The actor-director has signed a letter of intent to open a theater here. Actor-director-producer Robert Redford, whose nascent movie-theater chain Sundance Cinemas is in late-stage negotiations with the University to open a site on campus, will visit Penn late next week or early the following week, according to a person with knowledge of the trip. The purpose of Redford's visit was not immediately available, and the plans could change, the source said. The most likely reasons for the visit are a second inspection of the proposed site in the Hamilton Village shopping center at 40th and Walnut streets, or a press conference officially announcing that a deal has been signed. The visit is shrouded in secrecy. Creative Artists Agency in California and the office of New York-based publicist Lois Smith, who both represent Redford, declined to either confirm or deny Redford's impending visit, as did officials at Boston-based General Cinemas, Redford's partner in the chain. University spokesperson Ken Wildes and Tom Lussenhop, Penn's top real estate official, also refused to comment. In July, Sundance Cinemas signed a non-binding letter of intent with the University to bring a theater to Penn. The movie chain and the University are still negotiating the lease, but Lussenhop said earlier this month that he "fully expects" Sundance to come to campus. The theater would be among the first for the company, which grew out of Redford's popular Sundance Institute and is dedicated to screening independent, foreign and specialty films. The institute also operates the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, a well-known launching pad for independent filmmakers. The chain has yet to construct any theaters. University administrators hope that the first one will open on Penn's campus. Redford, 61, is one of Hollywood's most revered and influential figures. His stellar resume includes roles in The Sting, All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as an Oscar-winning turn as director of 1980's Ordinary People. He visited campus about five months ago to scout the site. According to Wildes, Redford is "very interested in the University's efforts at revitalizing West Philadelphia." The Sundance Cinemas will primarily occupy the space in the Hamilton Village shopping center where United Artists Eric 3 operated until 1994, Lussenhop has said. In addition, a "major element" of the theater will occupy the corner of the shopping center at 40th and Walnut streets where Burger King currently operates, Lussenhop said earlier in the month. The movie theater will have multiple screening rooms, a bar and a food program, according to Lussenhop. Administrators hope the addition of the movie theater, as well as the construction of a specialty food market and parking garage on the northwest corner of 40th and Walnut streets, will make 40th Street a vibrant attraction for all University City residents.
Below are your search results. You can also try a Basic Search.
Couples who reserved the site for weddings must make new plans. and Scott Lanman The University has a big, beautiful property it does not really need, located in a suburb of Philadelphia. Officials decide to sell it. The move angers people who are connected with the property in some way. It happened during the past year with the 211-acre Gutman Farm, located about 30 miles northeast of campus in Upper Makefield, Bucks County. And it is happening again now with the 32-acre Wharton Sinkler Estate, which is frequently used for weddings and is located just across the city line from Northwest Philadelphia's tony Chestnut Hill section. But while the former situation had, more or less, a happy ending -- the University agreed to sell the farm to a coalition of neighbors and community groups who were upset over Penn's initial plans to sell the pristine land to a developer -- plans to carve up and sell the latter have already produced as much animosity as several acrimonious divorces. Earlier this month, the University notified about 16 engaged couples that their weddings -- booked at the Sinkler Estate for dates after May 31, 1999 -- would have to be somewhere else, shocking and infuriating those who had planned their dream nuptials there. "I was a proud alumna, but I definitely have a lot of negative feelings against the University [now]," said Regina Egoville, 28, who earned a master's degree from the School of Social Work in 1995 and had planned to marry Jay Gumpman at Sinkler on July 2, 1999. "It seems very arbitrary, very insensitive and completely unethical, and I financially and otherwise wouldn't want to support a university that acts that way." Penn spokesperson Ken Wildes said officials are "trying to be as sensitive and caring as we possibly can." The cutoff was set at May 31 because the number of scheduled events "significantly falls off after that." Eleven events are scheduled for Sinkler in May. Several of the weddings have been moved to Penn's Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, Wildes said. "We're doing everything possible to find alternate sites," he said. But Penn's cancellation has left Egoville feeling "shocked, angry, disappointed, betrayed." Penn T-shirts used to be a common sight in her family, as Egoville's father also holds a degree from the University. So does her grandfather, who was a professor at the Dental School. Now those good feelings toward Penn have mostly vanished. Egoville, who got the bad news after a day shopping for a wedding dress, said she may sue Penn for breach of contract. Penn plans to divide the estate into between five and six luxury lots for "low-density" residential development. Three months ago, Penn hired alumnus Edgar Scott of Core Capital Realty to figure out the best use of the property. The University soon decided to engage in "low-density residential development," or divide the estate into five or six luxury lots for houses, Wildes said. Louise Sinkler donated the estate, located at 631 Gravers Lane in Wyndmoor, to the University in 1971. Since then, it has been used as a conference center and for various social events, including wedding receptions. The sizes of the lots range from about 2.5 acres to 12 acres for the largest lot on which the manor house sits. The house is made from material imported entirely from England and was built around the turn of the century. In order to enter, one walks through a 1,000-year-old oak front door into a foyer with a 900-year-old floor. Inside the building, which has 20 rooms, 11 of them bedrooms, is a cedar-paneled library once owned by a prime minister of England. Also sitting on the grassy field alongside the many trees are a Tudor-style craftsman cottage, two greenhouses and other small buildings. Scott said he believed a number of these other building could be converted into residences. With such a unique and historic property, both Penn and neighbors are concerned with conservation. "We presume that the buyers will want to preserve the historical structures," Scott said. The people living in the houses around the estate seem to be happy with the plans. A group representing the neighbors presented the local development authority with a petition in support of the plan. Scott said such action by neighbors to these type of projects is "almost unheard of." The property is very expensive. When Scott still planned to divide the estate into seven lots, the smallest 1.7 acre lot would have cost around $450,000, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this month. Scott and Wildes declined to comment on the properties' prices. While Scott said it is too early to tell when all the lots will be sold, he said the interest level has been high.
After months of talks, the popular Book Center will move to 3401 Walnut St. After more twists and turns than the Pacific Coast Highway, the story of the Pennsylvania Book Center's impending relocation to another campus site finally seems headed for a happy ending. The popular bookstore, one of two independents near the Penn campus, signed a lease for a new location in the 3401 Walnut Street complex late last week after months of negotiations that sometimes seemed as though it would never come to a successful conclusion. Both Tom Lussenhop, the University's top real estate official, and Book Center owner Achilles Nickles confirmed yesterday that they signed a lease for the former location of Sam Goody at 34th and Sansom streets. "It's been a long, hot summer, and I'm delighted that everything worked out fine," Nickles said. The 35-year campus mainstay's future seemed doubtful after the University's announcement that it would demolish the store's long-term location at 38th and Walnut streets to make way for a new Wharton School building. The Book Center will vacate its present location on October 31. The new store, about the same size as the old one, will open in late November, according to Nickles. Religious Studies Professor Stephen Dunning, one of many professors who patronize the Book Center, said he is pleased the store will be staying on campus. "It's important to see an independent bookstore survive," Dunning said. Nickles said earlier in the month that he believes the University would not have made an offer had professors not pressured administrators to preserve one of the only two independent bookstores near campus. The other store is House of Our Own Books on the 3900 block of Spruce Street. The new lease requires the Book Center to have longer evening and weekend hours, a clause that has become a standard for campus retailers as Penn works to increase evening foot traffic in the University City area. The Book Center rejected Penn's initial offer for a location in the strip mall on the 3900 block of Walnut Street because Nickles felt the rent posed insurmountable financial obstacles for his store. The University's offer of the space in the 3401 Walnut Street complex came after months of negotiations this year. Another former plaza tenant, University Jewelers, signed a deal for a location in the complex earlier this year.
