Callowhill/Chinatown North Strategic Plan

The future strategic plan of the Callowhill/Chinatown North neighborhoods was adopted last Tuesday by the city planning commission.  The proposed plan will feature 21 new acres of parks and green space, an extension of Noble Street, and a mixture of commercial and industrial development with a dual residential usage.  optimal conditions for developers to offer live work units to people in the creative industries.

Land use and zoning recommendations are the focus of the strategic plan which covers the area between Vine Street Expressway and Spring Garden, 2nd and Broad.  This includes the neighborhoods of Poplar, Callowhill and Chinatown North, as well as the super-blocks bounded by Wood, Spring Garden, 9th and 2nd streets and a section of the Central Delaware waterfront.

 The study area will be included in the Central District Comprehensive Plan, which will eventually be part of the city's comprehensive plan, Phila2035.  The strategic plan recommends 70 acres , or 16 percent of the study-area, be rezoned as a mix industrial/residential district- a new zoning classification that allows for live-work spaces.  Planners also have sights on transforming the vacant Reading Viaduct into a linear park.  Smaller swaths of land near the viaduct are suggested for immediate park usage to serve as access point to the future elevated park.

Other changes include concentrating higher-density, multifamily residential development closer to commercial corridors to maintain a core of single family row-homes in neighborhoods like that of Poplar.  Bike lanes will be doubled within the study area, as well as an additional 1,600 new trees will be planted.

View Strategic Plan Here

Source: PlanPhilly


More Park, Less Way

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway will see a continuation of improvements that will one day transform the grand boulevard into a pedestrian oasis, not only filled with outdoor and cultural activities and spaces, but a well connected, safe thoroughfare fit for leisure strolls, connecting to surrounding neighborhoods and biking.  More Park, Less Way, was unveiled last week by Department of Parks and Recreation and PennPraxis, offering lighter/quicker/cheaper interventions for making the Parkway a more vibrant, lived-in space.

Originally intended as a grand boulevard and civic space adorned with the city's prized cultural institutions and a processional gateway to Fairmount Park, the Parkway's use fell short of it potential at the dawn of the automobile age.  The country became more auto-focused, handing control of the Parkway over to drivers, reflecting the nation's preference towards automobile.

As the city redirects focus on the pedestrian, More Park,Less Way envisions the Parkways as a public space for local residents and tourists rather than simply an eight-lane thoroughfare.  Future plans focus on ensuring the comfort and safety of pedestrian and bicycle movement along and across the Parkway.  A few Planning features have already been implemented along the parkway totaling $19.1 million in 2010.  Those changes included removal of a vehicle travel lane in each direction to build street parking and bike lanes, redevelopment and landscaping at the Rodin Museum, and the complete redesigning of Sister Cities Park.

Future plans include removing the parking from Eakins Oval and turning the area into a flexible, public space, a feature which can be seen as early as Memorial Day. Future goals will be to draw upon the 70,000 Philadelphian's living within a ten minute walk of the Parkway; Capitalize on the large, underutilized open spaces adjacent to neighborhoods; provide reliable and dependable public transportation to and from the Parkway; Provide high-quality and dependable programing, food, conveniences, designed parks; and create a Parkway district funding stream, just to name a few.

Check out the plan Here:


Is Future I-95 Park Worth Federal Funding?

We reported a few weeks ago about the proposed park over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard in Penn's Landing, and proponents have made it very clear as to how important a gesture of this scale is for both connecting the city to the waterfront and also serving as a visual gateway to the waterfront, one that is very much needed.  Large scaled gateways are visual markers for both tourists and citizens alike, just take for example our own Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a powerful procession leading from the City to the Park.  It also seemed like back then, the government had no problem tearing down neighborhoods for the sake of establishing and urban identity for our city.  In this case we are not asking to displace residents, only simply to mask the transportation eyesore that is I-95, and help transform the perception of Philadelphia residents' from thinking of the waterfront as a hard to reach not so desirable urban island to a cultural oasis full of opportunity and possibilities.

In this most recent push for a large scale public works project, the concern is not what existing structures or people need to be displaced or even the actual engineering of the project, It's a money issue.  A problem many of us are all to familiar with.  PennDOT experts say building the eight-acre park over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard from Walnut to Chestnut street would not be an issue for engineers and construction crews.  District 6 Engineer in charge of Design Chuck Davies doesn't think the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation would have much trouble getting a permit to build the structure that would allow people to walk from Front Street to the riverfront or hang out in-between. PlanPhilly reports that, justifying  the expense of transportation dollars for the highway's effect on the waterfront is going to be the central task.  The separation of a city from the waterfront is not commonly recognized as being a problem that requires mitigations.

The other problem with facing the project is fact that the partial cap currently in place still has a few decades of life left before it should need to be replaced, and the federal government will not provide transportation funds to replace the partial cap until needs to be replaced.  It is also not yet know whether or not the existing cap can be incorporated into the design of the new bridge.  The Central Delaware Master Plan calls for a much shorter timeline for the completion of the Penn's Landing project, expecting it to happen within 10 to 15 years, well before the current structure would need replacement. All in all the organizations biggest challenge will be to convince those in charge of federal money that there really is a connectivity problem, regardless of the many existing streets that lead to the waterfront.


Race Street Pump Station Transformation Begins

The new home of Philly Fringe and Philadelphia Live Arts Festival has begun its transformation from a 1903 riverfront pumping station into a 21st Century concert hall.  Resting on the corner of Race and Columbus Boulevard, the facility is conveniently located on the edge of Old City and accessible by public transit, foot, bike, and car.

The goal is to have the  new 240-seat theater, studio and offices complete for the 2013 Fall Fringe Festival (Sept. 6-21).  More amenities to come late Spring of 2014 are an indoor restaurant and bar, outdoor plaza space and further building restoration.  Currently workers are tearing out old pumps and shoring up the brick structure.  They will also be spraying the ceiling with six inches of material designed to both improve acoustics and provide insulation.

The festival will continue to host events in unique spaces around Philadelphia, but having a home-base allows Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe to become a year-round presence in Philadelphia.  This new expansion of the performance season allots for more opportunities for local productions and acts, like the possibility of mixed visual and performance arts installations on the waterfront, along the  pedestrian and bicycle trail, and even in some of the existing strip-malls, says President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio.