Downtown Philadelphia, aka Center City, once had a wide selection of delicatessens and fast-food restaurants. These food establishments served thousands of office workers in the city back then. Unfortunately, the pandemic and lockdowns put an end to all that. The George Floyd riots in 2020 also played a part in the downfall of the Philly food desert. Such unrest resulted in the destruction of a famous McDonald’s near Rittenhouse Square and the closure of a large WAWA on South Broad Street near City Hall.
Effects of the Pandemic to Restaurants in Philly
In the following months, several fast-food restaurants and cafés closed. It includes a popular Burger King at Eighth and Market Streets and another WAWA next to Macy’s. The said convenience store had become a sort of replacement for the closed eateries but ceased operations in late 2021 due to a shoplifting incident.
Small cafés and fast-food restaurants are now gone from Center City. Cities need various options, from hole-in-the-wall coffee and bagel shops to the overpriced fusion Martini restaurant. Tourists would find it hard to find casual eateries, especially in Philly’s Society Section. Even those looking for a simple hamburger must now consider the more expensive cost to get one.
However, it’s business as usual for fast-food outlets and cafés in the Philadelphia neighborhood. It seems that only the dining spots in Center City have been affected by the events in the last couple of years.
The last remaining fast-food venue in Center City is a little Wendy’s tucked under a web of scaffolding and partly hidden by the Wells Fargo Bank’s signage. How it managed to thrive amidst the troubles of the last few years is still a puzzle. This Wendy’s branch is so popular that lines always form at the service counters. It also offers indoor seating, unlike the fast-food restaurants in the neighborhoods, which usually have take-out service only.
COVID-19-Related Protocols Ignored By REstaurants in Philly Food Desert
The city urged restaurants and other food establishments to require customers to wear indoor masks. In addition, the city had mandated that patrons should show proof of vaccination before dining indoors. But the requirement regarding proof of vaccination had an odd effect on Philly restaurants. For example, Wendy’s ignores the particular regulation and the always-crowded Café Ole in Old City.
Café Olé, with its complete lunch menu of organic cold and hot delicacies, is one of the few remaining cafés in the city, aside from Starbucks. Café Olé removed its indoor-mask policy more than a year ago, although there’s still criticism over this. The restaurant continues to do so today, deliberately ignoring the January 2022 order on indoor masks.
Responses to the city regulations constantly vary according to the venue. Some events don’t require proof of vaccination but implement a hard-core mask mandate.
Mild panic over the Omicron variant caused major institutions like the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia to go back to Zoom meetings. Small private clubs have also followed suit, while the theatre operators have taken different methods. Some companies have been locked into online meetings since 2020. But big theaters such as the Merriam, the Forest, and the Walnut Street Theater are planning to slowly re-open this spring.
The birth of so-called street eateries during the pandemic has helped restaurants survive. Sadly, these dining options stand empty during the winter months. Philadelphia’s city council needed to decide whether to allow the expanded street eateries to operate permanently, despite Center City’s narrow sidewalks. Council President Darrell Clarke opposed this idea. He introduced a bill that would extend the temporary outdoor dining only until June 30.
When it comes to pandemic guidelines, nothing is permanent in Philadelphia. In mid-February, the city announced eliminating vaccine passport requirements for restaurants. The news earned positive responses even though many restaurants announced that they would keep the vaccination requirement as a safety measure. And on March 3, the city finally lifted its indoor mask mandate, except on public transportation. But we can’t even tell what may happen in the future.
And for other news about Philly, read more here at Owner’s Mag!
New Eagles Logo Polarizes Philadelphia Sports Fans
Philadelphians don’t love change.
It’s a city of traditions, steeped in sentimentality and famous for its gritty charm. It becomes evident quickly around here: Philadelphia has completely internalized the Rocky complex. An intense underdog spirit with an unparalleled sense of pride over the city’s rich bounty of cultural offerings, from its American history to its renowned cuisine. This pride also extends to its rabid sports fandom.
And so, in keeping with the city’s undying affection for its own established iconography, its collective reception of the Eagles’ recent decision to alter their wordmark is… lukewarm at best.
