Thursday, April 24, 2014

GroJLartitorial: Fix The Unit Block of South 11th Street!

Unit Block of South 11th Street, Ludlow to Chestnut



            So much potential, so little love. This little block on 11th Street between Ludlow and Chestnut looks like horseshit and has no goddamn excuse. For at least the last 100 years, this block was a regular retail street that offered everything from stationary to jazz clubs to car batteries. Nowadays, it looks like shit. Empty storefronts, underutilized architecture, barely any nighttime activity. Even the sidewalk sucks. You take Jefferson's Gibbon Building out of the picture and you'd have a hard time convincing someone that this was Center City.
           I'm going to ignore the also crappy block across the street, the one Inga recently called "near-slum conditions", because it is technically in a transitional period. The Girard Estate has some big plans for that spot once the Family Court Annex moves out so I don't want to shit all over it (until those plans are confirmed). But that east side of the block, it hurts.
            Fuck it, let's go through the whole thing. The block begins with a great looking building that I've written about before designed by William Steele & Sons about a century ago. While it was once known for its beautiful single Horn and Hardart storefront embellished with stained glass that matched the rest of the building's facade, nowadays it holds no less than five storefronts, three of which are long shuttered (but available for lease).
            The building's best current feature is probably the famous Sound of Market store, which fills the 2nd and 3rd floors, only accessible through another store called Mine Fragrances & Variety, that sells every fucking thing you've ever thought of. Need a gallon of shea butter? They've got it. Need a new bong? They've got it. Need a Ganesh statue? Got it. The only other active storefront on this building is a crappy jewelry store, just like all the other crappy jewelry stores you see in small storefronts all over the city. Who goes to these places? How do they make any money? This grossly underutilized building serves as a microcosm of the whole block: sad-looking, beat up, and in desperate need of new blood. It does have an "Available" sign on it, but it doesn't really specify for what. Apartments? Stores? Sex?
         Sound of Market is actually a pretty cool store. No reason for that to have to move off the block. More on that later.


              The next building on the block is a goddamn disgrace to any architect living, dead, or about to be born. 23-27 South 11th Street is the remains of three early 19th century extra-large rowhouses, so old that they were built before the Opera House that the Sound of Market building replaced. In the mid 1950s, a fire ripped through the three houses, at that point long having been converted to commercial use. The Girard Estate took control of the three properties on January 31, 1959 and combined them into one garbastic piece of ass-smash, throwing on a mid-20th-centuryesque facade that covered the two old houses on the right. At some point in time decades later, that facade was removed and this shitty building has looked like jizz ever since. It currently boasts a complete set of full storefronts and a dentist's office that's been rocking the upper floors for decades.
           One front is filled with yet another hole-in-the-wall jewelry store that no one cares about, another is filled with one of those whacky-looking electronic stores you see all over the city. Again, who goes to these places and how do they stay open? The storefront in the middle is some of the only new blood on the block, occupied by Rosa's Fresh Pizza. This place is exactly what this block needs. A new take-out spot created by a young boul named Mason Wartman who ran with the idea of a $1-a-slice pizza joint in Center City and put it on this underused block, in a storefront that was previously empty for eons. The place was even featured by Michael Klein's Insider column. Good job. Now get a proper awning.


              The next three properties are again old 19th Century Rowhouses-turned-commercial that have held scores of different kinds of establishments over the years. 29 South 11th, the grey one on the left in the photo above, has been rocking an empty storefront for several years now. The owner of the place, according to OPA, doesn't live that far away. You'd think he'd try a little harder to get the completely vacant building occupied. 21 South 11th is home to Paulie's Pizza and has been for quite awhile. Paulie's is valuable to the block for two reasons: 1) Its the only place on the block that is open late at night (closes 11:45) and 2) It has the most hilariously angry Yelp reviews (enjoy).
              33 South 11th Street is the only one of these three old rowhouses that isn't violating the  Doors and Windows Ordinance, which seems to have gone un-enforced on this entire block. It holds an active hair salon on the first floor and a psychic's place on the second and third floor. The place was recently renovated with some new ultra-green siding and lots of perfectly legal, permitted signage that looks fucking crazy. Remember back in mid-2012, when people came after that convenience store over their ostentatious signage? Where the fuck were you when these folks put their (again, perfectly legal and permitted) signs up?