When Penn students need a pair of hiking boots to brave the rough terrain of West Philadelphia or ski apparel for their winter-break trips to the mountains, they soon will not have to travel any farther than Sansom Common. Eastern Mountain Sports, an upscale, 31-year-old chain specializing in outdoor gear, will join the University's new retail and hotel complex in the space between Xando and Urban Outfitters on the building's east side, according to EMS officials. The retailer joins other upscale and trendy stores including the Xando coffeehouse and bar, which opened in August, and Urban Outfitters clothing and Parfumerie Douglas cosmetics, which are scheduled to open later in the fall. Penn officials hoped to attract such a mix of stores to lure more shoppers and foot traffic to University City. The new Penn Bookstore is Sansom Common's anchor tenant. New Hampshire-based EMS will fill the 7,365-square-foot space that City Sports, an athletic-goods chain, was slated to occupy before it opted not to join the complex at the last minute because of internal financial difficulties. Last week, University officials confirmed that they were far along in negotiations with a retailer to fill the former City Sports space, but they declined to name the specific chain. Penn's top real estate official, Tom Lussenhop, said at the time that the new store would likely open by Thanksgiving. "We have a letter of intent and detailed lease negotiations with the new store," Lussenhop said yesterday while refusing to identify the retailer. But Wade Neumeister, the manager of the Langhorne, Pa., EMS store, confirmed the company would open its 116th store in Sansom Common. An official announcement about which new store will join Sansom Common should come in two to three weeks, Lussenhop said. Although Lussenhop said the retailer the University is in negotiations with will "fill the same kind of outdoor recreation needs" as City Sports, there are significant differences between the two stores. While City Sports focuses, as its Web site says, on the "urban-based athlete," specializing in athletic goods such as tennis shoes and other sports-related clothing, EMS sells decidedly non-urban, more-expensive products such as hiking boots and climbing equipment. The addition of EMS instead of City Sports means that when Foot Locker -- currently located in the nearby 3401 Walnut Street complex -- leaves campus, Penn will be left without a store specializing in athletic goods. Lussenhop said in the spring that Penn will not renew Foot Locker's lease this year. He declined to comment on the store's status last week. The addition of EMS will complete the first, $80 million phase of Sansom Common, which is built on the site of a former parking lot. The second phase of the project will include the 256-room Inn at Penn occupying the building's top three stories, an additional two retailers and a restaurant. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 1999. In the spring, University officials said they expected City Sports, which has about 10 stores, including one in Center City, to open in the new complex. But internal financial difficulties in the company forced them to pull out at the last minute, according to store officials. "The [athletic goods] industry is in a wild decline," said Michael Kennedy, an official at Massachusetts-based City Sports. "Our job during a downturn is not to expand aggressively, but to be conservative." Both University and City Sports officials said that the store's decision had nothing to do with the viability of the Sansom Common site.
Penn President Judith Rodin and Phila. Mayor Ed Rendell attended the grand opening. When University President Judith Rodin says "it's time to party," Philadelphia takes notice. Amid falling confetti, roving local television news crews, speeches by local and Penn luminaries and a performance by a funk band, members of the University community gathered yesterday for a block party to celebrate the opening of Sansom Common, Penn's gleaming new retail and hotel complex. During the day, Ben Franklin and an ice sculptor greeted visitors to the spacious Penn Bookstore -- the only retailer currently open in the building besides the Xando coffeehouse and bar. The store held events all day to celebrate its ceremonial grand opening, although it has been open since July 15. Anyone who is anyone spoke at the event: Philadelphia Mayor and University alumnus Ed Rendell, University Executive Vice President John Fry and City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell were among the officials who addressed the crowd of several hundred during the party, which lasted from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Rodin's words, followed by an exuberant "Let's celebrate," concluded the speeches. Shortly afterwards, officials set off four guns that shot red and blue confetti into the air. "If Philadelphia wants to become a great city, it needs great allies, and Penn is among our very best allies," Rendell said. He said he recently touted the Inn at Penn as an attraction to the committee responsible for selecting the site of the Republican National Convention in 2000. Tables holding food, drinks and giveaways lined the sidewalks on both sides of the complex. Police closed 36th Street between Walnut and Sansom streets during the celebration. Lettuce, a Boston-based funk band, performed on a stage set up near the intersection of 36th and Sansom streets, while a jazz band played on a stage on the complex's south side. Sansom Common, rising from a former parking lot, will also house two other stores. Urban Outfitters clothing and Parfumerie Douglas cosmetics are scheduled to open this fall to complete the first, $80 million phase of the project. A fifth store, the City Sports athletic chain, had been slated to move into Sansom Common but recently opted not to join the new complex. University officials are currently negotiating to bring another athletic and outdoor goods store to the former City Sports space, according to Tom Lussenhop, the University's top real estate official. When completed, Sansom Common will also include the 256-room Inn at Penn, which will occupy the building's top three stories, an additional two retailers and a restaurant. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 1999. As part of its pre-block party celebration, the bookstore had WXPN radio personality Kathy O'Connell as well as authors Roger Moss, Judy Wicks, who owns the White Dog Cafe, and Kevin von Klause on hand to sign books. It also brought in a man costumed as Ben Franklin to greet customers as they entered. During their speeches at the block party, which began at about 5:30 p.m., many officials cited the importance of the project not just to the University, but to all of Philadelphia. "Since [Rodin] arrived, we have tried to form a close partnership between Penn and the city," said Blackwell, whose West Philadelphia district includes the University. "Sansom Common is the culmination of the effort." Rendell said the project will create 400 new jobs, "the majority of which will come from the West Philadelphia community." Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck and Myles Tanenbaum, chairperson of the Board of Trustees' Facilities and Campus Planning Committee, also spoke at the event.
University officials are negotiating to bring an arts cinema and fresh food market to the strip. The University's long-awaited plans to turn the 40th Street area into a major retail and entertainment corridor will likely reach fruition in early 2000 with the addition of a niche-movie theater, specialty food market and parking garage. Administrators hope the three new additions to Penn's campus -- which are scheduled to open in about 1 1/2 years -- will make 40th Street a vibrant attraction to all University City residents while also alleviating complaints about a lack of grocery options and parking. Although none of the plans are finalized, Tom Lussenhop, Penn's top real estate official, said yesterday that the movie theater, market and parking garage "definitely" will be coming to the 40th Street area. "I think it's a wonderful step in the revitalizing of West Philadelphia," said Lynn Lees, the History Department chairperson and a longtime West Philadelphia resident, when told of the news. The Sundance Cinemas -- a joint venture of actor-director Robert Redford and the General Cinemas chain -- will occupy space mostly in the Hamilton Village shopping center where United Artists Eric 3 operated until 1994, Lussenhop said. In addition, a "major element" of the theater -- which will be among the chain's first -- will occupy the corner of the shopping center at 40th and Walnut streets where Burger King currently operates, Lussenhop said. The theater will be the centerpiece in the University's efforts to invigorate the 40th Street area. In another part of its plans, the University will build a multi-story parking garage with a specialty market -- which will likely be open 24 hours a day -- on its ground floor on the northwest corner of 40th and Walnut streets. A parking lot currently occupies this space. The movie theater, specialty market and parking garage are the latest in the University's retail development plans, which include the construction of the hotel and retail complex Sansom Common and the opening of Eat at Joe's in the Walnut Mall. In July, Sundance Cinemas signed a letter of intent with the University to bring an independent theater to Penn. The movie chain and the University are still negotiating the lease, but Lussenhop said that he "fully expects" Sundance to come to campus. The University's efforts to lure Sundance Cinemas to Penn had long been impeded by a clause in the the lease of Cinemagic, the campus' only movie theater since 1995. The clause gave owner Andrew Sheppard the right of first refusal over any new cinema on campus. Sheppard had been unwilling to relinquish that right. But Lussenhop said yesterday that "the situation had been resolved amicably and equitably" and that all obstacles to building the new theater "had been completely removed." Sheppard could not be reached for comment last night. The new movie theater will have multiple screens, a bar and food. "It will be a place where people can enjoy themselves before, after and during the film," Lussenhop said. Redford announced in August 1997 that his Sundance Institute would create a chain of film theaters dedicated to screening independent, foreign and speciality films. The chain has yet to construct any theaters. University administrators hope that the first one will open on Penn's campus, according to Lussenhop. Officials at Sundance and General Cinemas could not be reached for comment yesterday. Plans for the specialty food market are not as far along as the theater. Lussenhop said the University is in "serious negotiations" with an operator similar to Fresh Fields/Whole Foods, but declined to name the company. Lussenhop cautioned that the new store is not intended to be a full-scale supermarket. "The goal of this market is to offer fresh and prepared foods in a highly attractive, safe, 24-hour environment," Lussenhop said. Lussenhop added that the University is moving through a "complex design process" to understand how such a store "can operate in a way that adds to the cityscape." One reason for building the grocery store is complaints from students, who have long said their current grocery store options -- including the Thriftway supermarket at 43rd and Walnut streets and the campus' various convenience stores -- don't meet their needs. But Lussenhop said University administrators believe that the market will serve all members of the University City community. The market will "be a real boon to the area in terms of round the clock pedestrian traffic," Lussenhop said. A 24-hour market fits into the University's efforts to increase late night foot traffic in the University City area. The newly opened bookstore remains open until 11 p.m., while the Xando coffeehouse-bar does not close until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Lussenhop said he expects the market and the theater will attract thousands of pedestrians to the 40th Street area on a weekly basis. The parking garage is also an effort by the University to fill a gap on campus. Its construction is due, in part, to the demands of the new theater, but also because of a lack of parking alternatives that has developed in recent years. The construction of Sansom Common on the site of a former parking lot and Presbyterian Medical Center's decision to restrict parking to faculty has limited the availability of parking on and near campus. Also, the School of Dental Medicine plans to build a 55,000-square-foot facility on the 40th and Locust streets site currently occupied by a parking lot, displacing many drivers. "The garage is driven by needs that are academic, administrative and commercial," Lussenhop said. While Burger King's "occupancy will be affected" -- it will not necessarily leave, but possibly give up part of its space -- the University has not yet determined whether any other current 40th Street retailers will be affected, according to Lussenhop. "As leases come up for renewal, we'll evaluate whether there's interest on the part of the owner and on our part in them continuing to operate at their present location," he said.
