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Skyscraper planned for North Broad, State Rep. O’Brien suffers fatal heart attack | Morning Newsletter

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Eric Blumenfeld sits on the roof of the Mural Lofts apartment building, high above the parking lot at Broad and Spring Garden where he is looking to develop an apartment and office tower that would be Philadelphia's tallest building outside its central core.
Eric Blumenfeld sits on the roof of the Mural Lofts apartment building, high above the parking lot at Broad and Spring Garden where he is looking to develop an apartment and office tower that would be Philadelphia's tallest building outside its central core.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

We have sad news from the 175th District this morning, as friends and colleagues mourn the passing of State. Rep. Mike O'Brien. He led the district representing Philly's River Wards for six terms. Turning now to the city he served, we have news today on a huge project planned for North Broad Street. Its scope has changed drastically, and it's now set to alter the feel of the neighborhood. Looking out to the state at large, my colleague Samantha Melamed has checked in on new mail policies at Pennsylvania's state prisons and found families are very distraught by the change one month in.

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— Aubrey Nagle (@aubsn,

The lot beside developer Eric Blumenfeld’s Mural Lofts apartment building on North Broad was going to be a strip mall with a bank and a convenience store.

Now he plans to put an office and apartment tower on the spot — one that would be the city's tallest building outside its central core.

Why the change of tune? Thanks to last year's federal tax cut bill, the property is part of a "Qualified Opportunity Zone." That means investors may get big savings on their taxes.

Early Monday morning, State Rep. Mike O’Brien suffered a fatal heart attack in his Fishtown home. He was 64.

O'Brien had been dealing with health issues for several years. After winning his primary election in May, he announced in July he would not seek a seventh term. His chief of staff, Mary Isaacson, replaced him on the ballot.

His colleagues and friends quickly took to social media to mourn the lifelong Philadelphian, remembering him as a fierce advocate for the city's public schools and for women.

A month ago, the Pennsylvania state prison system implemented a new process for delivering mail to prisoners.

Mail must be sent to a Florida company, scanned, and then digitally forwarded to and printed for prisoners. The originals are stored for surveillance purposes. The Department of Corrections said this and their new controversial policy for handling legal mail are necessary to stop drug smuggling by mail.

But families say it's devastating their connections to incarcerated loved ones, citing missing pages, weekslong delays, and illegible copies.

What you need to know today

  1. Pennsylvania is about to have one of the nation's toughest anti-hazing laws. The state Senate unanimously passed new legislation Monday that Gov. Wolf is expected to sign.

  2. A rare and mysterious polio-like illness is on the rise again in the U.S., and at least half a dozen cases have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The disease seems to ebb and flow on a two-year cycle.

  3. Racial bias among Philly police officers may have helped fuel the arrest of two men at a Center City Starbucks in April, according to a new report from the Police Advisory Commission. It also says officers must be trained better to avoid bias.

  4. Once an American icon, Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid plunging sales and debt. Philadelphians are remembering the old family stores, complete with the smell of soft pretzels, fondly.

  5. Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a diner in Edgewater Park, New Jersey Monday afternoon. It wasn't just the food that brought him in. He was there to stump for Democratic House candidate Andy Kim.

  6. No one likes overpaying for prescriptions, and the state of Pennsylvania may be paying more than it should, too. The auditor general is looking into it, and the inquiry centers on pharmacy benefit managers.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

I'll say it: Philly architecture is the best. It's always full of surprises, right @dkrevolin?

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we'll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

That’s Interesting

  1. Can Facebook tell if you're depressed? New research suggests a user's posts can predict if they are three months before they receive a diagnosis.

  2. Vegan Main Liners, look out: yet another HipCityVeg is coming your way, this time in Villanova.

  3. In case you ever questioned whether it'd be nice to be a pro basketball player, let us remind you that Sixers icon Allen Iverson still gets $800,000 a year from Reebok for his lifetime contract, and the company says it's still very much worth it.

  4. Apologies in advance — you will definitely have "We Are Family" stuck in your head after reading the story behind the hit Philly song, courtesy of music legend Nile Rodgers.

  5. A new Barnes Foundation exhibit called "Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist" is sparking excitement and much consternation. After all, would an exhibit ever be called "Claude Monet: Male Impressionist?"

  6. For more than two decades, a Camden outreach program has helped hundreds of the city's homeless men. Now the program itself is in need of a home.


"If Eric had the money, he would be free until the conclusion of his case — free to work, raise his family, and coordinate with his attorney to fight his case. If he didn't — and he didn't — he would sit behind bars at a county jail until he was acquitted, convicted, or had the charges dropped." — Cal Barnett-Mayotte, a coordinator of Philadelphia Bail Watch, on the daily injustices of the cash bail system.
  1. As the Pennsylvania Senate considers reforms to the state's legal statutes, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro writes that they have a clear choice: stand with victims of clergy abuse or with the Catholic church.

  2. Two weeks ago, the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party accused Central High School teacher Thomas Quinn of "indoctrinating" his students with liberal views. Now Quinn is explaining what really happened: he was helping students register to vote.

What we’re reading

  1. It's election season, so you'll want to keep abreast of all the local drama. Don't miss Billy Penn's recap of a spat over Patty-Pat Kozlowski's candidacy in the 177th district.

  2. The Daily Pennsylvanian is digging into the effects of brain injuries on Penn football players, so they interviewed three who experienced them last season. The serious consequences they describe make for a difficult read.

  3. 'Tis the season to do the time warp again. Philadelphia Weekly caught up with the local shadow cast known for its annual production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to chat about the cult classic.

  4. You might need days to read through The Cut's massive new project on women and power. The first chapter, "Now," is out, well, now and is filled with essays from and about Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, Megyn Kelly, and more.

  5. Are you sitting down? The Washington Post says Space Jam isn't a space movie. But they did create a flowchart to figure out which films are.

Your Daily Dose of | The Process

Ahead of tonight’s Sixers season opener, reporter Keith Pompey caught up with the team’s biggest star, “the Process” himself, Joel Embiid. He says his injuries are behind him.