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The top Curbed Philly longreads of 2018

We delved into the history and rebirth of Philly spaces—and the people behind them

Buildings, public spaces, and policy shape so many aspects of Philadelphians’ lives, whether we want to know how the structure of the city is changing, or just what happened to that old, once-crumbling building in our neighborhood.

In 2018, Curbed Philly aimed to tell some of the stories of those Philly spaces, their history, and the people behind them. One of the ways we approached this was through long, deep looks into several aspects of Philly’s growth. So settle in, grab a snack or a drink (it is New Year’s Eve, after all) and check out some of our top, in-depth reads of this year.

Photo by Melissa Romero

Petty’s Island’s return to the wild

In this deep, informative piece, former Curbed Philly editor Melissa Romero explored what will happen to the Delaware River island as the last industrial company leaves the space, allowing environmentalists to help bring it back to nature. The story looks at the history of the island and the long struggle to bring it back to its roots.

Quote: “This is one of the few places that went from nature to industry to oil to coal, and then back.”

Melissa Romero

The Parker Hotel: Breathing life back into a Philly relic

As any Philadelphian knows, the Parker Hotel in the Gayborhood has a long, sordid history. Rumors and speculation abound about what happened at this hotel (including a short, but fairly well-watched documentary) but the facts are that it’s a historic building that’s seen well-known boxers, musicians, and more come through its doors. It’s struggled more in recent years, but the owners have revamped the space, hoping to bring a new life, new reputation, and new feel to the hotel. This story is a dive into its past and what the owners hope for its future.

Quote: “The tale of just any hotel’s renovation might not be noteworthy, but for Philadelphia, The Parker isn’t just any hotel.”

The long transformation of a Fishtown carriage house

What does the transformation of Fishtown’s popular Girard Avenue look like in 2018? What could the future hold? Is there room for local, small business development? This story looks at all of those questions as it tells the tale of one man’s quest (along with several loyal friends and his business partner) to transform a run-down carriage house on the far end of Girard into a thriving, hip cider tap house. Unlike the other stories on this list, this one gives a deep look at the renovations themselves, and the work it took to bring a place from rubble to reuse.

Quote: “Those panic moments—and their sigh-of-relief resolutions—have now become lore, embedded into the brick and concrete and exposed beams of the tap house.”

New construction underway on Girard Avenue in Fishtown. Photo by Melissa Romero

The construction tax bill, explained

One story that took over the Philly headlines in 2018 was the construction tax bill. A restructured, revamped version of its 2017 cousin, the construction tax bill was introduced in the spring, planning to levy a 1 percent tax on all new construction projects, to help pay for affordable—or at least, not super-luxurious—housing. What ensued was months of debate, protest, support, and speculation, primarily about whether Mayor Jim Kenney would use his first veto to send the bill packing. This story goes over every little detail of the bill, its history, and its importance in the city. Much has happened since then, which you can read about here, but this story was a look at all of the ways the proposal divided the city for nearly a year.

Quote: “Somehow it turned into affordable housing-slash-home improvement bill”

The exterior of the Bourse Building in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick with a flat roof and multiple windows. Melissa Romero

Checking in on the Bourse

You’ve likely walked past it on your way into or out of Old City; maybe it’s even caught your eye as you run to catch a movie or swing by the bank. But how many homegrown Philadelphians have actually stepped inside the towering, 100-year-old Bourse building in recent years just for a visit? Up until recently the building has been known for its first-floor food court that was largely targeted to tourists, with 80’s-style decor and eateries all packed together.

Now, a recent renovation is looking to wash the historic building of that image, and bring a contemporary, sleek feel to the place—one that caters to tourists and the average local alike. Here, we looked at the history and importance of the building, as well as how it’s changed under the new renovation project.

Quote: “We’re restoring the glory”

The Louis Kahn Package

Let’s end this list with a bang. One of the best group of longform stories this year was painstakingly put together at the beginning of 2018 by Melissa Romero, who looked at all the ways the great architect Louis Kahn has had a lasting impact on the city of Philadelphia. There’s the story on his history and influence by Izzy Kornblatt; another on a family living in a Kahn house; one on all of Kahn’s great works up and down the east coast; and tons and tons more. Settle in with a coffee and a day’s worth of snacks for this one, it’s a long, enjoyable bunch of reads.

Quote: “ Kahn had a unique ability to tap into some kind of universal aesthetic”

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