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Temple U. launches major campus makeover effort

(01/22/98 10:00am)

The plan is aimed at turning around a sharp decline in enrollment at the university. Hoping to stem a 20 percent decline in undergraduate enrollment over the last 10 years, Temple University is planning a major makeover of its North Philadelphia campus, officials announced recently. In addition to demolishing most of a historic church, Temple's facelift plans include ripping down 19th-century rowhouses to open up space for a new quadrangle. The school would also tear down Thomas Hall, an African Methodist Episcopalian church on campus, to make way for a new dormitory. Still, Temple Director of Admissions Timm Rinehart insisted that the public university's revitalization effort is not a "desperate" attempt to attract students. "The healthiest universities in the country, like Penn, are building like crazy," Rinehart said. Temple also recently finished building the Apollo, its much-ballyhooed sports arena and concert hall, and is finishing up a new high-tech learning center. "All kinds of initiatives are under way to move the place forward and attract students," Temple spokesperson George Ingram said. Since Temple lies within a historic district, officials must get approval for any renovations or new construction from the Philadelphia Historical Commission, a city agency. One problem is that preliminary plans include partially demolishing the Baptist Church, an official city historic landmark built in 1889 by the school's founder, Russell Conwell. The church, which was sold to Temple in 1975 for $500,000, sits at Broad Street and Berks Mall. Several experts said that commission officials might be hesitant to approve the plans, explaining that city law mandates that landmarks not be destroyed unless there is a sufficient reason to do so, such as economic hardship. "We feel Temple should be encouraged to reexamine its whole approach," said Patricia Wilson Aden, senior vice president of the Preservation Alliance, a group that works to preserve such landmarks. "We have not seen evidence from Temple that there is an economic hardship." Officials from the Historical Commission did not return repeated phone calls this week. "We are hopeful that [Temple administrators] will look for an alternative use for Baptist Church, rather than demolishing it for a memorial garden," Aden said. "That is really a passive use for a building that has been part of the area throughout history." The school's plans to tear down most of the Baptist Church exclude the facade that faces Broad Street and also leaves out two undetermined portions of the church's side walls, according to Ingram. Temple's rationale behind wanting to demolish the church is sufficient, Ingram said, adding that the building is "unsafe" as it stands right now. Aden noted, however, that the estimated cost of destroying part of the church is $4 million, roughly the same amount as simply revamping the interior for safety reasons. "It's going to cost the same amount to create an outdoor garden [or quadrangle] as it would to stabilize the church," she said. Ingram stressed, however, that "Temple has not yet submitted an official request to do anything with Baptist Church." He added that Temple representatives met with an architectural review board only to discuss the plans informally. A Temple administrator is working with an outside consultant to prepare a report for the Historical Commission by an unspecified date. This is not the first time the school has sought to renovate the Baptist Church, as it has been looking for ways to upgrade the site for 20 years. In 1986, the school proposed similar plans to transform the spot into an outdoor garden, but the Historical Commission rejected the plan.

New Hard Rock Cafe opens in Philadelphia

(01/20/98 10:00am)

The corner of 12th and Market streets just got a little more crowded. The long-awaited Philadelphia branch of the 27-year-old Hard Rock Cafe chain -- one of the most well-known restaurant franchises in the world -- celebrated its opening day Friday, and the two-hour wait to get in is causing lines that extend far beyond the restaurant's doors. Restaurant officials said business is "tremendous" at the new location, the company's 86th branch. Bob Dylan's Harley Davidson sits behind the brass and dark-toned wooden bar. Elton John's white sequined outfit hangs on a wall. But the early favorite of most customers is Madonna's black leather bustier with scattered silver zippers. With Philadelphia's claim as one of the birthplaces of rock 'n' roll, many view the 1998 opening of the restaurant as long overdue. "Rock 'n' roll has always been part of Philadelphia's heritage, so opening up here is the right thing to do," said Matt Musmammo, the general manager of the Philadelphia branch. City leaders and officials said the Hard Rock Cafe, which is open daily until 2 a.m., represents a new wave of retail investments in Philadelphia. "I think the opening of Hard Rock is a really positive sign of entertainment-oriented retail happening east of Broad Street," said Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District, a quasi-governmental group that provides services such as cleaning and security. He added that the restaurant "will also add a significant amount of night life and keep the streets safer." The first Hard Rock Cafe opened in 1971 in London, when its founders decided to bring American food to England. The restaurant has since grown from that one small cafe into an empire boasting locations in more than 80 cities worldwide. Food is a secondary attraction at the restaurant. The most popular menu item, Musmammo said, is the pig sandwich, which contains meat derived from pig shoulder. In addition, the restaurant features the Philly cheesesteak as a hometown special.

Major Independence Mall makeover set to begin soon

(01/16/98 10:00am)

America's forefathers united to draft the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, which now sits on the southern end of a 15-acre mall that attracts more than 1.6 million visitors per year. Recently, however, the site has come under criticism for having a lackluster visitors center and for attracting tourists who only stay in the city for one day. Now, Independence Mall -- which covers an area between Fifth and Sixth streets north of Chestnut Street -- is about to undergo a major makeover. The $65.6 million project, which has been in the works for nearly four years, was formulated by Philadelphia architects Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Park Service and the city. Plans call for renovating much of the mall, including revitalizing the surrounding landscaping, renovating the parking garage below the second block and building a new pavilion for the Liberty Bell. National Park Service officials fault the current architectural design of Independence Mall for dividing the city into eastern and western halves. The new design for the area will alleviate this problem by including east-west walkways. The revitalization of Independence Mall might fulfill Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell's long-standing hope of extending the stay of many visitors to the city. "We want more people to stay overnight, and that involves making the Mall a much fuller experience," said Kevin Feeley, the mayor's spokesperson. Another problem with the current make-up of the site is that leaves the park's second block largely underused, as tourists commonly visit the site's first block -- which contains the Liberty Bell -- and then head south to Independence Hall. The center of the plans to revitalize Independence Mall is a proposed Gateway Visitor Center, which would serve as the region's orientation point for tourists. The $30 million, 50,000-square foot center, which is designed to attract more visitors to the mall's northern end, should be completed by the summer of 2001. Located on the northern side of Market Street along Sixth Street, the center should also help to promote other attractions in the city. And this week, Pew announced that Penn Trustees Emeritus Walter and Leonore Annenberg will donate $10 million toward the project. The Annenbergs' gift will provide $4.2 million to create a new educational facility for the Liberty Bell adjacent to the city-funded chamber which will contain the bell itself. The remaining $5.8 million will complete funding for the visitors center. In a written statement, the Annenbergs said they hoped their gift would help "to ensure that Independence Mall, with the Liberty Bell as its centerpiece, is an unparalleled destination and an inspiring experience for visitors from throughout our nation and the world." The Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations, has committed $10 million to the project's fund. Private and public sector contributions comprise another $10 of the project's funding. "[The Gateway Visitor Center] would offer visitors an exciting and educational experience," said Barbara Beck, a Pew spokesperson. "A central theme of heritage would integrate the services and programs of the center and its surroundings." Last November, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Rendell announced the the state would kick in $10 million, accounting for the final one-third of center's estimated cost. In the third, northernmost block of the mall, Rendell wants to build a National Constitution Center to highlight the effect of that document on citizens' everyday lives. This center is estimated to cost $123 million and is not yet funded. Groundbreaking is set for September 2000. Last summer, officials announced that the University would serve as the center's academic arm. Rendell is spearheading the campaign to raise funds for this center, and, according to Feeley, the prospective center has already gained much momentum and support in Washington, D.C.

