May 26: $96.5M awarded to Salvation Army survivor | Little Pete’s LGBT resistance history | Mayfair’s first coffee shop

An arbitrator has awarded $95.6 million to Mariya Plekan, a Ukrainian immigrant who was the most seriously injured in the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse. Plekan’s attorney, Andrew Stern, says that Plekan, who was buried beneath the rubble for 13 hours, suffered injuries so severe that she had to undergo a ‘guillotine amputation,’ the removal of the lower half of her body at the hips. The Inquirer’s Joseph A. Slobodzian writes that the 17-week civil trial of lawsuits filed after the June 5 wall collapse is the second-longest civil trial in Pennsylvania history and that the $227 million settlement is the largest personal-injury settlement in Pennsylvania history.

Before Little Pete’s became a Philadelphia institution at 17th and Chancellor streets, it was a small coffee shop named Dewey’s. This Dewey’s was the site of the first successful sit-in for LGBT rights in the nation. Dewey’s, a local chain, had 18 locations in Center City, including 13th street location, widely known as the ‘fag’ Dewey’s, in Philadelphia’s “gay ghetto.” In 1965, in an effort to keep “the queer-tolerant 13th Street location the exception and not the rule… the management of the Dewey’s at 17th and Chancellor streets (now Little Pete’s) made it clear that they would refuse service ‘to a large number of homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing’.” William Way LGBT Community Center’s archivist Bob Skiba shares the history of how the “Dewey’s sit-in marked an important step in the ongoing struggle of transgender and gender-queer people, especially those of color, to lay claim to public space in Philadelphia.”

Mayfair will soon get its first coffee shop, a minority-owned local cafe called Eggspresso that will sell coffee drinks and gourmet egg rolls. To the ‘forgotten’ middle neighborhood’s residents and leaders, this new business marks a big step in a longstanding effort to “diversify and increase business on Frankford Avenue and beautify the corridor.” Billy Penn’s Mark Dent interviews leaders from the Mayfair Civic Association and Mayfair Business Improvement District, and local business owners about the changing commercial corridor.

Inga Saffron takes note of the inexpensive textured details of the Continental Building, a boxy 12-story office tower at Fourth and Market. The tower, which cost $6 million in 1970, has a simple, repeatable, low-cost facade system of “repetitive grid of square windows sunk deeply into sculpted, precast window frames” cut by plazas into the northeast and southwest corners. Through the Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program, the plazas house a sand-cast sculpture of a square female form designed by Constantino Nivolo, titled Dedicated to the American Secretary. Saffron critiques the plaza entrance, arguing that “the design completely wastes the building’s prime corner at Fourth and Market by elevating the retail to plaza level.”

Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation for amount of startup funding applications, Philadelphia Business Journal’s Michelle Caffrey reports. the latest report from Gust, a popular funding platform for the sourcing and management of early-stage investments, showed the Commonwealth represented 4.4 percent of all applications nationwide. Applications, however, “should not be confused with those ventures that actually get funded,” the Inquirer’s Jonathan Takiff cautions. 

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