What Happened Next: Updating stories from May and June

NewsWorks went back to check in on several of the stories it covered this year. These “What Happened Next” updates will run through the remainder of 2013.

What’s next for the stalled Wissahickon treetop proposal?, May 17

The Story: In late March, NewsWorks began the first of a series of stories about a Tree Top Adventure course proposed at Wigard and Henry Avenues in Wissahickon Valley Park.

When Parks and Recreation began to gather community input on the decision to solicit proposals from adventure course operators like the UK-based Go Ape, some park users were excited. But others were deeply opposed to the initiative, which Parks and Rec Director of Property and Concessions Management Bob Allen insisted would be implemented in an environmentally responsible way.

Locals headed by Roxborough resident Denise Cotter formed the Alliance for the Preservation of the Wissahickon (APOW) and collected thousands of signatures opposed to the project. In May, Parks and Rec officially withdrew the proposal.

What Happened Next: Locals opposed to this use of the park have gotten their wish.

“We have no plans to pursue [the adventure course] any further in the Wissahickon Valley Park or any other City park,” Allen told NewsWorks in December, pointing to 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones’s May 7 decision to sign the APOW petition, as reported on the group’s blog.

Go Ape, who declined to comment to NewsWorks last spring, opened its first U.S. state park course at Delaware’s Lums Pond in June.

Last spring, APOW leader Denise Cotter indicated that after their success opposing the tree top adventure project, the group might take up other environmental concerns related to the park. But Cotter could not be reached to provide an update.

APOW’s latest blog post, published June 6, which likens the adventure course proposal to an illegal break-in, indicated that members were still circulating their petition following Park and Rec’s official withdrawal notice.(Alaina Mabaso)

Plans for Wayne Junction industrial conversion altered after neighbors’ input, June 5

The Story: In June, developers of an empty industrial site near Wayne Junction met with civic groups to review plans for 4700 Stenton Ave., which include 23 apartments.

Concerns previously raised by community members had led to several changes in the plan: a daycare center on the first floor had been removed and nine interior parking spaces had been added to the plan. Robert A. Rosin, an attorney representing property owner Peer Investments, also said an environmental report requested by the community, was being prepared.

What Happened Next: Apparently nothing. The deteriorating, brick industrial building at 4700 Stenton still stands, and a “Sale” sign has been posted by the Binswanger real estate company.

Calls for comment from the attorney for Peer Investments were not returned. (Alan Jaffe)

Radar gun finds dangerous driving near Philly-area schools (and speeders anywhere cars go), June 7

The Story: For its second story about speeding in and around Philadelphia, NewsWorks sought reader suggestions as to problem areas in the region. Many asked us to check out school zones, which is what we did. At the Malvern School in Delaware County, of the 75 cars which zipped by on a rainy Thursday morning, with the school zone signs still flashing, 71 of them were driving more than double.

Traditional problem spots also lived up their billing, most notably a Suzuki motorcycle going 80 miles per hour on Martin Luther King Boulevard around 4 p.m. one Monday.

What Happened Next: People still speed, but along one of our troublespots, Kelly Drive, the city Streets Department traffic-division launched an initiative in November to “get motorists to pay attention to the speed they’re driving” with signage and roadway sensors upon which speeders trigger red lights at Fountain Green Drive.

“Speeds have dropped,” said Richard Montanez, chief traffic engineer in the city Streets Department, about Kelly Drive.

Montanez said engineers are still analyzing data from the sensors, which hold 30 days worth of information, in order to learn exactly how many vehicles now traverse the road near the 35-mph speed limit.

Depending on its success, and the viability of other locations, the light-timing approach could be used elsewhere in the city. (Brian Hickey)

Council approves red-light camera at Stenton and Ogontz avenues, June 9

The Story: Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass sponsored legislation to place a red-light camera at the busy intersection in West Oak Lane, where a well-attended church and public school sit. The measure was unanimously approved.

What Happened Next: Officials with the Philadelphia Streets Department and the Philadelphia Parking authority have confirmed that red-light cameras were installed at the beginning of December. PPA spokesman Martin O’Rourke said they have not been activated yet. That should change “around the first of the year.”

Bass is also interested in placing a pair of red-light cameras along Lincoln Drive, which snakes through parts of her district, most notably Mt. Airy and Germantown. (Aaron Moselle)

Mt. Airy’s Lovett Library selected as prototype in citywide library system transformation, June 12

The Story: Lovett was one of four branches among the Free Library of Philadelphia’s 54 sites chosen to partake in the first phase of a pilot program meant to update the city’s libraries. 

