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.
Shop We Love: Vintage Now
With a well-edited selection of both modern and antique vintage décor, there's something here for everyone.
September 19, 2011
The area’s finest trove of vintage and antique home wares is carefully tucked away inside an unassuming address: the basement of a now-closed 100-year-old pasta factory in Norristown. If anything, this only adds to the thrill of shopping at Vintage Now. “The style of our store is very eclectic,” says Amy Tyrrell, who co-owns the shop with Kerri Farragut. “Modern mixed with antiques—we’re looking for things you are not going to see every day.” The duo, who frequent antiques auctions, fl ea markets and estate sales, give new life to one-of-akind accessories and furniture. There’s a pair of decorative brass giraffes and a century-old stone patio set culled from an estate in Chestnut Hill. Pieces from soughtafter names like sculptor C. Jere and La Barge are also coveted fi nds. Because they sell both antiques and vintage items, Tyrrell and Farragut pick up anything that is visually interesting and in mint condition. “People want something unique,” says Tyrrell. “They don’t want to buy massmarket.” 910 E. Main St., Ste. B, Norristown
Interior Trend: Vertical Gardens
Philly green thumbs use vertical gardens to elevate home design.
September 12, 2011
A full panel living wall by Eco Walls
Gardeners were green before green was in. So, naturally, they are quite literally taking the movement to new heights with lush green living walls—mounted structures that facilitate the growth of plants through pint-size pockets (for a modest effect) or show-stopping soil-free panels that stretch floor to ceiling. One such pioneering firm, EcoWalls (1200 Florence Columbus Road, Bordentown, NJ), has watched living walls bloom in popularity as homeowners search for an earthy accent for their living spaces. “The growth rate of living walls has correlated with the green building trend as people are becoming more environmentally conscious,” says Michael Coraggio, who owns the South Jersey gardening company along with ecologist Ryan Burrows. This fall the inventive pair is offering fully customizable, freestanding structures for a portable splash of green in any room.
Mary Costello, co-owner of the four-year-old City Planter (814 N. Fourth St.) in Northern Liberties, believes the trend has stemmed from an urge to beautify concrete spaces. “I think more and more people are moving back into the city, and they have small spaces. Urban gardeners are using all the space they can to bring green back in,” says Costello. By moving gardens indoors, other benefits like improved air quality and aesthetics surface. “They can add real warmth and coziness to a room,” Costello says.
When designing your own vertical garden, Curtis Alexander recommends going with shade-loving, tropical varieties for colder months. His company, Urban Jungle (1526–30 E. Passyunk Ave.), specializes in the planning and planting of green walls, and his two-yearold store is stocked with a wide range of modular systems. “People really get it once they see how easy it is to transform their urban home into a cool green scene,” he says.
Designer Profile: Rama Chorpash
The former UArts professor stirs Philly-centric design dialogue at the annual DesignPhiladelphia fair.
September 06, 2011
Despite the fact that he recently relocated to New York and has a portfolio dotted with high-profile international clients (think Swatch), industrial designer and former University of the Arts (UArts) assistant professor Rama Chorpash maintains a strong footing in Philadelphia’s design community. “One of the things I really miss [about] Philadelphia is its slowness in pace so that you can see what’s going on. There’s a real community,” says Chorpash.
No doubt Chorpash will be soaking up all that he loves about Philly during the annual DesignPhiladelphia fair—an 11-day celebration of design-centric discussions, exhibits and workshops across the city—where he’ll host one of the fair’s Dialogues on Design (October 14) featuring a presentation on the exchange between people and everyday objects. On the importance and originality of the fair he’s helped develop since its inception in 2005, Chorpash notes, “New York or Milan has the furniture fairs, but those are trade shows. [DesignPhiladelphia] is a space to have a lot of conversations. In some ways, I can’t think of a better place to be modeling some of the [most important] questions of our time.”
Chorpash ended his decade-long stint as chair of industrial design at UArts to oversee product design at New York’s prestigious Parsons school for design. In his classes at UArts, Chorpash emphasized to students the importance of their Philadelphia surroundings. “I always made a large effort to do exhibits that engaged with the city in a public realm,” he says. To boot, during his tenure at UArts Chorbash worked on projects in public spaces such as the Reading Terminal Market and the vacant lot at 313 S. Broad Street.
