March 28: Historic designation battles in PA | NJ texting and walking crackdown | Street grids and transit

Parkway Corp is shifting strategy and selling a large surface parking lot at 20th and Arch, instead of developing it themselves, reports Jacob Adelman. One takeaway: “Not much open land is left in the city’s core, [JLL’s James] Galbally said, adding that he’s been getting interest from residential, office, and retail developers. ‘There aren’t a lot more sites available in Center City, and that’s what drives the pricing.'” Read our article on what’s driving Philly’s rising land values

It’s not just Philly: historic designation battles between preservationists and religious institutions are playing out across Pennsylvania, reports Natalie Pompilio.

New Jersey might be the first state to criminalize texting and walking, reports Melanie Burnie. Under Camden Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt’s bill, the act would be punishable by a $50 fine, and possibly up to 15 days in jail. 

A Knight-funded Urban Consulate project is launching in Philly, Detroit, and New Orleans, seeking to connect urbanists within and between those cities through monthly social events. The Philly kick-off event is this Friday. For information about these, and other great local events, sign up for PlanPhilly’s weekly events email

Up in New York City, the City Council passed major zoning changes aimed at addressing the city’s surging housing costs. The plan would increase allowable density in several neighborhoods, but “[d]evelopers benefiting from rezonings for either residential growth or greater height and density are, for the first time, required to include units for those with earnings below the median income. The decision about what level of affordability to apply to a given development — between 40 percent and 80 percent of the median income — is to be determined by the local council member.”

Emily Mann’s Guardian piece on the innovation of the Philly street grid touched on its value for real estate development, but the grid is also an important transportation innovation, explains Jarrett Walker.  “The intrinsic efficiency of grids is a huge reason to be optimistic about cities that have arterial streets or potential transit corridors laid out in a grid pattern, especially if they have many major destinations scattered all over the city.  If your city or a part of it looks like that, you have a huge structural advantage in evolving into a transit metropolis. ” 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.