Ohio and Wisconsin Reject High-Speed Rail

The two state's incoming Republican governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin both swore to oppose high-speed rail for their states.  Getting their wish, the $1.2 billion they had been promised is now being redistributed among the 13 other states with rail projects in the works.  This unfortunate news is however good news for the rest of the country.  Building high-speed lines in these states would eventually connect them to a larger network with Chicago as the Hub City.  Other connections would be from Milwaukee to Madison to Minneapolis/St. Paul which would then integrate to a whole Midwestern network of rail systems. Ohio would have built a $400 million route traveling diagonally across the state from cleveland, through Columbus, then on to Cincinnati.  There would however be no initial link to the Chicago hub which would include a link down to Kansas City and St. Louis or Western Pennsylvania, but that doesn't mean future links to the midwestern network were not planned.

High-Speed Rail in Japan

High-Speed Rail in Taiwan
Sources speculate that the new Republican governors were opposed to receiving the money mostly on an anti- Washington- spending basis, which was the central narrative of the midterm election.  This rebellion of course only hurt their states in the long run, leaving themselves less competitive and disconnected from large quantities of human capital set to drive the economies of the Midwestern Megaregion.

The money is now being redistributed to states that are willing to cooperate with Washington, and invest in their own infrastructure.  By rejecting the funds they have not removed any tax burden from their state.  The money promised was grant money not loan money so no matter what the outcome, it had to be spent.  In the long run this network will grow and grow connecting itself to the greater midwest, the Northeast corridor and southern regions.

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High-Speed Rail, Americas Next Frontier in Transportation

The Government and Amtrak are finally making moves to improve the nations fast growing transportation issues.  With the congested transportation network of the  growing Megaregion referred to as the North East Corridor, current systems can not handle the level of projected growth the region will experience over the next 20 years.  Intercity transportation is becoming an increasingly crucial factor in the economic growth and stability of cities far and between D.C and Baltimore.

In September Amtrak unveiled its $117 billion high-speed rail plan for the Northeast Corridor.  Last wednesday a panel began tallying up the potential economic benefit to the Philadelphia region.  Some areas will benefit tremendously such as Market East, with a new HSR terminal planned for east market street.  The terminal will jump start economic development along the corridor.  In the past, large influxes of cash, mostly federal dollars have spurred earlier development along the corridor like the Gallery, the present Market East Station, and the current expansion of the Convention Center.  High-Speed rail could be the massive capital event the city has been waiting for, providing an estimated $236 billion a year in economic benefits throughout the North East.  The speed of the proposed line is said to top out at 220 miles per hour, a huge improvement from current Acela speeds of 155 mph.  These top speeds will top similar lines over seas such as France (TGV), Japan (Shinkansen), Spain (AVE), and the Germany (ICE).  The improvement in service times could turn Philadelphia into a "super-bedroom community" for New York by essentially making a commute to the Big Apple take about the same time as a trip to Paoli, said John Connors, managing partner at Brickstone Realty in Philadelphia.

The line would enable Philadelphia businesses to attract employees living in Connecticut and entice New York- based companies to relocate back-office and operational divisions to Philadelphia.  Under the proposal, the section connecting New York to Philadelphia, which is expected to cost $20 billion, would be constructed first over a time span of 12 years beginning in 2015.  The eight car, 400 passenger train would first stop at 30th Street Station, then at the New Market East Station scheduled for a later phase of the project.  The next phase would extend service to Washington D.C. and later extend north to Boston.  The Boston to Washington corridor is set to be completed by the year 2040.

When all is said and done, travel times between Boston and Washington will be as low as 4 hours, Washington to New York 1:55, and New York to Boston 1:46.

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Frank Gehry Sculpts Philadelphia

Certainly not a typical project for Architect Frank Gehry, or what we would expect when we hear the name Frank Ghery, but indeed the Philadelphia Museum of Art's underground expansion project will be an exciting addition to the city of Brotherly Love.

Gehry joined more than 100 dignitaries, philanthropists and art aficionados last month at the 82-year-old neoclassical landmark to mark the start of construction of a 68,000 square-foot $81 million loading dock and art handling facility.  The relocation of the loading dock provides opportunities to re-open a majestic pedestrian entrance unknown and never seen since the 1970s by todays museum patrons.  Work on the loading dock should be completed in 2012.  Museum officials said the new space will provide much needed improvements for the care and storage of art works and will make deliveries simpler.

