All things related to Philadelphia2035, our city's Comprehensive Plan

Investing in the Northeast Corridor

Philly features quite prominently in this recent report about the importance of a high-performance Northeast Corridor to our region and entire country.

Philly features quite prominently in this recent report about the importance of a high-performance Northeast Corridor to our region and entire country.

Given how much goes on in the world of Philadelphia planning and politics every day, we’ll be the first to forgive you if your current events knowledge is more or less hyper-local. Just keeping track of a single neighborhood’s ups and downs can be a full-time job. But as is the case with many things in this world, decisions lying outside of our daily lives (geographically or politically speaking) impact Philadelphia every day.

This recent report from the Northeast Corridor Commission makes a clear case for sustainable, predictable (and augmented) funding of the workhorse of the Amtrak system. With clean graphics and plain language, it lays out many things Philadelphians might take for granted and already know in intuitive, less specific terms:

- a LOT of people use the corridor to move each day (750,000)

- the “NEC region”, aka the megalopolis stretching from the Boston area to the District of Columbia contains four of the ten largest US metro areas and has a GDP larger than the entire country of France (a rather astounding $3 trillion, or 20% of our country’s entire GDP)

- Within walking distance of the ten largest NEC stations, 100 million square feet of development already exists. As recent announcements have indicated locally and elsewhere, these stations are powerful magnets for investment, as millions of additional square feet are being planned, designed, and constructed to take advantage of the unique connectivity of goods, services, talent, and ideas fostered through this region by the rail spine.

The report drives home an important point: it’s hard to plan for the future when the federal government has not been in the habit of prioritizing and securing long-term funding for maintenance, improvements, or overhauls (SEPTA riders can relate). Similar to our rail infrastructure – much of which, it should be noted, shares physical assets with Amtrak – intercity rail needs more reliable funding to address fundamental state of good repair needs. Catching up on these crucial investments, and then staying ahead of them in the future, is a more pressing matter than the more audacious plans to replace our currents service with 220mph, or “real”, high speed rail. We can’t afford to let our current levels of service diminish, nor can we afford to sacrifice safety and reliability.

Moreover – and here’s the part no one ever thinks about – a lack of investment in the NEC isn’t just a problem for those reliant on trains; the ripple effects will be felt in the skies and on highways, driving costs up by the billions as those infrastructure systems struggle to keep up and accommodate would-be rail riders. Conversely, sustained investments would start the dollars rolling in the opposite direction, with tremendous savings to be reaped by the aviation and highway systems if we could actually make improvements to the frequency, capacity, and travel times on the Northeast Corridor.

Click the picture up top for the full report. In the best and worst scenarios, and anywhere in the middle, Philadelphia stands to gain or lose quite a lot.


We’re back!

Hi, all and Happy  Monday!  We apologize for not posting last week, but building elevator issues and the Easter Holiday kept us away.  Although our office wasn’t open, a lot happened last week, so here’s a recap.

1) On Tuesday, we had our first public meeting for the Lower Northwest District Plan.  Despite the terrible weather, we had a fantastic turnout.  Everyone who came was excited about planning for their area and gave us great input that we will use as we start the plan.  Check out these articles from Newsworks and Montgomery Media. Thanks to all who came and hope you come to the next meeting in June.  We’ll keep you posted on the date and location.

Our pop-up gallery at the corner of Paul and Frankford.

Our pop-up gallery at the corner of Paul and Frankford.

2) The opening of our pop-up gallery with Destination Frankford was a huge success!  The band was great and the crowd loved the food trucks.The unique artwork, by the Dumpster Divers, in the gallery is amazing and some pieces have already sold! This is the first of three exhibits through the end of July.  Watch for details on the next street fairs to celebrate the openings of exhibits two and three!


3) The 8th semester for our Citizen’s Planning Institute is well underway with two of the three core classes already done.  We have a very enthusiastic class of 30, who represent a wide variety of neighborhoods and backgrounds.

4) On Tuesday, our Executive Director, Gary Jastrzab, received the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.  Each year, the state honors individuals or organizations who provide innovative ideas in government. Congratulations, Gary!

5) We also are happy to announce that we have two new planners who have joined our staff.  Ashley (Ash) Richards will be the planner for the North District and Nicole Ozdemir will be the planner for the South and Lower South Districts.  They are eager to hit the ground running and get to know their areas.

Urban Creeks and Streams

Darby Creek

Darby Creek with newly terraced banks to mitigate flooding.

We all know of the three rivers that help shape Philadelphia (Delaware, Schuylkill and Wissahickon), but supporting these river systems are large creeks and streams, contributing to the tremendous watershed resources in the region. Creeks which fall within the city limits have suffered ecologically for centuries. The earliest settlements used the rivers and creek as water power and water resources for manufacturing and processing raw materials. Early industries included leather finishing, paper making, iron, steel and fiber processing. The need for local transportation and transport of goods created added pressure on the river and creek systems.  Canals boats and ships of all types were used in river trade along with the petro chemicals and wastes generated as a result.

