What’s the connection among a Philly blogger and the demolition of the Washington Ave. Chocolate manufacturing facility?

Among a certain set of Philadelphia urbanists who devour websites inclusive of Hidden City, Naked City, and Property, the paintings of GroJLart have lengthy been required studying. His funny and profane tirades on structure were firstly regarded on his blog, Phila Phila, in which he assailed floor parking plenty with an arsenal of f-bombs, s-bombs, and different diverse bombs even as celebrating antique homes with an equally salty spray of adjectives. Even after the self-described “foulmouthed blogger” migrated to mainstream publications and toned down his language, best a handful of people knew his actual call.

For the file, it is Dennis Carlisle. It is now clear that journalism and public discourse in Philadelphia could have been better served if he were transparent approximately his identity and his forays into real estate. Since taking a job in January with developer Ori Feibush, Carlisle has labored behind the curtain to facilitate the demolition of the Frankford Chocolate & Candy building, the closing intact Civil War-technology manufacturing facility on Washington Avenue. All the even as, his pseudonymous column, the Shadow Knows, has endured seeming on Hidden City, a reputable internet site based to sell historical preservation.

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Carlisle’s identity (and his circulate to the dark facet) have become public in March, whilst he seemed before the Historical Commission with an unusual request: He desired to withdraw the nomination he had failed to list the chocolate manufacturing unit on the city’s Historical Register, which might have stored it from demolition. Several humans inside the target audience identified him as GroJLart because he had given tours for Hidden City.

Carlisle, who had labored as a schoolteacher until June, used his actual name while filing the nomination on Dec. 12. Even though he were championing “old-ass buildings” in his columns for almost a decade, it becomes the primary time he had proposed one for designation. Two weeks later, Feibush supplied Carlisle with a job as “director of acquisitions and research.” Once Carlisle was in his new function, he instructed me in an interview; Feibush convinced him that the factory turned into past salvage. Carlisle said he sought to withdraw the nomination based on these new statistics to avoid prolonging “an awful situation.”

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Just before Ori Feibush started the demolition of the former Frankford Chocolate & Candy factory, this was the situation of the indoors. Whether or no longer you accept this explanation, Carlisle’s involvement with Feibush — and several other developers, it seems — casts his journalism in a brand new and troubling mild. Was he, without a doubt, an ardent preservationist crusading on behalf of Philadelphia’s historical patrimony? Or did he use his anonymous columns in Hidden City, Property, and City Paper to strengthen other agendas? It does no longer seem he used his column to promote Feibush’s initiatives; however, did he maintain returned on attacking certain initiatives because they worried Feibush or other customers?

Though Carlisle changed into not the handiest Hidden City contributor who had an of doors activity, he was the handiest one to put in writing under a pen call. Whether or not she becomes a grad pupil or a practicing architect, every different Hidden City contributor has been diagnosed as such. Like all people, they’ve biases, but readers can without problems figure out what they may be and examine their credibility. According to a written announcement supplied through Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin, the internet site had no information that Carlisle became moonlighting for developers. It has now canceled his column.

When Carlisle commenced PhilaPhilia in 2009, citizen-run blogs promised to offer legacy media shops like my newspapers, the Inquirer, and Daily News a kick in the pants — a beneficial one, in my opinion. Freed from the albatross of the way of life, they promised to dig into ignored corners of the sector and provide a fresh perspective to readers. Hence Carlisle’s liberal use of profanity. It became his manner of rejecting the repute quo.


Developer Ori Feibush has promised to shop the smokestack and a small portion of the former chocolate factory.
One of the things approximately the fuddy-duddy legacy media is that most nevertheless put in force old skool moral standards. My colleagues and I are strictly prohibited from running for the people we cowl or profiting from our professional relationships. As one editor on the New York Times informed a reporter in 1977, “I don’t care if you fan elephant, simply so long as you don’t cover the circus.” (That reporter, by the way, changed into Laura Foreman, who had formerly worked for the Inquirer and changed into concerned in an infamous affair with the disgraced South Philadelphia political party boss, Buddy Cianfrani.)

But the lines among journalism, government, activism, and business have become even extra blurred in current years. It is tougher and tougher for common readers to vet stories they study on Facebook or the emails that flood their inboxes from various companies. On Fox News, which can be considered a legacy outlet, commentator Sean Hannity has regularly featured legal professional Michael Cohen without revealing their business courting. Fox’s protection is that Hannity isn’t a journalist.


This historic photo indicates how the factory at 2101 Washington Ave. It appeared in 1889 when it became a wallpaper producer. That’s Carlisle’s argument, too. “I never virtually held myself up to the one’s requirements,” he informed me. That announcement, however, is strikingly at odds with an interview he did final yr with the website Philly Curated. “GroJLart belive eves blogging, and journalism have essentially merged,” the item said.

At the time, Carlisle informed me, he had already taken a full-time activity with Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty and had helped dealer the sale of the previous Inquirer Building. Why did Carlisle hold those relationships secret from Hidden City? “I didn’t feel any responsibility to tell them,” he said. “I changed into certain using confidentiality agreements, and I knew they might ask questions about the deals I become operating on.”

Of route, they could. Popkin said Hidden City aspires to maintain the same journalistic requirements because of the legacy media despite its lapse with Carlisle. Yet, out of choice to change on his GroJLart brand, the website persevered to allow him to write underneath a pen name. As David Mindich, the chair of Temple University’s journalism branch, discovered, “The problem with working anonymously is that your existence isn’t always traceable.”

Liz Spikol, who became Carlisle’s editor in 2013 at Property, a Philadelphia Magazine internet site, informed me she turned into stunned when she noticed Carlisle’s name related to Feibush, “I turned into completely bowled over and truly distressed.” So became Popkin, who wrote in his declaration, “We had been betrayed by considered one of our longest-standing writers.”

More important, readers were betrayed.

Carlisle is by no means immediately chargeable for the destruction of the chocolate manufacturing facility, a good-looking brick construction at twenty-first Street that resonates with Philadelphia’s industrial history and that also become listed at the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1865 for one of the city’s maximum essential wallpaper manufacturers, Howell & Bros. Paper Hangings, it ended up a century later as the house of a corporation that made Easter sweet.

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