Thursday, February 17, 2022

CCRA Newsletter


This Week: February 17, 2022

Editor - Barbara Halpern

Lead Writer - Richard Vaughn

Design/Layout and Writer - Travis Oliver

Daryl Morey for Mayor

Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey did the near-impossible last week:

He rid the team (and the City) of the nightmare known as Ben Simmons, and in return he added a player who gives the Sixers a legit shot at an NBA Championship this season.


How did he pull this off?  With pixie dust and magic?

No. He did it by being purposeful, persistent and patient.


It’s a winning gameplan that spans all disciplines.

May our elected officials take heed.

How CCRA Looks at Development in our Neighborhood

Last week the Inquirer reported on controversy in the Fishtown Neighbors Association between those who prefer new development to those who believe they’ve had enough already.  As CCRA has a very active role in the growth of Center City West, we thought we would explain our overall approach to our members.


As you are aware, Center City is a wonderful urban mix, both architecturally and demographically.  From the Fitler Square low-rises to the Rittenhouse Square hi-rises to the Market St and JFK “canyons”, one finds residences, office buildings, stores and restaurants scattered throughout, all to be enjoyed by young families, urban singles, tenants and owners, empty nesters and retirees.  It is precisely this mix that needs to be balanced as we consider new development projects which are proposed to be built among us.


Our approach is to utilize a Stakeholder’s process to balance competing interests.  While commercial development is an important driver to the Center City economy – it contributes over 40% of the revenue to fund the City – at the same time it can create issues like congestion, green canopy reduction and increased parking demand, to name just a few.  Our job is to work with the development community to bring these  concerns to bear on their projects.


The Stakeholder’s approach was first used for a proposed tower at 19th and Chestnut which many felt was inappropriate for a number of reasons.  A group of residents from neighboring buildings worked with the developers and an architect they mutually engaged to redesign and reposition the building to harmonize it in the community.  The result was The Harper, considered one of the best new projects in Rittenhouse.  Similarly with The Laurel, where CCRA and neighboring stakeholders engaged with the developers to create a shared architectural vision, the result of which is a building applauded by neighbors when it was introduced five years ago.


Such efforts have morphed into a series of major development task forces, appointed by the President of CCRA, to include members throughout the neighborhood with expertise in architecture, green elements, water run-off control and reduction of congestion, the goal being to harmonize the building within the neighborhood and to make it a benefit to the community as a whole, while respecting the developers’ economic needs.


More globally, we have worked closely with the Building Industries Association on a proposal to preserve the human scale of Rittenhouse Row, (Chestnut, Samson and Walnut Streets east of 19th Street) by adjusting zoning controls.  We will shortly announce the details of this unusual agreement which BIA, CCRA and other civic groups and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will jointly propose to City Council.  This multi-year effort will protect us far into the future.


Finally, and of great import, is our commitment to the development of low- and moderate-income housing in connection with major projects, and a verifiable effort to employ minority and women-owned workers and businesses in the developments.  In this way CCRA becomes a force for diversity and equity in a community – and a city -- which certainly needs more.


All of the forgoing takes great volunteer effort, but the results are worth it.  New buildings are being proposed and built which enhance the built environment and minimize adverse effects.  We have shown that a cooperative effort by residents of many constituencies can work with developers for mutual benefit.  We have been successful enough that the proponents of most new projects now reach out to us to engage in conversations well before zoning and design permissions are sought. 


Our process is transparent, Community Benefits Agreements are posted on our website before being considered by the CCRA Board, and we welcome member input in the process.  We are confident that this approach will contribute to a vibrant Center City, of which we can all be proud.

CCRA News and Events

Sense in the City - Homelessness and Humanity

On Wednesday, Feb 9, Hugh Taft-Morales led CCRA members and others on a discussion of the thorny issues around Public Schools, Equity and Democracy.  Although the US talks about the importance of public education to democracy, how is that actually operationalized? Other countries guarantee public education in their constitutions; ours is silent. Here, school funding is unequal, resulting in wide disparities in facilities, teacher student ratios, and extra-curricular activities. How can we develop a more equitable system?  In large and small group discussions, these issues were addressed and debated. All agreed community support for education by the provision of mentors, internships, guest speakers and field trips to students in underfunded schools is key. CCRA is actively exploring partnerships with Friere Charter School, located at 2027 Chestnut Street, so the opportunity to move from talk to action is coming soon.

