Drexel Rail Yard Study & Transit-Oriented Development

Drexel university has big plans for the Most Eastern fringes of University City North of Chestnut Street.  The university also is exploring a possible future neighborhood built over the SEPTA and AMTRAK rail yards near 30th Street Station.  Drexel approached AMTRAK and SEPTA with the idea of doing an engineering and air rights study, which Drexel will pay for.  in addition to the railroads, PennDOT, PIDC, the University of Pennsylvania, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler are involved in the discussions.

University President John Anderson Fry estimates the study will cost between $2 million and $3 million, and take about three years.  Putting some sort of cap over the rail yards could create 80 to 90 acres of development space, he said.

Drexel initiated the rail yard possibility because it is in the construction and planning stages of a list of projects around 30th Street Station, in hopes of transforming the neighborhood into a transit-oriented "Innovation Neighborhood" for education, research, technology and commercial entities.  the university is adding commercial space, a hotel, student housing and classroom space.  it hopes to bring some of the companies its students do cooperative study with into the neighborhood for both student work experiences and joint research.  It is also opening space up to other universities in the city and around the world.  Drexel will act as a Master planner for this project, but will have many other public and private partners.

30th and Chestnut Before


30th and JFK Before


31st and Market Before


Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk

The next leg of the Schuylkill Banks Trail is well on its way.  This portion is the critical 2,000 foot-long boardwalk that will link Locust Street to the South Street bridge.  At the South Street Bridge, a 460-foot, ADA-accessible ramp will bring pedestrians from the river up to the deck of the bridge.  The boardwalk itself will be 15-feet-wide and have four expanded lookout areas for people to pause or lounge mid crossing.

To avoid harming or disturbing trees, SRDC sent a crew out in kayaks to measure the distance between the shore and the reach of the tree canopy.  With that information the design firm for the project, URS Corporation, deigned the boardwalk 50-feet from the shore, out of reach of any overhanging limbs.

The biggest challenge to this project is the extreme high tide of the Schuylkill.  The river's five to six foot high tide impacts the pier caps immediately.  Therefore the contractor must adjust his work schedule to ensure that forming and concrete ours are done during low tide for pier caps.

Currently all the piers are in place for the boardwalk, and half of the pier caps are on.  the beams are in place on five of the total 21 boardwalk spans.  On the ramp portion of the project, all of the beams are in place and the bottom portion of the ramp, where the earthen support wall must be built, is under construction.  The bridge is scheduled to be complete sometime early Fall of 2014.

:Read More at Eyes On the Street:

Eakins Oval Play Park

Philly Parks and Rec are set to unveil next month the newest product for "More Park Less Way" along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  The department released plans for its makeover of Eakins Oval.  The new park will occupy the space in the center of the oval that has most recently served as a parking lot.  This project is part of a long-range plan to make the Parkway more inviting to pedestrians and neighbors.

Designers at LRSLAstudio broke up the park into three major elements; and urban beach, a game area and an outdoor food truck cafe with a portable stage at its end.  The beach will also include sandboxes for children.  The game area features life-size chess and checkers boards with game pieces, a large Twister mat and facilities for bag toss, table tennis and other amenities.  The stage will offer the area as a use to outdoor concerts and performances.


Liberty Square; Kensington's Piazza

Old Kensington will soon get a new mega piazza style development on former industrial zoned land along Germantown Ave. and American Street called "Liberty Square".  Blackstone Development will construct a six-story-high, 277,000 square-foot mixed use development with 247 apartments, commercial and live-work space.  the project will occupy the lot bounded by Thompson Street, Stiles Street, American Street and Germantown Avenue.

The project will also contain a 161-space underground parking garage with bike storage.  there will be street level retail along Germantown Ave, a restaurant and cafe on Stiles Street, live-work spaces along American Street and street level residential along Thompson Street.  the project will also feature an interior plaza with a fountain and dog park, with access to the plaza from the retail spaces along Germantown Avenue.  No worries to Kensington resident, this development in planning does not compare to the Piazza at Schmidt's down the road.  It is much smaller with more of a neighborhood scale, and less amenities.

Liberty Square will be built in three phases over the course of two and a half years with ground breaking some time in the late fall on the parking garage and the Germantown Ave building.


Ridge Flats

The long awaited Ridge Flats in East Falls is moving toward an official city review.  Designed by local green developer Onion Flats, the mixed-use project will sit on the site of the former Rivage Ballroom at Ridge avenue and Calumet Street.  Onion Flats is now partnering on the 146 unit building project with Grasso Holdings and is finalizing financing.

