Temple stadium moves forward, despite neighborhood opposition

Temple University students block Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue to protest the proposed building of a new football stadium. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Temple University students block Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue to protest the proposed building of a new football stadium. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Temple University announced today that it is taking the next step forward on a controversial 35,000 seat stadium in the heart of North Philadelphia.

The university plans to file proposals to the City Planning Commission for zoning tweaks, road closures, and a new Special Services District that will pave the way for a massive sports complex in the midst of a largely residential area.

“Temple University is a great university, and this is what great universities do,” said Richard Englert, president of Temple University. “But most important we want this project to be great for our neighbors and North Philadelphia.”

Various elements of the proposal must be reviewed by the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Civic Design Review board, and City Council. The process could last until May or June, Englert said.

The plan calls for street-level retail along North Broad Street, a design that the university hopes will help better integrate the stadium into the neighborhood and encourage pedestrian activity. The project would not require the university to acquire any additional land, as it already owns all the necessary parcels.

The principal direct effect of the project would be the closure of 15th Street between Norris Street and Montgomery Avenue, the university says. This is one of the tweaks that would require the approval of the Planning Commission and City Council.

In a bid to dampen public criticism, the northern end of the stadium will not be higher than the neighboring row homes on Norris Street. A Special Services District is also being created to ensure that any trash generated by crowds or tailgaters doesn’t annoy the surrounding neighbors.

Jacqueline Wiggins (center), a long time resident of the Temple University area, joins her neighbors and students in an April 2016 protest march against a proposed new football stadium. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Over the past two years, the plan provoked backlash from nearby neighbors and local activists who fear that it will disrupt the surrounding community. Many who live nearby aren’t excited about the nuisance of construction and rowdy game days that will follow. In a part of the city already marked by increasing rents, people also worry that the commercial development will lead to further spikes in land and housing costs, making the area unaffordable to working-class residents.

A group calling themselves the “Stadium Stompers” has rallied against the project and condemned today’s announcement.

“We are not going to rest until Temple’s stadium proposal is defeated for good,” says Kate Goodman, a representative for the Stadium Stompers group. “North Central Philadelphia has historically been a neighborhood of black residents, and if there is a massive stadium built on top of that neighborhood, it is going to displace people directly and raise the land and housing prices.”

Englert says he expects the university to present its master plan to the Planning Commission soon though the exact timing remains unclear.

 

 

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