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Hotels move into historic buildings: it's happening here, too

Hotels are moving away from cookie-cutter locations and towards unique historic buildings that showcase character and creativity to guests.

Reuse and recycle are taking on new meaning for hotels.

The Lamb’s Theater, a longtime fixture on West 44th Street inside the Manhattan Church of the Nazarene, is now the luxury Chatwal Hotel. In Philadelphia, the previously empty Lafayette Building near Independence Hall opened in 2012 as the Hotel Monaco. In New Orleans, new life is being breathed into the Cotton Exchange Hotel off Bourbon Street.

As the hotel industry shakes off recession doldrums and new hotels are being built, the once-standard chain hotel has a sibling, hotels repurposed from existing buildings like offices, warehouses and hospitals.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Nation's 10 most hellish hills for cyclists includes two Pittsburgh streets

"Top 10 U.S. Steepest Streets" calls out Pittsburgh's brutal Canton Avenue. It clicks in at 37 percent gradient. 

Any cyclists out there want to take on what Lance Armstrong has deemed the "steepest climb I've ever seen on a bike"?

Then buy a ticket to for Hawaii and pedal to Waipio Valley Road, a short but tortuous climb of 800 feet in six-tenths of a mile. With sections slanted at a 45-degree percent grade, and access given only to cars with 4-wheel drive, just looking at the muscle-shredding lane can make rivers of sweat start to flow. As Armstrong said: "You know it's steep when the people walking down are walking backward."

This fearsome cliff road gets top billing on "Top 10 U.S. Steepest Streets," a ranking of terrible hills for cyclists created by Fixr and recently featured at Urban Velo. The run-down contains some challenging claims for folks who think America's worst hills are located in San Francisco or perhaps the Rockies. The second-slantiest street, for instance, is said to be Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh. It is the "steepest public street in the United States," writes Fixr, "only second steepest in the Guinness Book of Records because of a mistake in calculations (1st is Baldwin St. New Zealand, thought to have been 38% but is actually 35%)."


Number eight in is the Steel City, too.

Source: The Atlantic Cities
Check it out here

A loving ode to the Philadelphia regional accent

A wonderful piece in The New York Times' Sunday Review looked at the Philadelphia region's unique accent.

"The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod. Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts....

Da prom here, we might say as we order our cheesteaks, is we don’ ave enuff akkers hew are willen to masser da Filelfia acksin. Nonsense. Offhand, I can name two native sons, Bruce Willis (Salem County, N.J.) and Kevin Bacon (Center City Philadelphia), who, at least in interviews early in their career, before accent reduction training kicked in, let their diphthong freak flags fly. And Upper Darby, Pa., native Tina Fey’s shout-outs and occasional youzes are encouraging, as are stories of her singing “You Light Up My Life” in full Brotherly Love voice ('Yew loight up moy loif')."

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Lehigh Valley recognized for economic development

Lehigh Valley has been named one of the top spots for economic development in the country.

With 46 projects, the Lehigh Valley ties for second place with Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for new and expanded corporate facilities in 2013 in areas with a population between 200,000 and one million people.

"This makes me feel good as a lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley," said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

"This is not some sort of subjective, who can market themselves better type of ranking, it's based on results," he said. "It's nice to see it occurring and the national market recognizing the significance of the Lehigh Valley."

The Omaha, Nebraska, area ranked number one with 48 projects. Some of the projects that helped land the Lehigh Valley on the list include Coca-Cola, Bimbo Bakeries and Kraft. While this is the sixth consecutive year this region has been in the top 10, the number two spot is its highest ranking yet.


Original source: WFMZ.com
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A&E sets its latest drama, 'Those Who Kill,' in Pittsburgh

'Those Who Kill,' a new series on A&E, is shot and set in Pittsburgh.

The 10-part serial was adapted from a Danish TV show, and stars Chloe Sevigny as newish police detective Catherine Jensen, and James D'Arcy as a forensic psychologist.

Episode 1 was very pilot-like, with a self-contained serial-killer story (that guy was easier to catch than a cold!), and some clunky set-up establishing the characters, their relationships to one another, and the likelihood that everybody is brooding over their own secrets.

In many ways, this first episode was a checklist of Cop-Show Tropes (COP) intercut with Filmed in Pittsburgh markers (PGH), as noted below.