After completion of the loading dock, planning will begin on a vast underground gallery, also designed by Gehry.  Tons of dirt and rock will be excavated under the steps of the museum, creating cavernous spaces to showcase oversized contemporary works and Asian art as well as rotating exhibitions.  The project will add 80,000 square feet of gallery space to the museum.  Gehry acknowledged that the loading dock is utilitarian by necessity, but said the public won't be disappointed when the final phase that includes the gallery is complete.  The work marks the second phase of the museum's $500 million, 10-year master plan.

"When it's done, people coming to this museum will have an experience that's as big as Bilbao," Gehry told the Associated Press.  "It wont be apparent from the outside, but it will knock their socks off inside."

Mixed-Use Educational and Housing Facility in North Philadelphia

Philadelphia design firm WRT is designing a new mixed-use educational and residential facility in North Philadelphia for the organization Brighter Hope, a partnership of the Goldenberg Group and Bright Hope Baptist Church.  The project calls for the renovation of the former John Wanamaker Middle School for new Temple student housing and renovation of an existing gym and auditorium into a "green technologies center" and a charter school.

"The lively public realm and mix of users envisioned for this project take full advantage of its fortunate location between Temple University and the neighborhood, and between multiple regional rail lines and the Broad Street subway.  Creating a vibrant transit-oriented development at this significant town & gown location," said Antonio Fiol-Silva, a principal at WRT involved in the projects design.

The 4.5 acre site at 11th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue will contain housing for 2500 student residents.  Phase I of WRT's master plan calls for renovating the existing school for 600 beds in 180 units, as well as a new Green Construction Training Center and an Arts & Education Forum.  The project targets LEED Silver, maximizing the structures potential for adaptive re-use, and incorporating recycled content materials, energy efficient HVAC systems, and progressive storm water strategies.  Future phases include two new high-rise student residential structures, retail, a large open courtyard, and a structured parking facility.


Integrative Elementary School In Denmark

Danish architects BIG present an interesting take on sustainable design and building with nature.  Located in the Denmark city of Asminderod, the sloping roofs of the Vilhelmsro Elementary School blend with the sloping hillside to create one continuous experience both inside and out.  The sloping landscape bands allow sunlight to stream through all classrooms as well as providing several energy saving features such as storm water storage, and natural cooling techniques.
View more at archdaily.com


Times Square In Philadelphia?

The Gallery and Market East are in need of a desperate facelift.  Developers and City Council seam to believe that large animated digital advertisements is exactly what the district needs.  A city council bill has been proposed that would create a commercial advertising district on Market, between 7th and 13th Streets.  The lighting, supporters say will draw tourists and convention goers to a new entertainment zone near the Gallery shopping mall.  Developers want invigorate Market East, envisioning it full of themed restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and movie theaters.  There is also talk of bringing in upscale "big-box retail stores" to draw Center City residents who now drive to South Philadelphia for their general household shopping, says Carl Primavera, and attorney who represents billboard companies.  In its current state Market East is underwhelming and underdeveloped, lacking the vitality that will entice conventioneers and tourists.

On the contrary opponents see this bill as a disaster.  They believe a potentially majestic and charming district will be totally stigmatized with chunky bill-boards and bright lights.  Philadelphia is not a second rate city and shouldn't result to desperate measures of imposing a false identity already branded by its big brother just 100 miles up north.  Philadelphia's brand has always been history, preservation and the arts.  That is why people visit this city.  As planners, preservationists, and developers who have an invested interest in the future of Philadelphia, we should be looking at innovative and exciting unique ways to enhance our city while still preserving and staying true to its identity, not settling for easy-fix, temporary, dated and potentially disastrous solutions just to make a quick buck.  When Philadelphia gets these rare opportunities to rebrand itself and make a statement to the world that we are a first class city with a lot of great personality, we settle for mediocre. We need to recognize the treasures we already have and enhance and celebrate them, not cover them up or taint them with false illusions.

When people visit Philadelphia they are looking for what makes Philadelphia different from any other city.  They ask themselves what is so special about Philadelphia that they can say to their family and friends at home, "You must go to Philadelphia to experience this!"  If we continue to borrow experiences instead of creating our own, we will continue to loose our credibility as a first class destination.  Lets run with the momentum of Green in 2015 and set our sights on becoming a global destination by 2035 with creative bold ideas that bridge commerce, history, entertainment, leisure, accessibility, education and livability.