Please join us for our next discussion in our Sense in the City series, which will be about Homelessness, on February 23 from 12:00 noon until 1:30 PM For more information and to register, see below.

Homelessness and Humanity

The term “homeless” is often used in contexts that blame and demonize people who are “unhoused,” a term many advocates for those living on our streets and in our parks prefer.  How do we sort out our complex personal reactions, from compassion and concern to fear and frustration? How can we humanize this issue? After a brief overview of some municipal and charitable services available to unhoused people, Hugh Taft-Morales explores the personal ethical quandaries that confront us every day. Consider watching the 40-minute Netflix documentary Lead Me Home prior to attending. Click here to check out a few stories from this Telluride Film Fest Netflix short; does this influence your point of view?

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Please Register Here

CCRA Board Welcomes Gina Ceisler Shapiro

At its February board meeting, CCRA filled an open position on the Board of Directors with a neighborhood resident who has been acting as our liaison with Philadelphia's 9th District Police. 

Gina Ceisler Shapiro holds a BA from University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. She has also  been active on our Membership Committee, Center City Coalition, Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, InterAct Theatre and a founding member of Philly Forward PAC. Welcome, Gina!

Office Closure

In observance of the Presidents’ Day Holiday, CCRA is closed on Monday, Feb. 21.  The office will reopen on Tuesday,  February 22.  All emails and voicemails will be answered when the office reopens.

Trash Collection

In observance of the Presidents’ Day Holiday, trash collection is suspended. Collection will resume on Tuesday, February 22.

Public Toilets in Center City?

CCRA President Rick Gross was invited along with other neighborhood representatives to a meeting with the City about a pilot program to place public toilets (known as the Portland Loo) in Center City.


The public toilet program is reminiscent of the City’s Big Belly trash can program, which to many has produced mixed results at best.

Go here to read of CCRA’s concerns regarding the City’s (mis)management of Big Belly as well as the City’s lack of due diligence regarding other city’s experiences with the Portland Loo and its failure to poll local residents and businesses.

CCRA Zoning Committee Public Meeting

Tuesday, February 22, 7pm

via Zoom.

Read the agenda here.

Join the meeting here.

Markward Rec Center and Plaza Reopens


The Markward Rec Center building has reopened after flooding closed the building in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Bathrooms are now accessible during rec center open hours (10-6pm, Monday - Friday). The Markward After School program is now utilizing the building and they hope to get more programs up and running soon.

Are you using the Merchant Partner 'Deals and Discounts' Program?

We would like to hear from our members! Please take this very brief survey and let us know your thoughts, so that we may improve on this popular membership benefit program. Thanks much!


CCRA’s Merchant Partner program is a true Win-Win:  It provides smaller local businesses with complimentary advertising and exposure while giving CCRA members generous deals and discounts.  This week we spotlight Chestnut St Jeweler William Schwartz Distinctive Jewelry.


All That Glitters is at William Schwartz

Anything but a big-box chain store, William Schwartz Distinctive Jewelry is truly distinctive in that they offer an unusually wide selection of both unique and custom pieces, and their personal, on-site repairs are done right the first time with very quick turnaround. 

(If you disbelieve, check out the raves on Yelp.)

So what could be better, you ask?  They offer a 10% discount to CCRA members. So do please stop by at 1831 Chestnut and say hello to Russell at William Schwartz Distinctive Jewelry!

Clean, Safe and Green

Green Means GO… To the Movies


The Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival returns in-person starting

March 31 and runs through April 3. Now produced by the Philadelphia

Film Society, the Festival showcases powerful new films with a variety of

environmental themes. Details here.

Justice for all? What are the chances?


Environmental Justice? Will the city rise up to its aspirations? Curious about the  influencers making sure it does? Meet the city’s environmental brain trust here.

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Black Roots Bear Fruit

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If your Philly BLM knowledge doesn't date back to the 1700’s, these Philly Citizens will up your game as you view the resultant architecture, institutions, and grassroots movements they created here.

The Making of….“Concrete Cowboy”


Recall “Concrete Cowboy”, the 2021 film with Idris Elba about a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys that was shot here in Philly? Ever wonder how they shot it here?

You can find out Feb. 22 thanks to “Behind a Scene: Concrete Cowboy”, a presentation of the Greater Philadelphia Film Society.

