August 8: Councilman Johnson’s no-bid city land sales | Plan B for S.S. United States | 1900 block of Sansom spared

William Bender has an important piece on some of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s no-bid land sales in Point Breeze. There’s a lot more to it, but the gist is that city-owned properties which had multiple expressions of interest were often sold for far less than market value to favored developers, and in more than one case to a Johnson campaign contributor. None of this is prima facie evidence of wrongdoing on the Councilman’s part, but it does offer a window into how councilmanic prerogative over city land sales creates opportunities for untoward dealings, whether or not elected officials choose to take advantage of them. “In the past two years, more than two dozen city properties in Johnson’s Second District were sold through similar no-bid sales, shortchanging taxpayers and violating city policies that require competitive bidding or appraisals for sought-after lots, records show.”

The S.S. United States won’t be returning to the seas after all, reports Jesse Pesta. The Crystal Cruises luxury travel company commissioned a $1 million study back in February to determine the vessel’s sea-worthiness as an NYC-based cruise ship, and they’ve since determined that there are too many obstacles. That means the prior plan to incorporate the ship into Philadelphia’s waterfront redevelopment plans, by outfitting it with restaurants, a hotel, or possibly office space, is back on. “Crystal’s top-to-bottom examination concluded that the 65-year-old vessel, taken out of service in 1969, remains sound. It also means any future partners will not have to spend the money to figure that out,” writes Pesta.

Southern Land Company has shifted its strategy to keep the front section of the Warwick Building at 1906 Sansom as well as the Rittenhouse Coffee Shop at 1904 Chestnut, according to Friends of the Boyd. SLC had previously sought to demolish the buildings as part of their development plan for 1911 Walnut Street, the last vacant lot on Rittenhouse Square.

Danya Henninger gets some reactions from eastern Point Breeze neighbors about the Newbold Neighbors Association’s vote to drop the ‘Newbold’ from their name. Developer John Longacre, who coined the name Newbold for a much smaller area, tells Henninger he warned neighbors about overdoing it. “I told them that to declare that much of Point Breeze ‘Newbold’ would make them hated and cause problems for us, at the same time,” Longacre said. “They didn’t listen.”

At Car and Driver Magazine, Pete Bigelow looks at the recent history of urban freeway teardowns that prefigured U.S. DOT’s ‘Every Place Counts’ initiative, and explains why the cause has gone mainstream. “For the first time in the 60 years since the interstates arrived, needs of commuters and suburbanites are holding less sway. Decisions regarding America’s cities are increasingly prioritized for the people who live in them.”

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