Planners endorse temporary zoning overlay for Washington Ave.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission voted on Tuesday to recommend a new zoning overlay for Washington Avenue west of Broad Street.

The measure is intended as a temporary bulwark to keep certain uses from popping up on the corridor while the Commission works on longer-term planning with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office and community groups on either side of the avenue.

Washington Avenue forms a major part of the border between the Central and South planning districts. The Planning Commission has already issued zoning recommendations for the Central District, including the north side of Washington Avenue. The Commission is currently at work on the South District plan, hosting meetings with groups in Point Breeze and other neighborhoods south of Washington. It will issue recommendations for remapping the south side of the avenue later this year.

Some of the uses that would be banned in the overlay, which the Commission staff described as a “do no harm” measure, include surface parking lots, correction facilities, pawn shops, and strip clubs.

“I don’t think we have a clear-cut consensus on what all the stakeholders want,” said Steve Cobb, an aide to Councilman Johnson, “but we know what they don’t want.”

Some residents on either side of the avenue have been at odds over whether to promote increased residential density on Washington or encourage more commercial uses to provide local jobs. Two proposed residential projects, at 16th and 24th, are currently in legal limbo. The latter, a proposal for 113 units at 2401 Washington, was postponed at a zoning hearing last month. It was scheduled for another hearing on Wednesday, but will be postponed again, according to Hercules Grigos, an attorney for the developers.

Also on Tuesday, the Planning Commission voted to approve changes to the IRMX zoning category, which is meant to encourage the mixed-use redevelopment of former industrial properties. The category is new to the 2012 zoning code. So far, only 172 properties have been mapped IRMX, according to Commission staffer Andrew Meloney.

Both bills will go before Council’s Committee on Rules next Tuesday, March 24, at 10 a.m.

Video of full hearing below

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