             And now for the last. I've written about this sexy bitch-bastard of a building before as well, because it kicks ass and everyone should know about it. 1039 Chestnut, a 130+ year old Castle of Killer Cock-Slapping is looking sadder than it ever has, rocking four storefronts... but filled with what? Yet another mysteriously successful hole-in-the-wall jewelry store, a crap variety store, a dirtbag media store in the basement, and the block's newest edition, a nameless DVD/CD store, because people still buy those. The upper floors are completely vacant and boarded up. This building is a holdover from the infamous Daniel Rappaport's portfolio of once-awesome buildings that are underutilized and falling apart.
            So, as you can see, this little segment of 11th Street fucking sucks. Even the sidewalk. Its too damned thin!

The block's newest addition.White Rectangle Video?
 SO WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT!?!?!?!

            It wasn't so long ago that 13th Street was a shitty runway of alligator shit just like this block. The heroic Tony Goldman came along and, after some early setbacks, got the shitbag stores out of there in order to bring the right tenants in (though I'm still mad that Chicken King is gone). He also bought out a lot of the old slumlord owners. That's what needs to happen here. We can't force all those private owners to sell per se, but the right developer with testicles of tritanium ore could come along with an offer they couldn't refuse financially (which, unfortunately, is the very thing that many of these owners are probably waiting for). 
           The hardest part, I guess, would be getting the ball rolling. The super-ugly 23-27 South 11th Street is the best bet for a 11th Street Unit Block Revoution, since it is owned by the Girard Estate. They have three options for this space in my view. 1) Knock it the fuck down and rebuild on the same spot with some modern-kickass retail with residential above. 2) Buy the Sound of Market Building, knock 23-27 South 11th the fuck down, and build a modern addition to it, adding residential space and brand new retail space (that could hold a re-vamped Sound of Market!). 3) Sell 23-27 South 11th to a developer who has the ability to get some fucking work done and has a new idea for the space (which will most likely include knocking it the fuck down). The Sound of Market Building is currently for sale for 5.4 mil.
             It only takes one or two things to get it all started. Once the revolution begins, the rest of the block will fall together over the course of a few years, just like 13th Street did after El Vez opened. That, a renovation of 1039 Chestnut and some streetscape improvements (wider sidewalk maybe?) and you'll have gold, Jerry! Gold! Don't get me wrong-- its not like all these cruddy stores have to die-- just move to a place where they would be more apt to find customers. After all, there's three fucking jewelry stores on the same block. Move to different blocks!
             You want to know the best thing about this block? The whole thing is zoned CMX-5. You could build a goddamn crystal skyscraper 900 feet tall here and no NIMBY could say shit about it. You want to know the second best thing about this block? THERE ARE NO NIMBYS. No one lives on the surrounding blocks (at least, not yet), so there ain't no old codgers who will complain if this block changes. I know the Wurlitzer Building nearby was recently permitted for an apartment conversion, but its taking forever to get done. This means that the injection of nightlife onto this block would have very little resistance. Put a big-ass bar in the former Horn & Hardart space in the Sound of Market Building. There would already be a steady stream of auto-customers, since Friere Middle School is nearby (top of 1034 Market)-- any good bar owner knows that teachers like to fucking drink.
         I didn't even mention the transit! This spot is less than one block away from the EL, a couple blocks away from Market East Station, and is passed by more bus lines than I can count (the 23 on 11th Street and the buttload of buses that come through Chestnut and Market, including NJ Transit stuff). Accessible by tens of thousands of people without getting in a car.
         There you go-- now all you rich developers out there have no excuse to gather your shit and take a risk on this block. Your welcome. NOW GET IT DONE!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fill This Front: Sharper Image

