by Diane M. Fisk
This is a monthly column about planning, architecture and urban design.
The 10 months of resident comments regarding changes in Northwest Philadelphia have ended, and the 100 pages of those comments, collected in public meetings in the Northwest district, were forwarded to the city planning commission on Friday, Sept 21.
On Oct. 16, the Planning Commission will vote on the proposals for Northwest Philadelphia at an open meeting at their offices at 1515 Arch Street at 1 pm. The public is welcome and encouraged to come to the meeting that will affect their neighborhoods.
Northwest Philadelphia, which falls under district 18, is the last of area in the city to be part of the Planning Commission project to rezone the city and equip its neighborhoods for the future in a colossal project known as Philadelphia Project 2035.
Ian Hegarty, director of the District 18 project said it is necessary to equip the Northwest area for a forecast of an increase in 100,000 residents and 40,000 jobs by 2035.
Hegarty, a member of the City Planning staff, who has been directing the District 18 project, which includes Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Germantown since 2011, said “The meetings help pinpoint areas of concern and helped us learn that the central focus should be on central Germantown and the area around Wayne Junction.”
This focus, he said was the result of sifting through resident comments at the three meetings in January, April and June.
“The is a strong interest in handling commercial growth with well-organized plans,” he said.
There is some neighborhood disagreement. The planning commission, in the summer, turned down a proposal by neighborhood advocates to create a special residential district in areas of Chestnut Hill that are sparsely developed where large mansions have been torn down leaving sites that could be developed. The rejected proposal would have increased the minimum size of the sites from 10,000 square feet to 20,000. This would be added to the changes in the neighborhood zoning.
John Davis, a member of Chestnut Hill Land Use Planning Committee and a professor of planning at The University of Pennsylvania said rejection of this proposal has been the subject of joint efforts by the Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Chestnut Hill Community organization, the Friends of the Wissahickon and various other organizations in Chestnut Hill to come up with a new plan that will be accepted.
“This is an area where people are particularly interested in preserving natural areas and protecting them,” he said.
The preliminary conclusion that more emphasis should be placed in development of Germantown Avenue in Mt Airy and Germantown and Chelten Avenue and Wayne Junction in Germantown has been questioned
“Some people think Chestnut Hill hasn’t received the attention that has come to other areas while others think these areas are important connections to the whole district.” Hegarty said in a phone interview.
The entire citywide project began in 2015, and changes in these areas in the city are underway Hegarty said.
Diane Fiske is a regular contributor to the Local and writes about planning and architecture for the Philadelphia Inquirer.