Also check out "Bright Lights Big Mistake?"at Philly.com


Schwarzenegger Rallies For United Governments On Climate

Since the failed attempt at a global climate-change treaty, California has been exploring other alternatives to reduce greenhouse gases. Governor Arnold Swarzenegger is pushing state and regional governments around the world to act, stating the effort must be led locally in the absence of national and international momentum.  At his third and final California climate summit at the University of California, Davis, the governor enthusiastically encouraged unity in ushering in a new era of building a cleaner and brighter, more prosperous future to over 1,500 attendees from more than 80 countries.

Schwarzenegger is hoping states and provinces from more than 20 countries will launch a program being considered by the united Nations to secure financing for carbon-cutting projects in industrialized and developing nations. Talks leading up to a U.N. climate summit in Mexico already have divided rich and developing nations over the issue of intellectual property rights, compromising the possibility of making any binding cuts in greenhouse gases.  In the U.S., instead of pursuing legislation that would cap emissions through a carbon market, the Obama Administration intends to bypass Congress and regulate greenhouse gases directly through federal agencies.

Schwarzenegger said the failure at the federal and international levels should not discourage local governments from adopting their own policies on climate change.  The governor pointed out that the "green revolution" is happening at the local level in places like Africa, Australia, China, Norway, and the U.S.  There is great promise for this level of commitment with California and other States and leaders of Provinces in Morocco and France moving forward with their own nonprofit financing programs.  This could create the motivation and reality that climate solutions are real.

Read more at GreenSource Magazine

Revamping South Delaware Waterfront

Despite future plans for a Foxwoods Casino at its proposed site at Columbus Boulevard and Reed Street, planners for the Delaware River waterfront imagine far greater potential for this section of the river.  With the bad press and out of control crime at the recently opened Sugarhouse Casino farther north up river, there is no wonder planners are looking past the casino option and envisioning a more communal, economic, and culturally balanced approach.  With a casino out of the way, the neighborhood would be more residential friendly welcoming future hotel options and retail.  The neighborhood would have great potential for being a destination place to live, work, and rest while visiting the city and sports arenas. Future light rail transportation connection from Port Richmond and Market Street to Oregon Ave, the Sports complex, and the Navy Yard will make the waterfront and its neighborhoods a viable and convenient place to live.

Planners imagine a restored wetland park based on the deteriorated piers from 53 to 70 with nesting platforms for osprey and eagles.  The area currently hosting Walmart and Home Depot will continue to host the big box stores, but will shrink to a more urban-friendly vertical form, with stores fronting Columbus Boulevard and underground parking or a well designed parking garage.  The freed land can allow streets to extend across the boulevard and host new residential developments creating a balance of residences, retail, and industry.  Neighboring retailers can follow suite with Target, Lowes, IKEA, and Best Buy also going vertical, stacking their facilities freeing up land for new development.  These solutions expand the lifespan of these large retailers creating healthy communities and a consistent supply of customers.

Downtown Dadeland near Miami


Fishtown; One Of America's Most Fuel Efficient Neighborhoods

Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood, located along the Delaware River has been listed as one of America's most fuel efficient neighborhoods according to a Forbes.com study.  With centrally located residences from hip lofts in converted warehouses hosting the next generation of artist, graphic designers, and entrepreneurs, to freshly renovated town homes and New Construction.  There's no wonder why the neighborhood is a magnet for young fast paste yuppie and hipsters commuting to Center City and Temple University.  Transportation cost are the second-lowest among neighborhoods in the 10 largest metropolitan neighborhoods.  Public transit ridership is at around 12%, with short commutes to Old City,Center City and close by Northern Liberties.


G8 Goes ECO at York St.

G8 is nearing completion of its renovation project at 2045 York Street.  Among at list of energy saving sustainable features to the 3 story town home, G8 has decided to go with ECO for its countertops.  ECO, developed by Cosentino is a durable surface made of 75% recycled content composed of post-industrial or post-consumer materials and is bound by an environmentally friendly resin which comes in part from corn oil.  ECO is an ideal substitute for natural or engineered stone.  The product received the Readers Choice Award for Best Surfacing Material by Interiors Sources in 2009.  The counter top is made of recycled glass, mirrors and ceramic.  It never needs to be sealed, unlike concrete counter tops, is maintenance free and stronger than granite.  ECO is cut to order, therefor leaving no waste.  Check out the variety of color options shown below.