The popular Pennsylvania Book Center has not yet signed a lease for a new location in the 3401 Walnut Street complex, although a deal could come as early as today, University and store officials said yesterday. The news contradicts a report last week in an official University publication that the independent bookstore had already inked a deal to move into a new location. Both Tom Lussenhop, the University's top real-estate official, and Book Center owner Achilles Nickles said they expect to sign a lease today for the former location of Sam Goody in the 3401 Walnut Street complex. Students and professors have long prized the Book Center -- a campus landmark for 35 years -- as a source of used and out-of-print books. Many professors prefer to place textbook orders through the Book Center rather than the official book store. Although Lussenhop said the University had not yet actually signed the lease, he said he believes the "terms of the lease have been completely negotiated and the document just needs to be signed." Nickles also said that he thinks the contract will be signed today. Under the terms of the deal, the Book Center would remain in its present location -- near the corner of 38th and Walnut streets -- through the beginning of the fall semester. The store will likely move to its new location in November, Nickles said. The September 3 issue of the Pennsylvania Current reported in a back-page "Campus Buzz" column that "the Pennsylvania Book Center has finally signed a lease that will keep the store on campus," citing no sources. The Current is a biweekly publication the University created last winter to provide a mix of news and features to the Penn community. Current Editor-in-chief Libby Rosof said she will not run a correction to the story because "it's our understanding that they really have a deal going." "I don't think it's significant, whatever is holding it back," Rosof said. The lease also requires the Book Center to have longer evening and weekend hours, a clause that has become a standard for campus retailers as Penn works to increase evening foot traffic in the University City area. The store's future seemed doubtful after the University's announcement that it would demolish the store's longtime location at 38th and Walnut streets to make way for a new Wharton School building. The Book Center rejected Penn's initial offer for a location in the strip mall on the 3900 block of Walnut street because Nickles felt the rent posed insurmountable financial obstacles for his store. Penn's offer of the space in the 3401 Walnut Street complex came after months of negotiations this year.
Sansom Common, containing the giant new bookstore and Xando, opened to rave reviews. Visiting the Penn Bookstore no longer means having to stuff your bag into a small locker, maneuver through cramped aisles or worry about whether an obscure novel is in stock. Instead, high ceilings, inviting lighting and a greater selection of books -- not to mention a pronounced lack of lockers -- have brought smiles to the faces of many of the students, parents and faculty members who have passed through the new bookstore's wood and glass doors. The new, two-story University Bookstore -- which is more than double the size of the former bookstore on Locust Walk -- opened in mid-July in Sansom Common at 36th and Walnut streets. University officials hope the building, one of the most ambitious retail projects in Penn history, will play a major role in increasing foot traffic and nightlife in University City. "It's gorgeous," said Helen Bayes, a first year Biomedical graduate student browsing through the textbook section of the bookstore. Bayes said she would use the new bookstore to entertain friends visiting from out of town. The red-brick and concrete structure, rising from a former parking lot, also houses a Xando coffee house and bar, which opened August 27. Two other stores, Urban Outfitters clothing and Parfumerie Douglas cosmetics, are scheduled to open this fall to complete the first, $80 million phase of the project. A fifth store, the City Sports athletic goods chain, had been slated to move into Sansom Common, but recently opted not to join the new complex. "The deal fell through," Justin Wildon, a manager at the City Sports store at 16th and Walnut streets, said Tuesday. "We are not opening one up [at Penn]." Penn officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the City Sports situation. In an effort to draw late-night browsers to Sansom Common, the bookstore will remain open as late as 11 p.m. The old store was open no later than 6:30 p.m. Xando, located on 36th Street, will remain open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, the same hours as its downtown locations. The second phase of the project will include the 256-room Inn at Penn, occupying the building's top three stories, and an additional two to three retailers. It is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 1999. The bookstore's old home, along with the adjacent University Plaza shops on the 3700 block of Walnut Street, is set to be demolished later this year to make way for a new Wharton School facility. The new bookstore is the centerpiece of the retail complex. The store, operated by Barnes & Noble College Bookstores Inc., will be the first of its kind in the chain, combining Barnes & Noble's successful superstores -- which stock in excess of 100,000 books -- with the amenities of a traditional college bookstore. Barnes & Noble College is a private company owned by Leonard Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation's largest bookstore chain. The new bookstore is radically different from its predecessor. In addition to the usual supplies of textbooks and academic necessities, the store features a cafe serving Starbucks coffee, more posters and framed prints and an expanded clothing selection featuring both Penn-insignia garments and designer apparel from Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Also new to the bookstore is a second-floor music section. While the compact discs in stock are particularly strong in jazz, classical and international music, mainstays from Sinatra to the Spice Girls are also available, said Bookstore General Manager Dwayne Carter. The Penn-owned Computer Connection has followed its bookstore neighbor to Sansom Common, occupying a spacious 3,000-square-foot area on the store's ground level, with a separate entrance on Sansom Street. When University President Judith Rodin announced the plans for Sansom Common's construction in November 1996, she said the project's goal was to create "a vibrant, round-the-clock, exciting destination" in University City. Penn Executive Vice President John Fry, whose office oversees the project, has said that if Sansom Common is successful, it could be expanded to the neighboring Mellon Bank Building and Graduate Towers complex, recently renamed Sansom Place. Despite excitement from University administrators and students -- the class of 1998 voted to place its Ivy Day stone in the bookstore lobby's floor -- the project has not been without controversy. While officials have said they hope the complex will attract people from all over the city, some neighborhood activists have accused Penn of placing the project in the middle of campus to further separate students from the surrounding community. The property where the complex is built has also been the source of strife. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority agreed to sell the University the land in 1980, contingent upon Penn's promise to develop it. But Penn incurred $240,000 in fines and came under criticism from neighborhood activists for holding large parcels of undeveloped land without a definite development plan, a practice known as landbanking. Also, Barnes & Noble's track record at other colleges has raised concerns about the future of Penn's two independent booksellers, House of Our Own Books and the Pennsylvania Book Center. The Book Center, a longtime University institution favored by many professors, will move to a location in the 3401 Walnut Street complex in November, its owner Achilles Nickles said this week. Nickles said earlier this year that Barnes & Noble's ability to offer discounts on bestsellers will force him into a more academic niche, adding that it's "not going to be easy." Financing During the summer, the University decided to change the method it would use to finance the project. Instead of taking out a mortgage, Penn used $66 million from a reserve fund to finance about 83 percent of the project's first phase, according to Vice President for Finance Kathy Engebretson. The remaining funding includes $8 million from the 1996 transaction between the University and Barnes & Noble College, which gave the company control of the University Book Store, $3 million in donations and $3 million in interest income. Officials said last September that the first stage of the project would cost about $73 million, but revised that figure to $80 million as a result of the decision to move the Faculty Club from 36th and Walnut streets to the Inn at Penn. The total cost for all three phases of the project, however, is still $120 million, Engebretson said. While the complex, with guaranteed bookstore revenues of $1.3 million a year, will be very profitable for the University, administrators have stressed its role as a touchstone for retail development in the area. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writers Binyamin Appelbaum, Margie Fishman and Edward Sherwin contributed to this article.
