BUILDINGS Feed

"Spite" fence goes up

Chestnut Hill Spite Fence

A tall chain-link fence recently appeared dividing the narrow walkway between two buildings on Germantown Avenue in the posh Chestnut Hill shopping district in northwest Philadelphia. And now, next to it a sign that reads "Snowden's Spite Fence." George Hobe says the fence went up between his antiques store and a building owned by Richard Snowden/ Bowman Properties after Hobe refused to sell his building to Snowden. Hobe maintains the walkway has long been a public thoroughfare, that the fence is illegal and that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has not addressed complaints against the fence. During our interview Hobe retrieved a working Monopoly boardgame from inside his store called "The Game of Chestnut Hill." Snowden, who owns a large and ever growing proportion of the properties along the corridor, is presumably the inspiration for the unique Chestnut Hill version of Monopoly. Watch video interview here.


Nirvana restuarant opens- fills house

cu nirvana indian restuarant

Anita Chhantyal didn't know why the Nirvana Indian restaurant she and her husband had just relocated to Lafayette HIll from Conshohocken was filling up this opening night. But she suspected that others like your correspondent and his wife,  had simply seen the "Nirvana" and "Open" signs draped over the old sign, "The Lucky Dog." The dog's luck must have run out.

Natives of Nepal, Chhantyal and her chef husband, are donating 20% of proceeds the first few days to the Nepalese earthquake relief effort. More than 10000 people died in the disaster, Chhantyal reports, and a niece of hers is recovering from leg injuries.

When they were not pausing for impromptu interviews,two young American waitresses with enthusiasm for Indian food, bustled around filling orders from eager first night patrons.

Watch video here.


Smelling Wyck's potent heritage roses

Potent Heritage Roses

A mother and daughter, Bea Weidner and Emily Linso (not shown in this photo) took time to smell the roses in the bright and fragrant heritage rose garden at  Wyck. A national landmark, Wyck, is the ancestral estate of the Wistar-Haines family located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Development Director Kristin Hagar (above at table) welcomed people to a "Celebration of the Roses" open house and explained that heritage roses are generally brighter and have a more potent fragrance than modern roses, but last a shorter time. She welcomes the public to nominate locations where a Wyck heritage rose might be planted for the public to enjoy. Video here.


Expectant parents take a "Waltz in the Woods"

The day before Easter Sunday, Nick Hasselback and his wife, Jenna, who was due to deliver their first child four days later, marveled at Patrick Dougherty's new stick sculpture installation at the Morris Arboretum. "A Waltz in the Woods" is  a handful of closely circled tall and leaning towers consisting of   willow branches and saplings woven together. And then left for nature to take its course as with Dougherty's previous work at the Morris. Nick and Jenna describe themselves as woodsy people and are hatching similar, likely more modest, ideas of their own. Watch video here


City implodes Queen Lane Apartments

Neighbors and former residents of the 16-story Queen Lane Apartment building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia  were happy to see the structure deliberately collapsed the morning of September 13, 2014, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in a terrorist attack 13 years ago, practically to the day.

Once sparkling new and desirable, over time the apartment complex became  beset by drugs, crime and disrepair and sat vacant the last few years. The remaining residents were relocated and the playground fenced off.

At 7:25 am,  a succession several large bangs from ignited caches of dynamite strategically planted on the 1st 4th and 10th floors, preceded the collapse of the building and it was over within 15 seconds

Bystanders outside the cordoned off evacuation and dust zones  cheered as a large cloud of brown dust billowed up from the rubble, paving the way for the Philadelphia Housing Authority to construct some 50 rental apartments surrounding a green space.

Watch video here.


Dollhouse size library now open

Renee Polsky of the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library shows off the "little free library, " a dollhouse-like wooden structure mounted on a post next to the book return bin outside the Chestnut Hill Library. The public is welcome to take one book at a time and donate a booking return. The miniature honor system lending library holds about 20 books. In the three weeks since it was installed many of the books supplied by the Friends haven been taken, Polsky says, but the books donated by borrowers haven't been as good quality. The Friends purchased the pricey house from a catalog and Polsky says these little libraries are springing up in small towns around he country. She is hoping to check out similar ones that she has heard have popped up at private residences elsewhere in Chestnut Hill. Watch video here.


Stagecrafters: barn to theater

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Watch video interview here At the next to last performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde at the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill, 78 year old __________ fondly recalled how, as a child, she used to chased chickens, play hide and seek and jump rope with her many cousins in the theater auditorium back when it was her grandparents’ barn. (Aiman family)


Collapse attorney's tire collapsed by pothole

Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.

Watch video interview here.


Goodwill donation center opens in Mount Airy

Saleece came smiling and protectively gloved out of the brand new Goodwill Donation Center in Mount Airy as soon as I pulled up in my car. Located on Lincoln Drive below the CVS Pharmacy at Mount Pleasant where a gas station used to be, the facility caught my eye with a large “NOW OPEN” banner.

Saleece was happy to accept the jigsaw puzzles and books I had stored in my trunk for a planned drop-off either at the Whosoever Gospel Mission store in Germantown or the Salvation Army store in Roxborough. She says the Goodwill facility has seen a lot of traffic in the short week and some days it’s been open and credits advertisements in the Mt Airy Times with sparking anticipation in the community in advance of the opening. 

Already, large cardboard bins in the garage staging area were nearly full of clothes and toys. The items get sorted here and then will be shipped to Goodwill’s retail outlets in South Philadelphia and the Northeast. 

Saleece knows of no plans for the current, and relatively small building, to serve as a retail outlet.

Donations benefit Goodwill’s training and assistance programs for youth, seniors, disabled and those with a criminal background in getting jobs. See www.goodwill.org

Watch video interview here.


How Lego conquered the toy industry brick by brick

Legos - it's about the brick

The Lego Company has been fantastically successful. In each of the last 5 years sales have risen 24% and profits, 40%. But it was not always so. For most of its 80-year existence, its reach did not extend so far beyond Billun, Denmark, where Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter unable to secure enough wood to build furniture during the 1930s depression, began experimenting building wooden toys.

The company under Christiansen’s progeny soared in the last couple decades but tie-in products to the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies nearly doomed the company in 2003; sales of those products crashed when the movie franchises hadn’t yet come out with new films.

This, according to Wharton Professor Dave Robertson and former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland's Institute for Management. Robertson, a Chestnut Hill resident, discussed his new book, “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry” at the William Jeannes Library in Lafayette Hill this past Thursday evening.

He began his slide talk by distributing baggies, each packed with the identical same six logo pieces, and instructed the audience to “Build a duck” and gave us only a minute or two. Participants then brought their “ducks” up to the front table. At the end of the talk, Robertson pointed to the wide variation of these Lego “ducks” as evidence that incredible creativity is possible even when severe constraints are imposed, a major thesis of his book.

He credits Lego Company’s resurgence to its imposition of key constraints: drastically reducing the number of parts (about 14000 different ones at peak) that had made the manufacturing process unwieldy, getting back to products that are more “Lego-y” and subjecting product proposals to the approval a committee of 3 seasoned Lego designers. And, ultimately, insisting that projected profitability be a constant constraint.

What Lego pioneered was not just a toy, Robertson maintains, but a system of play. And that system “is about the brick.”

Watch video here.