Sports logo alterations are always a polarizing subject. They’re made for a number of reasons, be it injecting fresh enthusiasm (and money) into a dulling franchise or steering away from dated, racially charged mascots.
In that sense, team rebrands seem like a perfectly American affair. As it so often is, the two biggest consistencies are financial pursuits and awkwardly fumbling over unhealed racial trauma.
But the Eagle’s recent decision doesn’t really serve either purpose. And it’s more of a retool than a redesign.
For one, there are no real changes being made to the team’s color scheme. Its usual palette of midnight green, silver, black, and charcoal will remain fully intact. And the team’s logo— the famously left-facing bald eagle— will also be untouched.
This retool comes for one victim and one victim only: the wordmark.
In the team’s recent press release, where it outlines the changes, the new design was touted for its “new” and “refreshed” look. But that doesn’t really speak to the changes being made. So, let’s dig into the new wordmark, how it compares to the old one, and how fans have responded.
A step towards modernity.
The new wordmark is in line with the most prevalent design trend right now: the reduction of flamboyant embellishment into modern, chic simplicity.
It’s the new normal— but it’s not entirely new. For decades now, companies have been rebranding with these modern ideals in mind. They’ve done away with ornate logos, rich with color and elaborate graphics, in favor of a more straightforward approach. As far as typography is concerned, we see this race towards less manifest as reliance on grotesque or sans serif typefaces.
You’ve undoubtedly taken notice of this trend, whether you know the terminology or not. Since the mid-20th century, these typefaces have been heralded for their legibility and modern feel. And a number of companies have shaped their brand around the voguish style of their letterforms.
As you can see, the Eagles have finally caved to the trend.
The previous iteration of the typeface, adopted in 1996, saw the team deploy a sharp, three-dimensional serif typeface with a strong drop shadow. It’s loud, blocky, and extravagant, especially when contrasted with the new design.
2022’s newly updated wordmark unveils the team’s leap into stripped-down sans serif territory. The font is still quite stylized and is surely a custom creation designed purely for the Birds’ new look. But it’s toned down. And the letterforms are low-contrast now, meaning there’s very little difference in stroke thickness in any of the letters.
It’s also been reduced to two dimensions, which is another trend you’ll find in contemporary rebranding. The shiny car emblem look is out; flat and monotone is in.
Where will we see the new eagles logo?
Here’s What To Know About The Philadelphia Affordable Housing Program
As part of increasing Philadelphia’s affordable housing stock, the city aims to build 1,000 new low-cost housing units. City Council President Darrell Clarke also said they want to assist low-income residents in improving their quality of life through Philadelphia affordable housing.
Turn the Key Program
The City Council and other city officials unveiled the “Turn The Key” program at 55th and Poplar streets in West Philadelphia. It is part of the $400-million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative approved by the City Council in 2020.
The city will construct 1,000 units of 3-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom homes on city-owned public lands. The priority beneficiaries of the project are first-time home buyers, and the mortgage will be about $1,200 per month. Clarke said that this mortgage payment is lower than the average price of renting a 2-bedroom apartment in Philly.
Councilmember Curtis Jones said that owning a house is the most significant investment most people make. A home is an asset that should continually increase in value. But in its initial phase, it should be affordable as well.
Loans and costs
First-time home buyers will be offered a soft loan for a maximum of $75,000. The buyers can secure the loan via a second amortization on the housing unit to keep affordable prices for low-income households. These households are within or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income with approximately $94,500 per family.
The total cost of houses is between $190,000 to $230,000, less than the current median home price. The term of the loan will be payable for up to 30 years.
To qualify for the Philadelphia affordable housing program, residents must be first-time homebuyers with confirmable income. They must attend a free, city-funded homeownership counseling program before signing an Agreement of Sale.
“This is an interesting project that will have a great impact on our city. We are looking forward to partnerships to create these opportunities for families to improve their lives and gain other benefits that come from homeownership,” said Anne Fadullon, the director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development.
