Making Ridge Ave. more pedestrian-friendly

A bill limiting car use in parts of Roxborough has won a key victory in City Council.

Introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., the zoning bill seeks to revitalize Ridge Avenue between Hermitage St. and Monastery Ave., where Jones says developers have “[oriented] shopping centers towards the automobile rather than the pedestrian… [resulting] in irreparable damage.”

City Council reported the bill favorably out of the Rules Committee after its hearing, and placed it on the calendar for first reading.

To make the street more pedestrian-friendly, the bill prohibits several car-oriented businesses on Ridge Ave.: automobile repair shops, car washes, gas stations, car dealerships, car rental agencies and towing companies. It also places restrictions on parking lots, by disallowing vehicle access from Ridge Ave. and requiring that every lot with more than five parking spaces has landscaping.

The bill would make changes to Ridge Ave. unrelated to car use, as well. It would prohibit temporary employment agencies; and in order to provide an engaging experience for pedestrians on the street level, it would keep funeral parlors, labs, TV studios and business offices out of the first floor of buildings.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Jo Ann Desper, a board member of the Roxborough Development Corporation, testified in support of the bill. Her non-profit has created a master plan for the neighborhood that goes hand-in-hand with the restrictions imposed by Jones’ bill. The plan identified Ridge Avenue as the neighborhood’s downtown business district.

“A lot of people like myself are trying hard to brand Roxborough as fun for family, shopping and dining,” said Desper, adding that the bill would help create “a pleasant experience and walk along the Ridge.”

Though Council will almost certainly pass the bill, there’s no telling how long it will stay on the books. The Zoning Code Commission is currently rewriting the city’s zoning code, which it will send to Council for approval next year. So far, it’s taken out huge swaths of neighborhood “overlays” — aka restrictions on what businesses can operate in an area, how tall buildings are and what signs look like, among other things.

Since Jones’ bill creates such an overlay, it could vastly change once the Commission gets its hands on it.

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