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Philly's Ugliest New Building Shows the Folly of Public Subsidies

Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron has the knives out for a new hotel built in Center City, calling it the 'worst new architecture' in the city. Worse yet, we all helped pay for such awful design.
August 19, 2013, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"In the heated competition for the worst new architecture in Philadelphia, the sickly yellow, synthetic-covered mid-rise across from the Reading Terminal Market is now the one to beat," writes Saffron. "If the particular ugliness of the new Home2Suites at 12th and Arch Streets seems familiar, it is because this type of flimsy, style-challenged hotel is already a fixture at highway off-ramps across America."

"All this would be bad enough if the developers - Parkway and the Wurzak Hotel Group - had built the hotel entirely on their own dime," she adds. "But as often happens in Philadelphia, this $59 million plastic box was enabled by lavish subsidies from the city, state, and federal governments, including money allocated under the recent stimulus program."

"My beef isn't with the subsidies," she clarifies. "If government grants are necessary to kick-start economic development, fine. But just because you're subsidizing economic development doesn't mean you should be subsidizing poor design.

Writing in Next City, Bill Bradley takes issue with Saffron's "false dichotomy."

"Spurring economic growth and creating jobs is a good thing, but all that cash for what is essentially the Walmart of hotels doesn’t seem terribly fair to the rest of Center City. Where is that money for small local businesses? Or even, say, a boutique hotel like the Ace? Something that won’t deface the fabric of the city’s architecture."

"If anything," he writes, "subsidies should go toward fair economic development and good design." 

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Published on Saturday, August 10, 2013 in
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