January 13: Saffron on 1911 Walnut | Rittenhouse’s wall sitting ban | Uber data

Rittenhouse’s most conspicuous vacant lot may finally have its most serious development proposal after more than 20 years of vacancy. Inga Saffron takes a look at the 565-foot tower planned by Southern Land at 1911 Walnut, which is supported by a coalition of high-powered neighbors. Design-wise, Saffron isn’t wowed but applauds other victories, like underground parking via Moravian Street. “The developer will also preserve two beloved historic buildings, the Rittenhouse Cafe and Warwick apartments. Though a third historic property, the Oliver Bair Funeral Home, is unfortunately being sacrificed so the plan can work, what makes the loss tolerable is a remarkable gesture by Southern Land. Rather than keeping the pair of preserved buildings, it will donate them to Project HOME for affordable housing serving homeless people returning to the workforce. The developer is also providing $2 million to offset renovations, expected to cost around $13 million.”

No sitting on the limestone walls inside Rittenhouse Square? New signs announce that perching atop the limestone balustrade is prohibited. The Department of Parks and Recreation issued a statement to the Inquirer explaining the ban came “in response to a recent uptick in vandalism on the historic balustrades, which received nearly $1 million in restoration work just a few years ago.” Additionally, the because the walls weren’t originally designed as seating “this measure will further protect the structural integrity of these iconic park features.” Friends of Rittenhouse Square wanted the ban also because they say wall seating leaves behind litter, people who smoke pot there, and a high volume of people. But we’ve got questions: Why not enforce the smoking ban? Or post signs about litter? And if a park’s crime is drawing people to linger and enjoy the public realm, that’s a problem others envy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $4 million in water research funding to Drexel and Purdue universities to research water quality issues related to low flow conditions of drinking water in a building’s plumbing systems.

Uber Movement provides a dataset to visualize congestion and travel times in four cities, opening up the transportation network company’s data. But the data don’t enable enough meaningful analysis according to National Association of City Transportation Officials. Open-data advocates are concerned that “Uber is the sole custodian of its data, a valuable asset, and if cities want to understand its impact, they’re left to sort through piecemeal information the company releases — on its terms.” Additionally, The Washington Post reports that these data demonstrate that ride-hailing is no substitute for the capacity and efficiency of mass transit.

Feast for your eyes: the Grand Old Cunningham Piano Factory. Birdie Busch shares a peek inside the building that was formerly home to Louisa May Alcott, a Masonic Lodge, and most recently the piano company’s showroom.

Tom Cruise beats people up in film, Pittsburgh in background. Is this worth $60 million a year in film production tax credits? Public Source looks into this statewide tax incentive program.  

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