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Eight small things that will have a big impact on Philadelphia in 2015

2015, here we come! Flying Kite is taking a couple weeks off for the holidays, but we'll be back on January 6 with a fresh new issue. To tide you over, here are a couple of small things that will have a big impact on the city in the coming year. 

1. SEPTA's upgrade
There is really no news bigger in this city than the fact that we will soon be saying goodbye to our beloved tokens. In lieu of upgrading to current standard technology, SEPTA is taking a big leap forward, adopting debit cards and pay-by-cellphone technology. In short, we'll be going from worst to first when it comes to public transit tech.

2. Waterfront programming continues to grow
This year, installations and events along the Delaware River were a smash -- from Spruce Street Harbor Park to the unveiling of Washington Avenue Green to an expanded Winterfest at Penn's Landing. That trend should continue in the coming year, drawing more and more Philadelphians to our historically underutilized waterfront. All that energy is in the service of a grand plan for the area, a wholesale rethinking that would better connect Center City with the banks of the river. 

3. The Philadelphia Land Bank takes effect
Thanks to exciting legislation passed this year, by the beginning of 2015, the Philadelphia Land Bank should be up and running. The goal is to make is easier to develop and beautify the city's 40,000 vacant properties, and the results could be transformative.

4. Re-striping of Washington Avenue
Washington Avenue, that bustling commercial thoroughfare cutting through South Philadelphia, is getting a major makeover next year. According to PlanPhilly, Washington Avenue will soon have three lanes -- one auto lane in each direction and a center turning lane -- except for in a few places. The street's underused bike lanes will be unified into a continuous route. There will also be improved visibility and longer crossing signals for pedestrians; angled parking will replace parallel parking. All these changes should help calm and improve the corridor, improving life for residents and businesses alike.

5. Food co-ops land in up-and-coming neighborhoods
Both South Philly and East Kensington have plans in the works for community-owned grocery stores. While the Kensington Community Food Co-op already has a location and renderings, the South Philly Food Co-op is still keeping mum. Both neighborhood hubs should move closer to reality in 2015, bringing with them increased access to fresh, local food.

6. PHS's pop-up dominance continues
I am already waiting with bated breath for the announcement of next year's PHS Pop-up Garden. No placemaking project better exhibits the power of cold drinks and creative design to enliven vacant land and bring citizens together. 2014's incarnation on South Street was a huge hit -- next year should be even better.

7. The zoning remapping continues. 
Quietly, all across the city, our zoning maps are being rewritten. This might sound like boring bureaucracy, but it has a huge impact on the look, feel and functionality of our neighborhoods. The process always involves public meetings, so head out to the one in your area and root for your favorite CMX-2 or RMX-1.

8. The end of construction at 8th and Carpenter
On a personal note, I can't wait for 2015 to bring the end of a huge construction project in my neighborhood. It's loud. Trucks do a lot of backing up early in the morning. Next year, when it's finally done, this whole corner of Bella Vista will once again sleep soundly -- and gain back a couple street parking spaces.

LEE STABERT is managing editor of Flying Kite Media and Keystone Edge. Follow her on twitter @stabert.
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