Marrow ineligibility forces Penn to forfeit games

(01/12/98 10:00am)

Penn offered to forfeit the games Mitch Marrow played in, but did not discipline anyone involved. An eligibility scandal involving a Penn football player has caused the 1997 season to go down in history as the "year of the asterisk." Due to what all-Ivy League defensive tackle Mitch Marrow described last month as "an innocent mistake," the five Quakers wins in which he played will be marked by an asterisk in the record books. The accompanying footnote will explain that Penn voluntarily forfeited the game due to an academically ineligible player. As a result of the forfeits, Penn's 6-4 record drops to 1-9. According to a January 2 report by a four-member University committee investigating the controversy, Penn violated several NCAA bylaws when Marrow, a top NFL prospect, competed as a part-time student. The University sent the report to the Ivy League, which supported the University's decision to forfeit the five games. The Ivy League sent the report to the NCAA for a final review. If, as expected, the NCAA accepts the University's report, Penn will not be penalized any further. The report stopped short of laying the blame fully at Marrow's doorstep, stating that the Athletic Department was responsible for monitoring his status. At the same time, however, the report found that the Department's attempts to restore Marrow's full-time status were "inadvertent," and does not recommend disciplinary action against anyone involved in the case. The controversy began September 9, when Marrow dropped two of his four classes due to mononucleosis. Under NCAA regulations, Marrow was then considered a part-time student and should have been rendered ineligible to compete. But Athletic Department officials only realized that Marrow was ineligible November 19, when Marrow's mother, Sandra, called Athletics Academic Coordinator Robert Koonce to inquire if their tuition bill would be reduced to reflect Mitch's part-time status. Associate Athletic Director Denis Elton Cochran-Fikes initially contacted College Director of Advising Diane Frey to inquire if Marrow could be re-enrolled in one of the courses he had dropped. When Frey turned down that request, Marrow asked History Professor Beth Wenger if he could enroll in an independent study with her. Although Marrow was a student in Wenger's Jewish history class, Wenger consulted with History Department Chairperson Lynn Lees and Undergraduate Chairperson Bruce Kuklick, who urged Wenger to reject Marrow's request because of its late-semester timing. Marrow then asked for and received approval for an independent study with Legal Studies Professor Kenneth Shropshire, a sports and entertainment law expert who is also the University's faculty representative to the NCAA. But since Shropshire is a Wharton professor, the course required Frey's approval. Frey initially gave her consent on November 21. Marrow, now a full-time student, was allowed to compete in the November 22 game against Cornell. The Quakers defeated the Big Red, 33-20. The following Monday, The Philadelphia Inquirer contacted Frey and her supervisor, then-College Dean Robert Rescorla, about the Marrow case, prompting Frey to ask Rescorla to review her decision. Rescorla rejected the independent study on November 25, two days before the Inquirer broke the story on its front page. The incident made national newspaper and television headlines after the Associated Press picked up the story. The violations will forever mar the Quakers' season and Marrow's legacy as a Penn star. The committee recommended that the Ivy League strip him of the All-Ivy First Team honors he received during the 1997 season, tarnishing Marrow's illustrious career at Penn. Marrow is currently in Mobile, Ala., preparing for this Saturday's Senior Bowl, and was unavailable for comment this weekend. A woman at his parents' home in Harrison, N.Y., hung up on a Daily Pennsylvanian reporter. For Penn, the asterisk will represent, for years to come, the controversy that rocked Penn's Athletic Department in 1997. But University administrators and Athletics officials maintained that, while they are sorry for the team, the decision to forfeit the games was the correct one. "We are all unhappy that the members of the football team and the coaches, who worked hard all season, had this happen to them," said former Provost Stanley Chodorow, who appointed the committee that investigated the issue. "Penn has had an unblemished record of playing by the rules, and we have taken actions that preserve that tradition," he added. Chodorow stressed that the University did not sacrifice any academic ideals by initially allowing Marrow to sign up for an independent study late in the semester, since Marrow was treated "as any other student might have been treated" in this situation. Athletic Director Steve Bilsky noted that "this is the first incident of this kind" in Penn's 100 years of intercollegiate athletic competition. Previously, the football team has never forfeited a game, making Penn's forfeiture of five 1997 contests extraordinary. "I am disappointed for the players on the football team and the coaches, but I'm convinced they have this incident in perspective and that it doesn't take away from their efforts this season or the successes they've had in their careers at Penn," Bilsky said. And Interim Provost Michael Wachter said: "We are committed to 'playing by the rules' at Penn, and this is the consequence. There was truly no alternative to forfeiting the games." Although neither Marrow nor Penn intentionally violated bylaws, Marrow, as a student-athlete, "bears responsibility for understanding the eligibility rules that apply to him," according to the report. But Cochran-Fikes was responsible for monitoring eligibility and compliance with NCAA regulations, the report states. Last month, Marrow said Cochran-Fikes "kind of screwed up" by failing to provide him and two other fifth-year football players with eligibility information. Cochran-Fikes did not return a phone call Friday. Although the report blames the Athletic Department for "its failure to identify Mr. Marrow's part-time status and ineligibility," the committee members label the department's attempts to restore Marrow's eligibility as "inadvertent" and "not intentional." Under NCAA rules, only the NCAA could restore Marrow's eligibility. When the story broke, Kuklick and Lees alleged that athletics officials engaged in a "sleazy" cover-up of Marrow's ineligibility. But University spokesperson Ken Wildes stressed that "this did not happen as a result of someone trying to gain a competitive advantage." The committee investigating the controversy, which consisted of Anatomy Professor Peter Hand, Engineering Professor Wayne Worrell, Director of Institutional Research and Analysis Bernard Lentz,and Associate General Counsel Debra Fickler suggested several plans of action to ensure that such a violation never happens again. The Athletic Department has a responsibility "to scrupulously monitor full-time eligibility" and in particular, review weekly reports sent to the Athletic Department that list students' status as part-time or full-time. Also, the Athletic Department must "immediately report all NCAA infractions to the Provost, the President, and the Ivy League Office."