The first stage of the “Turn the Key” housing program is about $7 million to $8 million. It will include more than 40 homes to be constructed at 55th and Poplar streets, Carroll Park section of West Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Housing Market
Philadelphia’s housing market has experienced challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Compared with pre-pandemic levels, the city’s housing inventory declined by almost 41 percent. Because of this, first-time homebuyers are anxious and concerned about competition in housing prices.
The University City Townhomes, an affordable housing complex at 39th and Market streets, will close in just two months. The closure was due to the non-renewal of the contract by its property management company, IBID Associates, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With additional HUD contracts set to expire over the next several years, affordable housing development and preservation have become a hot-button issue for City Council and housing advocates.
The Philadelphia affordable housing program will enable residents to own a home for the first time, said Ernest Garrett, president of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
Aside from income and eligibility requirements, the “Turn the Key” program will include a preference for City of Philadelphia employees. Legislation to implement that preference is currently pending in City Council and will be up for a hearing soon.
And for other stories about Philly, read more here at Owner’s Mag!
Plaze Review: Philly’s Fastest Growing DIY Networking App
I’ve been involved with do-it-yourself music in the Greater Philadelphia area for over a decade now. Throughout this time, I have occupied every potential role: showgoer, performer, promoter, you name it.
The groups I’ve ended up with typically share a similar genesis.
Here’s a picture: you’re sitting in a half-empty living room. Below you, a crowded basement pulses with tame tropes and half-hearted expressions. Some loudmouth nursing a 40oz foolishly exchanges charm for pretension and out from a groggy, smoke-induced stupor, an assertion springs: “Jawbreaker is the definitive Bay-Area rock band of the 90s. Miss me with that Green Day sh*t.”
Leaping (or staggering) to your feet, you fumble for rejoinders. It’s then that you find yourself thrust into a spirited dialogue with an equally impassioned stranger.
One thing leads to another. Chatting and chain-smoking, you trade visions, earnestly planning a potential project only to wake up the next morning without energy or interest in maintaining contact. After all, they smoked menthols— and your inner pre-teen still weeps to Green Day. You don’t need that kind of energy in your life.
The story repeats itself ad nauseam and there’s no light at either end of the tunnel.
Enter: Plaze. Philadelphia’s hottest DIY networking app. Aiming to revamp the way musicians discover one another, Plaze offers a digital alternative to the oft-excruciating process of starting a band.
What is Plaze?
Before I dig in, let me provide some background about Plaze. Like most innovations, Plaze was inspired by a problem. As stated in the first sentence of the Our Story portion on their website: “Plaze started with a problem.”
Call it journalistic intuition.
Co-founder Jamie Mallia, a drummer, recounts his story. It’s a common one, and we all have our own version. An exciting new musical partnership abruptly halted upon the realization that the person you have agreed to jam with is, shall we say, grossly incompetent.
Naturally, the unevenness of their skillset led to an awkward, short-lived alliance. That’s when the big idea hit: an app that facilitates discovery among creatives. One that promotes networking and collaboration while helping weed out the mismatches.
Plaze looks to one-up other avenues of creative networking like Facebook and Reddit. It does so by tailoring the experience to the expressed needs of its users. It is, however, currently a Philadelphia-centric app.
A New Way of Networking
For the sake of transparency, I must share my initial skepticism. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is likely the result of my reverence for the punk ethos. But honestly, that’s a stuffy holdover.
And punk, in its truest and most essential form, is about moving forward. Embracing change, even (and especially) when it threatens tradition. The fruits of punk that have prevailed throughout history have been those that, in threatening tradition, offers a constructive, democratic alternative. And so, with that renewed understanding in mind, I’m downloading Plaze.
Nowadays, there’s an app to help you with everything from grocery delivery services to keeping your mental health in check. So, really, why shouldn’t there be an app for meeting other local creatives?
Mind you, this article will encapsulate one person’s attempt at using the app.
My experience doesn’t speak for the whole of us. Everyone who uses this app, with their own style, expectations, intentions, and skill sets will undoubtedly yield a unique experience. With any hope, anyway.
