Friday, December 23, 2011

Remember the Neediest

By Greg

I am excited to let you know that Travelers Aid Family Services of Philadelphia (of which I'm on the Board) recently brought on a new Executive Director, Gloria Guard. She is an experienced leader who will help us forge a bright future for the hundreds of families that Travelers Aid serves each year. Please read Gloria's appeal letter below, and consider whether you can spare any household items, toys, furniture, volunteer time, money or anything else that could help homeless families, as we contemplate a brighter 2012. I wish you and yours a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!


Dear Friends,

I have just accepted the position of Executive Director of the Traveler's Aid Family Services of Philadelphia. Known historically for helping stranded travelers, TAFSP has morphed into a shelter, social services, education, and housing agency for 150 homeless families. Like our families, the agency is living from "hand to mouth" and depends almost wholly on government grants.

When I started work this Monday, I was disappointed at the lack of any home-like amenities for our families. The staff is compassionate and professional, while being paid minimal salaries, and the board rolls up their sleeves and pitches in, but it is not enough to make our place cozy for the families.

[Imagine each bed with a pillow... more youth beds like this one. How about a real lounge? Or a coat tree for clothes?]

There is a way you can help us so that we can make the lives of the kids and parents comfortable and warm. Bring us your out-of-date furniture, especially small tables, floor lamps, clothes trees, bean bag chairs, new pillows, linens, and some fun trikes, saucers, big wheels, and rocking horses.

OF COURSE, we need financial support. It's difficult for us to afford even a half-day training workshop for staff, so you can imagine that fundamental organizational necessities are all in need of replacement or development. We need to massively upgrade our technology — not only internet access and faster/consistent phone and internet service, but we also need a system to capture important performance measurements.

We must create an efficient property management program for our 75 units of off-site apartments and develop a housing reserve for anticipated repairs. I would love to create an early infant and toddler program, bring on the capacity to spot early childhood developmental issues, add a part-time therapist and a drug/alcohol expert, and staff up a development and compliance department.

Even facing all these challenges, I am totally psyched! There is so much opportunity and so much room to grow. We have the essentials — the board governance and support, incredibly dedicated staff, a history of best practices in running family shelter and services, stable finances and solid audits it's an organization that I am proud and lucky to lead.

If you want to help in any way, please contact me via email —, write me and deliver goodies to TAFSP, 111 North 49th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19139. My work phone is 215 471 9475. Sorry we have a real problem making pick-ups (no excess staff). For more info:

Please help, in any way you can!

- Gloria

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Discussion with Mayor Nutter

By Greg

I'm on the board of an organization called Philadelphia Committee on City Policy that dates back to 1905 and had its heyday when it gave birth to the City's political and charter reform movement in the early 1950s. Today it's still alive and kicking, but its work is solely educational, hosting monthly luncheons with civic leaders.

Our next event on November 22nd will feature Mayor Nutter talking about "Planning for the Future." It should be an interesting discussion. These luncheons are nice because there's food and it's personal and informal. I encourage you to come, chat with the Mayor, and get to know this historic organization. Here's info on the event.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Help Homeless Children and Families

By Greg

Ok, so the other thing that has been keeping too busy to blog is my volunteer work on the board of Travelers Aid Family Services of Philadelphia, a 100-year-old organization that helps homeless families and children. The organization operates the city's largest family homeless shelter and provides a continuum of services including emergency housing, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and academic enrichment services for homeless children and youth. Each year Travelers Aid assists more than 200 homeless families in Philadelphia.

Travelers Aid is holding its Homeless Awareness Ball on Saturday November 19th, and hope you will show your support by buying a ticket here.

There are few organizations that focus on helping homeless children, and as you can imagine, there are not a lot of resources out there for these kids who grow up without a stable home and without a support structure, transferred from school-to-school. However, the work that Travelers Aid does is truly important in breaking the cycle of homelessness for the next generation and helping these kids succeed in life. Please show your support. I hope to see you at the event.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Center for Culinary Enterprises Under Construction

By Greg

I know it's been ages since I've blogged. It's because I've been hard at work on my day job trying to finance and bring to construction Philadelphia's first large-scale food business center. We just broke ground finally on this 13,000 square-foot project in West Philly. Check out the press release here.

Here's the project in a nutshell:

The Center for Culinary Enterprises will be one of the nation’s most comprehensive commercial kitchen centers, designed to be an engine for creating food-related jobs and businesses, and to provide resources to emerging food entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. The CCE is a 13,000+ square-foot project at 310 S. 48th Street, including three state-of-the-art commercial kitchens for rent to culinary entrepreneurs, a youth-run training restaurant, the eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center, and two retail spaces. More at

Monday, March 7, 2011

Support How Philly Moves

By Ariel

One of the most innovative public art projects in Philadelphia is "How Philly Moves." Local photographer JJ Tizoui shot average Philadelphians across three days, Philadelphians in native Aztec costume, street clothes and dressed for ballroom dancing. These photographs, blown up to an incredible scale, will stretch across one mile of the Philadelphia International Airports' garage. You can find out more about the project and how you can help JJ raise $25,000 in less than a month (support it now), here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Transfer of Development Rights - or - Posing a question to our readers.

By Ariel

In states such as New Jersey, advocates of smart growth have established an interesting method of providing tools for communities to manage sprawl and growth. New Jersey's State Transfer of Development Rights Act allows municipalities to individually or jointly, create what are called "Sending" and "Receiving" zones.

If a municipality (or a collaborative set of them) can predict both a significant amount of growth but has also identified areas it wants to protect, it could create these Sending and Receiving Zones. The Receiving Zones are areas where growth is most likely already to occur, the most desirable areas and regionally competitive and designating them as Receiving Zones guarantees that they will be dense (and supportive of transit). The rights to have access to this market and the ability to build densely there (and make more money) are of value.

The Sending Zones of course are ones a region wants to protect. Farmers who would be tempted to sell their land to leap frog developers, could theoretically sell the development rights instead. Historic buildings that could be razed for the land might be saved in the same manner. New Jersey's Authorizing Act creates a framework for what essentially becomes a density market where developers can buy density directly from other land owners or from "development banks."

What is amazing is that this mechanism creates value in keeping land under - developed and provides the owners of that land access to the value as well.

Generally these seem used and good for suburban regions, or at the very least, what about using it in a dense urban environment. There are parts of Philadelphia that are more likely to see more growth in a few years, or perhaps we want to promote transit oriented development?
Perhaps, we could protect historic areas, riparian or watershed land, etc, and provide the people on whose land we are trying to protect have access to the value created in such city density market.

Aside from a comments about what an optimistic view of Philadelphia's real estate market I seem to have (and don't worry, like any cynical Philadelphian, I think its terrible), I would love to know what you think...

This is a just a thought and I would love to hear what other