NE residents start planning for Philadelphia2035

Phil­adelphi­a2035 is an ef­fort by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion to cre­ate blue­prints for fu­ture phys­ic­al de­vel­op­ment of the city us­ing in­put from the people who know it best — Phil­adelphi­ans. 

  • About 75 people had their say last Thursday when officials from the City Planning Commission hosted the first public meeting for the Philadelphia2035 “Central Northeast District Plan” at Knowlton Mansion. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Analyzing the information: A City Planning Commission chart shows where residents of the Central Northeast District commute to work. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Building a plan: Greg Waldman of the city Commerce Department (center) and Sarah Chiu (center right) help residents Linde Lauff (left) and Brian Shunsky (right), both of Fox Chase, and Nicholas Boccalupo of Burholme plan their communities.. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTOS

One group of North­east Philly res­id­ents re­com­men­ded new ped­es­tri­an bridges span­ning the 12-lane Roosevelt Boulevard. An­oth­er group pro­posed stricter laws against du­plexes and rent­al homes. A third group said that the com­munity needs bet­ter pub­lic trans­port­a­tion and more bi­cycle lanes.

In all, about 75 people had their say last Thursday when of­fi­cials from the City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion hos­ted the first pub­lic meet­ing for the Phil­adelphi­a2035 “Cent­ral North­east Dis­trict Plan” at Know­lton Man­sion. 

Phil­adelphi­a2035 is an ef­fort by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion to cre­ate blue­prints for fu­ture phys­ic­al de­vel­op­ment of the city us­ing dir­ect in­put from the people who will be most af­fected by de­vel­op­ment — the people who live, work and do busi­ness in the city. The Cent­ral North­east is one of 18 dis­tricts across the city where plan­ners have been or will be meet­ing with com­munity stake­hold­ers over the next sev­er­al years to for­mu­late loc­al­ized plans.

The Cent­ral North­east Dis­trict is mostly west of the Boulevard and in­cludes a di­verse mix of neigh­bor­hoods from Lawndale and Castor Gar­dens to the south, Fox Chase and Burholme to the west, Rhawn­hurst and Bell’s Corner to the north and Lex­ing­ton Park to the east.

“It’s every­body’s re­spons­ib­il­ity to take part in the long-term plan,” said Pro­ject Man­ager Mi­chael Thompson, who de­scribed the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion as “the stew­ards of the long-term vis­ion of the City of Phil­adelphia.”

The plan is in­ten­ded to guide cap­it­al in­vest­ment in the pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture, while de­fin­ing de­sired zon­ing des­ig­na­tions for privately held land.

At last week’s event, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion staff split the crowd of meet­ing-go­ers in­to small groups and asked them to identi­fy com­munity as­sets and prob­lems on maps of the dis­trict. Thompson and Dav­id Ort­iz, the pro­ject co-man­ager, sum­mar­ized some telling demo­graph­ic data for the dis­trict.

The pop­u­la­tion of 78,266, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, rep­res­en­ted an 8-per­cent in­crease from 1980. Some sec­tions of the dis­trict grew in pop­u­la­tion by 15 per­cent from 2000 to 2010. Mean­while, the me­di­an age was 38.7 years in 2010 and had de­clined about five years from 1980.

Dis­trict-wide, 22 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is for­eign-born, which is al­most double the city­wide rate. The dis­trict was 67 per­cent white and 11 per­cent Latino, Asi­an or Afric­an-Amer­ic­an in the 2010 census. The dis­trict is con­sidered less di­verse eth­nic­ally than the city as a whole, based on a “di­versity in­dex” used by the city, al­though south­ern areas of the dis­trict had eth­nic di­versity on par or great­er than the city as a whole.

In the dis­trict, the homeown­er­ship rate (61 per­cent) and vehicle own­er­ship rate (84 per­cent of house­holds) are above city­wide av­er­ages, while the poverty rate is about half the city­wide rate of 25 per­cent. Just 12 per­cent of homes in the dis­trict were built pri­or to 1939, com­pared to 40 per­cent for the en­tire city.

Em­ploy­ment-wise, 21 per­cent of res­id­ents travel to Cen­ter City for work, while 15 per­cent go to Mont­gomery County, 8 per­cent to Bucks County and 8 per­cent to the Far North­east. The largest em­ploy­ers in the dis­trict are Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter (2,700), Naz­areth Hos­pit­al (1,200) and Jeanes Hos­pit­al (1,000). There are about 17,500 jobs in the dis­trict.

