We had another great crowd – not sure of exact count but i’m guessing 120ish? – at our second University Southwest District Plan meeting last night, which took place at Kingsessing Recreation Center. We dove right into activities around the plan’s highest priority draft recommendations, which at this point include:
Drafting an RFP for scattered site housing development in Kingsessing where the city owns multiple parcels
Mapping TOD Overlays to areas around several MFL stations
Protecting the single family character of some neighborhoods through zoning remapping
A buffered bike-lane on Chestnut to match the one on Walnut from the Schuylkill to Cobbs Creek
A road diet for the underutilized portion of 38th Street connecting Powelton Village into Penn’s campus
A strategic plan for the revitalization of Mt. Moriah Cemetery
A public boat launch at 49th and Botanical in conjunction with planned trails north of Bartram’s Garden
Lots going on in this district! We’d appreciate your feedback on any and all of these ideas as we work to finalize recommendations and prioritize implementation activities. Really. Email us. Facebook us. Tweet us. We love this.
As for last night’s crowd, they had the chance to speak with PCPC staff at multiple stations where they could cast their votes in
stone sticker on boards such as these:
It became clear that improving transit service is a complicated issue, particularly in areas with large populations of seniors. On the one hand, the best service is that which is most convenient to these populations (in other words, shortest distance). On the other hand, there’s others out there that avoid buses in favor of other modes because they don’t make it across town fast enough. Same goes for trolleys. The solution, of course, will lie in making targeted recommendations that retain a high frequency of stops in areas where they’re most needed, but allow for consolidation or re-locating of stops in places where we can stand to make some real improvements in terms of travel times.
On the issue of housing – specifically the question of where best to concentrate apartment buildings and other multifamily options – we saw a wider range of opinions. Some felt that mixing these in to otherwise single-family areas is just fine, whereas others supported zoning changes and other steps to encourage these housing types only along commercial corridors or near transit stations that can better absorb and manage the density.
On this particular board, you see there’s quite a few folks who landed squarely in the middle. It will be interesting to tally the totals from all of the different stations in the coming days and see where we stand. As with the transit, there’s no blanket solution. We are aware of opportunities within USW to upzone for greater density (and therefore viability) along emerging commercial corridors, and we already proposed TOD overlays to permit additional height and/or lower parking requirements around certain stations. But then there are more residential areas where some blocks might want to retain a single family character more than others.
Another activity involved putting one’s money where one’s mouth was…theoretically speaking, of course. Equipped with a $1, $5, and $10 bill in play money, folks could use these to indicate their interest in pursuing certain projects or policy changes currently proposed in the plan.
This is one of several boards where participants placed bills in envelopes according to their preferences. On this particular board, we see the ghostly shadow of an empty money envelope for the Chestnut Street bike lane, and lots of $10s under the scattered housing development idea for Kingsessing. This is not unexpected in a district that covers so many neighborhoods with varying challenges. Those in attendance from Kingsessing are likely to know firsthand the problems stemming from the vacant parcels that would be redeveloped through the RFP, whereas those who commute to Center City might be eager for a safer, cost-effective travel option moving from west to east.
It remains to be seen what will rise to the top, but these exercises are a good reminder of the complex and layered opportunities and needs of the city. Zooming out to the district scale means that some recommendations will affect one neighborhood while having a negligible or non-existent impact in another. In this example, it’s a question of housing policy and land use up against a matter of traffic engineering, pedestrian safety, and complete streets. Critical issues, all, that involve different pots of money, different stakeholders, and ultimately may end up benefiting different groups of citizens.
Planning is complicated! But that’s why we love it so. In parting, we should mention that PHL2035: The Game will be an opportunity to dig further into questions such as these, and to discuss them with other district stakeholders. So if you haven’t signed up, what are you waiting for, exactly?