1518 Walnut


                Here's yet another chronically empty storefront in an awesome-ass building. This space is fucking gigantic and can be used for pretty much any kind of store. Sharper Image was in there, for fuck's sake, so no one else has any damn excuse! This is probably the third or fourth blog post across the local internets written about this spot, but I don't fucking care.
                This bitch-bastard of a storefront is located at 1518 Walnut, a great property at the corner of Walnut Street and South Sydenham Street, right in the middle of Rittenhouse Row, the city's most badass shopping district. Like many gigantofucking spaces of this type, this empty pile of shit started out as a classy banking floor. It was designed by the architecture firm of Hokansen Heacock in the late 1910s for Middle City Bank. The building has been known as the Merlin Building, Middle City Bank Building, Union Bank Building, and was once hilariously named the Allen Rothenberg Building. Just to prove how badass this building is, let me tell you this: Paul Phillippe Cret, one of the greatest architects to wipe his ass in Philadelphia, didn't choose to put his own offices in one of his own buildings, but placed his offices in this one. That's saying something.
              This big-ass empty fuck of a space has held numerous banks over the years, but was most prominent as a branch of Industrial Valley Bank, which managed to fill this space from 1951 to the late 80s.  From 1995 to 2005, this space was Circa, a fancy-ass restaurant/nightclub that took advantage of the coolness of the banking floor and vault.

The space when it was Circa. Photo by Dave Hong.
                After that, the store held a shitty Sharper Image location where they sold a bunch of useless shit that didn't work. I bought some expensive-ass air purifiers from this particular store that did absolutely fucking nothing. What a waste. You owe me, Sharper Image!!! Somehow, that shitstore managed to stay open for multiple years, closing in 2009. After that, the front was always available for lease but ended up being a series of pop-ups. One was a sales office and model for non-existent condos in the ill-fated Waldorf Astoria Hotel Dead-Ass Proposal, another about this time last year was Indochino, some kind of on-line custom-made suit website that opened a brick-and-mortar pop-up store here because they're too fucking cheap to rent the space out for real.
               The space is managed by the Shenian Company, which seems to be having a hard time getting it filled. Therefore, I will help.

Pic of the place from its Loopnet listing.
                 This space, once again, is located at 1518 Walnut Street. It has a total of 4653 square feet. Some of the space is the old banking floor, some is the vault, some is the mezzanine above. This location is one of the most strategically profitable in the city, being on Rittenhouse Row, the city's premiere shopping district. This spot has so much fucking foot traffic that you'll have to move into the place at 4 am just to keep from getting run over by the stampede of humans that are constantly passing through. The location is convenient to so many transit lines that literally hundreds of thousands of people can reach this point without getting into a car. Thousands of people with incomes well over six figures live in the immediate area, along with tens of thousands of daily office workers. If you lease this space, you'll have so many customers that you'll have to employ bums to piss on the sidewalk out front to cool it off to defray from the heat generated by all those feet!
             All this and more can be yours for the low low price of $48,281.25 a month. Wait a minute... $48,281.25 a MONTH? No wonder they can't fill this bastard! Is this how much other Rittenhouse Row stores are paying?!?! Holy Crap!! Well... maybe you can talk the price down a bit, since the place has been empty (besides pop-ups) for five fucking years.
             Anyway, FILL THIS FUCKING FRONT!!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Butt-Fugly Building of the Week: The Pearl

111 North 9th Street

So that's where I left my tissue box!
           Ugh-- that's all I can say about this shitbird building when I see it. Years of anticipation spent waiting for this barren deadzone to get a building on it and this is what we get. A fucking block-long gray and white rectangle that comes equipped with a gigantic surface parking lot in back (the side?). I don't care how successful the project was and how great it has been for the neighborhood... I accept that shit. I'm just pissed off by how fucking boring and mediocre this Lego Longhouse is. I've seen better looking parking garages.
          As implied above, the block that this property sits on was once a decades-strong surface lot that only got re-enforced by the long-ass construction of the Center City Commuter Connection Tunnel in the mid-80s. Even back then, Pan-Am Realty was interested in acquiring the lot and building some new residential and retail to add to the already short-of-available-housing Chinatown and boost development in the gigantic deadzone between there and Franklin Square. The problem was, they couldn't afford to buy the space off of the Re-Development Authority, who controlled it for years (before the CCCC tunnel's construction it was part of Independence Mall's property, which is weird).
        In 2003, they teamed up with Parkway Corp to develop just this one property, forming the ridiculously-named Nine Arch Associates (its at 9th and Arch, get it?). They commissioned the firm of Vollmer Associates to come up with a design for a new condominium, some of the first new construction to his this area since the CCCC tunnel tore through. By 2005 they were ready for an official proposal. The new condominium would have 90 units, 12 retail spaces, 6 floors, and 121 surface parking spaces.
         The design was, shall we say, ABSOLUTE TAINT!
One of the final renderings
          The proposal got rejected by zoning... not for being an ugly shoe-box-looking piece of ass mucus OR for having way more parking spaces that it would ever need, but for the simple fact that it was 76 feet tall, 16 feet higher than the area's idiotic height limit of 60 feet! In November of '05, Nine Arch appealed the refusal and were granted a variance. Construction went throughout 2006 and the project was complete by the end of 2007.
  