The project could be the country's largest net-zero energy residential development, where energy for nearly all utilities is generated on site and residents have minimal power bills.  Onion flats has presented and discussed its plans four times now before the EFCC and the community, but there will likely be at least one more local meeting and an official vote before a formal city review.  The Ridge Flats plan includes only 9,300 square feet of retail space, which would require about 40 parking spaces for the commercial part alone.  But the overall square footage of the project, at more than 173,000 would technically require 695 parking spots, an unworkable number and far more than would have been required under the city's former "one to one" equation for residential parking.

As the plan stands now, 11 new on-street parking spots will be created, and include 120 on-site spots for residents, along with 62 bike spaces.  The Ridge Flats plan will go before CDR members, which for each application includes a representative of the local registered community organization, at a meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. July 2.


Lower Schuylkill Master Plan

The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation released a plan weeks ago to revive 3,700 acres of Philadelphia's Lower Schuylkill River, and industrial area that has long been home to oil refineries and scrap metal yards.  On May 21, the Philadelphia Planning Commission adopted the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan, which seeks to turn the area into a thriving manufacturing hub.

The plan calls for the creation of three campuses along the river.  An Innovation District, a Logistics Hub, and an Energy Corridor.  In addition, the PIDC envisions 46- acres of green space, including 5 miles of trails extending Schuylkill Banks park and Bartrams Gardens.

The Innovation District located in the northwest portion, will be reserved for education and research related businesses along with artisanal manufacturers.  The University of Pennsylvania's new South Bank Campus, occupying 23-acres of the new district, is already in sync with PIDC's mission for the area and is geared towards academic research and commercial endeavors.  The Logistics Hub, located south of the Innovation District and mostly on the West Banks, will provide space for distribution, warehousing, and manufacturing.  To the east, the Energy Corridor will sustain and build upon its current use as a site for oil refining by attracting additional investment.

Although the plan will develop gradually over time, the PIDC anticipates an economic impact of 463 billion and yield $860 million in private investment.  The University of Pennsylvania has  enlisted the help of local planning firm Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) to sketch out long and short-term objectives for the campus.  Richard King, senior associate at WRT, said that immediate planning will entail improving the street-scape to provide better connectivity between the South Bank campus and the Main campus as well as improving existing structures.

Check Out the Full Master Plan Here!


East Park Reservoir Land Gets Programming

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission recommended a bill Tuesday that would authorize the city to lease a 50 acre property surrounding the East Park West Basin in Strawberry Mansion to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development.  Under the terms of the bill, PAID would then sublease the property for the creation of the East Park LEadership and Conservation, a collaborative project of the National Audubon Society and Outward Bound Philadelphia.

The plan includes the construction of a 17,000 square foot building with classrooms and areas for viewing the more than 200 species of birds that visit the park.  The Center will also include paths and trails that will be publicly accessible Thursday through Sunday in the warm months and Friday through Sunday in the colder months.

More on other City Leased Land at PlanPhilly


58th Street Greenway Opens

The highly anticipated 58th Street Greenway opened last Saturday after three years of planning and more than a year of construction and ongoing community involvement.  The 1.5-mile, 43.5 million trail provides a link between the Cobbs Creek Trail, Bartram's Garden and the trails beyond Southwest Philadelphia.

The greenway is a Pennsylvania Environmental Council project and is one more piece o both The Circuit and the East Coast Greenway trail network puzzles.  The Circuit aims to build and connect 750 bicycle trail miles throughout the Philadelphia region, and the East Coast Greenway is an endeavor to build a continuous 3,000-mile bicycle trail from Maine to Key West Florida.

Cira Center

As construction Progresses at the Grove at Cira Center South, there is still hope for Cira Center II Tower at 30th and JFK. The original concept is a beautiful design that would add tremendous appeal to the Philly and University City skylines.

Roof Top Pool at the Grove

Park atop Parking Garage

Cira Center I and II

Cira Center Development Proposal

38th and Chestnut Apartment Tower

A new apartment tower will rise at 38th and Chestnut Streets, developed by Radnor Property Group.  Radnor Property is purchasing the neighboring properties from the Episcopal Cathedral to build the apartment tower.  The purchase will also provide revenue to renovate the existing church building and fund the church's community programs.

Designed by BLT Architects, the 25 storey building will have 280 rental apartment units with retail at street level along both Chestnut and 38th Streets.  There will be a church community center and school, attached to the original church structure, and a day care center in the basement.  The developer are planning to break ground in September with an anticipate 2015 occupancy date.  The new tower will appeal to University City Science Center workers as well, as Drexel and Penn Students and Center City workers.