Spotlight on Central Northeast:Super Cool Catch Up!
Ready for our Central Northeast public meeting tomorrow night, or are you maybe a little out of the loop? Well, look no further, because the geniuses in our GIS division have created this handy little story map to catch you right up. Click the link to see the plan’s focus areas, previous public meeting summaries, and destinations.
Spotlight on Central Northeast: Mid-Century Modern
In Central Northeast, we are exploring a unique and often-underappreciated style of design known as Mid-Century Modern.
The period following World War II was an optimistic, forward-looking time in American popular culture. The architecture of this time period is known as Mid-Century Modern. Mid-Century Modern design used sleek, simplified geometry and non-symmetrical, intersecting angular planes. Designers embraced the optimistic spirit of the time, experimenting with the newest technologies and materials in building, and incorporating futuristic elements.
Many one-of-a-kind, iconic buildings from the mid-century can be found in the Central Northeast district of Philadelphia. The area developed rapidly during the mid-century, as automobiles made it easier for residents to settle here and commute to Center City. Commercial development boomed on Rising Sun, Bustleton, Cottman and Castor Avenues. Today, shops, banks and civic institutions throughout Central Northeast retain distinctive elements of mid-century style. Some more examples, this way…. MORE
Spotlight on the Districts: Northeast High School
As we mentioned on Monday, our final public meeting for the Central Northeast District Plan is happening this coming Tuesday, December 3rd. If you are interested in the venue – the venerable Northeast High School – then this is the post for you. We got an up close look at the school’s history and role in the community from its Vice Principal Robert Caroselli. The Fox Chase resident generously gave a lengthy interview with our Planning Director Richard Redding back in March 2013, when this plan was just beginning.
Northeast High School is located at 1601 Cottman Avenue (very important to know if you’re joining us on Tuesday). With approximately 3,000 students, “Northeast” is Philadelphia’s largest public high school. It is also one of the ten largest high schools in Pennsylvania. Northeast High School dates back to 1890 when it opened as the Northeast Manual Training School, located at 7th & Lehigh. Keep in mind that northeast is a relative term (northeast of what?). In 1890, much of what we consider Northeast Philadelphia today was not developed The building at 7th and Lehigh later became Thomas Edison High School. Today, Northeast High School’s 44-acre site is bounded by Cottman Ave., Glendale Ave., Summerdale Ave., Faunce St. and Algon Ave.
Northeast High School’s service area is generally bounded by Devereaux St. on the south, Pennypack Park on the north, Roosevelt Boulevard on the east, and Verree Road on the west. This encompasses parts of several neighborhoods: Rhawnhurst, Fox Chase, Castor Gardens, Burholme, Upper Northwood, and Bells Corner. Demographically, the student body is diverse. The number of Asians, Brazilians and Albanians is growing. NEHS students speak more than 50 different languages.
Nearby on Cottman Avenue are two other public facilities: Jardel Recreation Center, and Woodrow Wilson Middle School. The Northeast High School property creates a green, landscaped oasis along the otherwise cluttered Cottman Avenue. The sprawling, low-rise brick school building fits in rather nicely with the homes that surround the site. However, the school building and outdoor facilities are in need of fixing and maintenance. Most of the windows are original from 1955. Parking lots are not in good condition. Painting and general upkeep has suffered from reductions in custodial staff. Partly in response, the school organizes volunteer clean-ups. Students in clean-up crews walk the nearby streets, picking up litter. School staff and volunteers do landscaping, flower beds, and mulching each spring.
One of Caroselli’s many jobs is to address any problems that 3,000 arriving and departing students can cause in the surrounding neighborhood. Robert attends regular meetings of the local Police Department Advisory Council (PDAC) — community-based meetings that allow networking with civic leaders. The meetings are attended by business groups, neighborhood leaders, town watch organizations and local politicians. For Robert, a main purpose of the meetings is to deal with complaints about Northeast High students’ behavior as they walk to and from school, especially after school when hundreds of students walk east to bus stops at Castor Ave. He personally drives the route after school, and civic leaders in the area have Rob’s phone number so issues can be addressed immediately.
When asked what improvements would make the school and community a better place, Vice Principal Caroselli said he would like to see a multi-purpose track or path established around the perimeter of the high school campus, a distance of approximately one mile. The track could be used for charity runs and other special events. Benches could be provided along the loop trail as an amenity.
Vice Principal Caroselli performed an important role in assisting Tony Danza when the well-known TV actor decided to teach high school English for the 2009/10 school year. Tony Danza’s NEHS teaching experience spawned a TV reality show, “Teach” (on the A&E Network) and a book, “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High,” published in 2012 and written by Danza himself. He is not the only well-known figure to be associated with the school; its notable alumni include:
- Darrell Clarke, President of City council
- David Cohen, City Councilman-At-Large
- Pete Ciarrocchi, founder of Chickie & Pete’s
- Howard Eskin, sportscaster
- Lou Tilley, sportscaster
- Herb Adderly, hall of fame football player
- Eddie Stanky, major league baseball player/ manager
- Sonny Hill, Philadelphia basketball coach and organizer
- Guy Rodgers, hall of fame basketball player
We should mention in closing that Northeast High School and Central High School have one of the longest running sports rivalries between public high schools in the country, dating back to 1892. This rivalry reaches a peak each Thanksgiving when the two football teams square off against one another. For whom are you routing?
Happy Thanksgiving, all.