So, is the show worth watching? Sure. It's fun seeing our town on TV, and the main story hasn't even unfolded yet. Seek out the first episode online or on demand, or just jump right in after absorbing these predictable aspects, listed as they played out.


Original source: Pittsburgh City Paper
Read the complete story here.

Where will the good (and bad) jobs be a decade from now?

The Atlantic Cities parses how employment will change over the next ten years -- many areas in Pennsylvania are poised for growth. Check out all the handy maps.

The map above looks at the overall picture, tracking where employment is projected to grow the most and the least over the next eight years. Forty-five percent of metros (179) will experience employment growth greater than the national average of 10.8 percent. The darkest blue areas are along the East Coast, in parts of Florida, and in the energy-driven metros of Texas and the Midwest. The metros that will add jobs at the fastest rate include mainly smaller metros like Duluth, Minnesota; McAllen, Texas; and Greenville, North Carolina. College towns like Morgantown, West Virginia; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Ann Arbor, Michigan are also projected to experience a relatively high rate of job growth. The large metros that will add jobs at the fastest rate are the big three of the Bos-Wash corridor: Boston, D.C. and New York. The slowest growth is projected in the Midwest, parts of the old South, and central California.
 
Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the complete post here.



Amtrak offers free seats to writers, allowing for inspiration on the rails

Amtrak is acknowledging the unique writing environment a long train ride provides -- and they're turning that inspiration into a "residency" program. Sounds like a great way to travel across Pennsylvania...

What, exactly, is the appeal of writing on a train? In a phone interview with The Wire, [Jessica] Gross described the train ride as a "unique environment for creative thought," one that "takes you out of normal life." She won't find much disagreement. Now more writers (The Wire's staff included) are clamoring for their own Amtrak residency. 

“I’ve seen a billion tweets from other writers saying ‘I want one of these’,” Gross said, probably being a tad hyperbolic, but it's true that once Amtrak actually does start offering writers' residencies regularly, they're going to be very popular. Julia Quinn, social media director for Amtrak, tells The Wire that there has been "overwhelming demand" from people interested in the program – part of the reason the company is intent on turning this into a regular operation.


Original source: The Wire
Read the complete story here.

Two PA eateries make Alan Richman's best of 2014 list

Esteemed GQ food critic Alan Richman has released his list of the 25 best restaurants for 2014 -- two Philly spots made the list, Avance and Pizzeria Vetri.

Not everyone is going to appreciate Pizzeria Vetri for the reasons I do, but then I’m a fussy guy when it comes to pizza crust. To summarize: I’m no fan of the famous pies of Naples, the city considered the bastion of pizza, where every Italian will tell you to go for pizza even if his family runs a pizzeria in his own home town. The problem is that true Neapolitan pies come out of the oven with soft, puffy crusts that turn soggy in seconds.

Chef Marc Vetri, famous for a fine-dining restaurant named after him, has created a neo-Neapolitan crust. It looks Neapolitan. It tastes Neapolitan. But it’s fundamentally different, as though he did DNA research on pizza and eliminated the gene that turns the crust wet. It’s the newest step forward in the evolution of the great American pizza crust, this one light and supple but retaining a smidgeon of crispness.


Original source: GQ
Read the complete list here.

Mormon Church tackles Philly development projects

The Mormon Church has announced big development plans in Philadelphia's Logan Square neighborhood.

The development on the 1600 block of Vine Street, which is the northern border of Philadelphia’s downtown area, would consist of a 32-story tower containing 258 apartments, as well as 13 rental townhomes and the 24,000-square-foot meeting house where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would worship and hold community events.

Designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, the project is planned for the block next to a Mormon temple that is already under construction and due to be completed in 2016.

While the temple will be reserved for major religious ceremonies, in keeping with Mormon tradition, the new meeting house will include a chapel for regular services, meeting rooms and classrooms for community and recreational events, officials said in announcing the project on Feb. 12.

Alan Greenberger, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, said the temple and the planned Mormon housing and retail complex — which would be built on a parking lot — occupy two “unspoken for” blocks between the business district and the northern section of the city.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Support for gay marriage grows in the state

Recent polling has shown an increased support for gay marriage in the state.

