May 19th, 2011 | No Comments »

Eat at the chef's counter, sip great wine, watch them cook incredible food at Val & Marcie's Barbuzzo













Heritage preservationists have for a very long time been sent to the irrelevance “time-out” corner by many who unfairly claim that they (we, full disclosure) are focused entirely on pretty buildings and not on cold, hard reality.  But old buildings and existing neighborhoods fans really know, as does everyone involved in real estate, planning, architecture and other real world pursuits, that “use,” “use” and “use” are the three most important words in our language.

Philadelphia entrepreneurs Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney know all about using existing buildings, and their neighbors in Center City’s Midtown Village have enjoyed the benefits of the reborn street life the pair have helped foster.  Earlier this week, the AIA Philadelphia Chapter, along with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, saluted their remarkable love for and commitment to urban life in the heart of Philadelphia.  The AIA, at the Alliance’s annual Awards lunch, lauded the partners with the annual Henry J Magaziner, EFAIA Award, which recognizes those who, though outside the “normal circle of preservation and design, have made a significant contribution to preservation of the built environment.”  The duo’s three restaurants (Barbuzzo, Lolita and Bindi) and four shops (Open House, Grocery, Verde and Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates) near 13th and Sansom, reside in older buildings saved and rehabilitated over the past decade by developer Tony Goldman and have joined several other long-standing businesses in the vicinity in turning around what was once considered a “red light district.”

Congratulations to the pair, who even live above the store.  (How else could two people manage such an empire?)  Val and Marcie have made our neighborhood more lively, safer, more interesting and, well, more delicious.  (All their ventures are great,  but @Barbuzzo, already a James Beard award winner, is not be missed.)  Thanks to them and their unflagging energy and creativity.  Philadelphia is much the richer for their commitment.  So is the salted caramel budino!


Posted from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, United States.

May 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

It’s official: I love Philadelphia and I’m inclined to look at city life through a Philly lens. So, thanks to my incredibly creative husband, via his firm @TactileDesign Group, this blog has a new brand and a new look.

The focus is still reflected in it’s original title:
Urban – characteristic of city life, of or related to the city
Prospects – belief about the future, search for something desirable, a prediction of a future course

I’d love to hear your reaction to RE Philadelphia, its look, its content. Just comment! And thanks for visiting.

Posted in Uncategorized
April 27th, 2011 | No Comments »

This really warm weather brings out the walkers, including me, and a day of exploring Washington Square West confirms that Philadelphia is looking pretty great in all this sunshine.  More historic streetlights are going up on South 12th Street; that block by the slowly rebirthing Odd Fellows Building really needs the light, notwithstanding the horrendous flashing LED’s washing the facade of the new nightclub next door. (And does anyone know what “The Leoncalvo” was, by the way?)

Tulips, azaleas and wisteria splash across the front of the beautiful and historic Pennsylvania Hospital with vibrant color, reminding me of my first days as a new Philly resident and coming upon that glorious monument to Dr. Thomas Bond’s and Benjamin Franklin’s vision that became America’s first hospital.  I knew I was someplace extraordinary.

And then there are the Litter Critters: fanciful re-imaginings of the very functional and very boring Big Belly recycling and trash cans along the sidewalks of Headhouse Square and South Street.  The exuberantly designed vinyl wraps encircling the trash receptacles would put a smile on any face with their individual personalities and colorful palettes. 

Thanks to the city’s extraordinary Mural Arts program (Mayor Nutter just bragged that Philly is the mural capital of the universe!) for their Big Picture art education program.  I finally connected the mental dots about the so-cool, festively decorated trash trucks that started appearing last year.

Similar kudos to the Lombard Street homeowner who, fed up with the poorly located and ugly traffic signal powerboxes on our sidewalks that also serve as major tagger-magnets, hired an artist to make “her” powerbox a perpetual reminder of spring.

It’s quite a spring in Philadelphia:  PIFA is just wrapping up, and what a magnifique three weeks of massive arts festival the @Kimmel Center has brought us.   We had no trapeze lessons, but enjoyed many of the terrific offerings.  Can’t wait for next year.

Now for Penn Relays.  And the first blooms in our own garden.

March 3rd, 2011 | No Comments »

The Sustainable Cities Collective has posted a Self-Affirmation Guide for Urbanites that’s helping me to stay the course as a confirmed and happy city-dweller, in spite of the shards of wood cornice still falling off the building next door and yes, those annoying little Ziploc bags lurking on our stoop.

I can tick off each entry in the Collective’s checklist of “optimizing human experience” characteristics of urban residency with my own such experience in Philadelphia :

•  Chances for knowledge transfer, informal and formal – we just met some really smart and interesting folks at a Kimmel Center event marking the upcoming opening of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (@PIFAphilly), and this morning I got a good dose of new knowledge at the monthly Design Advocacy Group meeting at the Center for Architecture.

•  Culture available on a grand scale – we can be in our seats for the Philadelphia Orchestra at the aforesaid Kimmel Center after a seven minute walk from home.  I need say no more.

•  Smart people attracted to centers of learning and political power – I have to say I get less pleasure from the huge lighted JEFFERSON sign looming over Washington Square West than I do from the neat and varied, place-based graphics marking University of the Arts locations in the neighborhood.  But the braininess surrounding us all the time is palpable and wonderful.

•  Density = reduced carbon footprint – best thing we ever did was to ditch the car and join Philly Car Share two years ago, SEPTA’s sudden cancellation of my train this morning, after a forty minute wait for its “on time” alter ego, notwithstanding.

Urban life, even in Philadelphia, can sometimes be maddening, certainly.  My husband’s small creative business in Center City would thrive and create still more jobs were it not for the infernal Business Privilege Tax.  You go, Mayor Nutter!  The falling ice, crumbling cornice, peeling paint and general shabbiness of the empty and mostly boarded up building next door is a constant irritant.  (Although I heard at this morning’s DAG from speaker John Kromer that, of the 553 vacant houses he inventoried in 1998 in Southwest Center City, all but 49 were renovated and occupied by 2008, so things are getting a lot better.  For some neighborhoods.  See John’s candidacy for Sheriff, by the way.)  The Community Design Collaborative, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is connecting more young design and planning professionals with more communities, empty industrial sites and other neighborhood strengthening opportunities than ever before.  Great balloons, guys.

Thanks to Next American City and the Sustainable Cities Collective, I can confirm that there’s really no chance that I’ll be cheating with a suburb.  For one thing, it seems they don’t age well, and I’m too old to try to keep finding ever younger ones.

Posted in Uncategorized