Under construction as seen from the sky. They couldn't wait to get the parking lot done. Images from Google.
           The new building was named "The Pearl", which is the name of about a million other residential buildings around the U.S. Even more confusing is that there is a local developer named Pearl Properties that has nothing to do with this (though the Granary Apartment building they developed seems almost like The Pearl's much better-looking sequel). The new condos featured tax abatements and free parking in the gigantic parking lot. The project was marketed to middle-income, first generation Chinese immigrants that were relegated to the burbs due to a lack of middle-class housing in Chinatown. It worked. The units sold like hotcakes and the retail spaces got filled in no time. Despite being ugly as fuck, the new building was incredibly successful.
            You'd think that a condo that sold out so quickly would spur more development in the deadzone to the north and east, but it still hasn't happened. The renovation of the PPA Eighth Street Parking Plaza is now underway and a new quasi-halfway house/old folks home will soon be built on the same block as that garage... but other than that, NIENTE! Maybe Parkway needs to get into another Marvel Team-Up with a local developer to get another project like this going. Please... don't make it so fucking ugly next time.

Cool dragons, shitty surface lot.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

99 Years Ago In Philadelphia- Third Week of April, 1915

 Every few weeks, I will let you know about Philadelphia's biggest news stories from 99 years ago. Check it out!

 Fuck President Taft, We're Sending the Liberty Bell to San Fran

"Fuck this guy" -City Council
             So San Fransisco was about to put on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and asked Philadelphia if they would lend the Liberty Bell for the event. Back then, that meant strapping the bell to a train car and letting it clackity-clack across the country, bouncing all over the place, possibly exposed to a shit-ton of different weather conditions. On top of that, there were bandits, Indians, rock-slides, easily-collapsible rail bridges, you name it. A whole lot of shit could have gone wrong.
            Ex-President Taft wrote City Council a letter, recommending that maybe they shouldn't send this national treasure over to San Fransisco until they assess all the risks. Council, after agreeing to the loan in a 12-person committee, included Mayor Blankenburg in on the final argument in the chamber. The Council and the mayor unanimously agreed to say a big "Fuck You" to the ex-President and send the bell over to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It went just fine.

"Fuck You, President Taft!"- Philadelphia and San Fransisco, in unison


Surprise, Surprise... Philadelphia Schools are Shit 

The Rudolph Walton School, one of the school buildings in use at the time.
                        The third week of April, 1915 was Schoolmen's Week at the University of Pennsylvania. Teachers from all over the city (and some from New Jersey) got together to discuss the state of Philadelphia Schools. The verdict: they SUCK. Why? They teach History. This, according to J. L Barnard of the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy, was obsolete. H.W. Foght of the U.S. Bureau of Education backed him up, citing an example of how a group of students honored for being best at memorizing the U.S. Constitution (memorizing the WHOLE THING was required in Philly Schools at the time) ended up becoming criminals later in life (counterfeiters). They urged that Civics should be taught instead.
                The other big problem Philly schools had was teacher qualification. The delegation agreed that teachers in the city should have at least 3 years of high school and one year of Normal School. This kind of discussion would continue decade after decade until today, when the teachers at one of the worst performing school districts in America rock Master's Degrees and permanent state certifications. Go figure. At least they still teach History.


Better Late Than Never: Passyunk Avenue Bridge Dedicated, Five Years After Being Built

The bridge when it was first built, 5 years before it opened. Image from PhillHistory.org, a project of the Department of Records.
             18 Years of dirty dealings and political in-fighting finally came to fruition with the dedication of the Passyunk Avenue Bridge, a month after it opened to traffic and fully five years after it was built. The ceremony included a banquet at the Point Breeze office of the United Gas Improvement Company attended by Mayor Blankenburg, the city's U.S. Representatives, and a bunch of other important motherfuckers.
            The party then moved over to the bridge, where a bunch of schoolchildren sang some corny songs. The Mayor then declared the $800,000 double-leaf bascule bridge as city property, and announced hopes that the overcrowded western part of South Philadelphia would expand over the bridge into Southwest Philadelphia. We all know how that turned out (garbage dumps, gaslands, car dealerships). The new bridge would last until 1983, when the current bridge/shitty highway-style overpass was built.