The land area cov­ers about 4,000 acres, not in­clud­ing city streets. About half of the land has res­id­en­tial uses, with 78 per­cent of the res­id­en­tial land oc­cu­pied by “single-fam­ily” dwell­ings, such as single, twin and row homes. The highest con­cen­tra­tion of rent­al res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties is south of Cottman Av­en­ue between Castor and Bustleton av­en­ues, Thompson said.

Park­land oc­cu­pies 31 per­cent of the dis­trict, with Pennypack Park ac­count­ing for most of that. Oth­er land uses in­clude “com­mer­cial con­sumer” at 5 per­cent, in­dus­tri­al at 2 per­cent and wa­ter (such as creeks and streams) at 1.7 per­cent. Ac­cord­ing to Thompson, the com­mer­cial space has an oc­cu­pancy rate of 86 per­cent. While 500,000 square feet of new com­mer­cial space has been built since 1995, the va­cancy rate has doubled from 7 per­cent to 14 per­cent in that peri­od.

Trans­port­a­tion-wise, about 90,000 vehicles use Roosevelt Boulevard per day, while the Route 70 bus on Cottman Av­en­ue is the dis­trict’s busiest SEPTA bus. SEPTA’s Fox Chase com­muter train also serves the dis­trict. It stops at Ry­ers Sta­tion in Burholme and Fox Chase Sta­tion at Rhawn Street and Rock­well Av­en­ue.

Res­id­ents con­cluded the meet­ing by re­port­ing their con­cerns and re­com­mend­a­tions for the dis­trict. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion will com­pile the re­com­mend­a­tions taken at last week’s meet­ing and present a draft plan to the com­munity this fall. The next pub­lic meet­ing is ex­pec­ted to oc­cur in Septem­ber. A date has not been set. Ac­cord­ing to Ort­iz, the en­tire dis­trict-plan­ning pro­cess takes about 10 months.

Thompson en­cour­aged com­munity mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly those who hold lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions in loc­al civic as­so­ci­ations, to sign up for the com­mis­sion’s Cit­izens Plan­ning In­sti­tute and learn more about com­munity plan­ning prac­tices.

Folks at last week’s pub­lic meet­ing already had some strong opin­ions about what their com­munity should look like.

One of the groups re­por­ted that neigh­bor­hoods need more re­sources for eld­erly par­ents with dis­abled adult chil­dren. Oth­ers said that the gov­ern­ment should be more strict about mon­it­or­ing rent­al prop­er­ties and “ab­sent­ee land­lords.” An­oth­er group pri­or­it­ized the pre­ser­va­tion of “green space” with stronger zon­ing re­stric­tions.

A group of Fox Chase res­id­ents wanted to see more con­tinu­ity in the com­mer­cial zone along Ox­ford Av­en­ue with bet­ter ped­es­tri­an ac­cess to the nearby train sta­tion and more “traffic calm­ing” road con­fig­ur­a­tions to pro­mote safety. Sim­il­arly, a group of Burholme res­id­ents iden­ti­fied the Five Points com­mer­cial area at Ox­ford and Cottman av­en­ues as ripe for im­prove­ment. It’s two blocks from the Ry­ers Sta­tion and could be­ne­fit from bet­ter ped­es­tri­an ac­cess.

One meet­ing-go­er noted that the Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter and Jeanes Hos­pit­al shared cam­pus is the largest em­ploy­ment des­tin­a­tion in the dis­trict, yet the nearest bus stop is four blocks away. Em­ploy­ees, vis­it­ors and even pa­tients must walk res­id­en­tial streets, of­ten at night, to ac­cess the med­ic­al fa­cil­it­ies.

Thompson cau­tioned that the dis­trict plan, once form­ally ad­op­ted later this year, will mean noth­ing without fol­low-up.

“The plan isn’t the res­ult of this ef­fort,” he said. “It’s a blue­print for things that will hap­pen.” ••

For in­form­a­tion about Phil­adelphi­a2035, vis­it phil­ Vis­it cit­izen­s­plan­ningin­sti­ for Cit­izens Plan­ning In­sti­tute in­form­a­tion.

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