Winston Churchill High School '97 Potomac, Md. A longtime University institution will change dramatically over the summer as a new City Council ordinance regulating outdoor food trucks and carts goes into effect, greatly restricting the operations of the dozens of vendors who had once called campus home. Despite Council's vote to approve the University-backed ordinance regulating campus vending, the year-old controversy surrounding the topic remains far from over. Penn will continue to confront related issues, including assigning the new locations to vendors, throughout the summer and at the beginning of next semester. When the ordinance goes into effect July 22, most of the approximately 90 vendors currently operating in University City will be moved from their present locations to one of either 103 new street and sidewalk locations or 45 slots in the five food plazas the University is building on its property to hold vendors displaced by the bill. Many of the 103 locations, however, are relatively far from campus and considered undesirable by vendors. The vending controversy began in May 1997, when the University submitted its first proposal for an ordinance to regulate vending to Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, whose West Philadelphia district includes Penn. Penn has sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and vendors' negative effect on its ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. The ordinance prohibits vending in front of retail stores and classroom buildings. The bill also bans food trucks and carts on many streets and sidewalks around campus and, a year after its enactment, outlaws the use of electrical generators. As a result of the ordinance, vendors will be charged a $2,700.50 annual fee to park in designated parking spots, instead of using meters as they currently do. Council unanimously approved the legislation April 23. Although vendor and consumer groups lost their battle to significantly change the bill, they are still worried about how the process of selecting vendors for the new sites will work. Specifically, critics have expressed concerns that under the new legislation, food trucks and carts that have long parked in certain locations will lose their sports to the vendors that have been on campus the longest. The ordinance charges the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections with creating a process for distributing licenses for specific locations that takes into account vendors' seniority. In an effort to smooth the transition to the new system, University officials hope to finish building the food plazas by the time the ordinance goes into effect, according to Jack Shannon, Penn's top economic development official. Construction on the first food plaza, located at 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets, began April 13. University officials are in the process of soliciting bids for the other four food plazas, Shannon said. The plazas will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook -ups, sewage, water lines and improved lighting for the vendors at the cost of $1 a month. Although the ordinance eventually passed in Council without much trouble, the process of getting an ordinance before the body was far more tumultuous. The University's first proposal last May sparked an angry outcry from students, faculty members, staff, vendors, and other community members who claimed Penn did not seek sufficient community input. In the face of these protests, the University withdrew its first proposal. After many hours of negotiations with the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumer Alliance, the two ad-hoc groups formed last summer which tried to make the bill less restrictive, University administrators submitted a revised version of the vending ordinance November 25, leading to a new round of protests. As a result of the opposition, Blackwell asked the PCA and the UCVA to submit their own versions of the ordinance. The two groups gave her separate proposals on January 12. Blackwell held a meeting in early February intended to hammer out a final version of the ordinance. After the five hour meeting, Blackwell asked Penn officials to draft the proposal. But the UCVA and the PCA have accused University officials of reneging on several compromises they allegedly made at that meeting. University officials have denied the groups' accusations. Despite ongoing protests from many sectors of the University community, Blackwell introduced the legislation to Council on February 12, and it passed not long after.
Current controversies concern which vendors will be able to move into University-built food plazas. Although City Council yesterday approved, as expected, a University-backed ordinance regulating campus vending, the year-old controversy over the issue remains far from over. Vendor and consumer groups are worried that under the new legislation, food trucks and carts that have long parked in certain locations will lose their spots to the vendors who have been on campus the longest. When the ordinance goes into effect July 22 -- 90 days from yesterday -- most of the approximately 90 vendors currently in University City will be moved from their present locations to one of the either 103 new street and sidewalk locations or 45 slots in the five food plazas the University is building on its property to hold vendors displaced by the bill. Council unanimously approved the legislation. The ordinance bans food trucks and carts on many streets and sidewalks around campus and, a year after its enactment, prohibits electrical generators. In an effort to smooth the transition, University officials hope to finish building the food plazas by the time the ordinance goes into effect, according to Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. University administrators previously had announced that the food plazas would be complete by August 15. But despite the University's good-faith effort, some critics of the legislation are still concerned about how the process for selecting the vendors for the new sites will work. The ordinance charges the Department of Licenses and Inspections with creating a process for distributing licenses for specific locations that takes into account vendors' seniority. The proposal West Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell originally submitted to Council February 12 called for the creation of a Vending Advisory Board made up of representatives from the University as well as vendor, student, faculty, staff, business and neighborhood groups. But last week Council added an amendment eliminating the board out of a concern that the body did not have the legal authority to establish it. Scott Goldstein, who resigned Tuesday after nearly a year as chairperson of the University City Vendor Alliance -- one of the ad hoc groups formed in response to Penn's initial proposal last May -- said he has "a lot of concerns" about the assignment process. "So many people are being dislocated that, by necessity, vendors that are in legal locations that remain legal are going to be displaced by other vendors who have more seniority," said Goldstein, a food-truck operator. Matthew Ruben, spokesperson for the Penn Consumer Alliance -- the other ad hoc group -- said "it's too early to tell" how the process for selecting vendor locations will work. Still, Ruben, a School of Arts and Sciences graduate student, did say that he "would be surprised if L&I;'s process was completely clear or rational or fair." But Shannon said he believes the change to the new system will be "orderly." "We will do everything necessary to make sure all the food vendors will be accommodated," Shannon said. But many vendors continue to be frustrated by University officials' failure to address concerns they had with Penn's first contract proposal for vendors to operate in the food plazas, according to Goldstein. Construction on the first food plaza, located at 40th Street between Walnut and Locust streets, began April 13. University officials will begin soliciting bids for the other four plazas next week, according to Shannon. The other four food plazas will be located between Gimbel Gymnasium and the parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Street; behind Meyerson Hall near 34th and Walnut Streets; by Franklin Field at 33rd and South streets; and at 34th and Spruce Streets next to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The plazas will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook ups, sewage, water lines and improved lighting for the vendors at a cost of $1 a month. The University has sought to regulate vending for many years, citing safety concerns and vendors' negative effect on its ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. The ordinance prohibits vending in front of retail stores and classroom buildings.
Food-truck operator Scott Goldstein, who for nearly a year has led about 90 campus vendors in working to make a controversial, Penn-backed city ordinance regulating their businesses less restrictive, resigned as chairperson of the University City Vendors Alliance yesterday, citing emotional and physical exhaustion. He said a potential time-draining lawsuit, which the UCVA or individual vendors might file seeking an injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance, also played a role in his decision. No successor has been named. Goldstein, 34, formed the UCVA last May when the University submitted its first vending ordinance proposal. The current legislation would ban vending from many streets and sidewalks around campus 90 days after its enactment and prohibit the use of electrical generators a year after passage. Separately, the University is building five food plazas around campus to hold 45 of the displaced vendors. Goldstein has run Scott's Vegetarian Cuisine truck near 36th and Walnut streets since 1986. Goldstein and about 30 other of the ordinance's opponents -- including representatives of the Penn Consumer Alliance, the other ad hoc group organized in response to the initial proposal -- testified against the bill at marathon hearings held in City Hall last week. Despite their protests, Council is expected to pass the bill tomorrow. Goldstein said he "experienced a sense of relief" after the hearings because he felt the controversy was coming to an end. And although conversations with other vendors convinced him that the fight was far from over, Goldstein said he realized that the no longer had the energy to lead the vending group. "I now know that I underestimated the complexity of what there is left to do," Goldstein said. "I can't take responsibility for [the UCVA] anymore." One of these complexities is a possible lawsuit against the city and University which would seek an injunction against the ordinance, an action Goldstein said he personally opposes. At a meeting to be held a week from Saturday, UCVA attorney Robert Sugarman will discuss the possible legal action. Sugarman declined to comment yesterday. But Goldstein said many vendors had already consulted their own lawyers about filing individual suits. There had been speculation recently among many vendors that Goldstein was going to be forced out, but Goldstein denied that was the reason that he was resigning. "It's not like I'm resigning so I don't get fired," Goldstein said. "It's not a job anyone would want." Despite the sad note on which Goldstein is leaving his post, he stressed that he's "proud of what I have done." Sami Dakko, owner of the Rami's Lebanese Luncheonette truck on 40th Street, said he will miss Goldstein's leadership but understands why he resigned. "Too many times he closed down his own business to do something [with the ordinance]," Dakko said. "He used his time to help everyone." Penn Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman, who has worked closely with Goldstein on the vending issue, said she is "not surprised" with Goldstein's decision. "It's been a thankless job, and he had certainly put a lot of time into it," Scheman said. Goldstein's family has a long history at the University. His father, Kenneth, chaired the Folklore Department for 25 years; his mother, Rochelle, worked as a business administrator for several Penn departments for 25 years; and both his sisters hold Penn degrees. A University City native who currently resides in West Philadelphia, Goldstein attended Central High School for two years and went on to graduate from the Parkway Program, an alternative Philadelphia public-school program.