Meeting Alert! Central Northeast #3
Hard to believe, but we’re already nearing the end of the Central Northeast District Plan process. Our final public meeting is scheduled for December 3rd (see the flyer above for all the details).
As is customary for such meetings, draft recommendations – that is to say, the actions that the plan recommends for the PCPC and its partners – will be available for your review and comments. If you can’t make it, there will also be a comment period during which you can download and review an online version, but we strongly encourage you and your neighbors to spread the word and attend. See you at Northeast High on 12/3!
City Planning: The Musical! ACT TWO
Wednesday’s post featured Act ONE of “City Planning: The Musical!”, our locally focused response to If/Then, a new Broadway-bound musical that focuses on a 40-year-old city planner’s two possible career and life paths. Today, the curtain goes up on Act 2.
Act II, Scene I: Plan Or Not, Life Goes On: Fresh out of a job and recently rejected by her heart’s desire, Beckie is having a tough go of it. She’s trying not to look at her decision to leave the planning field as a mistake, but appealing job prospects are few. She wants to give Todd space, but can’t believe that their wild night and big plan fizzled so quickly. Meanwhile, Todd is second guessing himself, and the PCPC is adapting to life without their coworker. The opening act is a trio, reminiscent of Step Too Far from Aida, with each party describing their doubts, regrets, and hopes in the song, “Shoulda Planned Ahead.” Lest the audience become too discouraged by this, the somber mood is broken by the PCPC staff’s resolve to carry on despite Beckie’s departure. They celebrate the work they do to keep the city moving, all the while saying ‘good riddance’ to their departed comrade in Keep On Stampin’, a rousing tap number spread over 3 levels of stacked cubicles. Very Forget About the Boy meets Next To Normal.
Act II, Scene II: Meanwhile, Todd’s work moves slowly. He’s trying to get as many projects in the ground as he can, but his attorney is clearly having trouble interpreting the new code as EVERYTHING he does still comes back needing variances (short reprise of his BY RIGHT number from Act I here). As the song wraps, he’s anxiously awaiting to hear about the status of his latest and biggest proposal to date: a block-long redevelopment in Kensington that – fingers crossed – would give him an adequate return to fit out his bakery (which would be a tenant in the development). He knows it’s risky to get out of the game so early, but he’s tired of the system and ready to settle into something predictable like baking. His employee returns with the news that while his project is by-right (can get all its permits over the counter), its size means it is ALSO subject to Civic Design Review. (2nd reprise of By Right). Blackout.
Act II, Scene III: Civic Design Review day has arrived, and the Planning Commission is buzzing. Todd’s project has garnered quite a bit of attention in the press, between its Passive House certification goals, its decision to not include any parking (something that the code permits but the neighbors don’t like), and the decision to do all of the industrial-scale baking right on the premises. Beckie has caught wind of the project, despite the fact that she and Todd have yet to speak since their fallout at the plan review counter. Armed with dark sunglasses and a hat, she opts to attend the meeting as an anonymous member of the public. The meeting is a zoo. Nearby residents and businesses from all across the neighborhood are there to heap both praise and blame upon Todd’s project. The CDR committee is similarly divided, and Todd is faced with a mountain of questions to answer. In the mid-act showstopper, Gamechanger, a song that combines the best aspects of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat from Guys and Dolls and Blow, Gabriel, Blow from Anything Goes, Beckie unexpectedly rises from her seat in the audience and requests to speak (!). In so doing, she manages to systematically assuage fears, quell concerns, and altogether convince the room that Todd’s development will be, in fact, a gamechanger.
Act II, Scene IV: As the crowd starts to clear, several of Beckie’s coworkers run up to her, surprised to see her in attendance in an unofficial capacity, and curious to know why she felt so strongly about a mixed-use project that isn’t even in her neighborhood. She explains that lots of people have disturbingly strong feelings about projects that won’t change anything about their daily lives, but then admits that she defended this one for personal reasons. Excited by the impact she had on the outcome of the CDR meeting, Beckie declares that she can continue to make a difference…from the outside. This epiphany is expressed with several key changes in her rousing 11 o’clock number, Better Than I Planned. Think Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie meets What I Did For Love from A Chorus Line.
Act II, Scene V: The CDR conference room set has been cleared during Beckie’s spot-lit song, and Todd and Beckie find themselves downstage center, alone. Realizing that Beckie has won him community support, a sterling recommendation from the CDR committee, and altogether guaranteed his project can move forward without a hitch, he is overcome with gratitude…and love. He reveals that he prioritized this project because it gives him both the money and the space to open the bakery. He gets down on one knee and asks her to be his bakery manager. She eagerly accepts. (Life Will Be A) Piece of Cake, their light-hearted duet, is reminiscent of Rosie, the closing number from Bye Bye Birdie.
Finale: Like any good musical, this show isn’t over just because the plot has reached its logical conclusion. Lest we forget that this is really about City Planning, the PCPC staff and full ensemble come out for an all-out medley that reprises Gamechanger and Keep On Stampin’.
Curtain Call/Encore: If blockbuster musicals teach us anything, it is that one finale just won’t do. With the audience on its feet, the full cast belts out a medley of By Right and Variance For You, re-arranged as up-tempo, four-part group numbers. With a final shuffle ball change, the cast joins hands, walks downstage, hits a power stance, and raises their downstage arms as as the final 8 count ends in a cymbal crash. And probably a confetti canon for good measure.