Tickets here; the popcorn’s on you.

Harriett Tubman and the Future of Democracy

Join the Philadelphia Commission for Women for a one-hour virtual presentation to commemorate the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman's post-Civil War advocacy for the right to vote.

The program is also an opportunity to elevate the 200th anniversary of Tubman's birth and to kick-off the commission's Women's History Month series Your Voice. Your Power. Your Vote: Making Democracy Work.

Register here.


Community News and Events



Do you bike for fun, work or exercise? Want safer bike lanes, more connectors, or have a vision to share? Join the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia at the National Bike Summit online, or in person in D.C.

Ride the new Cycle Track between the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. Talk to your legislators about Choosing Our Future. Gear up here.

Is there a Space where Art and Science Meet? See it to Believe it


On Feb. 24, walk over to the Mandel Theater for a multi-disciplinary live performance fusing original music with art, imagery and science to address global sustainability. Titled Rising Tide: The Crossroads Project, this one-of-a-kind event features live music, an original score, and visual imaging, all grounded in science, elevated by art and designed to ignite a response. Sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences, this program is free, but get your ticket here

Greene Towne School’s New Home

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Greene Towne Montessori School opened in the fall of 1966 at Saint Clement’s Church, and was founded by parents with the goal to grow a “racially, religiously, and economically integrated school.” 

Fast forward nearly 55 years and two buildings later, Greene Towne is excited to announce plans to occupy three floors plus an expansive roof deck at 2140 Arch Street, formerly the Science Leadership Academy, and across the street from Greene Towne’s East campus at 2121 Arch Street. 

This move comes after the West campus at 2215 Arch was lost last September to flooding from Hurricane Ida.

Visit Greene Towne Montessori School here to learn more about the move.

A One Night Ice Piano Pop-Up - We’re Not Kidding

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To celebrate the final days of the winter season at Dilworth Park, Center City District has partnered with Ice Sculpture Philly and the Philly POPS to host a one-night-only pop-up event in the beautiful Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn presented by TD Bank. 

On Saturday, February 19 from 5:30 to 7 p.m., pianist Lonell Johnson will serenade guests of all ages while playing on a full-size baby grand piano made entirely from ice. Attendance will be free for everyone. The evening's performance will be a nod to the POPS' Dancin' in the Streets: The Music of Motown. The setlist includes hits from Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and Diana Ross.

Find out more about the performance here.

Restaurants No Longer Required to Check Vax Status

On Wednesday, 2/16, the City announced that due to the drop of COVID cases, Philly restaurants no longer have to check patrons' vaccination status. Masks are still required in all public settings, including schools.

Useful links

Merchant Partners "Deals and Discounts" Program

Would you please support our local merchants and save money too? These local merchants will provide a deal or discount to any member who shows a current CCRA membership card and personal identification.

Blue Sole Shoes, 1805 Chestnut St, (215-496-9244)

Branzino Italian BYOB, 261 S. 17th St (215-790-0103)

Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St. (215-665-9220)

Dom's Shoe Repair, 203 S. 20th St (215-972-0098)

Excursions from the Square (215-732-8487, 215-738-4500)

Eye Candy Vision, 218 S. 20th St (215-568-3937)

Frameworks Studio and Gallery, 2103 Walnut St, (215-567-6800)

Good Karma Cafe, 331 S. 22nd St, (215-546-1479)

Liberty Pet Vets, 265 S. 20th St (888-458-8587)

Nature's Gallery Florist, 2124 Walnut St (215-563-5554)

Photo Lounge, 130 S.17th St. (267-322-6651)

Rittenhouse Hardware, 2001 Pine St. (215-735-6311)

Seafood Unlimited, 270 S. 20th St (215-732-3663)

The Bake Shop on 20th, 269 S. 20th St. (215-644-9714)

The Rounds, Use code CCRATHEROUNDS to receive free membership.

Ursula Hobson Fine Art Framing, 1528 Waverly St (215-546-7889)

Veda Modern Indian Bistro, 1920 Chestnut St, (267-519-2001)

William Schwartz Jewelry, 1831 Chestnut St (215-665-8115)

Alimentari Restaurant at Di Bruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St, 2nd Floor

Astral Artists - Use promo code "CCRA" to receive a $10 flat rate on all tickets to their virtual concerts.

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Center City Residents' Association | 1900 Market St, FL 8, Philadelphia, PA 19103


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