Bill of Rights guards newsstands against city vending ordinance

(12/03/97 10:00am)

Protected under First Amendment press freedom rights, newsstands have a benefit food trucks don't. It's hard to believe the Constitution makes much of a difference for street vending near campus. But as University officials seek a city ordinance to regulate vending on campus streets and sidewalks, First Amendment protections of a free press have Penn and Philadelphia taking care to distinguish newsstands from other vendors. The University delivered its newest proposal for a vending ordinance to City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's office last week. The ordinance would formulate tight guidelines establishing where vending is permitted in University City. Though many food truck operators and other street merchandisers have objected to the plan, newsstand operators are resting easy. Because Penn has asked the city government to set up the vending regulations, newsstands -- with their special constitutional protections --Ewill be exempt from whatever ordinance finally emerges from City Council. The only way the city government could force a newsstand to move would be if the stand lacked the proper licenses to operate, according to Robert O'Neil of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Va. For example, the city couldn't move or close a newsstand because government officials disliked the content of the publications sold there. Unlike in licensing cases, the First Amendment would protect the stand, O'Neil said. Last winter, acting on a University request, officials from the Philadelphia Bureau of Licenses and Inspections suspended Jatendra Dalwadi's permits to operate his newsstand on 34th and Walnut streets, because he lacked a city permit to use electricity in the stand. The First Amendment didn't cover that fight, though, and the University and the city prevailed in closing the stand. But while the city could not move a newsstand simply because it sold controversial publications, it could relocate the stand regardless of permits if it presented safety or health hazards such as blocking the view of traffic, said attorney Mike Hiestand at the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. Hiestand and O'Neil drew a distinction between regulating the location of a newsstand and regulating what types of publications the newsstands sell, arguing that infringing on freedom of expression would never hold up in court. "The government can regulate the distribution of news as to time, place and manner of the newsstands, but the regulation of content is quite different," O'Neil added. If the city asked a newsstand to relocate or close, the newsstand "would enjoy its First Amendment protections, in so far as the attempt to move the newsstand was content-related," Hiestand said. It is also unclear how much protection a newsstand retains when it sells candy, gum and food, in addition to news-related items. "You wouldn't have a free speech claim when you're talking about foodstuffs," Hiestand said. "The First Amendment holds better when selling newspapers than it does when selling Certs," he explained. The same sort of regulations governing the city hold true for government-funded public universities -- but not private schools like Penn. "I'd say a private university would be able to bar any activity it wished to bar, unless in doing so it would violate some statutory regulation, such as the nondiscrimination policy," O'Neil said. First Amendment considerations don't legally bind private property owners, whether they are schools or private landlords, according to Larry Frankel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania. Private property owners have the right to regulate all kinds of operations on their property, O'Neil said. "Any vendor that is inside the campus is private property, and therefore a private property owner [such as the University] can do as he wishes," he said. "The First Amendment does not apply at all to how a private institution manages its property," he added. But assuming that the University doesn't try to clear newsstands out without city approval --Ean unlikely scenario --EPenn has essentially waived its immunity from constitutional prohibitions.

Vending proposal sent to City Council

(12/03/97 10:00am)

Representing the culmination of years worth of vending negotiations, the University sent the latest version of the proposed vending ordinance to Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's office last week for review. But as with the last time the issue came before City Council, the proposal will not necessarily have clear sailing toward approval. University City Vendors Alliance spokesperson Scott Goldstein said the plan "just does not seem sufficient for the vendors." He complained that the UCVA received a copy of the proposed ordinance "on the same day" Blackwell did, and was therefore not given a chance to review it. The revised ordinance calls for the creation of a University City Vending Advisory Board to review vending stand design regulations and make recommendations about choosing among vending applicants for a particular location. The board would be made up of nine members -- seven of whom are affiliated with the vending business, the retail business or the University, and two who are not directly connected to the issue -- serving one-year terms. In addition, the proposed legislation, which was drawn up by the University, area vendors and the Penn Consumers Alliance, would prohibit outdoor vending directly in front of existing or future retail locations, as well as in residential districts. It would also eliminate vending on most of Locust, Walnut, Chestnut and Sansom streets, restricting it to the western side of 38th Street, Spruce Street between 36th and 38th streets, 40th Street between Spruce and Locust streets, 33rd Street near the Palestra and along Market Street between 34th and 40th streets. Thirteen additional carts will be situated near the Penn Tower Hotel. The council will schedule public hearings to inform the University community about the bill. The public hearings will take place after the first of the year, according to the University's top economic development official, Jack Shannon. "While the exact date of the proposed legislation's introduction remains to be determined, there is no desire to fast-track without the full legislative process taking place," he added. But Goldstein still accused the University of "rushing ahead," since the UCVA and the Penn Consumers Alliance were not given a chance to fully review the ordinance. He added that his group hopes to meet with Blackwell in the next few weeks to voice dissatisfaction with specific aspects of the proposal. "I am optimistic because Blackwell is always sensitive to the vending community," Goldstein added. In addition to the vending areas described in the proposed ordinance, the University will create five fresh air food plazas, which will provide free electrical hook-ups, outdoor seating and improved lighting for vendors, and will serve as area parks when vendors vacate at night. The plazas are to be built by next spring and will be scattered around campus: behind Van Pelt Library; between Gimbel Gymnasium and the adjacent Mod Six Garage; along the eastern side of 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets; on the corner of 34th and Spruce streets; and next to Bennett Hall. The ordinance allows room for 100 possible vending locations, and the fresh air food plazas create space for an additional 45 vendors.

Vending plazas will make Penn greener

(11/24/97 10:00am)

The five vending plazas will provide the campus with park-like spaces. By spring, campus should get a little greener. The five proposed fresh air food plazas, which will consolidate 45 campus food vendors into "tasteful" outdoor malls, will add park space to campus when vendors vacate the areas at night and on weekends, officials said. "In all of these sites, the idea is when there isn't vending, there's a park," Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said. The plazas will be built in five areas across campus: behind the Van Pelt Library, between Gimbel Gymnasium and the adjacent Mod Six Garage, along the eastern side of 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets, on the corner of 34th and Spruce streets and next to Bennett Hall on 34th and Walnut streets. Construction on the five plazas will begin in December, and they are scheduled to open by the spring. Officials do not yet have estimates of the construction costs. The malls will serve as public sitting areas featuring outdoor tables, chairs and lighting for customers at late-night hours. The plazas may also have illuminated posters advertising performances by campus arts groups. The idea of the plazas -- which originated in 1995, when they were termed "vending malls" -- emerged after University officials rejected a request from vendors to put tables and chairs in front of Irvine Auditorium. "It was then when we thought of building a sidewalk cafe-like area -- a nicer place for vendors that would also clear the streets," Scheman said, adding that creating vibrant street life is one of the most important components of improving campus safety. As Penn officials began to formulate a city ordinance designed to regulate area vending, they developed a more detailed idea of the plazas as a way to redistribute the same number of vendors into specific campus spaces. Additionally, the plazas provided a solution to the problem of "thoroughly congested" campus street corners, which officials said posed safety risks to passers-by. "It was clear there were places where street or sidewalk vending could not be reasonably accommodated," Scheman explained. And over the summer, complaints about the back of the Van Pelt Library intensified, with many members of the University community arguing that both sides of Walnut Street should look equally appealing. "Putting a plaza there might make that wall [behind the library] look nice 24 hours a day," Scheman said. "The idea is to extend campus out so campus doesn't turn its back to Walnut Street," she added. After deciding to put a plaza behind the library, University officials began to examine the area near 40th Street for similar construction. Consolidating vendors in that area would limit the detrimental effect vending has on the street's permanent retail space, Scheman said. "Since [40th Street] is a spot where vending serves both students and the community, we thought we could create a vending square there," she said. The University finalized plans for all five plazas last month, when officials met with representatives from the Synterra Ltd. building firm, the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumers Alliance. Besides the aesthetic benefits provided by the plazas, officials stressed that the areas will provide vendors with regular sites, helping to alleviate the current problem of vendors arriving on campus as early as 3 a.m. to secure their spots. Administrators added that they have pushed for the plazas in an attempt to quell the safety risk vending trucks pose to students. Because lined-up trucks "form an alleyway," students are at risk for being mugged behind them, Scheman said. And University officials contend that the plazas will prevent trucks from blocking the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania's Spruce Street emergency exit, violating area parking regulations and blocking retail storefronts. Scheman also emphasized that because the plazas will be built on University property and will be University-funded, they are "completely separate" from the proposed University City vending ordinance, which aims to regulate and reorganize area vendors, capping the number of sidewalk vendors at 100. "The goals are to continue to provide convenience of vending, to provide space to displaced vendors and to do some real streetscape," Scheman said. "And our ideas have continued to evolve."

