December 28: Lew Blum, auto reaper | Mt. Holly energy farm | Liberty Title Building conversion

Inga Saffron has the lowdown on Lew Blum, whose name you’ll know if you’ve ever parked a car in Philadelphia. Blum is in fact not a bogeyman conjured by the city’s sophisticated folk culture of parking, but a real 60-year-old who grew up in West Philly. He seems to come from another world altogether; both his childhood home and his childhood school have been demolished for new development.

A landfill in Mount Holly, New Jersey, was capped with a solar energy farm, the Inquirer reports. The panels are expected to create enough energy to power 2,000 homes a year, while only needing light maintenance every six months.

Political communication is an odd business, and it always strikes a particularly funny note when news reporters criticize politicians for being poor hucksters. The New York Times has a story looking at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s communications apparatus, quoting a friend who says, “It’s not enough to do the work. You also have to tell the story.” Meanwhile, outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was “on message until the very end” in an exit interview with the Inquirer.

It’s year-in-review season, and CityLab has 10 maps that defined 2015, “a cartographic tour through the year’s biggest stories.”

Is there growing, multi-partisan agreement that overly strict zoning laws are bad for housing affordability, income inequality and racial segregation? Not so fast, says Daniel Hertz in City Observatory: “… Anyone who thinks there is a ‘consensus’ about the damage caused by too-strict zoning ought to attend the next community development meeting in their neighborhood. While there may appear to be a policy consensus among national-level policy wonks, things look very different on the ground, including the ground on which zoning policy is actually made.”

OCF Realty checks in on progress at the Liberty Title Building at the northeast corner of Broad & Arch. Realen is planning to convert the old building into a Starwood hotel. The building is a rare survivor of the Convention Center expansion, which brought down a number of historic buildings on the block.

Ben Leech, the former director of advocacy for the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, has a sharp eye for architectural detail. We’re following him on Instagram, where he’s currently posting pictures from Mexico City.

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