‘Philly 2035’ effort targets Ivy Ridge station, Wissahickon Gateway and East Falls business district

 Kevin Hunter, of the city Commerce Department, leads residents in a discussion of planning issues on Thursday night. (Matt Grady/for NewsWorks)

Kevin Hunter, of the city Commerce Department, leads residents in a discussion of planning issues on Thursday night. (Matt Grady/for NewsWorks)

More than halfway through a comprehensive-planning process, a vision for the Lower Northwest is coming into clearer focus.


On Thursday, residents and city planners met at The Schuylkill Center in Roxborough to continue working on a comprehensive “District Plan” for the lower Northwest, which is part of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s (PCPC) efforts to construct a comprehensive city development plan known as “Philadelphia 2035.”

Project details

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Built upon a process that integrates zoning and city planning, the project’s ultimate goal is to make the city and its neighborhoods more livable and economically viable.

The Lower Northwest District Plan — the overall project’s eighth — encompasses all of Roxborough and Manayunk, along with segments of East Falls north of Roosevelt Boulevard. An estimated 51,000 residents live in the Lower Northwest.

Since a prior public meeting held in April, city planners have compiled observations and suggestions collected from the approximately 100 attendees.

Five focus areas were commonly selected by residents for further consideration:

the Ivy Ridge SEPTA station,

Ridge Avenue in central Roxborough,

the East Falls riverfront business district,

Venice Island in Manayunk and

— the Wissahickon Gateway area.

Site selections made

From this list, city planners elected to focus efforts on the Ivy Ridge station and the Wissahickon Gateway, the latter of which was expanded to include the East Falls riverfront business district.

Matt Wysong, the PCPC’s Northwest community planner, explained that these sites were selected because of the “multiple planning topics” that intersect at each location including transportation, housing, economic development and open space.

The Ivy Ridge site — home of the park-and-ride regional-rail station with nearby residential and light-industrial use — features 100-plus percent usage at the station, poor pedestrian connections, development pressures and unprotected environmental resources.

The Wissahickon Gateway is defined as the location where the Wissahickon Creek meets the Schuylkill River.

Transportation opportunities abound — bus, train, highway and trail are all represented — but there is also a disconnect from surrounding neighborhoods, and a gap in the Schuylkill River recreation trail. Wysong also cited “obsolete” industrial zoning along Ridge Avenue.

Asking residents for their input on planning goals, Wysong said the entire Lower Northwest district could benefit by addressing these focus areas. He also reminded them to consider the broader implications of localized planning decisions.

“If we decide to limit growth in a particular area, we need to be able to accommodate it elsewhere,” he said. “There is a lot of development pressure in this district, and you can’t just make it go away. Instead, we need to be able to steer it to more appropriate locations.”

Moving forward

According to Wysong, the district-planning process runs 10 months. Currently, the Lower Northwest’s plan is in its sixth.

A district plan for the Upper Northwest, which extends from Chestnut Hill to Germantown, has not yet been devised.

Wysong told NewsWorks earlier this year that no schedule has been set for the 10 remaining district plans, but with four plans being undertaken per year, he said he expects the project to conclude within the next two and a half years.

Thursday’s meeting was the second of three public sessions set to take place in the Lower Northwest.

The results of the meeting will be entered into a draft plan for the Lower Northwest, which will be vetted at the final public meeting, tentatively slated for September at a yet-selected location in Manayunk.

The final step, scheduled for October, will be formal adoption by the PCPC.

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