Many speakers fueled the controversy. City Council President John Street is known throughout Philadelphia for being outspoken on many issues. Even so, some people were surprised when, at last week's Council hearings over a proposed, Penn-backed ordinance regulating University City vending, Street tore into a vendor during his testimony against the bill. The ordinance, which Council will likely approve tomorrow, would ban vending from many streets and sidewalks around campus. Separately, the University is building five food plazas to hold many of the vendors. One of the most contentious moments of the eight-hour hearings last Tuesday in City Hall came during the testimony of Dean Varvoutis, the owner of the two popular Magic Carpet Foods carts that sell vegetarian cuisine near campus. Varvoutis said that by enacting the ordinance, Council would be taking away his livelihood. He also pointed out his 11-year-old son sitting nearby, who he said he had brought to observe "the democratic process." During the testimony, Street told Varvoutis that neither he nor other vendors should be "depending on [vending] for the long term." Street, who used to be a hot dog vendor on Temple University's campus in North Philadelphia, cited his own life story as an example. "I knew if I wanted to take care of myself and my family I needed to find something else [to support me]," Street said, describing his decision to enroll in Temple Law School. Matthew Ruben, spokesperson for the Penn Consumer Alliance -- one of the two ad hoc groups formed in response to the University's initial ordinance proposal last May -- said he thought what Street did was "unethical" and "disgusting." "It's certainly something that Dean won't forget and I won't forget either," Ruben said. But Varvoutis said he was not upset over Street's outburst, which "entertained" him. "The whole thing was orchestrated," he said. · Among the 50 people who testified at the hearings, two claimed that they represented the views of the student body. The problem is that one of those people spoke in favor of the ordinance, while the other spoke against it. Former Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Noah Bilenker told Council that the student body was opposed to the ordinance because it would move vendors off of Walnut Street. A few hours later, new UA Chairperson Bill Conway -- elected at 1 a.m. that morning -- testified in favor of the bill, saying that "students are willing to walk perhaps an extra block to go to a vendor." The last UA, on whose executive board Conway served as treasurer, passed a resolution in February calling for City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell to withdraw the ordinance. UA member and College junior Samara Barend, the former UA vice chairperson, said Conway's decision to support the bill "undermines the legitimacy" of the UA. "The only way for the UA to be effective is to make stands with the knowledge of that's what the student body thinks, not what one person or a small group of people think," said Barend, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist who lost a three-way election for chairperson. But Conway, a College sophomore, defended his testimony. "I'm a 'no-bullshit' chair," Conway said. "I wanted to show the undergraduate population that I'm not going to try and dodge these controversial issues." And Bilenker, a College junior, said his and Conway's positions "weren't as different as they seemed," adding that he was more critical of how the University negotiated changes to the ordinance and food plaza plans. Both Bilenker and Conway stressed that they each represented a different UA. · Coincidence or conspiracy? That was the question many people at the hearings were asking about the University's decision to start construction on the first food plaza April 13, the day before the hearings. The long-delayed construction meant that administrators could show Council members that the University was indeed building the plazas. Ruben said this occasion would not be the first time the University acted suspiciously. "On February 9 the administration promised the Van Pelt [Library] plaza would be built and then three hours after the ordinance was introduced [on February 12], they announced they weren't building it," Ruben said. "A reasonable person could be forgiven for thinking [the University] acted opportunistically throughout the process." But Carol Scheman, Penn's vice president for government, community and public affairs, denied there was any conspiracy on the part of the administration. "It was on the agenda for as soon as possible and that was as soon as possible," Scheman said. "Part of the problem with conspiracies is that there's no one smart enough to carry them out." · During the hearings, opponents of the ordinance hoped to sway Council members by holding up signs with a variety of messages during the testimony of many witnesses. When members of the University administration and other supporters of the ordinance testified, critics held up signs saying "lies." Other signs had messages such as "Penn students support vending" and "Save the vendors." But Council members said the signs did not have much of an effect on them. "I thought it was a very interesting and dramatic tactic," at-large Councilwoman Happy Fernandez said. "In the end, it's my job to sort through the facts and the signs didn't have any effect on me doing that." And at-large Councilman Frank Rizzo said the signs were "very creative and better than an oral outburst." "But ultimately it didn't influence me," he said.
The changes surprised vendors, who negotiated with Penn for months over the bill's details. Campus vendors, already reeling from strong indications that a controversial ordinance regulating their businesses would become law, got even more bad news yesterday as City Council added amendments making the bill significantly harsher. Although Council gave its preliminary endorsement, as expected, to a revised version of the University-backed bill that would regulate vending on and around campus, it also added several amendments in a move that surprised both supporters and critics of the original legislation. Three of the four amendments added during yesterday's Council session were highly controversial. The new sections of the bill would eliminate the Vending Advisory Board that would have assigned vendors locations, deny vendors the right to transfer their licenses and institute a $2,700.50 annual fee for vendors' parking spaces instead of allowing them to use meters. In an expected move, the effective date of the ordinance was pushed back to July 22, 90 days after its probable enactment next Thursday. Council's decision to hold the final vote on the bill next week clears the way for the passage of the ordinance, which would ban food trucks and carts on many streets around campus and, a year after its enactment, prohibit electrical generators. To accommodate vendors displaced by the legislation, the University has promised to build five food plazas on its property to hold a total of 45 vendors. That proposal is separate from the bill. More than 90 vendors currently operate on and near Penn's campus. The two amendments regarding the Vending Advisory Board and the transferability of the permits were approved despite the objections of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia and sponsored the ordinance. These two issues were among the few that University officials and vendor and consumer groups could reach agreement on during their long and often bitter negotiations since Penn began the controversy last May, when it submitted its first ordinance proposal to Blackwell. Yesterday's vote was the conclusion to a process that began with contentious eight-hour hearings Tuesday and an additional hour of hearings Wednesday. Council approved the amendment denying the vendors the right to transfer their licenses after Fran Egan, commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, said in her testimony Wednesday that vendors had no right to sell or transfer a license for the use of public property to another party. The vendors wanted transferability so that they could sell their entire businesses, including their locations, or trade licenses if they desired. But Council President John Street expressed his concern that under such a system, vendors with high levels of seniority could be passed over for prime vending locations. In lieu of the section that allowed transferability, an amendment was added that charged the Department of Licenses and Inspections to create a process for distributing licenses for specific locations that takes into account the seniority of the vendors. Scott Goldstein, the chairperson of the University City Vendors Alliance -- one of the ad hoc groups formed last summer in response to the initial proposal -- said he was angry with Council's move. The right to transfer licenses "was one of the few things [Blackwell] guaranteed she would stand by," Goldstein said. "We had no opportunity to discuss [the amendment] before." Council also approved the amendment eliminating the Vending Advisory Board on Egan's suggestion. Egan said on Wednesday that only the mayor could legally establish such a body. Blackwell will now organize a "technically unofficial" Vending Advisory Board that would have no official governmental power, but would instead serve as a discussion forum for the various groups affected by the ordinance. Carol Scheman, Penn's vice president for government, community and public affairs, said in a letter to Street sent Wednesday that the University was committed to participate in whatever forum Council and other city officials deemed appropriate. Matthew Ruben, spokesperson for the Penn Consumer Alliance -- the other ad hoc group that opposes the bill -- said he thought the Vending Advisory Board was particularly important because it "was the only mechanism where vendors and consumers could have any control over the process." The Vending Advisory Board would have reviewed vending regulations and recommended applicants for certain locations. It would have been composed of five vendors, three representatives of nonprofit institutions, three representatives of Penn's faculty, staff and students, two members of the business community and two members of neighborhood resident groups. The amendment to charge vendors a $2,700.50 annual fee in designated vending spots instead of using meters was suggested by Richard Dickson of the Philadelphia Parking Authority in his testimony Wednesday. This arrangement is similar to one in place at Drexel University, where food trucks must pay $3,000 annually for a spot on Drexel's campus on 32nd Street between Market and Chestnut streets. Vendors at and around Penn currently park at meters for most of the day. That is a violation of city traffic code, which prohibits staying past meters' allotted time capacity. The final, non-controversial amendment changed the bill so it goes into effect 90 days after its enactment instead of the original April 30. Street said the amendment was necessary to ensure the smooth transition of the vendors to the new policy.
