December 18: Jefferson and Philadelphia University Merger | Speeding up SEPTA | Defending micro-apartments

In a surprise move, Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia University announced a preliminary agreement to merge yesterday. “The deal comes as many small colleges and universities are under financial pressure…In the Philadelphia region, at least half a dozen small institutions had operating losses in their most recent fiscal years. Mergers by tax-exempt schools are rare, averaging two or three over the last decade, but the pace will double in the next few years, Moody’s Investors Service predicted.”

Inga Saffron thinks 1911 Walnut’s street-level presence needs some work. “The slab would perch atop an L-shape base with facades on four streets: Walnut, Sansom, Moravian, and 20th. Just 55 feet tall, the podium is intended to house a variety of entities – restaurants, shops, a fitness club, and boutique offices. Southern Land deserves special applause for putting the parking entirely underground. But it loses points for its oversize maw of an entry court on Sansom, which would replace the historic Warwick apartments.”

Jason Laughlin reviews some of the ideas for speeding up SEPTA trolleys (and surface transit generally) including dedicated trolley lanes, restricted parking on trolley routes, stop consolidation, and more transit signal priority upgrades of the kind the city is already undertaking on some of the Transit First routes. Jim Saksa has been tackling the particulars of some of these ideas in our Streetsplainer series, and here is an older post from Michael Noda on why some of the standard bus reform ideas fall short in Philly. Anyone interested in a deep dive on this topic should check out DVRPC’s Speeding Up SEPTA report from 2008.

Drama at the Turnpike Commission as Democratic 23rd ward leader Danny Savage filed suit over the Commission’s roll-out of a resign to run policy, reports Chris Brennan. The suit alleges the policy “‘was imposed specifically to prevent’ Savage from challenging Tartaglione in the [state Senate] primary, ‘and/or to retaliate against him for doing so.'”

Kriston Capps defends the concept of micro-apartments, as a way to take single renters out of the competition for family housing. “Low-density zoning spurs young renters to rent group houses (or “stealth dorms” as the case may be) all over the nation. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but when single renters can’t find good options in a growing job market, chances are that renting families won’t find them, either.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants permission from the federal government to pilot using Section 8 money to finance non-profit redevelopment of vacant and blighted properties into rental housing. This article is short on specifics, so we put out a call to Peduto’s office to learn more about how they think this would work. 

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