June 21: Brady slams hotel’s tax credits | West Trenton line | On rowhouses

State Rep Bob Brady has written the U.S. Treasury that he is “deeply troubled” that conversion of the Liberty Title and Trust building received $15 million in New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) support although it “is neither located in a low-income community, nor will its benefits accrue to the residents of the surrounding neighborhood,” Jacob Adelman reports. PIDC’s John Grady explained that it “is not uncommon for credits to be allocated to projects with strong job-creating potential in areas of moderate income.” Brady also asked the Treasury for any “community benefit agreements or other statements which articulate the community benefits promised by this project.” Brady’s letter was prompted by activists who questioned the hefty taxpayer assistance, as Jake Blumgart reported, arguing that the developers won substantial public subsidy without providing enough to the public in return.

Columnist Solomon Jones argues that Rebuild’s workforce needs to be way more inclulsive than other city projects. He cites the city’s most recent Economic Opportunity Plan Employment Composition Analysis, which showed that “three quarters of city-funded small projects…fell below the city’s 32 percent minority participation goal and 42 percent mid-range city-funded projects had no minority workforce at all in FY 2016.” Jones concludes, “If Rebuild — a project funded by sugary-beverage tax dollars that come out of black and brown communities — is to truly include those who pay the freight, we must depend on the building trade unions to change their behavior.”

Rowhouses make up 70 percent of Philadelphia housing stock yet “75 percent of all these homes are deteriorating at a rapid clip, more quickly than owners can repair them,” writes Hilary Jay for Hidden City. Jay talked with Interface Studio Architects’ Brian Philips and Deb Katz, of the 100K House fame, about their perspectives on the inherent flexibility of the city’s “most common architectural form–both in low and high income neighborhoods.” Philips and Katz speak to how they see the row house as a democratizer and symbol of American culture, and examine its “unique ability to appeal to and serve diverse populations across boundaries of class, race, and identity.”

What’s behind the West Trenton line’s delays of late? An obsolete aging three wire-system and wide spans, Jason Laughlin reports. SEPTA’s Jeff Knueppel explains that while SEPTA switched to a simpler, and sturdy, two-wire catenary (the electric lines above trains) on most of its lines a decade ago, “SEPTA was desperate to get its West Trenton Line trains running on time, and used the three-wire configuration because it could be done quickly.” The short-term solution resulted in cracked wires that forced all train traffic has to be diverted to one line for a portion of the route, causing major delays. SEPTA began an upgrade this week, but it will take a year and a half to complete.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has received a $300,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to install a 2,000-square-foot urban garden at Thomas Paine Plaza, Philly Magazine’s Claire Sasko reports. The “Farm for the City” project, slated to open next summer, will feature “gardening workshops, large-scale community dinners, poetry and storytelling performances.” PHS hopes that the plaza’s heavily trafficked location outside the Municipal Services Building will “encourage conversations about food access, urban agriculture and community revitalization.”

Uber founder Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO after five of Uber’s major investors, including one of the company’s biggest shareholders, sent a letter demanding that he step down immediately, the New York Times reports. As of last week Kalanick took “an indefinite leave of absence,” amidst a string of controversies and Uber’s attempt to rebuild its company culture and image. The letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward,” also asked for improved oversight on the company’s board by filling two of three empty board seats with “truly independent directors.”

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