First Meeting Held for Philadelphia 2035 Lower Northwest District Plan - Generocity Philly

Apr. 21, 2014 2:35 pm

First Meeting Held for Philadelphia 2035 Lower Northwest District Plan

Residents of the Lower Northwest District joined city planners last Tuesday night in the basement of William Penn Charter School for the first of three community meetings designed to gather input on the Philadelphia 2035 district plan for the area. The Lower Northwest is made up of three major neighborhoods — Manayunk, East Falls and […]

Residents of the Lower Northwest District joined city planners last Tuesday night in the basement of William Penn Charter School for the first of three community meetings designed to gather input on the Philadelphia 2035 district plan for the area.

The Lower Northwest is made up of three major neighborhoods — Manayunk, East Falls and Roxborough — all wedged between the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Valley Park. This sliver of rough topography and village-like neighborhoods contains a kind of gradient of Philadelphia’s history: former industrial neighborhoods on the bottom end (East Falls and Manayunk) and suburban-style homes and shopping centers on the top half (Upper Roxborough and Andorra).

Residents from across the district filed past maps and diagrams describing the history and current demographic, economic make-up of their communities. Interactive activities were available prior to the main presentation, such as a map where attendees marked off where they live and where they go for recreation.

Attendees were also asked to offer their suggestions, via sticky notes, on key issues in the district (such as how the Schuylkill Waterfront and Ridge Avenue should be addressed by the plan).

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Matt Wysong, project manager for the district plan, gave a brief presentation on the current state of the district and some of the focus areas already being looked at by the Planning Commission.

“This plan may look far into the future to the year 2035, but it also sets forth projects, policies and changes that we need to start making today in order to assure a more livable, healthy and economically viable city for the future,” Wysong said.

Outside of transportation and commercial corridor improvements — which have been important issues in most of the district plans — Wysong noted environmental stewardship, trail development and topography as issues that require a unique approach in the Lower Northwest.

“We are at the confluence of two water bodies and two geologic formations, and we have a lot of variation in our topography,” Wysong said. “This has many effects on our physical development.”

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For example, erosion, siltation and development limitations due to steep slopes are somewhat unique to the area.

Overall, the district is among the greenest in the city with 31 percent of land in the district designated as open space. This compares to 16 percent in the Lower North plan and around five percent for the University Southwest District.

Other issues addressed by Wysong include improving the trail network connecting the district to the Wissahickon Valley Park and the Schuylkill River, and determining what to do with the district’s stock of undeveloped, often privately-owned open spaces.

Following the presentation, attendees joined small groups and hunkered over a map of the district. These groups worked together to determine areas that they think are likely to stay the same, areas they think will change, barriers within the community and destination points.

There are currently six completed district plans out of a total of 18 planning districts. The Lower Northwest plan is only plan currently in the community engagement phase. Two more community meetings for the Lower Northwest District are planned, though exact dates and locations have not been announced.

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