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Three Down, 15 to go for Philadelphia 2035 as Lower Northeast District Plan adopted

Last week, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission adopted the Lower Northeast District Plan as part of the city’s Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan.  The Lower Northeast joins West Park and Lower South as having finished and adopted plans, leaving 15 more districts still to come over the coming years.   

The Lower Northeast covers the ever-evolving neighborhoods of Frankford, Lawncrest, Oxford Circle and Northwood and was particularly impactful because of the unique problems the area faces.  A number of these issues culminated in the plan’s focus areas, which include the Frankford Transportation Center, Frankford Gateway and Castor Avenue. 

The Plan indicates that nearly 1 in 5 Lower Northeast residents do not have health insurance and that wait times at health centers across the city are increasingly long.  To remediate this issue, the Plan calls for the creation of three health centers in the neighborhood, with one adjacent to the Frankford Transportation Center. 

This does two things, says Jennifer Barr with the City Planning Commission -- it increases the amount of needed health centers in the immediate area and substantially increases access for residents across the region. 

“Some 680,000 Philadelphians can reach the Frankford Transportation Center without a connection,” says Barr, “this is the ideal place to create a destination for health services because access is so high but also because a large amount of people are already passing through the Center on a daily basis.”   

The Frankford Center focus area was not particularly controversial.  Other areas weren’t so lucky.  The Castor Avenue focus area recommendations caused a bit of controversy, as they call for an upzone of the corridor into a mixed-use, higher density district.  This means allowing buildings to reach heights of 55 feet and encouraging residential uses above storefronts – something that doesn’t exist now.

Barr indicates that despite a small group of citizens who opposed the idea, this provision was actually supported by most of the community, likely because it makes perfect sense from a planning perspective. 

“There is a lot of demand for housing in the area with little room to expand,” says Barr.  “With Castor Avenue struggling as a commercial corridor, encouraging residential density can rejuvenate the corridor while increasing residential housing options.”

The plan’s third focus area is Frankford Gateway along Frankford Avenue, an area full of underutilized industrial buildings but full of potential.  “With the success of nearby Globe Dye Works into a thriving artist community, we have a prime example of utilizing old industrial buildings for modern day needs,” says Barr, “these buildings are an important part of Frankford’s heritage so we want to protect them and encourage their reuse.” 

To this end, the plan recommends changing the zoning along the Avenue from ICMX to a new classification – IRMX - which allows for live/work spaces geared towards these large industrial structures.

With these issues dealt with in meaningful ways and the Plan officially adopted, attention has moved on to the Center City plan, which is currently underway and the University City plan, which will begin shortly.  These districts, too, face a series of unique issues that will be fleshed out and addressed over the coming months.  Center City’s next public meeting will be held on Oct. 22 and University City’s plan is set to begin Nov. 13. 

Source: Jennifer Barr, City Planning Commission
Writer: Greg Meckstroth
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