As the fair evolves and draws more and more participants, Chorpash stresses the importance of the its impact on not only Philadelphia, but the design scene as a whole: “For me as a designer, [DesignPhiladelphia] is a critical thing. It’s not just for the Philadelphia region; it’s one of the only designer fairs that’s not directly affiliated with commercialism.”
Luxe Linens: Ligne Roset
Sweet dreams are a given when you're resting atop luxurious linens like these.
September 05, 2011
Cozy up to the puffy duvet coverlet of this new autumnal addition to the Ruché line. Proving that modern furnishings don’t always have to be minimalist, this luxurious quilted bed was designed for Ligne Roset by internationally acclaimed French designer Inga Sempé, known for her highly popular, all-foam Moël furniture collection. “Usually beds are too heavy and complicated,” says Sempé, who has owned her own design firm since 2000. “They take up too much space when shelving or integrated lamps are added. So I concentrated on adding comfort, making the bed really great for reading, working or watching a movie. Because the backrest is upholstered, the result looks soft and smooth.” The collection also includes a nightstand, bench and table. 4131 Main St.
Real Estate: High Style High Rises
Fabulous luxury amenities command attention at the newest high-rises and town houses.
August 23, 2011
In this market, potential residents are faced with myriad options, so developers like Carl Dranoff know that sought-after amenities are the key to attracting occupants. “It’s not just about the product itself, but it’s also about the services that people get,” says Dranoff, president and CEO of Dranoff Properties (3180 Chestnut St.; dranoffproperties.com). “Everyone is so busy today, they need to be able to have dry cleaning accepted and packages delivered and maintenance requests handled while they’re away.”
Although markets plummeted in 2007, Philadelphia and its suburbs have been fortunate enough to emerge from the real estate meltdown with minimal damage compared to other metropolitan cities. But there are still challenges, according to Michael Yaron, chairman and principal of Yaron Properties (205 Arch St., 2nd Fl.; yaronproperties.com), which develops and owns residential buildings across the city. “The rental market is performing extremely well, while the sale of individual homes and condos is very slow,” says Yaron. With rentals on the rise and sales inching back, developers need to dream up well-outfitted buildings to both compete with other rentals and entice buyers to snatch up the desirable digs.
No one dreams bigger than Dranoff, who recently revealed plans for a 60-unit apartment building, Casa Verde, where construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2012 at the corner of Broad and South streets. The new residence promises all the perks that are hallmarks of the brand, starting with eco-friendly amenities like those at Dranoff’s year-old, LEED-certified 777 South Broad. Casa Verde (which means “green house” in Italian) is designed to be green inside and out, with an adjacent park, a roof deck and a living wall crawling up the building’s façade. In addition to its eco-friendly appearance, Casa Verde will offer amenities to support its name, like regenerative bamboo hardwood flooring. High-tech innovations like the new BuildingLink keep residents connected with one another and with management electronically, putting community bulletins, maintenance requests and package receipts online for easy accessibility.
Other Philly developers are also in the business of designing apartment buildings that, on paper, sound more like lifestyle hubs. Robert Ambrosi, chairman and CEO of ARC Properties (1401 Broad St., Clifton, NJ; arcproperties.com) is in the process of finalizing plans for One Franklin Square, a 44-unit apartment complex on Fourth and Race streets, where ground breaking is slated to begin by the end of this year.
“People still want amenities,” says Ambrosi. “They still want a gym, a lounge and a beautiful lobby. But they also want the bones of the project to be good—a little extra height in the ceiling and wider hallways.”wOne Franklin Square contains a 120-room hotel in addition to its 44 leased units, which means Ambrosi can offer all the perks of a fully staffed hotel to residents— including a pool, gym, restaurants, outdoor facilities, meeting rooms and on-site parking. The property’s 50,000 square feet of retail space is also a draw for live-ins; it’s sure to fill up with popular restaurants and vendors.
At D3 Development (1714 Memphis St., Ste. C8; d3developers.com), the Philadelphia firm responsible for The Ayer and Old City 108, the emphasis is on design. “Buyers have become more sophisticated over the years [in terms of] picking up on trends,” says Gabe Canuso, company partner along with Greg Hill. “They’re looking for a higher level of design and thoughtfulness; [they want to see that] an architect took time to think about the home.”
That level of thoughtfulness plays out particularly well at Fairmount Court (2.0), Brown Hill’s newest townhouse development in the city’s Art Museum area. Masonry brickwork with zinc panels defines the exterior; custom finishes, energy-efficient appliances and fluid living spaces that move seamlessly from the kitchen to the living room, a dynamic space that can be used as an office, a den or a media room, make up the interior. Spacious layouts grant 3,000 square feet per town house, each with its own master suite, two-car garage and large rooftop deck.
