Tribute to the automat on 11th wins preservation award

Imagine sitting in a charming restaurant on 11th Street, with hip mid-century modern tables and chairs, eating food that you can order with technology. No, it’s not the next James Beard contender, it’s the former Philly staple: Horn & Hardart’s Automat! DAS Architects recently restored the Steele Building at 15 South 11th Street, once a H&H, to its 1912 glory and the architects will be presented a Grand Jury award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia in June for their meticulous work, Curbed Philly’s Anna Merriman reports. DAS Architects replaced the windows, repaired tile floors and the lobby’s marble staircase, and restored the terra cotta fleur-de-lis cornice, David A. Schultz, AIA, co-founder and principal of DAS said, as part of a tribute to the restaurant phenomenon where one could “put your nickels in and get hot, often nutritious meals without interacting with a human being.” And who doesn’t love a good reboot? The first floor now holds honeygrow, a Philly start-up where one can order healthy food via touch screen before real people make it. The General Building Contractors Association also recognized DAS with the Contractors’ Choice Award at the 20th Annual Construction Excellence Awards in 2017.

Whatever happened to the ‘Edge City’?

When Joel Garreau coined the concept of the “edge city” in the ’90s, it became one of the most talked-about ideas for planners, developers, and urban leaders. Jake Blumgart, contributing to CityLab, looks at what ‘Edge City got right and wrong about America a generation later and whether this buzzword is still useful today. 

Garreau defines an “edge city as a place that has at least 5 million square-feet of leasable office space, 600,000 square-feet of retail, and a population that increases at 9 a.m. on weekdays. Think King of Prussia or Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia.  Even after these dense yet highway-oriented megadevelopments stopped being the flavor of the month, Blumgart writes, their influence endured. “Garreau didn’t foresee the dramatic resurgence of big coastal cities [and] “his dismissal of public transit…comes off as rather shortsighted today, [but he] was right that developers, not planners or architects, have steered the creation of our urban environments.” As suburban locales continue to grapple with their relationship to transit and density, the text still makes for a relevant read today.

What’s up with your 2019 land assessment?

The Office of Property Assessments botched up property assessments again, argues Jon Geeting, contributing to the Philadelphia Citizen. Geeting cites a recent report from University of Michigan and University of Illinois, where economists estimated Philadelphia’s total land value at approximately $400 billion as well as the Lindy Institute’s Kevin Gillen’s quarterly reports on on the current state of the region’s housing market “steady price growth in all regions of the city.”   And yet, Geeting argues, “our local tax system has been poorly set up to take advantage of this increase in land wealth to fund city services.”

When land values in Center City spike, Geeting explains, the effects ripple outward. And “if we’re systematically undervaluing land…then we’re leaving a ton of tax money on the table from particularly wealthy sources, and we’re also over-taxing everyone else as a result.” Furthermore, Geeting writes, “by undertaxing vacant land in appreciating areas, we’re effectively subsidizing land speculation that’s not in the public interest.” We need to get a new Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal system up, Geeting says, but rails OPA, saying that “because the City can’t seem to manage any IT projects, it keeps falling behind.”


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