The ordinance, which would restrict vending on and near Penn's campus, will probably become law in a few weeks. The proposed University-backed bill that would regulate vending on and around campus will leave this week's City Council hearings largely unchanged, clearing the way for it to be enacted within the next few weeks, a councilman said yesterday. Yesterday, in a relatively tame, one-hour conclusion to Tuesday's contentious, eight-hour hearings, city officials testified on the need for three technical amendments to the bill whose fates remained unclear as of last night. "[The ordinance] will come out of Council tomorrow with only some amendments," at-large Councilman Frank Rizzo said yesterday. Leaders of the vendor and consumer groups that spent most of last year fighting to substantially modify or kill the bill expressed a sense of defeat at the likelihood that the bill will pass largely unchanged. "We lost," University City Vendors Alliance Chairperson Scott Goldstein said. It remains unclear exactly what changes will be adopted when Council meets at 9 a.m. today to vote on the amendments and whether to keep the bill alive by reporting the legislation out of committee. At the hearings Tuesday, most Council members indicated that they clearly favor the controversial ordinance, which would ban food trucks and carts on many streets and sidewalks around campus, prohibit electrical generators a year after its enactment and establish a Vending Advisory Board to approve vendors for specific sites. Council President John Street will amend the bill so it goes into effect July 31 instead of the original April 30, said Carol Scheman, Penn's vice president for government, community and public affairs. Also, for the first time, the University yesterday guaranteed in writing its separate plans to build food plazas on its property to hold some vendors displaced by the ordinance, she added. Those five plazas are scheduled to be completed by August 15, Penn Managing Director of Economic Development Jack Shannon said recently. In the only heated moment of yesterday's hearings, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who introduced the ordinance in February, snapped at Richard Dickson of the Philadelphia Parking Authority when he suggested that the city charge vendors a $2,700.50 annual fee in designated vending spots instead of using meters. "[Blackwell] was very unhappy about the 11th-hour presentation of the amendments," Rizzo said. Blackwell did not return repeated calls for comment yesterday. Also yesterday, Fran Egan, commissioner of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, suggested Council adopt two amendments: one, to remove the Vending Advisory Board -- the body that would assign vendors specific sites -- from the ordinance; and two, to prohibit vendors from transferring licenses among themselves. Egan claimed that one vendor had no right to sell or transfer a license for the use of a piece of public property to another party and that only the mayor could establish the Vending Advisory Board. Street expressed his concern yesterday that by allowing transferability, vendors with high levels of seniority could lose out on prime vending locations. Goldstein said he hopes the Council will reject the proposed transferability amendment. "[Blackwell] fought for us to be able to resell [the licenses], and I hope she stands by the fight," Goldstein said. If the Council votes to report the bill out of committee as expected, the body will vote on final passage in two or three weeks. With the hearing process coming to a close, members of the UCVA and the Penn Consumer Alliance seemed widely disillusioned with the entire process, noting that it seemed that the University was getting exactly what it had wanted all along. "[Councilwoman] Augusta Clark told us that Penn is an 800-lb. gorilla," said PCA member Jason Eisner, an Engineering graduate student. "For whatever reason, Council seems happy to let the gorilla do what it wants." PCA spokesperson Matt Ruben echoed Eisner's sentiments. "The City Council decided to basically leave the University alone in terms of what they wanted," said Ruben, a School of Arts and Sciences graduate student. But Councilwoman Donna Miller defended the hearings and her decision to support the ordinance. "The public hearings are a good, open process," Miller said. Miller said that she recognizes vending is a "difficult issue," but explained that "the fact that vending at Penn is on private property made a difference." Shannon, the University's top economic development official, maintained that the ordinance represents a compromise, despite the perceptions of the PCA and UCVA. "What came across to the City Council was that the ordinance crafted by Councilwoman Blackwell truly presents a compromise that balances the interests of all parties," he explained. Despite his disappointment, Eisner pledged to remain involved in the process. "If vendors start going out of business, which we think is very likely, we'll go right back to City Council." The controversy over the ordinance began last May when Penn submitted its first proposal to Blackwell. In the face of protests from students, faculty members, staff, vendors and other community members, University officials withdrew the proposal in mid-June. Many hours of negotiations led to the current proposal.
City Council members voiced their support for the University's vending bill during yesterday's open hearing. Despite numerous protests from vendors, students and professors and community residents, most Philadelphia City Council members present during marathon public hearings yesterday indicated that they clearly favor a controversial, University-backed ordinance that would regulate vending on and around campus. About 50 people testified on the ordinance, which would ban food trucks and carts on many streets and sidewalks around campus, prohibit electrical generators a year after its enactment and establish a Vending Advisory Board to approve vendors for specific sites. The much-anticipated City Council hearings, which took place in City Hall from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with one 10-minute break, were attended by about 150 people. Although a total of 97 people had registered to testify at the hearings, the day ran so long that dozens of people left before their turn. Penn's separate proposal to build five food plazas on its property to hold vendors displaced by the ordinance, if enacted, was also discussed. All hopes for significant revisions to the ordinance seemed to dissolve at the hearings, during which Council members largely rejected the protests of the ordinance's critics -- mainly because Penn's interests are important to the city, they said. "We don't care if you don't like the bill," an exasperated Council President John Street said at one point after several critics had testified. "You're not supposed to like the bill." Street attributed Council's largely pro-ordinance position to the large influence Penn has in the city. "We have an obligation to the second-largest employer in the City of Philadelphia," Street said. "If you don't think that I and the other members of Council are conscious of all the economic benefits that flow from [the University], you're wrong." The hearings addressed many issues and concerns: the number and viability of the locations that would be available under the ordinance; all aspects of the proposed food plazas; the process for selecting vendors for public and private locations; the vendors' effect on other businesses; and the long negotiating process between University officials and vendor and consumer groups. Speaking for the University, Director of Community Relations Glenn Bryan argued that the ordinance was necessary to end "an unbridled, almost chaotic proliferation of vending activity in University City." More than 90 food trucks, carts and other vendors currently operate around campus. The number has jumped over the past several years, as similar ordinances have been enacted in Center City and Germantown. Opponents of the ordinance, who suggested many amendments, argued against the bill largely on the basis that it would destroy vendors' viability and greatly inconvenience consumers. About 16 people testified in support of the ordinance, including Bryan, Penn Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman and several retailers, faculty members and students. More than 30 people, by contrast, testified against the ordinance, including University City Vendors Alliance Chairperson Scott Goldstein, members of the Penn Consumer Alliance, other vendors, students and faculty members. The hearings are not yet complete. Street asked officials from the Department of Licenses and Inspections and the Philadelphia Parking Authority to testify today at 8:30 a.m. After the hearings' conclude today, Council members will vote on whether to keep the bill alive or strike it down. If the bill makes it out of hearings, the members can decide to vote on the bill in two or three weeks. The next time the bill makes it to the floor, Council members can offer amendments. If the bill comes to the floor any time after that, however, no further amendments can be made to it. Despite the mostly favorable reception from Council, University officials did not emerge unscathed from City Hall's room 400, the majestic hall where Council traditionally meets. For instance, the University received its strongest rebuke of the day over its decision to stop negotiating with the UCVA and PCA -- the two ad hoc groups formed in response to Penn's initial proposal a year ago -- after Blackwell introduced the bill to Council February 12. "I'd have to fault severely a decision that once a bill is introduced to City Council, discussion ceases," at-large Councilman David Cohen said. Three days before Blackwell introduced the ordinance, she held a meeting to hammer out a final version of the bill acceptable to all the parties involved. At the end of the five-hour meeting, Blackwell asked Penn officials to draft a proposal incorporating the revisions discussed at the meeting. The UCVA, the PCA and others have accused Penn officials of reneging on several compromises they allegedly made at the meeting. Penn has denied the accusations, which were discussed at the hearings. But Council members indicated that they gave little weight to the allegations. Also, they rejected the vendors' claims that they have a right to vend in some of the areas that will be prohibited under the ordinance. "You are assuming some right to conduct economic activity on a public easement," Street said. Many graduate students and faculty members who testified against the bill said the ordinance would take away the cheap and convenient food they have become accustomed to. But at-large Councilwoman Augusta Clark said matters of "personal inconvenience" are not reasons to reject the ordinance. "You didn't come to the University to buy low-cost food," Clark told one graduate student. During her testimony, Scheman said that "anyone, anywhere on campus can reach the vending in three minutes" if the bill goes into effect and when the food plazas are built. Councilman Frank DiCicco, who represents South Philadelphia, spoke about the stringent regulations rent-paying retailers face as he questioned Goldstein on the issue. DiCicco said that while he sees the vendors' position, "I've also got to respect the store owners." North Philadelphia Councilman Michael Nutter grilled Scheman, Penn Managing Director of Economic Development Jack Shannon and Penn Associate General Counsel Roman Petyk on many of the details of the ordinance, including the viability of some of the locations on Market Street. Many Council members expressed concern about how the spaces available under the ordinance would be assigned to vendors by the proposed Vending Advisory Board. "If there's a spot that's going to be there, we want the person who's been on the spot to stay on the spot," Street said. Street and at-large Councilwoman Happy Fernandez also asked University officials to discuss the details of their food plaza plans, including how the space in the plazas would be allocated and how they would be designed. Council members' attendance at the hearing varied during the day. All but four of the body's 17 members attended at least part of the hearings. The hearings are the latest round in the controversy over the ordinance, which began last May when Penn submitted its first proposal to Blackwell. In the face of protests from students, faculty members, staff, vendors and other community members, University officials withdrew the proposal in mid-June. Many hours of negotiations led to the current proposal.
