positive for North Broad. With a casino, there’s definitely a risk that the momentum could be slowed or stopped completely. By our estimation, the casino will have to be done just right for the project to have a neutral or net positive effect on the area, and any execution flaws could prove disastrous.

It’s encouraging that the developer behind the project is both extremely knowledgeable regarding Philadelphia real estate and has experience doing large-scale mixed-use projects. But while the Piazza is one of the most impressive and important projects we’ve seen in this town in a decade, most would agree that there are several imperfections there, notably on the commercial side. Hopefully, Tower has learned those lessons and comes to this new project equipped with a new approach.

Whether any of this ultimately happens will hinge on whether the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awards the second Philadelphia license to Tower and Hard Rock International. Plans are due by the middle of next month, and there will almost certainly be several other applications. Will this be the one to win out? Should it be the one to win out? Only time will tell.

(Click through for the most complete set of renderings so far: Will a New Casino Stifle North Broad Street Just as It’s Taking Off? | NakedPhilly)

[Edit: Looking over these plans a little more is making my crack about Eraserhood transformed into Disneyhood feel much less far-fetched than it seemed just two days ago. That’s not the kind of prognostication I am particularly proud of…]