Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Returns
A spectacular program about the out-there concept of time travel is in store this year.
March 05, 2013
Stone Depot Dance Lab performing its Casual Friday.
The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) returns this spring with an amazing collection of new works across the city—by the most creative Philadelphians—in its nearly monthlong run.
The festival, which debuted in 2011, was not only a cultural milestone for the city but also a major economic boost to the tune of more than $55 million. It brings together more than 50 arts partners to create a series of works celebrating a rotating theme. This year’s theme is “If You Had a Time Machine...”
“What we are asking is for the city to join this adventure with us—to take a ride in a time machine and go to different moments that the artists have decided to explore,” says Jay Wahl, director of festival programming and public events for PIFA.
That adventure includes the Bearded Ladies’ opening performance of “Wide Awake: A Civil War Cabaret,” narrated by a 15-foot-tall drag queen named Dixie, and a play inspired by Frank O’Hara’s famous poem about Billie Holiday, titled “The Day Lady Died.” Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has developed a program that recalls the day before Bastille Day in 1969 and Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall show, while tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover presents a solo piece. Other participants include the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Franklin Institute, Stone Depot Dance Lab, and Fly School Circus Arts.
The literal embodiment of this theme will be in the giant time machine constructed in the lobby of the Kimmel Center, which will serve as the centerpiece for the festival. Additionally, on April 27, PIFA will exhibit the “all-out extravaganza” that is the Street Fair. Street performers, musicians, visual artists, actors, and more will take over a closed-down Broad Street for this unforgettable event. The festival runs March 28–April 27
Rittenhouse Square's Bustling Real Estate
A trio of Center City’s best brokers talks about Rittenhouse Square.
March 04, 2013
LEFT: Kristen Foote. RIGHT: Diane Bryant and Margie Wilde.
Among the many desirable neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square continues to be one of the most popular markets. We caught up with Kristen Foote of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., Ste. 406, 215-546-0550) as well as Diane Bryant and Margie Wilde of Bryant & Wilde Realty, LLC (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., Ste. 1900, 215-893-6100) to find out how the Rittenhouse market is faring for spring.
KRISTEN FOOTE: Demand is outstripping supply right now in Philadelphia, especially in prime locations such as Rittenhouse. Home prices are on the rise, and we have seen the largest gain in the past six years. On a national level, prices are up eight percent in the past 13 months. Mortgage rates continue to be at an all-time low, which has significantly impacted the amount of buyers purchasing now.
DIANE BRYANT: Yes, currently we are experiencing low inventory levels in and around this location. This is due to the market’s reaction in 2008, when real estate came to a halt, and there was a complete metamorphosis in banking guidelines. At the time, buyers refused to consider purchasing in such a turbulent market. New construction saw record cancellations for condominiums under contract with substantial deposits.
Tell us about the types of homes that are topping buyers’ wish lists.
MARGIE WILDE: As we enter into the spring selling season, we expect the sales of condominiums to experience even a much faster pace—lower mortgage rates have encouraged buyers. There are dozens of condominiums available in Rittenhouse for between $750,000 and $2 million. One of our prime properties is Residence 1006 at The Rittenhouse Hotel & Condominiums. It’s a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home with treetop views of the Square.
KF: Townhomes are still very popular. In Rittenhouse Square, you can get a three bedroom, three-plus bath townhome for up to $1.5 million on prime roads such as Pine and Spruce Streets. Most of these are historically certified homes, which means the exterior of the home has not been altered, but a majority of the home’s interior has been renovated. A significant amount of dwellings that have sold in the area are being completely renovated inside by the owners. Right now I have an amazing property at 19th and Panama Streets, one block from prestigious Delancey Street, which features three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a gym, a rooftop deck with city skyline views, fireplaces, and a 700-bottle, temperature-controlled wine room. The home comes fully furnished with new contemporary furniture and artwork.
The Best in Suburban Real Estate
Top brokers discuss desirable neighborhoods beyond city limits.
December 17, 2012
Whitpain resembles an Aspen getaway.
Luxury condos continue to dominate the Center City real estate market as demand increases, but the suburbs remain a competitive market all their own. We asked brokers with Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors—Selma Glanzberg (336 Conshohocken State Road, Gladwyne, 610-896-7400) and Michael Sivel (14 W. Evergreen Ave., 215-247-3750)—to tell us about stellar suburban neighborhoods.
What are some of the top neighborhoods in the suburbs right now?
SELMA GLANZBERG: The Main Line, where a large portion of my business comes from, has fabulous public houses and private schools.