Vending plans scaled back

(11/18/97 10:00am)

Controversy has marred the on-going battle over regulating area vending. While Penn officials paint their new plan to regulate campus vending as a boon to the entire community, the initiative represents a considerably scaled-back version of their original goal to regulate all outdoor vendors on campus streets. The new initiative, proposed after the original plan drew harsh community opposition and the city challenged its legality, comes at a high price -- the hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations necessary to create five fresh air food plazas on and around campus. Also, the second facet of the initiative --Ea city ordinance to limit the amount of outdoor vendors and move vendors to specific streets -- still hasn't been sent to City Council. The University-funded plazas are separate from the ordinance, which seeks city regulation over outdoor vending. Administrators had originally hoped to have City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents University City, propose the ordinance last spring. Instead, opposition to the original plan last summer led Penn officials to water down the ordinance and propose the plazas, which would allow it to accomplish its aims without needing to go through the city's legal system. The currently proposed legislation would prohibit street vending in front of existing or future retail locations, such as the Sansom Common project and the retailers on 40th Street. It would also eliminate vending on most of Locust, Walnut, Chestnut and Sansom streets, restricting it to the western side of 38th Street, Spruce Street between 36th and 38th streets, 40th Street between Spruce and Locust streets, 33rd Street near the Palestra and along Market Street between 34th and 40th streets. There will also be 13 outdoor carts near the Penn Tower Hotel. Restricting outdoor vending to specific areas --Erather than rejecting it outright -- shows the extent to which the University was forced to alter its plans after losing a fight with the city for control over area streets last January. Penn also lost a crucial battle for public opinion this summer to community members who feared losing their favorite eateries. Officials had begun planning some sort of vending ordinance a year ago, but didn't forsee any of the recent stumbling blocks until January 1997. The first glimpses of controversy appeared in late January, when the University decided to tow Jatendra Dalwadi's newsstand from the corner of 34th and Walnut streets -- begging the question of who has the right to control the use of campus streets and sidewalks: Penn or the city. University Police -- acting under orders from the administration -- towed the newsstand after the city refused to revoke his license. A few days later, however, the city told the University that it did not have the right to move vendors off of city streets, dealing a final death blow to Penn's notion that a vending ordinance would be easily and quickly passed. The newsstand fight had a lasting impact on what would be an ongoing vending struggle. After Dalwadi reached an "amicable" decision with Penn officials to relocate his stand, University administrators kept questioning the continued presence of other outdoor vendors, which Executive Vice President Fry, in a January interview, labeled as "trashy." The vendors "contribute to the University's safety and aesthetic problems," Fry added at the time. University officials had long complained that food trucks and outdoor vendors posed safety risks and harmed existing retail. The issue gained increasing importance as Penn officials said the continued presence of such vendors would make it more difficult to attract retail to the Sansom Common project and other area locations. "Retailers considering relocating to the University would want to know that vending can be regulated," Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said at the time. But over the summer, after facing a groundswell of organized campus opposition from students and faculty, Penn officials decided to take a different tack by trying to restrict the vendors to specific areas, rather than eliminating them outright. Most importantly, Penn officials shifted gears. Determined to handle the situation independently of the city, they decided upon the idea of fresh air food plazas as a way to relocate vendors without having to deal with the city. The proposed ordinance would allow 100 vendors to remain on streets or sidewalks, but their choice of spots would be restricted. Roughly 45 others could move into the plazas, which would provide electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting for a cost of $1 a month for five years. The problem with the fresh air food plazas' upscale design will arise later this year, as the University will be forced to find ways to pay for their construction and maintenance. The previous plan would have rid the University of outdoor vending at no cost at all. The plazas are scheduled to be constructed in December. The ordinance has not yet been sent to Blackwell.

Low turnout hampers neighborly reception

(11/17/97 10:00am)

Students and community residents mingled over pizza and soda Saturday afternoon during the second in a series of "Getting to Know Your Neighbor" receptions, but low student turnout hampered the event's effectiveness. Sponsored by the University and the Spruce Hill Community Association, the program is designed to encourage student interaction with the surrounding area to help the two sides get to know each other personally. The University and the SHCA focus the program on people living in the area between 40th and 45th streets and from Market Street to Woodland Avenue. But while the program's first event attracted a crowd of more than 50 students and residents, only about 15 people, almost all of whom were community residents, attended Saturday's reception. The event was held at the University City New School at 42nd and Locust streets. While the event's organizers insisted that they publicized the event through posters and flyers, several students who live in the area said they had not received any information about the reception. Office of Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan said the program was designed to bridge the gap between students and community members, many of whom blame students for bringing excessive amounts of noise, partying and trash to the neighborhood. "We thought of putting these receptions together so that students can come face to face with their neighbors, because this is a rich, diverse group of folks who live here," he said, adding that students and residents live "two different kinds of lifestyles, and one way to co-exist is for folks to get to know each other." Wilma de Soto, a West Philadelphia resident for over 30 years, said she was upset by what she perceived as a division between students and "townies." "I don't think of students as outsiders -- they're our neighbors, too," de Soto said. "Students add a certain flavor to the community." A handful of students, including first-year Wharton graduate student Zhizuo Chen, attended the reception to gain a better understanding of community residents' lives and concerns with the goal of alleviating tension between the two groups. "I know very little about America, so I think my community can help me," Chen said. "That's why I find this all so interesting." And University City District safety ambassador Artis Manning said he hoped the event gave "community a chance to get to know the people who want to make them feel safe." Undergraduate Assembly representatives helped plan the receptions and created a brochure to distribute to students featuring tips on how to be a good neighbor. "If you know your neighbors, you're less likely to trash their lawns," said UA representative Hillary Aisenstein, a College junior. Bryan added that his office is considering the possibility of asking students to host the receptions in their homes in the future, stressing that it would be beneficial for community residents to get a taste of students' lifestyles.

