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Northwest Philly residents peruse ‘Philadelphia 2035’ development recommendations

 At a previous Philadelphia 2035 session,  Octavia Howell of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission recorded residents' input on the Lower Northwest District Plan. (Matthew Grady/WHYY)

At a previous Philadelphia 2035 session, Octavia Howell of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission recorded residents' input on the Lower Northwest District Plan. (Matthew Grady/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Planning Commission officials previewed  their Lower Northwest Development Plan recommendations during a public meeting at the Riverfront Club of Manayunk Brewery on Thursday night.

The meeting, third in a series of “Philadelphia 2035” initiative sessions, marked the end of the Lower Northwest Planning District planning-process’ public phase.

The PCPC will now use the recommendations to create a draft of the development plan, which will be released next month.

The draft release marks the opening of a 30-day public-comment period prior to the formal presentation of the plan to the full planning commission in December.

The meeting

PCPC representatives set up four stations each addressed a particular aspect of the commission’s vision for the Lower Northwest.

Those visual aids centered on focus areas, priority recommendations, zoning changes and neighborhood commercial and conservation overlays.

In addition to fielding questions, PCPC representatives encouraged attendees to leave comments at each station.

Matt Wysong, Northwest community planner for PCPC, spoke to the overarching intention that has so far guided the planning process.

“There is a lot of growth occurring in [the Lower Northwest] District, but as of now, it doesn’t necessarily have a plan to guide that growth,” he said, citing residents’ concerns ranging from traffic to overall neighborhood character and quality-of-life.

“People are moving to the area for its location, its small scale, its larger houses and green spaces, and the greater availability of parking, but also for the way that the neighborhoods have managed to retain certain qualities of city life, such as walkability and access to a variety of dining and entertainment options,” he continued.

A delicate balance

Summing up the initiative’s mission, Wysong noted attempts to address the concern that development in the neighborhoods could compromise quality of life “by changing existing zoning to prevent more development in single-family residential areas and redirect it to Ridge Avenue/Main Street along main transportation routes.”

He pointed to the East Falls Business District, comprising the storefronts along Ridge and Midvale aves. corridors as examples.

“The East Falls Business District has a vacancy rate of 30-35 percent,” he said. “One thing to do is bring more residential development to that area and, in the process, bring more people to those businesses. This can be accomplished by condensing future development in the Ridge/ Midvale area.”

A resident’s take

Sandy Sorlein is a Roxborough Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Volunteer Committee member who has lived in the neighborhood for 24 years. 

The committee has been working for two years, sometimes in collaboration with the PCPC, to create standards regulating property frontages in Central Roxborough in order to ensure that the neighborhood retains its walkable character.

Sorlein helped organize the committee after becoming concerned that the recently revised Philadelphia Zoning Code did not include certain regulations ensuring that pedestrian walkways would be adequately protected from new construction featuring garage-fronted residences.

“Every neighborhood in the city deserves to be protected, but we took it upon ourselves to draft our own regulations,” Sorlein said. “It’s great to see that this area continues to be neighborhood-oriented and that attention to these issues has emerged from residents themselves.”

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