MICHAEL SIVEL: Chestnut Hill. The neighborhood [has been] rated as one of the top urban communities in the US by Forbes. There is easy access to parks and recreation and a lot of activity on Germantown Avenue with retail and restaurants.
How important is new construction?
MS: Chestnut Hill has older housing stock but the character of the homes is really appealing in the marketplace—many have been rehabbed, though. Most are single-family residences with a Normandy-style stone construction and a slate roof. Elsewhere, there’s a strong desire for new construction or new construction that’s resold.
SG: It’s very important. But if it’s not new construction, then it should be in good condition with a brand-new kitchen. Everyone has a wish list but buyers still need to realize that they have to compromise.
What are some of the hottest suburban properties right now?
SG: One listing I have right now is truly the perfect house. It’s located in Penn Valley and everything is customized work. The home has a wine cellar, a workout area, a massage room, and room for the pool. It’s priced right under $2 million.
MS: I have a listing for a home in Whitpain that looks like it [belongs] in Aspen. It’s set on more than three acres with a double-sided stone fireplace, game room, wine cellar, and home theater. The home covers over 9,000 square feet. At $2.9 million, it is one of the best deals in the Philly area.
photography by Herb Engelsberg
Charity Register: November-February
Opportunities to give.
November 29, 2012
The Philadelphia Heart Ball.
PHILADELPHIA HEART BALL
The Host: American Heart Association
The Cause: Building healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and strokes
The Details: Saturday, February 9, 6 pm, at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. 1201 Market St., 215-575-5223
THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA HOLIDAY BOUTIQUE
The Host: Women’s Committee of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
The Cause: Supporting patient care, research, and education at CHOP
The Details: Thursday, November 29, and Friday, November 30, at the Merion Cricket Club. 325 Montgomery Ave., Haverford, 267-426-6489
The Host: Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation
The Cause: Raising funds for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
The Details: Friday, January 18, 7 pm, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 1101 Arch St., 610-279-5229
COMCAST SPORTSNET’S SHINING STAR AWARDS
The Host: Comcast SportsNet and March of Dimes
The Cause: Working for stronger and healthier infants
The Details: Friday, January 11, 6 pm, at The Westin Philadelphia. 99 S. 17th St., 215-952-5944
THE 2013 LEMON BALL
The Host: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation
The Cause: Raising funds for childhood cancer research
The Details: Saturday, January 12, 6:30 pm, at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. 1201 Market St., 610-649-3034
THE ACADEMY OF MUSIC 156TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT & BALL
The Host: The Philadelphia Orchestra
The Cause: Supporting Philadelphia’s own world-renowned symphony orchestra and the Academy of music restoration fund.
The Details: Saturday, January 26, 7:30 pm, at The Academy of Music. 240 S. Broad St., 215-893-1999
Two New Luxury Living Spaces
Two outstanding new luxury residences offer views, amenities, and more.
October 22, 2012
1706 Rittenhouse Square.
The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton
Located just steps from City Hall, the 48-story Residences at the Ritz-Carlton (1414 S. Penn Square, 215-851-8000) rests in the heart of Philadelphia, and is within easy access to the city’s top arts, retail, and dining destinations. One of the building’s premier properties features 2,356 square feet for roughly $1.9 million, and includes three bedrooms and 3.5 baths with floor-to-ceiling windows.
One of the true perks of living here is access to the enviable amenities: 24-hour concierge and valet parking, private garden, lounge and outdoor terrace, a media room, and a 7,000-square-foot fitness center with an indoor pool and hot tub. “For those discerning individuals looking for nothing but the best, the lifestyle and luxuries provided by The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton is really the only choice,” says Craig Spencer, CEO of the Arden Group.
1706 Rittenhouse Square
This award-winning, 31-story tower of expansive full-floor residences offers superior views, world-class amenities, and the ultimate in privacy. “1706 Rittenhouse has achieved what no other residence in Philadelphia has accomplished,” says 1706 Rittenhouse developer, Tom Scannapieco, “We’ve set new records, having sold the most residences over $3 million than any other condominium, and have addressed a market niche that wasn’t addressed prior to building 1706.” Only five units remain, including a fully furnished model residence.
The 4,200-square-foot units start at $4.5 million and include floor-to-ceiling windows with 360-degree views, two balconies, and 24-hour hotel-style concierge services, as well as Philadelphia’s first fully automated underground parking system. Voted as one of the 20 best projects in North and South America by the Urban Land Institute, 1706 (1706 Rittenhouse Square St., 215-731-1706) is the only residential property in Philadelphia to ever receive that distinction from the ULI.
