May 18: $100 million initiative for home repair, stabilization | Squilla undermining waterfront plan | Philly’s secret gardens

The City unveiled on Wednesday a $100 million initiative “designed to help prevent homelessness and displacement, preserve and stabilize city neighborhoods, and provide jobs for the city’s small builders and contractors,” Philadelphia Magazine contributor Sandy Smith reports. The funds will be “dedicated to clearing up a three- to five-year backlog of requests for assistance with home repairs under an existing city program… and will also finance a new revolving loan fund that will assist moderate-income homeowners with incomes too high to qualify for the grant program with ultra-low-interest repair and maintenance loans.” Council president Darrell Clarke estimates that the “initiative will create 1,000 new jobs and have $60 to $70 million in economic impact.”

Pittsburgh’s latest ride-sharing service, CabbyGo, launched in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Tribune-Review reports. The company, which aims to connect riders to existing taxi cab companies, uses a bidding system that allows drivers set their prices and bid against each other for 45 seconds before the rider “decides which offer to take based on price, time, driver rating or type of car.” CabbyGo’s founder Joshua Freedman hopes to attract drivers from Uber and Lyft with a system that lets drivers set their prices, pick their rides, and get 90 percent of the fare.

Councilman Mark Squilla’s recent bill to establish zoning bonuses that enable developers to exceed the maximum achievable height on the Central Delaware waterfront from roughly 25 to 30 stories “undermines a decade of waterfront planning,” the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron argues. Saffron writes that the bill runs against the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, which held “that the only way the Delaware could ever evolve into a real neighborhood would be if it started small, with urbane mid-rises on a traditional street grid.” The councilman also introduced the bill without first consulting the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation or Central Delaware Advocacy Group. Central Delaware Advocacy Group’s Matt Ruben argues that by “allowing more density, the site instantly becomes more valuable,” leading to a vicious cycle where more developers to pay for land and requiring more units to be built to turn a profit.

The Liberty Bell isn’t the only famous crack in Philadelphia. Hidden City’s Tyler Horst tells the odd story of Ben Franklin’s tombstone, which is undergoing careful restoration by Materials Conservation from its current heavily damaged state due in part to the city’s tradition of tossing pennies on to the grave marker. The fissure, already exacerbated by years of ‘copper projectiles’ that ate away at structural integrity of the historic stone, continued to grow all the way through to the other side of the modest monument after the Christ Church Burial Ground set the marker in a granite bed that trapped moisture that seeped in. The Church received grants from the Florence Gould Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to fund the restoration project, and also raised over $14,000 through a GoFundMe campaign (including a $5,000 donation from Bon Jovi).

Did you know that Philadelphia’s smallest green space, Catherine Park, is just 0.02 acres? Green Philly Blog’s Marie Bouffard highlights eight of the city’s secret gardens, including the Summer Winter Garden in Powelton Village, the Spring Gardens by Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary in West Philly.

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