City Council will hear testimony on the bill but will not vote on it today. After nearly a year of accusations, negotiations, protests, proposals and more accusations, the day has finally arrived for supporters and critics of a controversial vending bill to square off in a public forum. City Council is holding the long-awaited public hearings today on a proposed Penn-backed ordinance that would change the face of vending in University City, banning food trucks and carts on many streets and sidewalks around campus, prohibiting electrical generators a year after its enactment and establishing a Vending Advisory Board to approve vendors for specific sites. Although Council will not vote on the bill today, the hearings should give a good indication of just how far Penn's clout will carry with all 17 members. At the end of the day, Council will decide what they want to do next with the bill introduced two months ago by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia. At the hearings, the proposal's supporters and critics will air their views on issues ranging from the ordinance's restrictions on vending locations to when its various sections will go into effect. Critics are expected to turn out by the hundreds and far outnumber supporters. Penn's separate proposal to build five food plazas on its property to hold vendors displaced by the ordinance, if enacted, will also be discussed. Opponents of the proposal will likely urge Council members to adopt amendments that make the ordinance less restrictive, although it is unlikely the proposal will be changed greatly, according to many Council members and staffers. As of 2 p.m. yesterday, 65 people had registered to testify at the hearings, which begin at 10 a.m. in room 400 of City Hall, according to Vilma Diez, a staffer in Council President John Street's office. People are usually allotted three minutes to speak, Diez said. After those who have registered to testify are done, others who want to testify can do so. The hearings "will probably go all day" and play a "very important role" in helping Council members make their decisions on the bill, according to Steve Rush, legislative assistant to At-large Councilman Frank Rizzo. "We've gotten limited information so far," Rush said. "The hearings will let us get all the facts." Last month, six City Council members told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they were reserving judgment until the hearings. One, At-large Councilman Thatcher Longstreth, said he had already decided to support the ordinance. Council will hear testimony from all sides of the issue, including representatives from the Penn administration and the two ad hoc groups formed in response to the ordinance: the Penn Consumer Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance. During the hearing process today, Council members can offer amendments to the proposed ordinance. At the day's conclusion, Council members will vote on whether to keep the bill alive or strike it down. If the bill makes it out of the hearings, the members have two options: they can vote to suspend the rules, which means they will vote on the ordinance two weeks later; or if they do not choose to suspend the rules, they will vote on the ordinance after three weeks. When the bill makes it to the floor of Council after two or three weeks, members can offer additional amendments. If the proposal is amended further, members must then wait an additional week before it can be voted on again. After the the bill has come to the floor once, and is either voted on or amended, it cannot be amended again. At the hearings, two Penn officials who have been involved with the vending proposal will represent the University: Carol Scheman, vice president for government, community and public affairs, and Glenn Bryan, director of community relations. Bryan said he will give a presentation on behalf of the University. University officials have sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and vendors' negative effects on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. The leaders of UCVA and PCA, which have spent the past year trying to make the ordinance less restrictive and will be testifying themselves, recruited many people to testify on their behalf at the hearings. As part of its efforts, the UCVA will run a bus from campus to City Hall beginning at 9:20 a.m. and continuing every hour until 1:00 p.m. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said yesterday he expects many more people beyond the 65 already registered to support the vendors at the hearings. "There will be at least a hundred people there, and hopefully two or three [hundred]," Goldstein said. The UCVA and PCA met with or spoke to "several Council members," according to Goldstein. He declined to comment on the content or results of any of these meetings. Despite these intense lobbying efforts, it is not clear how much the bill will change from its current form as a result of the hearings and subsequent procedures. While Blackwell said she is not sure yet how much the ordinance will change, she expects that it will at least be amended in some fashion. She also said she has been seeking community input about potential revisions for the ordinance. "The vendors alliance and vendors were supposed to submit any changes they wanted to me a month ago," Blackwell said late last week. "I didn't get them until a couple days ago." Goldstein, however, said Blackwell "never asked us for [the amendments] until recently," adding that "she doesn't even return our calls anymore." Also, At-large Councilwoman Happy Fernandez said she thought it was "less likely" there would be amendments because the ordinance "is a delicately negotiated bill anyway." The hearings are the latest round in the controversy over the ordinance, which began last May when Penn submitted its first proposal to Blackwell. In the face of protests from students, faculty members, staff, vendors and other community members, University officials withdrew the proposal in mid-June. After many hours of negotiations with the UCVA and PCA, University administrators submitted to Blackwell a revised version of the ordinance on November 25, leading to a new wave of protests. As a result of the opposition, Blackwell asked the UCVA and PCA to submit their own versions of the bill, which they did on January 12. Blackwell held a meeting in early February intended to hammer out a final version of the ordinance acceptable to all the groups involved. At the end of the five-hour meeting, Blackwell asked Penn officials to draft a proposal incorporating the revisions discussed at the meeting. The UCVA, the PCA and others have accused University officials of reneging on several compromises they allegedly made at the meeting. Penn has denied the accusations.
But the 15 new, cellular blue-light phones take longer to contact police. The new, cellular blue-light emergency telephones are fully functional, but they take longer to connect to University Police than phones using the old technology do, according to a recent Daily Pennsylvanian test of the phones. Although Division of Public Safety officials acknowledged that the new type of phones have a longer connect time, they said the phones have many other advantages. For example, the phones regularly test themselves, and if the test is unsuccessful, police are instantly notified. In addition, officials stressed that even if a student must leave a phone before it connects to police, the phone still automatically transmits its location, ensuring that police officers are dispatched to the site. Shane Lipson, president of Penn Watch, the University's student-run town watch group, said he agrees that the advantages of the new phones outweigh the possible disadvantage of a longer connect time. "Penn Watch has had the opportunity to work with the old phones," said Lipson, an Engineering and Wharton senior. "You never knew which ones worked and which ones didn't, so it's more advantageous to have phones that you know work." Under the supervision of a Public Safety official, the DP tested nine of the 15 new emergency phones and four of the 150 old phones Wednesday. The newer models had an average connect time of 14.7 seconds, compared with an average connect time of 6 seconds for the four old phones tested. The new phones' connect time ranged from 12 seconds to 21 seconds, while the old phones' connect time ranged from 5 seconds to 7 seconds. For the new phones, Public Safety officials report a testing range of 7 seconds to 22 seconds. All of the new phones tested connected on the first try, but two of the old phones required multiple attempts before the phones worked. The new phones -- which cost Penn about $5,500 each -- transmit their information through a cellular signal back to University Police, while the older phones are directly connected via a wire. In addition, the new phones use solar power and have a blue strobe light on the top of the pole on which the phones are installed. The old phones use traditional power and have a blue light at eye level. According to Director of Security Services Stratis Skoufalos, the University plans on installing about 60 of the new phones throughout campus and in some off-campus locations. "The on-campus strategy is to have a phone placed at every intersection, and, in some cases, replace some hard-wire phones," Skoufalos said. The installation of the new phones began during the first week of March, 16 months after officials first announced they would start the process. Following a September 1996 crime wave that culminated in the shooting of a Penn student, officials said that the new phones would be installed in November of that year. Various technical and bureaucratic problems, however, prevented timely installation of the new phones. Comarco Inc., a wireless-technology company in Yorba Linda, Calif., is supplying the new phones. The technology provides an increased level of safety for people on the University's campus, officials said. Security Project Coordinator Dominic Ceccanecchio, who is helping oversee the phone installation, said that "the problem with the old phones is that we wouldn't know if [one] wasn't working." The new phones have self-testing features which report any problems, including cut phone cords and jammed doors, to Public Safety, Ceccanecchio said. The older phones do not have these features. Also, the new phones are "a lot easier to install," since they do not require wires to be laid underground, according to Ceccanecchio. As a result, more blue-light phones can be installed at outlying campus locations that did not previously have them. Skoufalos stressed that the phones are not only for emergency purposes -- they can also be used by patrol officers to communicate with headquarters, reporting illness or injury or to request police assistance for non-emergency situations.
