Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A new long-range plan for central Northeast Philadelphia

FILE: A woman and her dog walking in Burholme Park. The Fox Chase Cancer Center is pictured in the background. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
FILE: A woman and her dog walking in Burholme Park. The Fox Chase Cancer Center is pictured in the background. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

The Central Northeast section of the city has a new long-range plan focused on improving business districts, making it easier to walk or take public transit, and preserving single-family homes and historic buildings and landmarks.

The Central Northeast includes the neighborhoods of Fox Chase, Burholme, Rhawnhurst, Lexington, Bells Corner, and the northern portions of Lawndale, Upper Northwood and Castor Gardens.

The new plan, recently adopted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, is one of an eventual 18 district-level plans aimed at tailoring the goals of the city-wide comprehensive plan to clusters of geographically near and similar neighborhoods. The plans aim to shape future growth and prioritize public investment. See the full Central Northeast plan here.

The Central Northeast plan is the sixth finished district plan, and the PCPC is expected to soon vote on a seventh for the Lower North section of the city, which includes North Philadelphia, North Central, Norris Square, Olde Kensington, South Kensington, West Kensington, Yorktown, Ludlow, Brewerytown, Green Hills, Cecil B. Moore, Sharswood, Strawberry Mansion.

And district-level planning has begun for the Lower Northwest, which includes Andorra, Shawmont Valley, Upper Roxborough, Roxborough, Manayunk, Wissahickon and East Falls.

The first public meeting for the Lower Northwest has been set for 7 p.m., April 15, at the William Penn Charter School's main building, 3000 Schoolhouse Lane. Planning for the South (Grays Ferry, Whitman, Pennsport, and Point Breeze) and River Wards (Fishtown, East Kensington, Olde Richmond, Port Richmond, Kensington and Bridesburg) districts is expected to begin this fall.

The PCPC had originally slated the North Delaware district for a 2014 start, but the South and River Wards districts jumped ahead due to a high volume of zoning board cases in those neighborhoods. Lots of zoning board trips means two things: Development is happening, and the proposals don't fit the existing zoning.

The months-long process of district planning includes PCPC staff research, meetings between staffers and key community and business stakeholders, and sessions in which district residents are asked what they see as the present and future needs of their neighborhoods, and which of those needs should take priority.

In Central Northeast, planners and residents agreed on three primary focus areas: The area around Cottman and The Boulevard, Fox Chase Town Center and Five Points.

City planner and Central Northeast Plan Manager Michael Thompson told the PCPC at its last meeting that the suggestions for Cottman and The Boulevard and Fox Chase Town Center remain largely the same as in his earlier report. See previous coverage here. But tweaks were made to the Five Points Focus area.

The earlier draft suggested new retail buildings on the south side of Cottman, between Oakley Street and Rising Sun Avenue. The final plan calls for building renovations instead.

The earlier draft suggested adding more parking at SEPTA's Ryers Train Station, behind the current parking lot. The final draft suggests SEPTA explore lease options for additional transit-related parking. “We're not suggesting that it be exactly at this location,” Thompson said.

The earlier draft listed adding more parking to the Fox Chase Train Station as a top priority. It's still a recommendation in the final draft, Thompson said. But now more emphasis is being put on improving bus shelters at the busiest transit hubs.

One district-wide community goal, retaining single-family housing, was given higher priority in the final version. And new language was added calling for more enforcement of rental license regulations and zoning laws that prohibit illegal multi-family conversions.

“This was a very loud-and-clear comment that we heard from the public, and we wanted to change that out and make that a priority recommendation,” Thompson said.

The earlier draft recommended several landmarks be nominated for the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places: Hop Angel, Ott Camera and Fox Chase Farm. The final draft calls for more nominations: District Health Center #10, Engine 71 Fire Station, the World War I Memorial, the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Northeast Branch, the Evangelical Home for the Aged, the Maternity BVM Roman Catholic Church and the Vereeville Houses.

The PCPC vote was unanimous.

PlanPhilly.com  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the William Penn Foundation.

Kellie Patrick Gates PLANPHILLY
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