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
Believe it or not, neither Philadelphia’s City Council nor our Mayor are omnipotent. As much as it can seem like legislation flies around willy nilly at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do without state authorizing legislation. That phrase means what it sounds like: something has to change at the state level for local governments to be granted the authority to implement certain policies. This is true in Pennsylvania of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs…keep that google doc of acronyms nice and fresh!), as one example. BIDs collect additional assessments to pay for services, and in Pennsylvania they need authorizing legislation to behave that way. This means that groups like Center City District (CCD) function as they do thanks in part to action in Harrisburg.
This morning, two other state-related matters are hot off the presses:
1) Authorizing legislation for Land Banks: The Citywide Vision discusses a land bank as one strategy for better managing and disposing of the city’s vacant land. City Council has thought about it but the legislation that’s been introduced at the city level requires the passage of a state bill to hit the books first. In other words, Philadelphia does not have the permission to create a land bank without the state bill, which just passed the Senate yesterday and needs approval from the House as well.
2) City seeking new taxing powers: Pretty much everyone agrees we need to adjust our tax structure to generate more revenue for city services, encourage development, and enable home ownership and business creation. PCPC and other groups support the idea of moving to a system that more smartly taxes our fixed assets (property). This morning, the Inky reports that the Mayor, Council President, AND School District are pursuing several changes in Harrisburg that would enable the city to move forward with AVI, and do so with tools to mitigate some of the potential negative consequences. The legislation also deals with being able to tax commercial property differently than residential, another thing the city is not allowed to do at this time.
We know it’s dry stuff, but the life or death of these bills in that strange city to our west have tremendous impact on policy development and implementation in Philadelphia, and at the end of the day, the bottom line of the city’s budget, the bank accounts of homeowners, and the speed, efficiency, and sense with which we can improve our physical environment.
For those of you who may have already reached the end of the internet during your lunch break, consider these pieces about transportation in (and out of) our fair city:
Atlantic Cities takes a look at High Speed Rail (HSR…the acronyms never cease) and talks to our own Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger (who is now on Twitter, btw: @alangreenberger) about current efforts to revitalize Market East and what HSR would do to amp them up considerably. The administration’s current foci on everyone’s favorite under-performing thoroughfare come from a Strategic Plan for the area completed in 2009. We’re as curious as you are to see when and how The Gallery might start to reinvent itself…stay tuned.
Select Greater Philadelphia and the CEO Council for Growth report findings from a survey asking business and leisure travelers about their most-desired non-stop destinations from PHL (as in, places we don’t yet have non-stop service to/from). Interestingly, Milan and Orange County, CA makes the Top 5 for both business and pleasure. Did not see that one coming. So did Tokyo, but that one we did see coming. The good news? We crossed two of the top five desired domestic leisure destinations, San Antonio and Austin, earlier this week. If you’ve ever wanted to hit up SXSW or tour the Alamo, now’s your chance!
We’re not sure how many of our readers might be one short week away from either sending their children (back) to school or hitting the books themselves, but we’re pretty sure it’s time for a quiz regardless. The district planning process leads to a lot of comparative analysis, as you might imagine, and we thought it might be fun to share some test questions that will leave you feeling that much more informed about our fair city. The quiz topic? DENSITY AND POPULATION!. (You should really click through to the National Geographic article, btw).
Ever been to Seoul? We have, and it’s crazyawesome! It’s also dense as all get-out. If you have time, read about how they took out a downtown highway to improve quality of life, replacing it with a river that reduced the surrounding air temperature by 3.6 degrees celsius! They are not messing around in Seoul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheonggyecheon
The first question deals with the Central District, which you’ll recall stretches approximately from Girard to Washington (with some ups and downs) between the two rivers.
1a) Is the Central District denser now than it was in the Year 2000?
1b) Care to hazard a guess as to how dense it might be (people per square mile)?
1c) Of the following cities/boroughs, which one(s) is/are denser than our Central District? How about Philadelphia in its entirety? Options: Chicago; Boston; San Francisco; Brooklyn (just that borough)
Ready for your answers to the first question? Then click through…
To achieve true planning nerd-dom, there are pretty strenuous requirements regarding public meeting attendance. Even in the dog days of summer, you’ve got a chance to be involved:
TONIGHT: TRAINS! They travel at the speed of
light 220 MPH! They dive hundreds of feet under Market East! They stop at the airport! Is there anything they can’t do??! Today marks a verrrrry early step in what may be a decades-long process to improve rail service throughout the Northeast Corridor, and the most dramatic version of how that might play out involves some pretty game-changing stuff for us here in the 215. it actually starts RIGHT NOW with a presentation at 5:30pm so get going.
Tomorrow @1pm: PCPC’s August meeting! You know we have these every month, right? Major projects, plans, and other bills requiring commission attention are reviewed by the commissioners themselves, with opportunity for public comment. Our place. 18th Floor.
Tomorrow @ 7pm: BIKES! Neighbors get to weigh in on a proposed new bike corral (12 bicycle parking spots replacing an on-street car spot) next to Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown. Folks from this part of town should join the discussion and see what’s up!