In a sense, you can consider this less of a review and more of an account. The semantic difference is that, in this case, I won’t submit an official judgment.
How’s the User Interface?
Upon downloading Plaze, you’ll find that the interface is simple and intuitive. For those of us experienced with any of those countless dating apps, it’s downright familiar. This isn’t a dating app though, so there’s some hope for you yet. Just think of all the time you’ll save not having to worry about a punchy new pick-up line.
All of the features are offered in a palatable four-tab menu. The tabs are as follows:
You’re going to want to add a picture or two. Really flesh out your profile here. Honestly, this function alone is pretty dope. Consider it a central hub for all of your artist profile pages. Now you can have your Bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and personal website all in one place. Artists are not terribly well-known for being, well, unlazy— so this certainly helps the discovery process along!
The profile section is also where you’ll outline your skillset. Shameless promotion here, but I need to show photos to properly explain.
This also provides me the opportunity to show off this sleek, seamlessly navigable interface. Despite being a millennial, my handling of most new technology is more in line with that of a 100-year-old man. But believe you me, sonny: this app is absolutely easy to handle. Golly!
You can write up a quick blurb about yourself and add all of your skills. This includes both on-stage and off-stage skills; which means audio engineers, promoters, teachers, and photographers all have a place in Plaze.
Whatever your niche, Plaze has thought of ways to plug it into the scene. Speaking of the scene, let’s hop to the next tab.
This function puts you in the same room as what’s happening in your area. At all times. The page is split up into two subsections, both of which are very simply laid out: Show Posters and Community. These sections borrow a lot of the convenient aspects of Facebook or Reddit.
Show Posters, as its name suggests, is purely a feed for flyers. It’s like an infinite scroll of calendar events for upcoming shows. You can interact with these the same way you would Facebook events, including RSVPs, comments, and likes.
Community is a collection of threads, not unlike Reddit, where people can post about any number of things. Want to promote an upcoming album release? Need a new drummer? Maybe you’re a promoter in search of an opening act. Whatever your need, this section allows you the freedom to express it.
Anyone can make a show flyer or community post!
The map function essentially contextualizes people’s profiles in a geographic layout. This is a cool feature, but its benefits are limited to showing exactly where each individual profile is. It’s a helpful tool, nonetheless.
This page contains the meat and potatoes of the app. It provides full access to all other profiles on Plaze. A search bar at the top of the page offers a speedy look-up for specific people. Or you can scroll along casually, thumbing through profiles of Plaze users. (Plazers? Plazeers?)
To make it even more convenient, it splits up profiles into different categories based on each user’s expressed intent. Here are some of the subsections: Freelance Clients, Lookin’ For Bandmates, Jam For Fun, Find Local Shows, and Near You. It’s as simple as sending a message. From there, you’re free to discuss as you please! You can even curate your own feed, narrowing it down to your specific need.
Closing Thoughts: Is Plaze worth it?
Plaze offers an entirely free platform for exploring your scene. You stand to lose nothing, and the gains are immeasurable. it’s not limited to musicians, either. Plaze is perfect for artist-designers, audio engineers, promoters, podcasters, videographers, and journalists. Every creative personality is capable of offering (and monetizing) their skills with this app.
The most inspiring part of Plaze is the way it injects a burst of democracy into an experience historically fraught with crossed arms, naysayers, and gatekeepers. Gone are the days of not being able to find the right band members. And never again will you be burdened with the task of having to cold message a show promoter on Instagram, only to be left on read time and time again.
I can speak from experience regarding the difficulties of finding something as seemingly common as a good photographer. You end up just asking a friend with a camera and, oftentimes, you’re underwhelmed with the final product. With Plaze, freelancers are provided a large pool of potential clients and vice versa.
Just like every punk-rocker has a conversion story— a discovery of new, challenging, artistic integrity in the face of an otherwise bland, corporate landscape— so too may every DIY soul be converted into a Plaze-user (Plazite? Plazian? I hate this bit) and reimagine the possibilities of local art.
Even if they don’t f*ck with Green Day.