"Fifty-four percent of Pennsylvanian’s now support gay marriage," says Terry Madonna, political science professor and pollster at Franklin and Marshall College. He says roughly 70-percent of young voters believe in marriage equality and the older voters who do not support it are not as strongly opposed as they once were.

Original source: CBS News
Read the complete story here.

Rule change could be in the works for the state's distilleries

A potential rule change could make life easier for the state's growing stable of small distilleries.

Pennsylvania's small distilleries, four of which operate in the Pittsburgh area, could soon be shipping directly to at-home customers thanks to a rule change being considered by the state.

The state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which reviews and recommends nonlegislative policy changes, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board have been vetting a proposed rule that would "permit licensed limited distilleries and distilleries to deliver their products directly to consumers [and] retail licensees, [similar] to licensed limited wineries."

The proposed policy change originates out of Act 113 of 2011, which was passed in order to give the state's small distilleries "the same privileges enjoyed by licensed limited wineries."

At a meeting set for Feb. 27, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission will have the opportunity to affirm the new regulations based on feedback received from the Liquor Control Board last month. If the commission approves the final version, the new rules would be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for review and approval, a process that could take up to 30 days.


Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Read the complete story here.

Comcast makes a move to buy Time-Warner Cable

Comcast makes another big move, making a play for Time Warner Cable.

Already the dominant player in providing pay television services to American consumers, Comcast announced on Thursday a deal to buy Time Warner Cable, which will create a behemoth that will dominate the media industry.

It is the second transformative deal for Comcast in recent years, coming just months after it completed an acquisition of NBC Universal, the TV and movie studio. And the deal, if completed, could have impacts on consumers across the country, though it is unlikely to reduce competition in many markets.

Describing the deal as “a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction,” Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding, in a deal worth about $45.2 billion in stock value.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Quail eggs from PA make it onto state dinner menu

The state dinner menu in honor of President François Hollande of France will feature quail eggs from Pennsylvania alongside other domestic delicacies.

In a nod to French cuisine, the menu will meld all-American food with French flair, set against a backdrop of purple irises and the music of the Bronx-raised, Grammy-winning artist Mary J. Blige.

The meal will include quail eggs from Pennsylvania and American Osetra caviar from the president’s adopted home state of Illinois, as well as 12 kinds of potatoes.

Michelle Obama’s fingerprints are especially evident in the salad course, featuring a “winter garden salad” of what the White House called petite mixed radishes, merlot lettuce and baby carrots inspired by the first lady’s kitchen garden.

The main course will be a dry-aged rib eye of beef, brought in from a family farm in Colorado and topped with blue cheese from Vermont.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete source here.

Visit the home of President James Buchanan in Lancaster

Celebrate President's Day with a trip to the home of James Buchanan in Lancaster; this feature is part of The Patriot-News' 'Not Far by Car' series.

After a brief orientation at the Lancaster Historical Society's new Visitor Center, you'll be greeted at the back door of Buchanan's brick mansion by a guide dressed as a servant, said Patrick Clarke, director of Wheatland.

Buchanan had five or six servants. Miss Hetty, his housekeeper, took care of him for more than 30 years.

Living history actors will welcome you to Wheatland as if it were the fall of 1856. Buchanan was the Democratic Party's nominee for president; his home was campaign headquarters.

Original source: The Patriot-News
Read the complete story here.


Figure skater Johnny Weir talks Sochi with Philadelphia Magazine

Fashion icon and figure skater Johnny Weir -- who is helping call the events in Sochi -- took the time to talk with Philadelphia Magazine.

Before this year, I thought Sochi was a kind of Japanese ice cream. Where is it, exactly?
Sochi is a beautiful resort town that was made famous by Stalin and the elite from the Soviet Party. It’s on the Black Sea. When I tell people I’m going to Russia, they say, “Oh my God, you’re going to freeze to death.” First of all, I have furs. But second of all, Sochi enjoys a really temperate climate.

Now that you’ve retired and reigning Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek has dropped out, I have no idea who is competing. The people most likely to be on that medal stand?
You’re looking at Canadian Patrick Chan. He’s the reigning world champion going into this Olympics, and he’s skating very well. He set world records last year and then had them beaten by Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who I believe is 18 [ed: 19, but close enough] and is just a phenom. I actually designed his costume for the free program.


Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete interview here.
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