Two reputed penthouse brokers answer our questions.
September 05, 2012
The private roof deck at 241 Chestnut Street.
Nothing says prestige like a penthouse. Two of Center City’s top brokers, Allan Domb (1845 Walnut St., 215-545-1500) and Mike McCann (530 Walnut St., 215-440-8345) share what they have observed about highly elevated homes.
In what demographic are people looking for penthouses in the current market?
MIKE MCCANN: The demographic includes a variety of people from single and coupled 30- to 40-year-old professionals to the often-talked-about “empty-nesters” to local celebrities. There are also suburbanites moving toward the culture and ease of the city, and those currently living in Philadelphia but looking to live on one level or at a more prestigious address. A recent example would be a very luxurious penthouse at 1601 Locust Street, the former home of Phillies slugger Pat Burrell, which sold to a 30-something single entrepreneur for over $2,500,000.
What are some of the most in-demand amenities at these penthouse listings?
ALLAN DOMB: Penthouses are often the largest homes in a building, have higher ceilings than the rest of the homes in a building, offer more outdoor space than other units, and provide more dramatic views. They often give you more privacy than other units and are more exclusive. In some of the newer buildings, buying penthouse space can mean having the opportunity to build a custom home.
MM: Others include convenience of living, a doorman, no maintenance, one-level ease, dramatic views, concierge services, and the comfort of security.
What is one of your hottest penthouse listings on the market right now?
MM: One of my hottest listings is a penthouse located at 241 Chestnut Street in a unique boutique building. Overlooking Independence Park, this 2,250-square-foot condo features two bedrooms and two spa-quality baths, private elevator access, amazing light, gourmet kitchen, fireplace, custom high-end details, and two light-filled exposures. The $1,250,000 penthouse is set apart by its private 800-square-foot roof deck, which provides true outdoor living space with a hot tub, gourmet outdoor kitchen, gas grill, and a must-see outdoor movie theater.
AD: I currently have a bi-level at Independence Place listed for sale with a large wrap-around balcony providing magnificent Delaware River and Center City views. It provides excellent entertaining space and has a chef’s kitchen and lavish master suite.
You are both well recognized as realtors throughout Center City and have been for years. To what do you credit your success?
AD: Specialization. I consider myself to be a one-street specialist, meaning that I specialize only in Center City luxury condominiums. I have sold more than 33,000 condominiums in 32 years. This allows me to know everything there is to know about the buildings I work in and the product I sell. Always putting customers’ and clients’ interests first and making sure both parties are happy is a key to success.
MM: I credit my success to being the hardest-working, most knowledgeable, accessible, honest, and cooperative agent in the marketplace. I learned 26 years ago to have the best reputation in the marketplace, not only among customers and clients, but among my peers in the real estate community. As my business has grown, I have developed a team for life, full of personally trained agents and assistants who support me and my marketing efforts.
Why Northern Montgomery County is Prime Real Estate
Seasoned real estate agent Connie Berg explains why Northern Montgomery County is becoming the next Main Line.
June 25, 2012
Often overlooked in favor of more saturated residential areas like Center City and the Main Line, northern Montgomery County is a region boasting spacious yards and luxurious homes. Connie Berg, an Elkins Park native and a sales agent at Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors Jenkintown, notes that sales in Rydal, Upper Dublin, Abington, and Cheltenham townships have picked up in the early half of 2012: By May she has had 15 sales in the area, a marked improvement from early 2011. She attributes this trend to better mortgage and interest rates, and a fairer financial climate that has prompted homeowners to consider a move.
“I think people still feel that our area is undervalued compared to the Main Line,” says Berg, whose listings and clients are mainly drawn from her successful business referrals and marketing strategy. “You can get much better homes for the buck out here compared to the Main Line.” Homes on the Main Line are priced about 150 percent higher than comparable homes in the northern suburbs. One of Berg’s most recent listings was a three-acre, 7,000-square-foot property with a carriage house that went for $1.75 million—a covetable home that would fetch potentially $3 million on the Main Line.
Many of the area’s homes also have the same weathered charm as those houses in Radnor and Wynnewood. “We have a lot of older homes that are stone and have character to them,” Berg says. “It’s a beautiful location.” Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors, 680 Old York Road, Ste. 200, Jenkintown, 215-887-0400
Moving Matisse's The Dance
Matisse’s three-panel masterpiece, The Dance, required an immense amount of manpower to move from Merion.
