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Planning Commission working with community group to boost quality of life in Eastern North Philly

Despite being a short owl’s flight away from Temple University, the West and South Kensington and Norris Square neighborhoods in Eastern North Philadelphia have been afflicted with the urban ills seen in other inner-city neighborhoods. Not oblivious to this, Associacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM) has set out to re-define the communities. One way in which they’re looking to do this is by partnering with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) on its Eastern North Philadelphia quality of life plan, "Our Community, Our Ideas."

APM and the City Planning Commission are studying the neighborhoods between Lehigh and Cecil B. Moore Aves., 9th and American Sts., and a small sliver of Ludlow, according to David Fecteau, the Commission’s community planner who’s tasked with studying the area. He adds that this study comes at an appropriate time, as the city is applying for a $30 million federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant for the area. So far, PCPC and APM are reaching out to community members, a process that has included “well over 200 residents and other stakeholders,” says Fecteau.

PCPC is working closely with the enterprising neighborhood group APM to truly understand the region they’re studying. APM is focusing on seven areas, says Jennifer Rodriguez, the deputy vice president for Programs and Sustainable Communities. The areas are:
  • Income and wealth 
  • Economic development
  • Education
  • Leadership
  • Healthy environment and lifestyle
  • Arts and culture
  • Children and youth

APM’s focus areas are modeled after the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). Rodriguez says that one impetus for these particular concentrations is that a third of land in their coverage area is vacant. APM hopes to develop this vacant land, without forcing existing residents out. “The neighborhood wants a diverse community of mixed incomes and family make-ups,” says Rodriguez. 

It should surprise no one that environmental sustainability is playing a large role in PCPC and APM’s study. Rodriguez says APM is already partnering with the Water Department, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), and the School District to provide rain barrels at local schools. Finally, she says that a new transit-oriented development (TOD) will break ground on April 10 along 9th St. at the Temple University Regional Rail station. APM makes it clear that use of and development around rail and transit nodes will be closely studied by the City Planning Commission. 

Sources: David Fecteau, Philadelphia City Planning Commission and Jennifer Rodriguez, APM
Writer: Andy Sharpe

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