More Deadly Than Tigers or Snakes!! Stop Calling Them "House Flies", Call them "Typhoid Flies!"

Actual comic from the April 20th, 1915 edition of the Evening Ledger
               Apparently the common House Fly was a horrible menace in 1915. When April of that year rolled around, the city's Bureau of Municipal Research started putting out warnings all over the place to warn people that the House Fly was going to fuck your shit up and give you Typhoid Fever!
             Typhoid is a pretty shitty sickness to get, especially in 1915. It starts off feeling like you have a mild flu but soon turns you into a delerious, high-fever-having, endless diarrhea machine with red spots all over your chest. Then, after a couple of weeks, it starts fucking up your gastrointestinal system to the point where your other internal organs get fucked. Then, after a month, it all goes away... if you didn't die.
           The Bureau of Municipal Research's best advice about Typhoid was to not only kill flies, but to literally clean your shit up. Shit in drinking water was the most common way that Typhoid spread back then. They recommended thoroughly covering your manure pile (because that was something you had to think about back then), putting the lid on your trash can, making sure all the sewage you produce gets more than 250 yards from your house, and not drinking water with shit in it, obviously.
           Today, no one gives a second thought to Typhoid or House Flies. Typhoid vaccines were already around in 1915, so nowadays, they're everywhere. Also, the chlorination of drinking water pretty much wiped it out in developed countries. Though there are still outbreaks every so often, only about 5 in a million cases are reported in America per year. If you go back in time, don't drink the water.

Pictured: KILLER!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fill this Front: Dinette

1025 Chestnut


               As far as chronically empty storefronts in Center City go, this dirty motherfucker really takes the cake. Whoever is responsible for getting this storefront filled has failed miserably, and that fail goes back at least 15 fucking years. What's worse is that the space isn't even available for lease, so even if you want it, YOU CAN'T FUCKING HAVE IT!! Want to add more insult to injury? Think about what used to stand in this location. What a sad fate this spot has become... what a bummer.
              I've told you about this location before back in the day when I trashed the old mid-century Mercantile Library, whose ugly fucking over-kissed ass just went up for sale AGAIN. This location was once home to the original campus of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later became home to a kick ass theater, and then a kick ass Opera House. Let me put it to you like this:

1809
1861

1880s
1930s or so
             OK? Now do you understand why a shitbag empty storefront under an ugly parking garage in this location pisses me off? To be fair, the first-ever tenant of this shitty retail space in the 1950s actually made it look pretty good. It was an 142-seat Horn & Hardart.

The storefront in 1959. Image from PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records
             As an H & H, the spot did very well, outlasting the vast majority of the other locations of the chain. This particular Horn & Hardart was among the last seven stores of the Philadelphia version of the company and closed in early 1982. In 1969, the space was split into two storefronts.
             After H & H was gone, Rite Aid #1310 moved in. They severely altered the space, moving the wall between the two storefronts so that the whole space could hold both a Rite Aid location and an optometrist/glasses store under their Sterling brand. Then they put up that shitty vertical brickwork, eliminating the giant glass wall that was once there. The Rite Aid stuck around until the early 1990s.


Yes, someone actually had to draw a rendering of the shitty new 1982-83 facade.
             I'm gonna need the help of some old heads on the rest of the history here, because after the Rite Aid, I've been hard-pressed to find any other tenant that's been in this space. I can't even find record of this "Dinette" place. Is it just one of those shitty placeholder signs? I'm told that there was a cheap furniture store in the smaller storefront on the right.
             Well, since at least 1999, this place has been empty as fuck. Until recently, you could see inside the windows and check out the barren 9,500 square feet of space for yourself. When going to photograph the place for y'all, I was surprised to find that the store's windows have finally been covered and the front door of the larger space sealed. This Google Streetview shot will show you what it used to look like:


               Before this, it didn't even have the metal gates on the left down. Here's a tiny picture of it from an old retail listing from the early days of the internet:

