Planning Commission approves 10-year Nicetown redevelopment plan

The city Planning Commission has given its official backing to an ambitious 10-year plan to redevelop, market and support residential and commercial development in Nicetown.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commission members voted to accept the Nicetown Economic Development Housing Study, compiled jointly by a consultant hired by the Nicetown Community Development Corporation in cooperation with the city Commerce Department.

“The Planning Commission is not obliged to support each and every recommendation of the plan,” but acceptance of the overall plan can guide future city decisions on funding, zoning and other support, said Matt Wysong, the commission’s Northwest Philadelphia community planner.

According to the plan, over the next 10 years Nicetown could see changes both pedestrian (marketing banners and streetscape improvements) and ambitious (a possible skate park under the Route 1 ramps).

Housing concerns

Nicetown CDC director Majeedah Rashid has previously discussed a possible residential development at 1801 Courtland St., a currently vacant site.

That project could bring 100 residential units, possibly for seniors, said Leslie Anastasio of Sherick Project Management.

“One of the things that the residents and stakeholders identified as a huge need is senior housing,” Anastasio told commission members. “There really aren’t very many senior housing projects in Nicetown, so this would be an opportunity to fill that void as well.”

With Nicetown Court I fully leased and Nicetown Court II on the way, there are other housing plans, both single-family and as part of mixed-use developments, in the works.

A vacant housing rehabilitation and infill housing program targeted at blocks just off Germantown Avenue could bring an additional 31 new residential units, Anastasio said. In coming years, it could be extended to fill in the neighborhood streets between Germantown Avenue and the Courtland Street site.

Creating a “renaissance in Nicetown”

“We’re very excited about the things that are happening in Nicetown, and what this will mean for them,” Anastasio said, pointing to the Nicetown Court developments and SEPTA’s $30 million overhaul of the Wayne Junction station, the anchor of transit-oriented development plans for the neighborhood.

“These and other investments are providing a tremendous opportunity to create a renaissance in Nicetown, and that’s already taking place, and we want to see it furthered and strengthened, and to have these efforts sustained long-term,” she said.

A major part of the effort involves marketing both the commercial strip in general and the possibilities for mixed-use development in former industrial sites located within the recently-designated Wayne Junction Historic District.

The plan calls for streetscape improvements first in the 4100 to 4400 blocks of Germantown Avenue; the completion of a Business, Arts and Cultural Center at 4159 Germantown Ave., a formerly blighted property; and the design and implementation of a street-vendor plan.

The Nicetown plan is in keeping with both the city’s 2009 Germatown-Nicetown Transit Oriented Development Plan and the Philadelphia 2035 plan, Wysong said.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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