This article was created in partnership with Philadelphia Neighborhoods, Temple University’s capstone multimedia journalism class.
By Jade C. McKenzie and Connor Showalter
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission is expected to adopt Philadelphia2035 West Park and Lower South District plans Tuesday during its regular monthly meeting.
Local resident Cornell Harvey of Overbrook sat on a bench in West Fairmount Park, which faces the Philadelphia Streets Department Facility.
One of the key components of the West Park District plan is the relocation of a large, domed Streets Department road-salt storage facility located in the 4800 block of Parkside Avenue.
The 2.5-acre facility, which also includes Philadelphia Streets Department vehicle storage, directly faces West Fairmount Park. The decision to move the facility is seen by the planning commission as a way to allow Parkside Avenue to redevelop and maximize the potential use of the land around it.
The relocation of the facility is one of 89 recommendations included in the West Park District Plan, which was released as a draft on Jan. 31. The current initiative to renew the district is part of Philadelphia2035, a comprehensive plan designed to align the city’s zoning code changes with input from city planners and citizens.
West Park Community Planner Andrew Meloney has said relocating the Streets Department Facility and rezoning the West Fairmount Park area are both high priorities. The projects are listed as part of the Top 5 recommendations for the district.
The benign winter and low demand for road salt could be the reason local resident Cornell Harvey of Overbrook, who often bikes to West Fairmount Park, has a “neutral stance” about the relocation of the facility.
“It’s the closest park to me,” Cornell Harvey said of West Fairmount Park. “I guess it would be convenient for rock salt to be there.”
Cornell Harvey’s mother, Crystal Harvey, who has lived in the area for about 10 years, said the city has worked to improve the park in the past. She said in the past the local residents haven’t always been included in the planning process.
A rock salt dome is located on the Philadelphia Streets Department Facility’s 2.5-acre lot.
“There’s not enough information circulated to the people, who live in the community to know what’s actually happening in the area,” Crystal Harvey said. “I know that they have an information center in the city for the tourists, but not for the people living here.”
Meloney said the PCPC would like to move the Streets Department Facility into the adjacent Parkside Industrial Park, which is owned by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.
“We have some available land and we could make a really easy transition,” Meloney said. “We’re closing in on buying this, it’s something that with a little bit of funding, we might be able to actually see it happen.”
Planning Commission Executive Director Gary Jastrzab said the next step in the planning process would be to meet with the Philadelphia Streets Department and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. to figure out the timing and other operational details involved with the relocation.
“Our recommendation states that we have a Streets Department yard that really doesn’t need to be on that main street and that there is a better place for it,” Jastrzab said. “We don’t know why the current Streets Department Facility is located there or the history of it, that is part of the work we need to do.”
“We’re still working on the details,” Jastrzab added.
Meloney said he hopes to make Parkside Avenue a stronger focal point in the city for tourist attractions. He added that it’s important to create a gateway for citizens and visitors coming into the Centennial District and Philadelphia.
“I would really like to see the Centennial District be imagined to once again become a focal point for the city,” Meloney said. “To do that, we have a lot of different things we want to see happen to connect the neighborhoods better with the parks to create a better experience for the visitors.”
Local resident Christina Purvis of Parkside said she enjoys taking her children to West Fairmount Park.
Meloney added that rezoning 4800 Parkside Avenue in the near future would improve the avenue’s relationship with the Centennial District and Fairmount Park. The mixed-use zoning approach possibly means more residential buildings will be constructed, along with entertainment for visitors such as restaurants and coffee shops, he said.
According to the West Park District Plan, the planning commission conducted surveys that found nearly 40 percent of the land in the district is dedicated to parks, open space or active recreation. About eight percent of the district is used for industrial, commercial consumer or commercial business/professional purposes.
Local resident Christina Purvis of Parkside said West Fairmount Park is a place where her family enjoys recreation by the nearby pond. Purvis said she is concerned that the relocation of the Philadelphia Streets Department Facility may change the landscape of the park.