May 07, 2012
The first of The Barnes Foundation’s works moved from the old Merion location to the Parkway was also its largest: the site-specific Matisse mural The Dance. In 1932, at Dr. Barnes’s request, Henri Matisse designed the three-canvas piece to nestle above three windows in three arched spaces that reached to a vaulted ceiling in the doctor’s galleries. The canvasses are more than 12 feet high and stretch about 48 feet if placed side by side. “We spent over a year planning this entire move for all the works in the collection,” says Barnes Foundation chief curator Judith Dolkart. “And moving The Dance was a project within the project.”
In 1933 Matisse traveled to Merion to personally install the mural. Once finished, he wrote to his son Pierre that The Dance seemed so fitting in situ that the work “became part of the building.” (Interestingly, while it is well known that Matisse’s technique was to shift paper cutouts about as he arranged his composition, Dolkart says that during the move, it was still a thrill to see the hundreds of pinpricks he had made as he refined the masterpiece in its original location.) Fast-forward nearly 80 years, and moving the “immovable” work, as Matisse once characterized it, required not just the foundation’s curator and the architects and construction firm for the new galleries, but also 11 art handlers, two painting conservators, and an assistant; one registrar, to oversee packing and transport; extensive security support; a team of photographers and videographers to document the de- and re-installations; and the foundation’s entire buildings and facilities teams.
Matisse wrote in a 1934 letter that “[a]rchitectural painting depends absolutely on the place that has to receive it, and which it animates with a new life.” For decades many found this true of The Dance. But the reverse may very well be true in its new home, Dolkart explains. “Matisse had intended the blue of his mural to stand for the sky, against the greenery of the Merion arboretum. But for the most part, the windows’ shades and draperies had to be closed to protect the paintings inside.” Now, however, “on the parkway, because we have high-tech glass, we won’t have to close the shades. So we will have that connection to the greenery once again.”
It's Grow Time
Drew Becher is using modern technology to transform the Philadelphia International Flower Show into an engaging interactive experience.
February 27, 2012
Drew Becher: Redefining flower power
Much like its stars, The Philadelphia International Flower Show is a living, breathing thing. A Philadelphia tradition since 1829, the show has many elements that have stayed the same, but it is also constantly evolving—and the latest advancement, under the direction of new Pennsylvania Horticultural Society President Drew Becher, is the introduction of a new roster of digital effects and interactive elements to make this year’s show, the tropical-themed Hawaii: Islands of Aloha, more engaging than ever.
With a short yet pivotal tenure of a year and a half, Becher is working hard to enhance the technological aspects of the event for this year’s exhibitions. “The inspiration was to make sure that the Flower Show was keeping current with trends happening in the rest of the industry,” he says. Impressive motion graphics simulating lava and wave patterns, by local projection company Klip Collective, will bring cuttingedge visuals to the floor. “Digital projections go hand in hand with what we had done in the past,” says Becher. “The wow factor has always been a part of the Flower Show.” An app for smartphones is also currently in development; it will provide free maps, schedules, special offers, show features, and even parking advice.
|This year’s show features the spectacular tropical plants of Hawaii.|
One of the changes Becher is most energized about is the interactive Design Studio, devised to attract audiences to the flower-arranging competitions and to allow them to interact via text messaging. “The fun part to see is the competitive stuff leading up to the show, and the judging that happens,” Becher says. He draws his inspiration from the popularity of competition-based TV series like Cupcake Wars, and he even jokes, “Maybe we’ll get a reality television show.” This year the audience will be able to vote on their favorites in the competitive class shows, whereas previously, entries were displayed only after the judging commenced.
Hawaii: Islands of Aloha promises to be spectacular, with a 25-foot-tall rushing waterfall and the world’s largest wall of orchids as its focal points. Not to be missed among all the technical and visual wizardry, however, are the educational demonstrations. A sustainable vegetable garden grown by PHS’s City Harvest program provides inspiration for visitors’ home gardens, with innovative ideas like an indoor lettuce wall. Other attractions include a brand-new culinary room, created in part with local chefs and the Rodale Institute, as well as lectures and demos on composting, garden design, planting tulips, and creating floral arrangements—lessons that any visitor, not just experienced horticulturists, can take home and put to use.
