Grants allow city planners to study transportation on Washington Ave., transit-oriented development in East Kensington

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission will next year study the future of transportation along major corridors in two changing neighborhoods.

Two Transportation and Community Development Initiative grants awarded to the PCPC by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will fund a look at South Philadelphia’s Washington Avenue and an exploration of the areas around three stops of the Market-Frankford El in East Kensington.

The eastern portion of Washington Avenue is home to many large-scale businesses with big parking lots including several busy Asian grocery stores and restaurants, said Planning Commission Executive Director Gary Jastrzab. There is now “development pressure” to put in retail and commercial strip developments on the western portion, Jastrzab said. “We want to see if there is a better solution.”

All of this vehicular traffic flowing in and out of parking lots leads to congestion and confusion along Washington Avenue, Jastrzab said. Working with community organizations, the area business community and the mayor’s office of transportation and utilities, the planning commission hopes will take a “systematic look” at what’s happening and come up with recommendations for a solution that improves movement for pedestrians, cars, buses and bicyclists. Recommendations might include adding additional public transportation, Jastrzab said.

The results of the study will help inform the district-level comprehensive plan for Center City. The district-level plans are part of the city’s master planning process. The city-wide plan is already in place, and more detailed looks at group of similar neighborhoods will complete the plan. For the purposes of district planning, Center City stretches from Spring Garden in the north to Washington Avenue in the south. Another study of Callowhill Street will provide similar detailed information from the north end, Jastrzab said.

Some work on the Center City District Plan has begun internally, but the major work – which involves public input sessions – won’t begin until March.

The East Kensington study will explore the potential for transit-oriented development around three Market-Frankford El stops: Berks, York-Dauphin and Huntington. Transit-oriented development is development within walking distance of public transportation, so that people who live, work or shop  there are mostly coming and going without cars. The Planning Commission sought this grant in partnership with the East Kensington Neighbors Association, at the request of the Association, Jastrzab said.

Jastrzab said the timing of the study is good, since East Kensington is beginning to attract more re-investment, development and people.  Some of this is “spill-over from Northern Liberties, just as Queen Village’s growth was once spill-over from Society Hill.”

This study will help inform the River Wards neighborhoods’ district plans, Jastrzab said. Work on that plan is not slated for two years.

The parameters and goals of both studies will be further defined before the RFPs for consultants go out in the new year, Jastrzab said.

The Washington Avenue grant is for $75,000. The East Kensington grant is for $30,000. And the PCPC also was awarded a $100,000 DVRPC transportation grant to be used toward district-level planning and zoning remapping. All three grants require recipients to put up matching funds. PCPC will do this through in-kind work contributions and from money received from the William Penn Foundation expressly to match other grants. The EKNA  is also contributing toward the match for the East Kensington grant, he said.

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