Progress report on University/Southwest district plan

The Philadelphia Planning Commission’s district-level comprehensive plan for University/Southwest will strive to focus mixed-use residential development around some of the city’s busiest el stops, strengthen commercial corridors that have vacancies, improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists and preserve single family housing in areas where student housing demand has led to the conversion of many homes to apartments.

This district includes a diverse group of neighborhoods: Powelton Village, University City, Saunders Park, West Powelton, Spruce Hill, Walnut Hill, Garden Court, Cedar Park, West Shore, Kingsessing.

In some of these neighborhoods, the goals are about harnessing and focusing rapid growth related to the university presence. For others, growth needs to be stimulated, as formerly busy commercial streets now have gaps and past industrial lands are now underutilized.

The plan will focus on five key areas, planner Andrew Meloney reported to the Planning Commission this week: 40th and Market streets, 46th and Market streets, Baltimore Avenue, Woodland Avenue and Bartram’s North. These targets were chosen based on planning staff research and input from the community. The presentation given at the first community meeting and a summary of responses that were received can be viewed here.

Meloney told commissioners the final plan for the district will be coming to them for adoption consideration in April. But he gave them some highlights from the work-in-progress. Among the goals for the plan:

-Transit-oriented development zoning overlays that would encourage development along the Market-Frankford line at 30th, 40th and 46th Streets.

-Preserving single family housing in West Powelton, Walnut Hill, Garden Court and Kingsessing, with zoning changes designed to keep homes from being split into apartments.

-Starting commercial corridor management programs for portions of Baltimore Avenue and Chestnut Streets to foster “development that is more neighborhood-focused,” Meloney said.

-Create a bike lane on Chestnut Street that mirrors the one on Walnut, so that cyclists can travel both east and west from 63rd Street to the Schuylkill.

-Put 38th Street, north of Market, on a “road diet.” “It’s a wide stretch that doesn’t get that much traffic,” Meloney explained. It could be narrowed and improved for pedestrians.

-Install transit-related amenities such as bush shelters that make the area around 52nd and Baltimore Avenue more user-friendly.

-Rehabilitate Mount Moriah Cemetery.

-Improve access to existing green space and create more pocket parks. Some of these could be used for outdoor cafe seating, Meloney suggested.

The next community input session is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Kingsesing Recreation Center, 4901 Kingsessing Ave. For attendees, or those who can’t or don’t want to attend, a new planning game will allow on-line input, said Clint Randall, who is the city’s healthy communities coordinator, and, as Meloney put it, “social media guru.”

The game will ask participants to answer questions and, if they want, post photos about the community, Randall said. Participants can earn “coins,” which will actually translate into real $500 contributions to the neighborhood causes that get the most votes, he said.

The game is set to run from Jan. 28 through Feb. 18. Those interested can sign up now by going here.

PCPC planning game
PCPC planning game

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