Planning Commission updated on Upper North District Plan, accepts Walnut Hill Neighborhood Plan

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) Matt Wysong, a district planner for the Upper Northwest and Lower Northwest, gave an update on the Upper North District planning process. The district includes the neighborhoods of Logan, Olney, Cedarbrook, Fern Rock, East and West Oak Lane, Ogontz and Belfield.

District planners conducted a parcel-by-parcel field survey and hosted two public meetings since April to solicit input from residents, business owners, and other local stakeholders. The third and final meeting will be held the week after Labor Day, where a draft plan will be presented.

The Upper North doesn’t have the same vacancy issues as other parts of North Philly. Vacant land only accounts for 2% of the land area, and most of it is located in Logan Triangle–one of the city’s largest vacant parcels. The 30-acre site was once home to hundreds of residences that began sinking in the 1950’s. Since the 1980’s, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has acquired all the land there through eminent domain and cleared the area. Last fall, PRA announced a preliminary deal with the Goldenberg Group to develop the site.

The area has seen an influx of foreign-born residents over the last few decades. The total percentage of foreign-born residents is now close to 15%, which is close to the citywide average, but on the eastern end near Olney, the percentages are much higher, with some census tracts reaching as high as 30 or 40%. Olney is home to many South Korean, Laotian, and Cambodian residents and businesses, but the largest group of foreign-born residents is comprised of more recent arrivals from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Besides Logan Triangle, district planners are recommending that the plan focus on the transit hub at Broad and Olney, the intersection of Broad and 66th Avenue near Philadelphia’s northern border, Roosevelt Boulevard, and the former Cardinal Dougherty High School in East Oak Lane.

The plan will also focus on bolstering the urban character of North Broad Street and commercial corridors like N. 5th Street in Olney, Ogontz Avenue, Old York Road, and Easton Road.

The Commission also accepted a new neighborhood plan for the Walnut Hill neighborhood in West Philadelphia, which sits between 45th and 52nd Street, Walnut and Spruce.

Dan Levin of the Enterprise Center presented a high-level overview of the plan, which is an update to the existing 2007 neighborhood plan. Walnut Hill neighbors aimed to balance the need for new investment in the area with maintaining the affordability and character that existing residents cherish.

The neighborhood has seen a 166% increase in average home prices, and a 10% increase in the median household income since the 2007 plan. There was an 11% increase in the number of white residents, and a 14% decrease in the number of black residents.

The plan builds on some previous efforts, which called for a transit-oriented development area around the 46th and Market El Station, and contains a number of ideas for improving conditions on 52nd St, which is the area’s main retail corridor. Levin said aspects of the plan are already being implemented by The Enterprise Center’s Community Team and the Walnut Hill Community Association, such as a new bike share station at 46th, new trash cans on 52nd, and a summer movie night series hosted by WHCA.

PCPC served on the steering committee, as they do with all neighborhood plans, to ensure the planning process is open to the public, and that the goals sync up with the 2035 plan. Over 500 people participated in the process, along with organizations like the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), University City District, and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office. 

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