Historically, public policy was geared toward viewing the creeks as a nuisance to be controlled or a waste conduit. Flooding was tamed through the use of pipe, dams and walls, which created excessive run-off problems downstream. Constrained stream banks can cause water to flow more swiftly when the volume is increased during a rain event. The increased velocity erodes the natural stream bank more quickly, adding excessive silt and transporting debris and soils into sensitive estuaries. Impervious surfaces which contribute to the large volume of run off during storm events add to the erosion problems. Sewage and chemical waste, once commonly directed to creeks and rivers, has mostly been mitigated as a result of the Clean Water Act. However, the ecosystems which supplied local fish and food were disrupted long ago by the constant barrage of urban waste and excessive water.

A map of the streams and creeks that run through Philadelphia.  Source: PWD

A map of the streams and creeks that historically ran through Philadelphia. Source: PWD

The red lines are channelized streams and creeks.  Source: PWD

The red lines are channelized streams and creeks. Source: PWD

















Now public policy has, over the last several decades, worked to correct the damages of the past. Small interventions include: reduction of impervious surfaces, green roofs, vegetative replanting especially trees, buffer zones between areas of development and sensitive waterways continue to increase the health of our creeks and rivers. Even small steps by home owners such as rain barrels and rain gardens reduce the amount of run-off flowing into storm drains during storms. Other more intensive measures are being undertaken by both state and local government to try and restore health to our river systems.

An example is the Darby Creek. MORE

Spotlight on a District – Destination Frankford

Rendering of our upcoming Pop-up Gallery

Rendering of our upcoming Pop-up Gallery


Destination Frankford is an example of how the Planning Commission is aggressively implementing district plans and expanding its role in revitalizing Philadelphia neighborhoods. The idea for this project came from the Frankford Gateway Focus Area in the Lower Northeast District Plan. It’s a great example of tactical urbanism. PCPC, along with a number of local partners including the Frankford Community Development Corporation and Globe Development Group, is investing in targeted, small scale projects designed to attract further funding and investment. So what is Destination Frankford?

Destination Frankford is an arts-based initiative using creative placemaking to enhance and expand the resources of the Frankford’s growing arts, artisanal industry, and creative business economy.

Tactical urbanism is self-explanatory (think pedestrian plazas, pop-up gardens, storefront improvement projects, etc). So what is creative placemaking? According to ArtPlace America (Destination Frankford’s main funding source), successful creative placemaking places artists and art at the center of planning, execution and activity; leverages the creative potential already present in a place; creates opportunities for people of all income levels and backgrounds to thrive in place; supports economic diversity in the community; creates interesting places that capitalize on distinctiveness; creates a place where people want to go and linger; contributes to a mix of uses and people; fosters connections among people and across cultures; encourages pedestrian activity; creates a place where business wants to be; and convinces people that a place can have a different and better future.

That’s a long definition! You may be asking yourself how exactly Destination Frankford will accomplish all of this in 18 months? Three ways, mainly:

Designs for the sculpture and signage are still in progress, but the Destination Frankford Gallery opens on Saturday, April 19th at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Paul Street.

Located near the Margaret-Orthodox Market-Frankford El stop, the gallery will host “Reclaim, Rediscover, Reanimate” from April 19 – June 28, 2014. Local artists will exhibit their work and the community will gain an opportunity to view contemporary art. Three separate exhibitions will each focus on one part of the theme.

“Reclaim” will include twenty-one members of Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers, “Rediscover” will involve seven local photographers, and “Reanimate” will present sculptures from members of Philadelphia Sculptors.

On Saturday, April 19th, we are kicking it off with a block party featuring live music, food trucks, and a local crafts market.

In the meantime, we are hard at work renovating 4667 Paul Street and the adjacent lot for the Art Gallery and a new park to be designed by the Community Design Collaborative and developed by the Frankford Community Development Corporation. Check out these before and after photos:


Before: the raw space

Before: the raw space

During construction: With help from the folks at Globe Dye Works

During construction: With help from the folks at Globe Dye Works














Keep up to date with all things Destination Frankford on our awesome website designed by Frankford’s own Nimblelight.

Destination Frankford is supported by a grant from ArtPlace America, a collaboration of leading national and regional foundations, banks and federal agencies accelerating creative placemaking across the US.

Fun Friday: The Sounds of Philadelphia



Earlier this week the Library of Congress American Memory program announced the 25 sound recordings that they will preserve with special archival efforts this year.  Each year, the Library chooses what they deem as sound recordings that reflect the history and culture of America for these special preservation efforts, over and above their usual cataloging and storage.

That got us wondering – if we had to pick sounds that reflected the history and culture of Philadelphia, what would you choose?  All cities have the usual noises of sirens, construction cranes, cab horns and the hustle & bustle of street life, but what sounds make Philadelphia unique?

Some of the ideas that we thought of: The roar of the crowd at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies get a home run.  The magnificent organ at Macy’s being played as we shop in the grand atrium space.  The Mummers string bands strolling down Broad Street on New Years Day.  The ringing of the Rodman Wanamaker Memorial Bell on each hour (many think the bell is in City Hall, but it’s across the street in the PNB building).  The sound of the el going by overhead when we’re walking down Frankford Avenue. The quiet of the woods as we hike through the Wissahickon Valley.

Send us what sounds you wish we could save to show (tell?) the world the uniqueness of Philadelphia.