More stores may hit Sansom Common

(11/14/97 10:00am)

City Sports and Urban Outfitters may join Xando in Sansom Common. Urban Outfitters and City Sports, two popular Center City stores, appear likely to join the Xando coffeehouse in Sansom Common when the new complex opens. Though the University's real estate director, Tom Lussenhop, wouldn't comment on what chains will move into Sansom Common, real estate experts said both stores seem to be headed there. City Sports General Manager Katie Killough said the Boston-based chain would like to open a new Philadelphia store in late spring, and that "it would be of City Sports' best interest to build a store in Sansom Common." And Jay Roehner, manager of the chain's Center City store, said "right now we only have one store in Philadelphia, but that is soon to change? We are looking to expand in the general area of the University." Urban Outfitters has sought to return to Penn since it left its 4040 Locust Street site last April due to "financial reasons," according to Urban Outfitters Stores Director Jay Hammer. "Although we were forced to leave 4040 [Locust Street], we were looking to come back to Penn, and we are still seriously looking in that area," he said. And while Hammer refused to specify where in the area the chain would look to expand, several local real estate agents said both stores are most likely heading to Sansom Common. "It is for Sansom Common, I am sure, that new places are being vigorously recruited, so it would be a fair bet that new stores are going there," said Melani Lamond, a real estate agent for the University City-based Urban & Bye. Common Ground broker Lindsay Johnston said retailers seeking to move to University City would be "unlikely to take a chance on, for example, 40th Street, because retailers think there is a certain safety in numbers." "I would think that any retailer at this point in time would think that the surest bet would be in Sansom Common," Johnston added. Although both stores seem likely to be a good fit for the large student population in University City, Urban Outfitters has a particularly strong reason to return to the area -- the chain's first store was located near Penn's campus. The store originally opened in 1970 at 4307 Locust Street as Free People, and moved to its most recent location in the Warehouse on Locust Street in 1976. City Sports opened in 1983 in Boston, and has since grown to include 10 stores in Philadelphia, New York City and Wisconsin. Urban Outfitters and City Sports would join a branch of the Xando coffeehouse/bar chain and a fourth, yet-to-be-named store in Sansom Common, which seeks to create a vibrant, upscale retail district on the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Sansom Street. The project will also contain the new Barnes & Noble bookstore, as well as the 256-room Inn at Penn. The stores and bookstore are set to open in fall 1998, with the hotel scheduled to open the following year.

As vending ordinance nears, local vendors express dismay

(11/13/97 10:00am)

Sami Dakko has been operating Rami's food truck on the corner of 40th and Locust streets for 12 years, and the prospect of being forced to relocate his business under proposed legislation regulating outdoor vending in the area hits close to home. "Everybody knows me here, where I make a living -- if I move, I will lose half of my business," Dakko said. "It's going to be hard for me to start from the beginning -- I'm not young anymore." Many area vendors echo Dakko's concerns, as the proposed University City vending ordinance edges closer to approval. After more than six months of negotiations between the University and area vendors, several Penn-affiliated parties have finalized the details for the proposed vending ordinance -- which would seek to relocate vendors to specific locations around campus -- and will send it to Philadelphia City Council this week for debate. The proposed legislation would prohibit outdoor vending directly in front of existing or future retail locations, as well as in residential districts. Additionally, it would eliminate vending on most of Locust, Walnut, Chestnut and Sansom streets, restricting it to the western side of 38th Street, Spruce Street between 36th and 38th streets, 40th Street between Spruce and Locust streets, 33rd Street near the Palestra and along Market Street between 34th and 40th streets. There will also be 13 outdoor carts near the Penn Tower Hotel. "We have managed to strike a very nice balance between the concerns of the University and those of the vendors and the vending public," said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. In the next few days, University officials will forward a copy of the proposed ordinance -- which will "incorporate these locations for vendors and a chronology of the activities that have taken place concerning the dialogues with various interested stakeholders and constituencies," according to Shannon -- to City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. "We can demonstrate to the councilwoman that we have struck a very good balance in construction of a new ordinance so that it meets the needs of all those involved with the vending issue," he added. If Blackwell decides to propose the legislation to City Council, the body will debate the issue at its weekly public meetings before putting the legislation to a vote. After approving or rejecting the legislation, the council will schedule public hearings to inform the University community of its decision on the bill, Shannon said. "Although the dates and times of these meetings are yet to be determined, we will publicize the legislative process as we continue to move forward," he added. In addition to the specified vending areas proposed by the ordinance, the University will create five fresh air food plazas, which will provide free electrical hook-ups, outdoor seating and improved lighting. The plazas, which are set to materialize by next spring, will be scattered around campus: behind the Van Pelt Library, between Gimbel Gymnasium and the adjacent Mod Six Garage, along the eastern side of 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets, on the corner of 34th and Spruce streets, and next to Bennett Hall. Because all the vending plazas will be on University property, they will not be subject to the restrictions of the city ordinance. Although University officials catalogued 89 trucks, carts and stands on campus as of a week and a half ago, the proposed ordinance allows room for 100 possible vending locations along streets or sidewalks, in addition to the five private fresh air food plazas, capping the total number of possible vendors at 145. The original 100 locations can accommodate 28 food trucks and 72 carts, while the fresh air food plazas would accommodate 17 food trucks, 20 carts and eight stands. "It is of course very possible that not all the possible spots will be filled, but there is room for rational, intelligent growth if the market demands it," Shannon said. But Dakko isn't the only area vendor furious at the possibility of being forced to relocate. When Mohammed Jibar -- who sells videotapes on 40th and Locust streets -- heard that he may have to move across the street to allow free access to the retail on 40th Street, Jibar pointed to the new site and said, "Nobody walks over there. I won't make money." And Gaptae Kim, owner of the fruit and vegetable stand on 40th and Walnut streets, stressed that he would make "close to nothing" if forced to move.

