Many of you may have noticed that the PCPC adopted a plan last week that focuses on a particular corner of the Central District. For those who haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, here’s a bit of background on how we came to focus on this area and why.
When we talk about the Central District we usually mention the many nationally-known cultural venues, great restaurants, gleaming office towers and vibrant neighborhoods. What usually doesn’t come to mind is industry, when in fact it’s been part of Center City’s history from the start. That’s understandable since many of the industrial powerhouses, like Baldwin Locomotive Works and Packard Car Company, are long gone.
This overhead shot shows the area covered in the plan, color-coded into areas of differing personalities and conditions.
Currently 14% of all land in the Central District is zoned for industrial use; however only 6% is still used for industry – think the Federal Mint on 5th Street or the East Asia Noodle Company in Chinatown or the design/construction companies on Washington Avenue. A large concentration of the industrially zoned land can be found in the former Callowhill Industrial District. This area between Old City and Northern Liberties, stretching from 2nd Street to Broad Street, was envisioned as a 20th century industrial complex to serve Center City, with 19th century industrial buildings at the western end (Hey Eraserhood!) and the superblocks created at the eastern end in the late 1960s. While it was moderately successful as an industrial center in the early years, many other uses have now started to come into the area and the industry has been transitioning out.
To determine the future of this area our office hired URS Corporation (in conjunction with Studio Bryan Hanes, McMahon Associates and BAE Urban Economics) to create a Strategic Plan for the area, which the Planning Commission adopted at its meeting last week. Future zoning, transportation, stormwater management, and overall development were all evaluated and we have some exciting recommendations: READ MORE
Courtesy of PhillyHistory and the Free Library…this is from 1881.
We’re doing a weekly feature spotlighting the Central District Plan and its recommendations as a sort of sneak peek of the draft. The draft of the plan will be released following a February 27th final public open house, and then you’ll have March and April to dig in and provide us with detailed comments.
Today’s topic: City Hall! We’re sick of seeing it from our office window all day long. Tear it down! No, we kid. Really.
It may strike some as odd for a plan for the future to touch on a 112 year old building that took 30 years to construct (see insane picture, above) and the past 10 or so to clean – just on the outside, mind you, and that’s not even an insider joke about government – but City Hall is too important as a civic landmark, as an architectural object, and as a defining component of emerging public spaces to be left alone. Specifically, the draft recommendation is to “Invest in and rehabilitate City Hall to a level that is commensurate with its National Historic Landmark status.”
So what does that mean? The building’s facade has never looked better, its roof has never been more waterproof, and its statues have never been as polished as they are today, but there’s more to be done. The recommendation identifies several investments that would take this building from spectacular to downright mind-blowing. Here are several for your perusal: READ MORE
For today’s entry of planning terms that help populate our alphabet soup – we’re discussing NHLs. You might think we have some news on the lock-out, but, sorry, we’re planners. While you dream of the National Hockey League and Flyers glory, we want to introduce you to another NHL – the National Historic Landmark.
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, object or district that has national significance.
Any resource can be on the National Register of Historic Places if it has local, state or national significance. NHLs are “nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States” as described by the National Park Service.
Independence Hall, an obvious NHL. G. Widman for GPTMC.jpg
Paul Cret obviously did not appreciate City Hall. Image from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
On Thank Goodness Thursdays, we like to revisit previous plans and projects and consider just how lucky Philadelphia is that they did or didn’t happen. Can you imagine Philadelphia without City Hall? Or maybe with just its tower left standing? It sounds a little post-apocalyptic now, but this was a thought championed by Philadelphia’s leadership in the mid-20th century.
After World War I, Central Germantown emerged as a regional shopping district, second only to Center City Philadelphia. This district was anchored at the node of Chelten and Germantown Avenues and included retailers such as JC Penney, Allens, Franklin Simon, and CA Rowell. But beginning in the 1960s, Germantown began to see disinvestment as its population shifted to the suburbs. As businesses followed suit, the Central Germantown Business District experienced decline.
Being that these were the trigger-happy days of Urban Renewal, the City began to concoct plans for radically altering the look and function of Germantown. Enter the Central Germantown bypass:
From the pages of the Northwest District Plan of 1966, it’s the Central Germantown Bypass. You see it labeled above as the Belfield-Rittenhouse Bypass, running from Lincoln Drive to the “North Penn Expressway.” Don’t get us STARTED on the North Penn Expressway. Sheesh.