The FLP was awarded a one-time $82,500 grant from the William Penn Foundation in March to help develop the selected prototypes.

Plans for Lovett Library included making the space more inviting and taking a look at needed structural repairs, infrastructure and accessibility. 

What Happened Next: Head of the Friends of Lovett Library, David Moore, said the library’s trustees have taken a look at preliminary plans for renovations, including a possible expansion, but nothing has been revealed to the public yet and there is “no money actually on hand” to date.  

In the meantime, the library is looking to increase its digital presence through a blog, social media and email newsletters.

Lovett, along with 10 other city libraries, was set to start six-day service (up from five-day service) in early October. That plan has been postponed indefinitely until FLP feels they have acquired and properly trained the necessary staff to extend service hours. (Neema Roshania)

Bass calls Maplewood Mall investment a $2.2 million ‘game changer,‘ June 17

The story: Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass announced the city’s commitment to fund a $2.2 million renovation of Germantown’s long-neglected Maplewood Mall.

Joined by State Rep. Stephen Kinsey and city Commerce Department chief operating officer Kevin Dow, Bass spoke to a large crowd of locals eager to hear the details and timeline of the project. The first order of business was soliciting neighbors’ feedback on what should be done, with the goal of releasing a request for proposals by year’s end.

What Happened Next: Ray Jones, Bass’s director of constituent service, confirms that though the project is still in its very early phases, things are on schedule.

“An RFP has just been drafted,” he said, predicting that it would go out in mid-December. Locals he’s seen at meetings this year “seem to be pretty much on the same page, looking forward to the ultimate result.”

Despite the inevitable inconveniences of the coming construction, “You have a diverse group of folks who are working together who are bringing all the concerns of Germantown,” he added.

Next will be the consultation and selection process for a developer, with the actual design and engineering phase scheduled for mid-2014. Construction will begin the next year, followed by public art installation and existing façade improvements.

Jones estimated that the entire project would be completed in 2016. (AMa)

Wired Beans owner ‘definitely’ plans to open new cafe in Germantown, June 18

The Story: One June week after he told NewsWorks that his year-old coffee shop in Germantown’s Chelten Plaza was closing for good, Robert Wheeler said he was already seeking a new location to start anew.

“They pretty much set the place up to fail. I feel like I was priced out,” said Wheeler, citing a $2,750 rent on the 1,400 square-foot location, an opening delayed by months and lack of eye-catching signage that had been promised to draw customers in. “Going into the second year, with another cafe going across the street, it just wasn’t generating enough money to stay open.”

He intimated that Maplewood Mall could be his next stop.

What Happened Next: The Wired Beans location is still adorned by advertisements for the business, as well as an “Open” sign despite the interior being cleared out to a certain extent.

Wheeler told NewsWorks in early December that he’s “actually going to look at some locations in Germantown right now.” He said if all goes right, a new Wired Beans Cafe would be planned “definitely within the winter.” (BH)

Two brothers propose innovative co-working vision for old Manayunk building, June 25

The Story: Brothers Adam and Simon Rogers have grand plans for a former power substation that sits just beyond the heart of Main Street, Manayunk’s commercial corridor. If funding comes through, the pair will open The Transfer Station, a mixed-use, collaborate space that offers small retailers a place to sell, co-working opportunities, event spaces and more.

It’s a concept they’ve already started testing at another Main Street location. The duo has also started testing the investment waters using Fundrise, a crowdfunding platform specifically geared towards real estate projects.

What Happened Next: The Transfer Station’s temporary home inside a former Restoration Hardware store has started to take off. So far, more than 20 retailers have signed on to use the space, including jewelers, woodworkers, ceramicists and photographers.

The location’s co-working and event spaces are also beginning to attract attention. Adam Rogers told NewsWorks that he and his brother are in the process of updating their development and fundraising plans for the substation location.

A new Fundrise campaign, one where real money is being invested, will be launched once those details are nailed down. An earlier campaign on the site, launched to test the waters, garnered more than $700,000. The goal was $500,000.

“It was kind of overwhelming,” said Adam Rogers of the online response. “We just want to keep that up while we hammer out details on our end.”

Simon Rogers has said it will take at least a year and more than $2 million to complete the project. (AMo)

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