Theater companies shoot for 40th St. site

(11/04/97 10:00am)

Cinemagic has the right to make the first offer to open its doors there. If you love movies, the University's newest plans for revitalizing the 40th Street area may be right up your alley. Although no plans have been finalized for the project, Angelica Film Center and Sundance Cinemas, two theater chains that focus on artistic movies, have expressed interest in building new theaters near 40th Street, University officials said. The companies have not yet signed a formal letter of intent with the University because Cinemagic 3 at Penn -- which has the right to make the first offer on any 40th Street property -- may decide to expand there. "We are extremely happy with the theater, and we want to stay where we are forever," Cinemagic owner Andrew Sheppard said. "But I would not mind expanding. I am anxious to get more screens, so the possibility is always there of expanding." But Sheppard said he is angry the University has been negotiating with other theater companies, adding that Penn officials tried to buy back his right of first offer last April in order to bring in a new company. "They said I had done a good job, but that they were building a new theater that I wouldn't be a part of," Sheppard said. "They wanted to buy back my right of first offer so they could put in a large scale movie company and see if it could work." But Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop insisted that "the University honored its obligation under the lease to present Mr. Sheppard a right of first offer, and we have done so. In response, Mr. Sheppard's lawyer has asked for clarification, and we have provided it." "Sheppard is free to put in a proposal that corresponds to the sort of large scale theater the University seeks to put in," Lussenhop added. "If Mr. Sheppard can meet the offer, [the property] is his." He refused to elaborate on the University's actions last April. Executive Vice President John Fry said the effort to bring more theaters to the University City area is a response to neighborhood demand for a renewed 40th Street. "We have listened to our neighbors who have urged that 40th Street be further developed as a safe, attractive and vibrant retail corridor that provides amenities for the University as well as its neighboring communities," Fry said. Sheppard, however, warned that bringing in two new theaters to compete for the same crop of customers could threaten Cinemagic's future. "Cinemagic gets the best pictures now that the most students want to see because we don't have competition in University City," he said, adding that the other area movie theaters might attract the popular first-run movies which currently show in Cinemagic. Additionally, because Angelica and Sundance primarily focus on independent and foreign films, Sheppard said he might be forced to shift Cinemagic's focus to artistic films as well. "If the University were bringing in an art theater, we might be very anxious to align ourselves with the top art-house movie companies," Sheppard said. "All of a sudden there's a powerful art presence in University City, and the art market might be the way to go," he added. But Lussenhop emphasized that the 40th Street project could still fall through. "While there are no guarantees or written expressions or signed agreements with cinema operators, we are very happy with the depth of interest that has been expressed by the cinema operators in the future of our neighborhood," he said.

Christian Association, U. for apart

(10/28/97 10:00am)

CA officials deemed Penn's $3 million offer for their building "embarrassing." and Tammy Reiss The University's $3 million offer to purchase the Christian Association last week fell way short of what the group wants for the building, according to several sources. The CA is asking $8 million for the property, which sits in the heart of campus, sources said. Another University employee requesting anonymity, however, said the CA lowered its asking price this month to between $4 and $5 million. The University offered to pay "in excess of $125 per square foot," for the 24,000-square foot building located at 36th Street and Locust Walk, said Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop, who described the deal as "fair and equitable for both parties." That price would work out to about $3 million. But CA Executive Board Chairperson Eric van Merkensteijn called the University's offer "embarrassing," and said University officials should consider how much they would sell the building for "if they owned it." Van Merkensteijn added that the offer fell "way below market value" for the building, though he refused to specify the building's worth. The building's value was appraised at only about $1.5 million four years ago, a University employee said. Additionally, the building requires extensive renovations, according to the employee. These include approximately $2.5 million to bring the building up to certain codes and make it appropriate for a University program such as the proposed Unity Center or Interfaith Center, which the CA management has voiced support for in the past. Lussenhop said the University's offer is more than enough to cover any possible renovation costs of the building. "We think this is a win-win situation, given the very substantial capital renovation needs of the building, which we understand could be in the millions of dollars," he said. Included in the University's $3 million offer was an additional $350,000 package to pay for the CA to relocate to an alternate campus location. The proposed deal would allow the CA to remain in a yet-to-be-determined building for 25 years without paying rent. "The University recognized there is a premium placed on the location of the Christian Association building," Lussenhop said, adding that Penn offered "to accommodate the Christian Association program in a 2,000 square foot office for 25 years, with no rent." The CA would have a "significant period of time" in which to locate the office space that "best responds to their mission," he said. If the organization is unable to find an adequate relocation site, "the University would liquidate its obligation to allow the CA to use its proceeds to address their situation in any way fit," he said. CA officials, however, hope future arrangements will allow the organization to remain in its current building, alongside several other "compatible programs," van Merkensteijn said in an earlier interview. To publicize the building's availability, an advertisement will appear in the real estate section of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal, van Merkensteijn said. But the Christian Association only appears interested in negotiating with the University, according to Palladium co-owner Roger Harmon. He added that the Seashore House -- a Children's Hospital of Philadelphia organization that currently rents space in the building -- expressed interest in purchasing the building, but that the CA rebuffed the offer. The Palladium and Gold Standard restaurants have contracts for the next five years and will remain in the building regardless of who owns it, Harmon said.

Christian Assoc. rejects Penn's offer

(10/24/97 9:00am)

The rejection means the CA's building on 36th Street is still up for grabs. It's still no go on the Christian Association. University officials made an offer Wednesday to purchase the property at 36th Street and Locust Walk, according to Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop. But the offer was rejected in a one-sentence fax yesterday, which Lussenhop described as "a brief reaction in the absolute negative that seemed to leave no room for negotiation." Christian Association Board of Directors Chairperson Eric van Merkensteijn called the University's proposal "embarrassing," although neither he nor University officials would comment on the financial details of the offer. "I would be willing to negotiate with the University, but I consider negotiations to be at a 10 to 15 per cent difference in cost, and we're not even at 15 percent," van Merkensteijn said. But Lussenhop said he was surprised at the Christian Association's rejection of the offer, stressing that it was a "fair and equitable offer in the best interests of both parties." "We've made what we consider to be a fair and reasonable offer that's a win-win situation for both the University and the Christian Association," Lussenhop added. The Rev. Beverly Dale, the CA's executive director, refused to comment on the offer or any future negotiations. She said last week, however, that the time might not be right for University officials to take over the building, "since they have just outsourced their entire real estate department," referring to the recent decision to turn over management of University facilities to Trammell Crow Co. Yet while Dale refused to comment yesterday, van Merkensteijn suggested that ideally, the organization would remain in the building and bring compatible programs into the facility. He noted that the University should "talk about the building both 'programatically' and as a real estate deal, but the University only wants to deal with it as a real estate deal." "There are a series of proposals dealing with an interfaith center and a Unity Center -- those are the types of issues where the University would be a key partner in making these things happen," van Merkensteijn said, stressing that the Christian Association would be willing to sell or lease to the University or any organization that offered a reasonable price. "We are willing to look at this piece of property as a standard real estate deal, but that's not our first choice," he added. Lussenhop said the University would consider the implementation of such proposals if it owned the property. "From what I have read about the Unity Center concept, it sounds like an attractive option for the property, and if the University owned the property, the University would be in a position to make decisions about the development of the property," he said. "But the University does not own the property."

