Today’s district spotlight focuses on the Lower Northeast District Plan and specifically the plan’s ideas for Castor Avenue. On Tuesday, October 16th, the Lower Northeast District Plan will be presented for adoption at the monthly meeting of the Planning Commission.
We’d like to get your thoughts on what is turning out to be the most controversial (and the only controversial) recommendation in the plan. That controversial recommendation is to change the zoning classification along a 4-block stretch of Castor Avenue in the Oxford Circle neighborhood from a mix of CA-1, CMX-1, and CMX-2 to CMX-2.5 (recommendation # 5). These blocks, from Robbins Street to Unruh Avenue, contain a mix of retail and office uses in one- and two-story buildings. Residential uses above retail stores are few and far between along this stretch of Castor Avenue.
Castor Avenue Existing Conditions
What’s CMX-2.5? Well we’ve covered that in a previous post, but let’s recap. CMX 2.5 is intended to accommodate active, pedestrian-friendly retail and service uses in commercial nodes and along commercial corridors. CMX 2.5 has a zero front-yard setback, a 25-foot building-height minimum, and a building maximum of 55 feet. It also permits a more limited range of uses than CMX-2 by not permitting such things as take-out, utilities and services, vehicle repair and services, gas stations, funeral homes, and storage.
CA-1 and CMX-1, which dominate Castor Avenue zoning now, are low density commercial zoning categories. CA-1 is auto-oriented and does not permit a residential aspect; while CMX-1 can be residential only and does not permit sit-down restaurants, some of the most successful businesses on Castor.
Rendering of Castor Avenue with the uses and dimensions allowed by CMX-2.5 zoning illustrated.
So why do we think CMX 2.5 is the right fit for these four blocks of Castor Avenue? Here are our reasons why we feel this change is appropriate:
Now that the new code is in effect, we’ll be spotlighting the zoning code every week in our “Get in the Zone” series. Today’s Q&A topic: Registered Community Organizations (RCOs)
Q: Am I a RCO?
A: Well, one individual cannot be a Registered Community Organization. But if you’d like to check if your organization is an RCO, there are two places to look. One is on the Planning Commission’s website where we have links to lots of handy RCO documents including a list of all the accepted Local and Issue-Based RCOs.
The other is a map. On the maps page, under “Map Browser” (upper right-hand corner), you can choose from an array of maps including RCOs, zoning, and L&I permits and violations. Take the website’s tour to learn how to use the maps. The “search” button on the upper left will let you search for a specific address. Type in your address to find out if your organization is an RCO or what RCOs cover your property.
You’re probably covered by an RCO or two. Can you name them all?
Ever used Kickstarter? If you read our shout-out to the Logan Parklet – which now EXISTS, by the way – then you’re likely familiar. As you can see from the link, this project received slightly more than it asked for through Kickstarter, which allows individuals to post projects which then receive crowd-sourced funding through the generosity of people like you.
This screenshot shows the interface on Citizinvestor for a Philly-sponsored project.
Citizinvestor is a similar concept, except it’s the municipality (Philly is currently one of three participating) that submit the projects, and then it’s the citizens that indicate their enthusiasm for the project by committing funds. In other words, the projects are identified by various departments as priorities, ones that have likely been deferred or back-burner’ed due to lack of funding. If there’s enough consensus in a given neighborhood that this neglected project is a good idea, then maybe, just maybe, an aggregation of modest donations from individuals can add up to getting shovels in the ground, paint on the road, whatever it might be. What kinds of projects might fit in this category of having the official city stamp of approval? What process can we think of that pulls agencies together to discuss site-specific implementation wishlists? READ MORE
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.
Have you recently walked by a renovated storefront and thought, “wow, that new storefront is amazing! I need to tell my neighbors about it!” Or, “Whoever designed this is a GENIUS!” Or even maybe, “Gosh, I wish I could quit my job and just stare at this store front all day…hmm maybe this business is hiring…”? Or better yet, have you walked through a less familiar part of town, maybe somewhere you go every so often but not all the time, and thought, “Huh, I really don’t remember the corner of x and y looking like this. There’s something different going on here…the streets are still named the same…that gas station is as neon as ever…but man, that building across the street contributes so much to the public realm.”
If you’ve thought these or other more normal thoughts, then NOW’S YOUR CHANCE to nominate an outstanding storefront façade improvement project in the 2012 Storefront Challenge, hosted by The City of Philadelphia Commerce Department and the Community Design Collaborative (some of us planners are on the jury…hehe). All nominations must be received by September 14, 2012. Two weeks, people!
Remember this? It’s hard to imagine that such a fancy corner as 20th and Spruce looked like this just a few short years ago, because now…
…we have this to enjoy! Tall windows that open on 20th Street, clear signage, new awnings (and an impressive craft beer selection inside…just saying). This particular storefront was a winner in 2010.
We are seeking nominations to identify the most distinctive improved storefronts in the city which were completed between October 2010 and this coming September 2012. Nominations should be submitted electronically using this form to storefrontchallenge <at> phila <dot> gov. The winning projects will be showcased at an October 10th event as part of DesignPhiladelphia 2012.The event will highlight businesses that have demonstrated care and uniqueness in how they represent themselves to their customers and the public through their storefronts and will show how good design is good business. This event could mean great exposure for businesses, commercial corridors, neighborhoods, and design professionals.
We know it’s a holiday weekend, but that probably means you called in sick or are sitting on some porch in Avalon, NJ browsing websites, so no excuses about not having time.