Feb 20: Designation freeze at Historical Commission | resist rush to change AVI | new Callowhill/Chinatown North plan | 11 schools spared closure | change DRPA | Garces delayed at Kimmel

Good morning, Streeters. Here’s your Wednesday morning Buzz:

Why won’t the Historical Commission hold hearings on designating buildings or districts in the nomination pipeline? It’s petrified. Hidden City Daily unpacks the Commission’s designation freeze that leaves fragile historic buildings (like the Gretz Brewery) and proposed districts (like Washington Square West) dangling in the wind. Aside from being understaffed the big reason for the freeze is a political deadlock over the potential Overbrook Farms Historic District. Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. threatened to exert councilmanic prerogative over the Commission’s designation authority because some landowners were against the designation. Since Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger asked for the Overbrook nomination to be tabled in 2012, no nominations have moved forward. And there’s no end to the freeze in sight.

The Inquirer urges City Council to exercise patience and to be strategic about property tax relief in the wake of the new assessments mailed to property owners last week. “Wait until there is real data about who will be hit hard and who won’t.” And from there determine what the best relief tool is, so we have a better chance of avoiding the creation of yet another unfair, broken tax system.

The Planning Commission adopted a new Callowhill/Chinatown North Strategic Plan to encourage mixed-use development and 21 new acres of public green space, reports PlanPhilly’s Kellie Patrick Gates. Yes, a Reading Viaduct Park is called for as well as zoning changes to encourage legal live-work spaces. This plan’s recommendations will be incorporated into the nearly completed Central District Plan.

Under the School District’s revised school closing and reorganization plan, 11 schools originally on the list of 37 schools to be closed were granted a reprieve, the Inquirer reports. “ The 11 are: AMY at James Martin, Cooke, Duckrey, Gompers, Lankenau, Meade, McCloskey, McMichael, Morris, and Overbrook Elementaries, and Strawberry Mansion High. All are located in North, Northwest, or West Philadelphia. Two schools not on the original closure list could now be shut in June: M.H. Stanton in North Philadelphia and Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia.”  

Rob Teplitz calls for more reform at the Delaware River Port Authority in an Inquirer opinion piece. Teplitz served as an alternate for the DRPA Auditor General for five years and despite some successful reform efforts he calls more change. Chief among the improvements: new leadership and for Pennsylvania and New Jersey to have equal weight in board decisions.

It sounds like we’ll have to wait a little longer for the monolithic corner of the Kimmel Center at Broad and Spruce to be enlivened with a new Jose Garces restaurant.  Grub Street reports (via a detail buried in an Inky article) that Volver, the new Garces venture planned for the former gift shop space, has been held up due to unexpectedly high construction costs. But construction is expected to start next month and Volver should open in September.

The Buzz is Eyes on the Street’s morning news digest. Have a tip? Send it along.

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