Council ends year with action on Land Bank, Royal Theater, bus shelters

For Philadelphia City Council, the fall of 2014 is going to be remembered, in those circles where it’s remembered at all, for what didn’t happen. But during their last meeting of the year on Thursday, Councilmembers did manage to finalize a number of important measures.

For one, Council unanimously adopted the year-one strategic plan for the Philadelphia Land Bank. A year after the Land Bank was brought fitfully into existence, it has a permanent board of directors and a clear direction for its early work. While some advocates want to see more specific targets for selling and reusing vacant land, most everyone seems pretty happy with the progress that’s been made.

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez, who introduced the original Land Bank legislation, even took to the floor of Council on Thursday to say she feels “accomplished” and ready to win re-election in 2015. Sánchez’s office also distributed fact sheets to district Council members describing the vacant land in each Council district. (More than 10,000 vacant lots and structures in the 5th District, fewer than 70 in the 10th.)

Also on Thursday, Council adopted a bill rezoning the Royal Theater property at 16th and South streets to make way for a 45-unit apartment complex from developer Carl Dranoff. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the bill earlier this week after asking for more time so the developer and residents of Kater Street, directly behind the project, could negotiate details. Though the bill has been adopted, and the project can proceed by right, those negotiations are ongoing.

In the hall outside Council chambers, PlanPhilly asked attorney Paul Toner, who represents the Kater Street neighbors, what their next step would be. He said they’d continue to negotiate with Dranoff. Would they litigate? All options are on the table, he said. What specific concessions are they looking for? Toner said he didn’t want to “negotiate through the press.” Fair enough.

Finally, Council approved a 20-year contract with Titan Outdoor to construct, maintain, and advertise on 600 new and replaced bus shelters across the city. 200 shelters will be built or replaced in the first year of the contract, with 100 more built or replaced in each of the four following years.

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