For Becher these hands-on elements are the key to expanding the Flower Show. After garnering much media attention this past summer for a pop-up garden at 20th and Market Streets—which involved six city restaurants, offered morning tai-chi classes, and included a large-scale Twitter initiative— Becher continues his mission of connecting Philadelphians with the urban landscape through PHS. “The show is not just a come-and-look attraction,” he says. “It is a come-and-be-engaged event. I think that is one of the big things that you will start seeing about the show over the next couple of years. We are not a museum—tell us what you think, tweet about it, log on to our app. Engagement is pretty cool.” The Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from March 4 through 11 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., 215- 988-8899.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THINKSTOCK (FLOWER)
Ben Simmoneau Trains for the Philadelphia Marathon
The Channel 3 reporter admits training for the annual run is no easy feat.
October 10, 2011
|Ben Simmoneau takes the scenic route along Kelly Drive|
Ben Simmoneau looks like an athlete. The Channel 3 reporter and anchor, solidly built but trim, is the kind of guy who makes you think, He must have been working out his entire life. It turns out that is not so.
The Long and Winding Road
“I really was not much of an athlete in school. I just decided to start running after I got my first job,” says Simmoneau, who was at WGAL-TV in Lancaster at the time. “I did not know anyone and lived a bit out of town; what else was I going to do when I came home from work? So I started running a mile, and it took off from there.” Simmoneau, a 1999 alum of Spring-Ford High School in Montgomery County, is, in fact, now well beyond those days of one-mile-at-a-time: In November he will once again tackle the 26 miles and 385 yards of the Philadelphia Marathon, possibly even setting a new personal record in the process. (It will be his third marathon, and he intends to break four hours.) “I want that three in the beginning, even if it is three hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds,” he says.
Simmoneau ran this same marathon two years ago, two years after running Scranton’s Steamtown Marathon on the advice of Runner’s World (the magazine “said Steamtown was a good marathon for beginners,” he explains) and little more than four years after he started running full stop. Though every marathon is the same distance, Steamtown starts up in the mountains above Scranton and then proceeds generally downhill, dropping more than 1,000 feet in elevation from start to finish. “They bus you up to the top, and it is accommodating,” he says of the route. “Still, at about mile 23, when you get into Scranton, there is the winding uphill stretch of seven or eight blocks, and I did not know if I could make it. It was a glorious feeling to finish that first marathon.”
Simmoneau typically runs four or five times a week, mostly along Kelly Drive near his house in the Art Museum neighborhood, although he will ramp up his ordinary five-to-seven-mile treks as the marathon draws closer. His favorite long training runs take him along the Schuylkill bike and running trail, which after traversing the main part of the city mostly parallels the SEPTA train line to Norristown. “The worst thing when you run is that you know when you get halfway, you have to run back,” he says.
“It is the perfect antidote to a hectic life, like the kind we all have in the city.” “This way, it may be 13 miles to Conshohocken or 18 miles to Norristown, but I get to ride the train back. It’s a relief when I get there.”
Preparing for that first marathon, however, was a bit more haphazard. In the course of training with a friend who was running the marathon with him, they decided to find a long trail run one night rather than using the roads around Lancaster. Exelon Corporation, an electricity distribution company, owned a park around a power facility in the rural area south of Lancaster, and someone at the company suggested a “10-mile” loop around it. “One warm August evening, we took off around 6:30, figuring that would take us less than two hours, when it would become dark,” says Simmoneau. At about 8 pm, surely close to the end, Simmoneau’s slower friend encouraged him to cover the final stretch at a faster pace, so Simmoneau ran on alone. Eight o’clock soon became 8:30 and beyond. As darkness fell and the trail went back into dense woods, Simmoneau didn’t know what to do. He started walking and, an hour or so later, finally reached the lone home in the surrounding forestland. “I went on Google Maps later and found it was four miles longer,” he says. “Those extra four miles were pretty daunting, especially in the dark.”
Perhaps emboldened by the extra mileage, Simmoneau finished that first marathon in a respectable four hours and 18 minutes. He cut 10 minutes off his personal best at the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon, and he intends to do the same this time around. In the end, however, running is not about the clock for the anchorman. “I might be the last person who does not run with a phone or an iPod or anything like that. I like to see my surroundings and just like that aspect of it,” says Simmoneau, who swears he worries not about being at a “sevenminute pace” or whether his form looks good. “My wife thinks I am crazy not to carry a cell phone or whatever, so I wear an ID bracelet now to appease her.
“You don’t have to think about anything. You are in your own little cocoon,” he continues. “It is the perfect antidote to a hectic life, like the kind we all have in the city.” The Philadelphia Marathon will be held on November 20; philadelphiamarathon.com.