Plan for Callowhill Reading Viaduct area improvement, surtax advances

Philadelphia City Council has approved a bill to create a new improvement district in the Callowhill Reading Viaduct area.

Bruce Shelly, whose family business has been along Callowhill Street for 40 years, told Councilman Jim Kenney a special improvement district is necessary even though it will cost him about $2,000 a year.

“I would appreciate that because I have done the cleanup myself over the past several years,” Shelly said.

“So that would potentially save you money?” said Kenney.

“Yup,” Shelly said.

Cecelia Yep, a board member of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, said Chinatown North residents are against the Neighborhood Improvement District.

“This is an unfair and unjust tax,” she said. “It’s taxation without representation.”

John Chin of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation also spoke out against the plan Thursday.

“The government has contributed to the blight in this neighborhood,” he said. “Imposing a 7 percent tax on the people of this neighborhood to clean it up is not fair. The city has to take ownership of these problems, not just tax the people and throw money at the problem.”

Councilman Frank DiCicco, who wrote the bill, has carved out Chinatown North from the final bill. He said he will work with residents to create their own improvement district.

The neighborhood improvement district could be stopped by a majority vote of property owners in the designated area within 45 days.

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