The Philadelphia2035 project is making its way into East Torresdale.
Actually, the city’s ongoing, long-term civic planning initiative will soon be underway in a host of riverfront neighborhoods in the Northeast, including Wissinoming, Tacony, Mayfair and Holmesburg. Together, those communities comprise the City Planning Commission’s North Delaware District, one of 18 such districts throughout the city.
During the monthly meeting of the East Torresdale Civic Association on Jan. 13, City Planning officials delivered an overview of what residents might expect from Philadelphia2035 in the months and years to come.
The project was one of two key agenda items for the ETCA. The other involved a Philadelphia Water Department proposal to install new sewer lines in a four square-block section of the neighborhood where homes routinely flood.
Community planners Larissa Klevan and Ian Litwin will serve as co-managers of the North Delaware planning process. Klevan identified the slogan of the project as “Thrive, Connect and Renew.” The objectives are to build on the area’s strengths, frame its future and “making it happen,” Klevan said.
The community will have direct input into the planning process through three public meetings, as well as monthly steering committee meetings involving a chosen representative from each of the recognized community organizations in the district. Discussion will consider numerous factors such as economic development, neighborhood continuity, land management, transportation, utilities, open space, environmental resources, historic preservation and public spaces.
Local stakeholders will have opportunities to recommend “focus areas” within the district where significant changes can be made that will have a large positive impact while remaining financially viable.
“These are areas where we can get the biggest bang for the buck,” Klevan said.
On a smaller scale, the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association took part in a similar process in 2010 and ’11. At the time, neighbors, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and city officials were considering various ideas for redevelopment of the former Liddonfield Homes public housing site.
Using the Philadelphia2035 process, the civic group helped develop the Upper Holmesburg Neighborhood Goals and Strategies Report that served as a guideline for the eventual approval of a Liddonfield redevelopment plan. PHA still owns the land, but has agreed to sell it to a developer that will build a satellite campus for Holy Family University there.
There is no specific schedule for the North Delaware meetings. The three public meetings will likely be held at various venues within the district, probably this year. For more information, visit the Phila2035.org Web page.
In the meantime, some residents of East Torresdale will have their own water drainage problems to consider.
According to Joanne Dahme, general manager of public relations for the Philadelphia Water Department, the problem area covers about 42 acres of land near the intersection of State Road and Grant Avenue. The water department began reviewing the area after receiving numerous flooding complaints.
There are more than 50 residences along State Road, Grant Avenue, Milnor Street, Fitler Street and Wissinoming Street, yet there is only one city-owned stormwater main in the area along State Road. Additionally, city sewer mains run along State, Grant and Milnor, but many of the effected homes are not connected to those lines. Those homes use a series of privately owned pipes and mechanisms to dispose of sewage.
The water department distributed a questionnaire to residents, about half of whom responded to the survey. About 10 homeowners reported flooding in their yards, basements or both.
After conducting land surveys and engineering studies, the water department determined that the best solution to the stormwater management problems would be to install new storm and sanitary mains along Grant, Wissinoming and Fitler. The city would pay for the new mains.
However, once installed, residents would be obligated to tie their homes into the new system at their own expense at an average cost of about $12,580 per homeowner. Costs would vary depending on the length of pipe needed for each home.
Dahme explained that the law prevents the city from installing new sewers in any public street where the mains don’t already exist. That is, the water department can repair or replace sewers without public approval, but City Council must pass an ordinance to install a new sewer.
Dahme asked effected residents to develop a consensus on the issue. If they back the water department’s proposal, City Councilman Bobby Henon could then introduce the necessary legislation to enable the project.
Once the water department gets a go-ahead, the project could take several years to complete, including the contracting process and actual construction. ••