Like wearing someone else's glasses.
               Hmm-- it looks like there used to be more to that Dinette sign. Oh well, this ugly motherfucker has been empty for a long fucking time. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has owned this parking garage since it was built... they are the ones that control this mega-empty storefront. Since they've finally gotten into restoring shitty parking garages, maybe they'll be putting this one back up for lease some time soon (Actually, at the end of this Inga article, they say that this parking garage is next up for a makeover) Hopefully the papering-up of the windows is an indication that this space will fill back up again in the near future.
             Now, you should know that this retail space has some shit working against it that may stop a potential tenant. According to an L & I Violation issued this last February 20th, the party wall between it and the old Mercantile Library Building is fractured and deemed unsafe. The case is still open and being appealed by the owners of the Mercantile Library, so we'll see what happens with that.
           Either way, PPA, get working on this shit so we can FILL THIS FRONT!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Old-Ass Building: De La Salle In Towne

25 South Van Pelt Street

           
Photo by Brad Maule
                    You didn't know about this Center City building, did you? Well now you will. Check out my write-up about it at the Hidden City Daily!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

GroJLartitorial: 5 Ways To Help Save the Great Wall of Pennsylvania (PA Convention Center)

In a massive cosmic co-incidence, this is both officially the third anniversary of Philaphilia AND my 500th writing! To mark this occasion, I bring you the first GroJLartitorial, where every few weeks I will give you my own low-integrity, grossly un-informed opinions about shit going on in Philadelphia. Enjoy! 

 
               After reading Legendary Philaphile Brad Maule's recent article about the abject, butt-blastingly horrible failure of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Expansion, I was immediately thrown into a fit of rage. Why did it all have to happen this way? I was pretty fucking excited about the expansion when it was first announced. It was going to eliminate some embarrassing decades-old empty lots, bring new economic growth to the city, enliven a dead part of North Broad Street, and show a new face of the city to the rest of the world!
              What did we get? Disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. Trash. A giant empty wall of fuck that hasn't done shit since it was built. Thanks, Nutter. Thanks, Rendell. Thanks, everyone else responsible that could have done something to halt the steady string of failures and dumbassery that lead to this fucking brand new empty building that I paid for. Thanks for wasting my money. Again.
              I am aware that the Convention Center has plenty of difficult-to-control-shit working against it. They've got six (6) entrenched obsolete dirtbag unions that make it a terrible experience to hold an event there. There's multiple methadone clinics, halfways houses, drug rehab places, and mental facilities within a two block radius. They're next to PREIT's failure of a Gallery at Market East. I get it, there are problems. That doesn't mean the Convention Center can't be the solution!
              Well, your old pal GroJLart is here is save you, shitty convention center. I, with my singular average-IQ'd brain, have come up with 5 ideas that will help save it. I had 6 originally, but one, which was to privatize the fuck out of the place, is already being attempted. That idea is in motion now that private management firm SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management has taken the helm as of December 1st, 2013. Perhaps they will have the nutsack capable of undoing the damage the Board of Directors (which mostly consists of a whole bunch of well-connected people with multiple full-time jobs that have almost nothing to do with running a convention center who have plenty of other shit on their minds besides a successful convention center) have done lo these many years. Sure, all the following ideas would cost millions of dollars, but you've already thrown $700 million of MY FUCKING MONEY in the goddamn toilet with the Expansion, might as well go for a few hundred million more.

1) Turn the Convention Center Expansion into a Casino

Just a shitty conceptual rendering hastily drawn over a photo from VITETTA
                Think about it.  The state is already forcing an unwanted second casino down our throats. How about instead of wasting time, energy, money, and a neighborhood on a second casino, we put it right here!?! A big empty building already paid for by the state on a block that doesn't have shit going on with it anyway, attached to the convention center and right off of 676! Its kinda between the Provence and Market 8 proposals, after all. The fucker is already built and just sitting there--thousands of square feet of perfectly good gambling floor doing nothing. Put it to good use!
              You can call it CasinoJLart. After all, there's a potential hotel space attached to the property! Speaking of which--

2) Buy 101 North Broad and Sell It To A Developer That Can Actually Finish Something

