Zoning changes proposed for Center City, Brewerytown, Frankford, and Roxborough

City Council members have introduced a handful of bills in the last several weeks making changes to the city’s zoning maps. Some of the bills were introduced as part of the ongoing Philadelphia2035 district remapping process; others anticipate specific development projects.

The bills would:

  • Create a new Center City East zoning overlay spanning from the Delaware River to Broad Street and Spring Garden to Spruce. Personal credit establishments—uses such as pawn shops, cash-for-gold stores, and check-cashing businesses—would be prohibited within the overlay. Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the bill, said it is “designed to protect the nearby communities if Market8 is selected as the next casino.” Market8 is one of five potential casinos vying for the city’s second and last casino license from the state gaming commission. It would be located at 8th and Market streets, in the parking lot known as the Disney Hole. A similar overlay, affecting the area between Broad, Spring Garden, 18th, and Callowhill, was adopted by Council last week. That area surrounds the proposed Provence Casino, which would be built in the former Inquirer building at Broad and Callowhill. Squilla said he hopes to have the new Center City overlay in place before the license is issued.

  • Remap a swath of the Frankford section of the city, bounded by Roosevelt Boulevard, Oxford Avenue, Dyre Street, Frankford Avenue, and Bustleton Avenue. The bill would change dozens of parcels from RM-1, a lower-density, multifamily zoning category, to RSA-5, a higher-density, single-family category. The bill was developed as part of the Philadelphia2035 district remapping process.

What is CMX zoning?

CMX is shorthand for Commercial Mixed-Use. The number that follows the abbreviation indicates the level of density and range of uses allowed in the area, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.

CMX-1 and CMX-2 are designated for small-scale neighborhood storefront retail and office uses.

CMX-2.5 is used for pedestrian-oriented neighborhood commercial corridors, like East Passyunk Avenue.

CMX-3 is considered a community- or region-serving commercial category. It is found along the Central Delaware waterfront and in other neighborhoods where higher-density uses are encouraged.

CMX-4 and CMX-5 are found only in Center City. They permit the tallest buildings, most uses, and greatest density of any commercial zoning category in the city.

  • Remap the block bounded by 18th, 19th, Vine, and Wood streets from RM-4, which allows multifamily housing, to CMX-3, which allows a denser mix of commercial and residential uses. The block is the site of the old Family Court building, which is slated for conversion into a Kimpton hotel.

  • Remap a vacant lot at the corner of 27th Street and Girard Avenue from CA-1, an auto-oriented commercial category, to CMX-3. The lot is the site of the proposed Girard27 project, a five-story development including apartments and retail space.

  • Remap a large swath of the Roxborough section of the city. The bill was introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., whose office developed it in cooperation with the Planning Commission. “The purpose of the bill,” according to Matt Wysong, the city planner for the area, “was to help preserve neighborhood character and locally important buildings in the face of development pressure in Central Roxborough. It’s essentially a taste of what’s to come through our Lower Northwest District Plan which is in progress.”

In addition, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill last week that would require the Department of Licenses and Inspections to post on its website all of the zoning permits that are issued by-right within one business day of when they are issued. The bill stipulates that the permits must be searchable by address, Council district, date of issuance, and name of the permit holder.

Currently, permits can only be found on L&I’s website by searching the address. However, zoning permits can be searched by Council district, name, and date on PlanPhilly’s online tool, License to Inspect.

Blackwell’s bill would also require L&I to deliver an electronic copy and a hard copy of the permit to the District Council member who represents the area within a day of the permit being issued.

L&I officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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