The 10 new modern town houses also feature one of two interior finishes, yet another level of consideration for design-minded shoppers. Finishes are inspired by both the history of the Art Museum neighborhood and modern interests; the Contemporary features cool hues, bamboo floors and modern lighting, cabinetry, plumbing and stone, while the Transitional incorporates warmer colors, Shaker-style cabinets, cherry hardwood floors and granite fixtures.
For other developers, a focus on technology has satiated buyer desires. Brad Korman, principal of Korman Communities (220 W. Germantown Pike, Ste. 250; kormancommunities .com), says technology has been one of the biggest drivers to changes and improvements in the multifamily and hotel sector.
“A secure wireless environment is a necessity,” explains Korman, whose company runs the long-term-stay AKA Rittenhouse Square, frequented by Hollywood bigwigs, and the luxury mid-rise AVE and Suites, located in both Malvern and Downingtown. “Residents want to see technology incorporated into amenities of the property, like the fitness center, the business center, a café.” To oblige, Korman Communities is upgrading its wireless networks to the fastest and broadest coverage, so residents can use their media devices with the quickest of ease. In addition, the staff at AKA Rittenhouse Square will recommend apps for local news and entertainment options.
The latest design, technology and amenities are all comfortably at home within Center City’s 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street, where some of Philadelphia’s most affluent names reside. “Buyers who can afford $3 million or higher don’t want to compromise. They want perfection,” says Tom Scannapieco of Scannapieco Development Corporation (400 S. River Road, New Hope; scannapiecodevcorp.com), the firm responsible for 1706 Rittenhouse. The property, which officially opened in May 2010 in the midst of the market’s downturn, has succeeded in drawing in residents by earning high marks in elegance and convenience.
“Perfection” is defined by a variety of amenities within the home, says Scannapieco: full-floor residences with open layouts for entertaining, spacious closets, stellar views and room layouts that are versatile enough to accommodate a variety of living spaces. Atmosphere and accessibility are also important. “People want exclusivity and privacy,” explains Scannapieco. “But they also want [to tap into] the excitement and sociability that exists in a city.” At 1706 that exclusivity comes at a price: In 2010 the penthouse made headlines as the most expensive tract of real estate in the city, pricing out at roughly $12 million.
In most luxury high-rises, convenience to in-demand restaurants, shopping and entertainment, as well as pristine pools and gyms, are perks that many are willing to pay for. “People will seek out the best locations,” says Allan Domb, principal of Allan Domb Real Estate (1845 Walnut St., Ste. 2200; allandomb.com). “In Rittenhouse Square, I can always sell.”
That’s why out of 265 units at the Parc Rittenhouse, the Square’s luxury condominium whose seventh-floor pool club is as much of a draw as its sleek, sophisticated interiors, only three units are currently on the market. The private rooftop sanctuary, along with a state-ofthe- art fitness center, media room and library/ lounge, are some of the amenities keeping the building packed.
Like Domb, area brokers on the front lines of the Philadelphia market agree that location, particularly Rittenhouse Square, is still the top influencer as to where buyers will ultimately settle. But there are other desirable neighborhoods to consider as well: Society Hill and Washington Square are popular, according to Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors’ (210 Rittenhouse Sq.; lauriephillips.com) Laurie Phillips, while the Art Museum and Graduate Hospital are desirable listings with Julie Welker, president of Coldwell Banker Welker Real Estate (2311 Fairmount Ave.; welkerre.com).
After location, modern kitchens and bathrooms run a close second, according to Anne Koons, a Realtor with Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors (1401 Rte. 70 E., Cherry Hill, NJ; annekoons.com). “Buyers continue to look at kitchens and baths first,” says Chelsea Blasko of The Condo Shop (2001 Hamilton St.; the condoshops.com). Connie Berg, also an agent with Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors (680 Old York Road, Ste. 200, Jenkintown; connieberg.com), explains that while granite countertops and modern appliances are important, a kitchen’s functionality outweighs its aesthetics.