Doubletree to manage Sansom Common's Inn at Penn

(10/21/97 9:00am)

Although the deal isn't finalized, the Doubletree Hotels Corp. is the only candidate the University is considering. If all goes as planned, Doubletree Hotels Corp. will manage the new Inn at Penn when it opens in fall 1999. Doubletree is the University's only candidate to manage the new 256-room hotel, scheduled to open in Sansom Common in two years, according to University officials. Although Doubletree has not yet signed an agreement with the University, Vice President for Business Services Steve Martin stressed that officials hope "to have a contract finalized by the end of the calendar year, since we're well down the road in negotiations." It is unclear what the University would pay the firm to manage the hotel, since there is no contract signed. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., the company manages several hotels for other schools around the country in similar arrangements. It also operates a hotel on Broad Street in Center City. "Doubletree is our leading candidate because they successfully operate other hotels on college campuses, such as Harvard, Virginia Tech, M.I.T. and the University of North Carolina," Murray said. Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop said "Doubletree has carved out a niche in academic-oriented hotels, so they understand how to operate under a higher-education setting." Although the Inn at Penn will be managed by a private corporation, the University will retain absolute control over the property, enabling it to monitor the hotel's room rates. Although Lussenhop stressed that room rates have not yet been determined, he said rates at the Doubletree-managed Inn at Harvard were more expensive than what the new Penn facility will charge. The Harvard hotel charges room rates ranging from $109 to $185 per night, with suites going for $499. And Martin stressed that "you're not going to see the name 'Doubletree' advertised at all -- they'll be a silent partner." "We're sensitive to the concept that the Inn needs to retain the University image," he added. Officials said they were impressed by Doubletree's ability to recruit employees from the community in its previous management projects, a quality Martin said is especially important in University City. "We would like to have the majority of employees coming from West Philadelphia," he explained, adding that the Doubletree corporation also has feeder programs in the high schools surrounding its hotels in an effort to recruit employees from the areas. And Lussenhop said the Doubletree corporation boasts a reservation system that could draw Philadelphia visitors to the hotel over the summer when business is slow, working to avoid a problem faced by many area retailers. "None of us is concerned with demand for rooms over the academic year, but during the summer it's good to have an operator who can fill the available capacity," Lussenhop said. "[Doubletree] knows the business from A to Z, and they draw from a national talent pool of hospitality and expertise," he added.

Sansom Common: Job engine?

(10/10/97 9:00am)

In an attempt to help spur the local economy, many of the construction jobs created by the Sansom Common project have been given to area women and minorities, University officials said yesterday. The project is expected to generate about 275 temporary construction jobs, as well as several hundred permanent employment positions in the new hotel, book store and surrounding retail, according to the University's top economic development official, Jack Shannon. "Since this is a uniquely commercial retail project, we're looking to identify and capture permanent employment opportunities for minorities and women," he said. Shannon added that Penn is "seeking to identify other contracting opportunities for minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises, as well as local businesses, once the stores open." Officials will begin filling the permanent positions for the project at the beginning of next year, he said. The construction-related jobs generated by the development of the upscale retail district will be in the structural, masonry, interior finish, electrical and mechanical trades. Forty construction workers are currently employed at the site, including 21 minorities and 2 women. Permanent jobs will be in three primary areas, including hotel operations and management, Barnes & Noble management and operations and positions in the project's businesses and restaurants, most of whom have not yet been announced. The Inn at Penn is expected to create 12 management-level positions along with 185 other full-time jobs, including 29 job opportunities in the two or three fashion apparel stores that will be located in the hotel. Some of the other full-time jobs created in the hotel phase will include internal landscaping, promotional flag and banner printing and disk jockeying positions. The Book Store's current 40-person staff is likely to follow the operation into the new bookstore location at 37th and Walnut streets, Shannon said. Ten new employees will be hired due to extended store hours. The "Bookstore Phase" of construction will also see the addition of two or three stores -- including a brew pub and restaurant, a bistro and cafe -- and the creation of 47 retail-oriented positions and 112 restaurant-oriented positions. Many of the new jobs will be in the window cleaning, garbage collecting and product supply professions. Other job openings will be created from leasing and business development opportunities and service provision, procurement and other contracting opportunities. "Once the Barnes & Noble Book Store, the hotel and other retail establishments open, we are going to make sure local residents are identified and appropriately trained for the jobs," Shannon said.

U. considers 40th Street renovations

(10/10/97 9:00am)

The University has begun developing plans to renovate 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets into a "flourishing, attractive cosmopolitan center" at the interface between the campus and community, according to Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop. Parts of the Hamilton Village Shops -- stretching from Uni-Mart to Burger King -- and the parking lot at 40th and Walnut streets are under consideration for renovation, although he stressed that the University has not yet hired a construction company or signed any letters of intent with possible tenants. Describing 40th Street as a "high investment priority for the University," Lussenhop said the street has "some exciting things about it, but not enough. It has both problems and possibilities." University officials are evaluating a range of options for the area, including retail opportunities, entertainment options, restaurants, food markets and "effective ways to ease the parking problems in the area," Lussenhop said. He added that the University is specifically looking at "creative" ways to re-use the buildings once leases with current tenants expire. "We're looking at all of our real estate leases that are expiring in the next several years and determining what are the best real estate strategies for the area," Lussenhop said. Since 40th Street is the prime location where the campus overlaps with the community, Lussenhop said Penn is receiving input from community groups such as the Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues and the Spruce Hill Community Association. "Many of the ideas that shaped the University's thinking about the use of its own real estate assets came from community leaders, whose long-standing interest in the development of 40th Street is clear," Lussenhop said. "In a real estate sense, the University is attempting to reflect what it has heard and read from others in the community in the way it will go about making plans to use its own real estate," he added. The SHCA has begun to think about what stores it would like to see included in the 40th Street renovation plans, stressing the need for a better grocery store, a gardening center and more upscale shops, according to SHCA participant and PFSNI steering committee member Maria Hoek-Smit. "We would like to see anchor development -- not just small scale stores but a real vision that can pull people to come to University City," she said. Hoek-Smit said the University's top economic development official, Jack Shannon, will discuss plans for the area with community members once the details about the 40th Street project have been adequately researched. She said the meeting may not occur in the near future because Shannon is new to the University and will have to sort through a lot of material on the history of 40th Street, but added that she is willing to wait. "The University has heard from us about what we want and now they have to make the next move and come to the level we are at," she said. "They'll come to us because they know we're waiting for this to happen."