               A couple of years ago, Berwyn-based developer Realan Properties built that shitty Convention Center parking garage (that is incapable of filling its storefronts) and also purchased 101 North Broad Street, one of the only old buildings to escape the Convention Center Expansion's path of destruction. The whole justification for that ugly fucking garage was that it would support the new hotel they intended to install into 101 North Broad Street. They even got $2 million from Rendell's farewell cronyism gifting spree. A shitload of excitement was generated on what was to be an Aloft Hotel in a decades-vacant but beautiful building.
             Oh look-- its three years later and 101 North Broad is still an empty pile of shit. We shouldn't be surprised, of course. The same developer proposed the Philadelphia Gateway Center in 1988 and all they got done for that was the parking garage as well. They still have the balls to list it as an active proposal on their website!
            Getting 101 North Broad into use would add shitloads of density to a dead-ass block. Perhaps it would even convince the folks at the PA Convention Center to open one of its many Broad Street facing doors! Call it the GroJLart Hotel.

3) Turn the Expansion into an "Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art"

               Remember the mind-numbingly dumb idea to grossly misuse Eminent Domain to turn the mighty Divine Lorraine into an "Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art" that was proposed by a bunch of idiots that don't know shit about the Lorraine (or art)? That head-banging-against-the-wall, asinine-as-fuck idea would actually be a pretty good one when applied to the Convention Center Expansion. Lots and lots and lots of space available that can be divided up into galleries/classrooms/studio spaces/other bullshit required for such a venture. Instead of fucking with Willis G. Hale, who ain't nuthin' to fuck with, they could fuck with this, which simply ain't nuthin'!
              On top of that, its right across the street from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts! Finally, more arts will come to this stretch of Broad Street for the first time since 1876. They could even move Oldenburg's horrendous paint brush and poop pile in there, as part of the Monument to Dumbass Ideas that would have to be included into this project. 
             Call it the GroJLart Center for Contemporary Art.

4) Make that Big Fucking Roof into a Big Fucking Green Roof Attached to the Reading Viaduct Park

My crappy rendering of a Convention Center Green Roof is already superior to the existing roof. Aerial from Google.
              I'm not the only one that has thought of this (Brad Maule mentioned it from the beginning), but I may be the only one who has thought of connecting it to the future Reading Viaduct Park. This thing is by far the most costly of my ideas but it has the most potential for a big turnaround, in my grossly un-informed opinion. By my extremely rough calculations, you can fit about 13 or 14 acres of park on that big-ass roof. 
              How will this help the Convention Center? Because it will help everyone involved. It will be a new tourist attraction for the city. It will provide a cool gimmick for potential convention bookings. It will connect to a park that has already generated a lot of buzz despite being years away from completion.
             It would be like Independence Mall, but WAAAAY better. There won't be streets full of cars barreling through it. There will be a great view of the skyline. It could be used as event/concert space. It would almost replace the Convention Center as the main attraction of the neighborhood. Think of all the development it would spawn. 
            Call it GroJLart Park. 

The view from the top according to Google Earf. Tell me this wouldn't be the shit!!
Finally,

 5) KNOCK THE WHOLE FUCKING THING DOWN

              Why not? Our money is already wasted. Doesn't anyone remember the Chinese Wall? We got rid of that giant motherfucker because it was taking up absolutely perfect real estate while doing absolutely fucking nothing. It also separated whole parts of the city despite having pass-throughs at every street, just like the Convention Center does today. Just call it quits now before the PA Convention Center fully becomes the next Chinese Wall. Then, like what happened 60 years ago, all that valuable land could be sold bit by bit and a new Commercial Business District could be born.
              We could put this whole Convention Center thing behind us and maybe even get some of that wasted taxpayer money back. Conventions aren't even cool anymore and this particular convention center can't even book simple shit like Star Trek Conventions, the Philadelphia ones of which are done in Cherry Fucking Hill because the company that runs them won't touch the PA Convention Center with a 10-foot-pole. 

 6) All of the above

              Ok, I lied, I have 6 ideas. This one is to take all the suggestions I just wrote and do all of them at once. I'd be willing to bet that all 5 of my ideas put together would still cost less than the Convention Center Expansion. Do my ideas seems stupid to you? Too outlandish? Impossible? Well, I'm sure those arguments can be made. However-- at least I'm fucking trying. The goddamn Convention Center Expansion is a failure that cost all of us a lot of money. Let's get the ball rolling on salvaging some kind of use out of that unnecessary pile of shit.