Beyond the kitchen, “outdoor space is a huge selling point. I think developers are adding it wherever they can,” exclaims Margaux Genovese Pelegrin, also of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors (1818 Rittenhouse Sq.; maryf genovese.com). And for people of all ages, security features are also a key factor, says Eric Seidman, principal at Moreland Development (111 Presidential Blvd., Bala Cynwyd, 610-664-7200), the Delaware Valley full-service development firm making a foray into condominium sales via the combined residential and retail space available in Center City’s new Western Union Building. “Most buyers are looking for 24-hour security,” he says. “They want indoor parking connected to the building. I think security and safety, along with convenience, are very important.”
In the suburbs, where singlefamily homes, townhomes and gated communities flourish, square footage is top of mind for prospective residents, particularly young families, says Zvi Barzilay, president and chief operating officer of national luxury home developer Toll Brothers (250 Gibraltar Road, Horsham; tollbrothers .com). Toll Brothers has hundreds of properties alone in Pennsylvania, many around the greater Philadelphia area. “Buyers want more space,” Barzilay explains. “More bedrooms with private bathrooms for each, so that children have privacy, and garages for two to three cars. Cathedral ceilings in foyers and family rooms are also important.”
John Westrum of Westrum Development Company (370 Commerce Dr., Fort Washington; westrumhomes.com) has also seen a shift toward more square footage. Westrum, whose luxury townhome communities include South Philly’s The Villas at Packer Park and the Regency at Packer Park, and the Hilltop at Falls Ridge in East Falls, says this trend, among others, is also fueling senior-housing communities. It’s an area that Westrum knows well: His company is responsible for a trio of suburban developments, one of which is called The Arbours, for those ages 55 and older. “The active adult is more in tune with amenities, provided those amenities are better [than in their current home],” says Westrum. Those are wise words for any prospective buyers or renters to consider as they seek out their next home.
Home Trend: Brights and Neutrals
Joseph Matthews, of Matthews Interior Design, offers advice on mixing bold and nude shades.
March 02, 2011
Psychedelic hues were all over the spring runways, and now the trend is making news in the world of home décor. Joseph Matthews of Matthews Interior Design suggests using these splashy shades to accent more subdued spaces in the home. “Bright colors stirred with neutrals add a pop of color to an otherwise calm and soothing palette,” he says. Think turquoise, teal, purple, chartreuse and melon to contrast major room elements like the color of your walls or a sectional sofa. 444 N. Fourth St.
First Look: Marcel Wanders for Magis
Über cool pieces by the whimsical Dutch designer land in Philadelphia.
March 02, 2011
The playful pieces that acclaimed Dutch designer Marcel Wanders created for Italian manufacturer Magis are now available in Philadelphia. Be among the first to snag the Sparkling chair (PICTURED), created with blow-molded polyethylene, and the Troy chair, inlaid with an intricate lacelike motif, to instantly up your pad’s cool quotient. 1001–13 N. Second St.; millesime.us
New Workout: Pure Barre
Fitness fanatics line up for the toning results of this ballet, Pilates and yoga hybrid.
March 01, 2011
Move over, Bikram yoga—there’s a new workout in town. Pure Barre has Main Line mommies and Rittenhouse power players lining up, plié-style, for hour-long sessions incorporating elements of ballet, Pilates and yoga. “We target areas that women struggle with—the arms, the abs, the thighs and the seat,” says owner and former dancer Noelle Zane, who swears you’ll see results in 10 lessons over three weeks’ time.
We felt the burn after just one: This low-impact workout relies on pop beats and a peppy instructor to get you through deceptively challenging movements focused on specific muscle groups. Says Zane: “You’re getting leaner and tighter; you’re building a dancer’s body.” 1701 Walnut St., 4th Fl., 267-234-7825
PHOTOGRAPH BY NATHAN SAYERS
Design Find: Morten Georgsen
The BoConcept designer talks artistry and function.
February 28, 2011
Is this your first time visiting Philadelphia?
This isn’t my first time and I really enjoy coming back to the city. We really like being Europeans here because we can see some of the architecture that we know from home; what I really like is the Art Nouveau. Here you have, especially on the East coast, the contrast between modern and what you call old.
Tell us a bit about your background and aesthetic as a designer.
My background is actually from Bang and Olufsen, [which is] famous for design, and what they stressed is simplicity. That is what I carry in my [Danish] blood, that is, to make everything as simple as possible. That is what you’ll see in all my pieces that I have made for BoConcept is that they are very, very simple.
How do you hope Philadelphians will use your pieces?
My furniture should just be something that is a great accompaniment to your individual style, and [it should serve] a lot of functions.
1719 Chestnut St., 215-564-5656; boconcept.us