Critics are concerned that the bill would unfairly target the homeless, and threaten to challenge its constitutionality. The scenario: You can't hand out leaflets in some public areas. You can't sit on the sidewalk for more than a half hour during a two-hour period. You can't ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, nor can you vend without a license for a particular location. A totalitarian third world dictatorship? No, Philadelphia -- that is, if City Council passes a proposed ordinance designed to improve city residents' "quality of life." The proposal -- officially titled the "Side Walk Control Ordinance" but known as the "quality-of-life bill" to everyone familiar with it -- was introduced in December by Council President John Street and has sparked strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Proponents say that Philadelphia needs to follow the example of other cities around the country and enact measures to improve the "quality of life," loosely defined as encompassing safety and an intangible sense of feeling better about one's neighborhood and city. But critics, prepared to mount a court challenge if the bill passes, argue that the bill is unconstitutional and unfairly discriminates against the homeless. "People are fleeing this city because of quality-of-life issues," said Kathleen Murray, chief of staff for Councilwoman Anna Verna, who represents Northeast Philadelphia and co-sponsored the bill. As a result, Verna "feels something needs to be done," Murray said. On the other hand, West Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who describes herself as "a main leader of the opposition to the ordinance," said she is concerned with the far-reaching effects of the bill. "This is the most comprehensive, reactionary bill," Blackwell said. "I've never seen anything [like it] in all my time in politics." Vending controversy The bill's impact on the University would be minimal, since it only regulates public property and most of the sidewalks on campus are privately owned, according to Carol Scheman, Penn's vice president for government, community and public affairs. Scheman said that the University administration is only concerned with the part of the bill that applies to vendors. The proposal prohibits the sale of any goods or services in a public highway, unless the Department of Licenses and Inspections grants a permit for a particular location. This provision would not affect vendors in University City if the controversial ordinance proposed by Blackwell to regulate vending on and around campus is passed, since her legislation would override Street's bill. Scheman said that in light of the quality-of-life bill, critics of the vending ordinance should consider it the best possible alternative for maintaining a vending presence near campus. "In the absence of enacting the legislation proposed by Councilwoman Blackwell, it is logical to assume that Council President Street's bill would virtually eliminate vending," Scheman said. But Jason Eisner, a member of the Penn Consumer Alliance -- one of the ad hoc groups, along with the University City Vendors Alliance, formed last summer in response to the original vending proposal -- said the quality-of-life bill was "not figuring heavily into our plans." "Blackwell will not let it go through in its current form," Eisner said. Blackwell said the bill's prohibition of vending is one of the reasons she is "working actively to defeat it." Hearings on the University City vending ordinance will be held on April 14. Hearings on the quality-of-life bill, however, will not occur until late April or early May, according to Brenda Fraser, the legislative attorney for ordinance co-sponsor Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who represents Center City. And according to Fraser, the bill will likely undergo much revision before Council's 17 members vote on it. She said it "will be modified" before and during the hearings. But Blackwell said she and the other Council members who oppose the ordinance hope that hearings will not be scheduled at all. Too restrictive? The quality-of-life ordinance attempts to remove any obstructions to the sidewalks by banning from them motorized vehicles, bicycles ridden by anyone over the age of six and roller skates and skateboards. Lying on the sidewalk or sitting on it for more than one half hour in a two-hour time frame is also prohibited. Furthermore, the bill bans sitting, standing or lying on the sidewalk in such a way that prevents the "free passage of pedestrians." In an effort to crack down on pan-handling, the ordinance bans people from soliciting for money within an eight-foot radius from any building entrance or vending cart or within a 20-foot radius of any bank entrance or automatic teller machine. It also prohibits people from soliciting money in a way that causes someone to "fear bodily harm" or "damage to or loss of property." The rules regulating the use of sidewalks are designed to get homeless people off the streets. But some critics said they fear the ordinance will just be a tool aimed specifically at getting the homeless off the streets of Center City. "There is some question as to where the ordinance will be enforced," said David Jaros, a legislative assistant at the American Civil Liberties Union's Pennsylvania chapter. "It could end up just shifting the homeless population from Center City to West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia." At-large Councilman Angel Ortiz, who opposes the ordinance, said he is very concerned with the way the bill handles the homeless in general. By passing the ordinance, "you're making homelessness a criminal offense," Ortiz said, adding that "there are better ways to deal with these people." Blackwell said she was also concerned with the effect the ordinance would have on homeowners. "You should be able to ride your bike on the sidewalk in front of your house even if you are over six and sit a bundle down for more than 15 minutes if you are a senior," Blackwell said. "This bill doesn't just affect the homeless, but everyone in the community," she added. First Amendment Concerns The ordinance also bans the distribution of handbills within an eight foot radius of a building, the posting of any sign on public or private property or on a utility pole without the permission of the owner or placing a vending box on the public sidewalk without a permit. Some Council members cited these aspects of the ordinance as violations of the right to free speech. At-large Councilman David Cohen "feels the ordinance raises some real questions about the First Amendment," said Bill Greenlee, a staffer in Cohen's office. The ordinance is based on a similar quality-of-life campaign enacted in New York and other cities, according to Jaros. But in New York, officials enforced existing laws instead of enacting new statutes. Many argue that Philadelphia could also use laws already on the books to achieve the objectives of the proposed ordinance. "The things that need to be addressed can be addressed with existing laws," said Greenlee. "It would be overkill." Ortiz said he believes the ordinance overreaches in trying to achieve its objectives. "It has so many problems in terms of broadness that make it unenforceable and unconstitutional," Ortiz said. The bill sparked a discussion last week at the Annenberg School for Communication, where a group of concerned students and community members held a meeting to inform people about the ordinance. At the meeting, attended by about 25 people, Jaros and other opponents of the legislation spoke out against the ordinance. John Feinberg, a legal assistant at the ACLU, said his organization and other groups would challenge the ordinance in court if Council passes it.
The ceremony will include stops at food trucks, the College Green peace sign and the FIJI house. Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction. According to the Christian Association, the struggle of vendors against a controversial bill that would ban them from most parts of campus is akin to the condemnation of Jesus Christ. Christ's suffering and death are also similar to the plight of a College freshman who some say was beaten by police, as well as to the victims of the Palestra shootings, the CA says. The CA -- a 107-year-old group which is not affiliated with the University and defines itself as an all-inclusive Christian organization -- will equate these situations with Christ's in a Good Friday service designed to commemorate those who have experienced "pain, humiliation and death" over the past year. Good Friday is the observance of Jesus' death. During Friday's "Way of the Cross" service, participants will start walking from the CA building at 36th Street and Locust Walk at noon. Over the next hour, they will visit the food trucks in front of the Annenberg School for Communication, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house where police allegedly beat Sofield and the peace sign on College Green. CA Associate Minister Andrew Barasda, who proposed the service, said it will be a chance "to reflect upon [the events] in light of what Jesus experienced at the hands of the Romans." Barasda maintains that the service will be religious, rather than political. "Bill Sofield falling under the weight of the police attack is just like Jesus falling under the weight of the cross," Barasda said. The Sofield incident has long been the subject of campus controversy. Several FIJI brothers maintain that police unnecessarily beat Sofield when they tried to arrest him inside the Locust Walk house on October 30, but an internal police investigation concluded that police did not act improperly. In January, a judge acquitted Sofield on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Sofield has until October 30, 1999, to decide whether to file a civil suit alleging police brutality. Barasda also compared the plight of the vendors to that of Christ. "The ongoing pain of the vendors certainly relates to Jesus being condemned to death," Barasda said. Vendor and consumer groups have battled University administrators since last May over a proposed city ordinance that would ban vending on most streets and sidewalks in the area. City Council will hold hearings on the ordinance Tuesday. Separately, the University plans to build five food plazas to hold a total of 45 displaced vendors. Scott Goldstein, the chairperson of the University City Vendors Alliance -- one of the two ad hoc groups formed in response to the ordinance -- said that while he appreciated the CA's ceremony, he was not sure it was appropriate to equate the vendors' situation to the shootings. "I take what's happening to us very seriously, but I take someone's life being in jeopardy even more seriously," Goldstein said. The service's final stop at the peace sign -- a move meant to commemorate the March 1 shootings outside the Palestra -- applies the most literally to Christ because "Jesus died on the cross, and the victim of the shooting also died," according to Barasda. North Philadelphia resident Anthony Davis, 22, was killed and three people, including a Penn student, were wounded in the shootings outside the Palestra that occurred after the Philadelphia Public League high school boys basketball championship. Kyle McLemore, 21, was arrested for the shootings and charged with murder. Police, who say the murder was the result of a long-running feud between the two men, just issued a warrant for a second suspect.
Public hearings on the proposed ordinance are scheduled for April 14. Less than two weeks from today, the controversy over a proposed City Council ordinance regulating vending on and around campus is expected to finally come to a head. And it will only have taken a year. Council announced yesterday that the much-anticipated public hearings for the ordinance will be held at City Hall April 14. At the hearings, supporters and critics of the proposal are likely to air their views on issues ranging from the ordinance's restrictions on vending locations to when its various sections would go into effect. Penn's proposal to build five food plazas on and around campus to house displaced vendors will also be discussed, although the idea is separate from the ordinance. The entire Council will hear testimony from all sides of the vending issue, including representatives from the University administration and the two ad-hoc groups formed in response to the ordinance, the Penn Consumer Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance. After the hearings, Council will decide what action to take on the ordinance -- action that could theoretically include a vote on the ordinance. It is unclear how much the ordinance will change as a result of the hearings. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia and has been working on the ordinance, said last week she thought there would be "some changes" in the location restrictions. But Penn Vice President of Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said yesterday that after the long process of negotiations to formulate the ordinance, she did "not have any expectations for major changes." The most recently proposed version of the ordinance bans vendors from most streets and sidewalks in the area, prohibits electrical generators one year after its enactment and establishes a Vending Advisory Board which will review vending regulations and recommend applicants for certain locations. The controversy over the ordinance began last May when Penn sent Blackwell its initial ordinance proposal. The PCA and the UCVA have sought to make the bill less restrictive. Officials from the UCVA and the PCA plan to testify at the hearings and are encouraging others to participate. UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein said more than 300 students, faculty members and staff have told him of their willingness to testify. According to Scheman, a University representative will also testify at the hearing. She declined to name that person. In anticipation of the hearings, officials from the PCA and the UCVA have been lobbying various members of City Council to explain their opposition to the bill, according to Goldstein and PCA member Jason Eisner. The food plazas are also expected to be discussed at the hearings. Blackwell said on Thursday that there still might be "one or two changes" in the actual locations of those plazas. Scheman said yesterday, however, that all the plaza locations finalized last week will remain the same, but additional food plazas might be built if they prove successful. The hearings will be held at 10 a.m. in room 400, Council's main meeting hall.