By Theodore N. Beitchman

Like a lot of Philly sports fans, I had been on the fence about the wisdom of building a football stadium on Temple’s North Philly campus.

On the plus hand, a 35,000-seat stadium on campus is a terrific idea because it would give the Owls’ up-and-coming football program a home. And that would immeasurably help recruiting, which is always a challenge for football and basketball at Temple.

It would also add to the identity that Temple could use at a time when the campus and the school are rising in the rankings of national institutions of higher learning.

On the negative side is the cost — $100 million, which could arguably be better used to fund scholarships, reduce tuition and all the other necessities of a university in the challenging 21st century.

templePresently, the Owls play at the Linc, which is owned one-third each by the city, the state and the Eagles, which manage the facility. And the rental cost — $1 million a year — which is going to go up to $2 million a year when Temple’s lease runs out in 2017 — is outrageous. Especially since the Eagles, owned by trust-funder Jeff Lurie, want to add a $12 million up front fee for a new 30-year lease.

Surely, Lurie could afford to keep the price at $1 million!


But then I picked up last Friday’s Inky and read a screed from its faux architecture critic — architecture critic!!!! — who has come down against the idea.

That was the straw that broke the back of the argument against.

If the predictably car-hating, bike-loving propeller-head Inga Saffron, who somehow won a Pulitzer — another manifestation of the sad decline of the newspaper industry — is against it, I have concluded Temple’s campus stadium must be a good idea.

Because she is never right.

About much of anything having to do with the architecture and city planning of this 334-year-old town.

And she is the major reason the Inquirer is correctly perceived as an anti-business newspaper.

The full litany of her anti-business public utterances is too long to list, but they include these greatest hits:


Cheerleading for the ridiculous imposition of approximately 250 miles of bike lanes in an old city with narrow streets, an aging population which is at risk because of the bikes and their wild-in-the-streets riders; and which makes it that much more difficult for motorists to traverse Center City, which in itself is anti-business;

Opposing virtually every public policy decision that takes into consideration the importance of automobiles and trucks to the economy of the city, especially since she does not own a car;

Reviewing in her column blueprints and plans that developers make public as soon as they are announced, two or three years before construction is completed — a practice unheard of in American newspapering. It’s as if her criticism will somehow make a difference to a builder who has to worry about the bottom line.

In my memory, she has had exactly one victory in this regard: the parking garage for Residences at the Ritz was forced to be built below ground. Not exactly stopping an expressway through Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, which her hero Jane Jacobs did in the 1960s;

Comparing free speech in Philly to that of Russia, where she was posted as a correspondent for the Inky. From an interview I conducted with her in 2005:

“When I came back from Moscow, a place where there was no discussion of aesthetic issues, I was struck by the fact that in Philadelphia there was a similar lack of discussions of aesthetic issues.”

I asked if she really wants to be quoted comparing Moscow and Philly in the context of free speech.

“Absolutely, the level and tone of discourse here reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

In the same interview Saffron discussed Amsterdam, and how she would like Philly to be more like the beautiful capitol of the Netherlands, which has half as many residents and half as much geographic size as Philly — 800,000 bikes for its 800,000 citizens:

“Try as I might I couldn’t find a single asphalt clearing in the whole of Amsterdam’s central city … crazy as it sounds they build bike lanes on every street to make people think bicycles are a better way to commute than cars … all Amsterdam needs to do is … raze every other block. Then it too [like Philly] could have easier parking and fewer tourists …”

Trashed the new Whole Foods at 22nd and Pennsylvania, and also the Dalian condominium which sets on top of it, the construction of which is a poster child for the popularity and growth of Fairmount.

That column engendered the following letter from a neighbor, David Scolnic:

“I was thrilled to read architecture critic Inga Saffron’s review of Rodin Square (“Exterior Afterthought,” Oct. 21). Once again, she validated my opinion of a building, which is to say that she kept up her streak of getting it wrong.

“From my 28th-floor office overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I look at Rodin Square every day, and it’s absolutely delightful. The beautiful, floor-to-ceiling windows have a greenish hue that changes marvelously in the varying light of day and adds a wonderful splash of color to an otherwise drab skyline. Also, the building is nicely articulated, at least from the Parkway. You’d think from the column that the building was a solid slab.”

Saffron occupies the amen corner of “the people” without ever talking to the people who don’t conform to her point of view.

In her Whole Foods piece she quoted no one, though she did subtly take a dig at the developer Neil Rodin (no relation to the artist, after whom Rodin Square is named).

And in her Temple screed she quotes exactly two people and no one who favored the project: Estelle Wilson, who has lived on N. 15th Street since she was a child in the 1940s, and Rev. William B. Moore, pastor of the Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, located on N. 19th Street.

Both objected to the project based on the fact that the plans call for the closing of 15th Street.

“The impact of the closure [of 15th Street] would ripple through the whole city,” Saffron wrote.

That was the same predictable and phony argument made when the city closed Locust Street between 36th and 34th to establish Penn’s popular Locust Walk; when LaSalle closed 20th Street and when Drexel struck several streets to actually create a campus.

Saffron is a talented writer, but a terrible reporter, and she is possessed of a closed mind, which is great if you agree with her but maddening if you don’t.

I make sure to read her stuff for the same reason I read the Daily News’ Will Bunch, who suggested that the entire Penn State University system should be broken up in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011; and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, who was Dan Quayle’s vice presidential chief of staff, which is all you need to know about his judgment.

They are always wrong, which in Saffron’s case, would be bad enough. But she is also as thin-skinned as Donald Trump. If you criticize her she lets loose on you in a blog or tweet that often focuses on the messenger and not the message. Just like Trump!

So come at me again, Inga.

You are dead wrong about the Temple football stadium and you can’t take even a modicum of the heat you spew in your woeful column.










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