By Kellie Patrick Gates
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission meeting on April 21 will be wide-ranging, comprehensive and crucial to the imagined and built environment on several fronts.
The Commission is set to consider, and hear testimony concerning two documents that could shape the future of the Delaware Riverfront – the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware and a zoning overlay bill proposed by First District Councilman Frank DiCicco.
The Commission will also review a DiCicco bill that would zone the old Strawbridge’s building as a Commercial Entertainment District – the zoning classification that would allow a casino to operate at that site.
The Civic Vision for the Central Delaware was drawn up by PennPraxis – the clincical arm of the Penn School of Design – after more than a year of public input on what Phiadelphians want for the future of the riverfront from Allegheny to Oregon Avenues.
Planning Commission Executive Director Alan Greenberger said he’ll recommend the Commission accept the principles in the vision, and use it to guide the development of a master plan for the area. Work has just begun on the master plan, which is expected to be finished in about 16 months. Related zoning would set the rules for future development of the 7-mile swath.
DiCicco crafted the overlay bill as a stop-gap measure to guide development in the meantime. The overlay requires the Planning Commission to establish a set of guidelines for development, and if the Commission accepts the Civic Vision, its principles would show up there as well. DiCicco has talked with representatives of both the Central Delaware Advocacy Group – whose members represent the waterfront communities – and those who own property in that area. He’s also brought representatives of each of those groups together to discuss their differences on both the bill and the Civic Vision.
DiCicco has drafted amendments to the legislation based on feedback from the two groups. So he’s requested that the Planning Commission take no action on the overlay legislation until their May hearing, Brian Abernathy, his chief of policy and public affairs, said in an email. The councilman is also going to schedule a public hearing before City Council at the beginning of June, so that the bill can be voted on before Council’s summer recess.
“This timeline will provide additional time to discuss the Overlay, the amendments and additional changes that may be necessary,” Abernathy wrote.
PennPraxis Executive Director Harris Steinberg and Steven Weixler, chairman of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, will give testimony at Tuesday’s PCPC meeting, as will property owner’s representatives.
The Planning Commission will also review the CED legislation that DiCicco introduced this week. The Commission will make a recommendation to City Council on that legislation, which would place CED zoning on the former Strawbridge’s building and remove it from The Gallery, a space Foxwoods had been considering for its casino.