U., vendors agree on fresh air food plaza locations

(10/02/97 9:00am)

Construction will begin in December. The plazas willnot affect a proposed ordinance on vending. University officials and local vendors are finally making progress in negotiations about the future of campus vending. Five on-campus fresh air food plazas will materialize by next spring, with construction set to begin in December, according to the University's top economic development official, Jack Shannon. The plazas will be scattered around campus: behind the Van Pelt Library, between Gimbel Gymnasium and the Mod Six Garage, along the eastern side of 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets, on the corner of 34th and Spruce streets, and at an undetermined location at 34th and Walnut streets. "We asked vendors to identify underutilized locations at which vending would be appropriately located," Shannon said, noting that the location between Gimbel Gymnasium and the Mod Six Garage was chosen based on suggestions from the Walnut Street vendors. Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman emphasized that because the plazas will be built on University property, they are "completely separate" from the proposed University City vending ordinance, which aims to regulate and reorganize area vendors. While the majority of vendors will remain on the streets in their current locations until City Council acts on the ordinance, the University will invite 40 vendors to join the plazas as soon as they are built. These designated areas will provide outdoor seating for customers, in addition to electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting for vendors at a cost of $1 a month for five years. Some plazas will be restricted to trucks, while others will be tailored to suit both trucks and carts. At a meeting yesterday with representatives from the Synterra, Ltd. building firm, the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumers Alliance, plans for the Van Pelt plaza were finalized. Designs are set to be created in the next week. "We'll replicate the process we've used for the Van Pelt plaza on all of the other locations," Shannon said, stressing that "people are focusing on solutions now and are talking with each other rather than at each other, as they did in the past." He added that the fresh air food plazas have progressed "quite rapidly," after a tumultuous summer of negotiations with local vendors and city officials. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein agreed that the vending issue has made strides recently, as some suggestions from the vendors were "taken to heart," including the need for more than four fresh air food plazas and more accommodations on Walnut Street. "The vendors' views are being taken into consideration," Goldstein said yesterday, praising Synterra for its willingness to listen to the vendors' input. As far as regulating vendors on city streets, the University will have to wait to see if City Council approves the proposed ordinance. Administrators have pushed for the ordinance to stem the safety threat vending trucks pose to students. Scheman said that because lined-up trucks "form an alleyway," students are at risk for being mugged behind them. Additionally, University officials contend that the trucks block the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania's Spruce Street emergency exit. Other concerns are that vendors take up parking places and violate parking regulations, by "feeding" parking meters and leaving their trucks in the same place all day. Food trucks on Walnut and Spruce streets also block storefronts and have impaired University efforts to attract restaurants and retail to the area, Scheman said.

Area leaders worry about local effects of Sansom Common

(09/30/97 9:00am)

Neighborhood leaders hope the project will not detract from efforts to improve the western edge of campus. Although many community leaders welcome Sansom Common as a positive addition to University City, several prominent figures expressed concern that the project represents the University's abandonment of long-standing plans to revitalize the 40th Street area. "Does this concentration of development at 36th Street mean the University will turn its back on the community and keep the students inside?" Spruce Hill Community Association Secretary Maria Oyaski asked. "Pushing the students to the heart of campus with Sansom Common might be an attempt to build [a barrier] between the students and the community," she added. Last fall, University President Judith Rodin announced a master plan for campus facilities, which targeted both the northern and western boarders of campus for enhancement. In July, the SHCA sent a letter to Rodin articulating complaints that preliminary plans for Sansom Common were made "in the complete absence of input from the major civic organizations representing the community," and that the group had found out about the project's groundbreaking from a newspaper. And History Professor and West Philadelphia resident Lynn Lees charged yesterday that "there was no process of consultation about the needs of anyone beyond the University itself" in the decision to build Sansom Common. Lees said she would have preferred to have seen the bookstore built on 40th Street and stressed that the new retail hub should extend further west into University City. But Real Estate Managing Director Tom Lussenhop emphasized "the 40th Street investments are of the highest priority to the University -- it is and has been an active part of the University initiative." Both sides agree that the relationship between the University and the community is strong and has been improving recently, with many local leaders expressing strong support for the Sansom Common project. "I think that any development that replaces a parking lot in the middle of the University is a plus, and that the University is creating a center of opportunities for students," said Barry Grossbach, SHCA's zoning chairperson. A parking lot in the heart of campus "does not exactly give vibrance to the area, and neither does the 'stunning' architecture of the surrounding area," Grossbach said. He praised Penn for thinking "creatively" about what sorts of retail are attractive to both the student population and the surrounding community. Urban and Bye real estate agent and SHCA Second Vice President Melanie Lamond said the area needs a project like Sansom Common because "nobody is gonna come to University City just for the Uni-Mart." She added that if the recently opened "Mad 4 Mex is any indication of the success of the businesses coming to University City, then I think Sansom Common will be wildly successful." SHCA President Joe Ruane said the issues raised in the letter to Rodin are "behind us at this point," and that the University is being "fairly cooperative" with its plans to hire community members as Sansom Common employees. Lees said University officials are doing a better job of consulting residents than they did a year ago, adding that "things [between the University and the surrounding community] have definitely improved."

Stores must make way for Wharton

(09/25/97 9:00am)

Retailers who will be displaced by the new Wharton building said the University has mistreated them. Achilles Nickles has seen a lot in the 35 years he has worked at the Penn Book Center, but last November's announcement that he would be forced to relocate his store to allow the Wharton School to build a new building took him by surprise. The shock has since turned to anger, as he and many other of the 38th and Walnut street retailers accuse the University of giving them a raw deal. "Thirty-five years we've been here, and now we're suddenly told we have to leave," Nickles said. "It was so cold when they told us." But University officials stressed that they are working to find suitable spaces for the merchants who will be displaced by construction of the new 300,000 square foot Wharton building. Work on the new facility -- which will contain classroom and office space for the school's undergraduate and graduate divisions -- will dislodge all of the building's current retailers. The Book Store has retailers in spaces on its 38th Street, Walnut Street and Locust Walk sides. "Originally the real estate group said they empathized with us, but they didn't offer any options," Nickles said. "Now that everyone is back from the summer, the group has contacted us to work together to find another place for us." Although some merchants said the University has offered them potential relocation sites, they stressed that none is feasible due to high rent costs. "The University is forcing us out but is offering a space that would cost us double the rent," University Jewelers owner Fred Green said. "If the University offered us like for like, of course we'd take it, but for what they're offering us, we'll have to pay $25,000 [to make the space usable]," he added. And Fiesta Jr. Pizza Manager Gus Karros complained that University City Associates -- who manage the property -- have not yet contacted him with any possibilities for relocating the restaurant. "They told me they were going to look for a new store for me, but I don't know when and I don't know where. They haven't told me anything," he said. But Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop stressed that the University is "working with all its retail tenants in existing properties across campus where there are projects underway that will require relocations." He refused to comment on the rents of any of the replacement spaces. And although Karros said he would "have no idea" what to do if the real estate group failed to find a new site for his store, Green said, "We'd go out of business, and that's it." Nickles added that if the University is unable to find a suitable place for the merchants to relocate, their chances of relocating would be "slim," since the University owns most of the property in the surrounding area. Classical Choice co-owner Howard Gensler said the "University sort of scoffed at [the merchants'] idea" of relocating to an area in the Sansom Common project, but Lussenhop said he was "not at liberty to discuss the several lease negotiations that are underway" or how they may pertain to Sansom Common. Gensler said that "as the University is trying to make a commitment to improve retail, the irony of that is that they're tearing down the most stable strip of retail on campus." He noted that several of the 38th and Walnut street retailers have remained in their present locations for 30 years or more. "You can't find another block in University City where there are four stores next to each other who have been there for more than five years," he added.