University City: First Community Planning Meeting Draws Big Crowd

Residents participated in a mapping exercise to express their opinions about their community.
Residents participated in a mapping exercise to express their opinions about their community.

Community members packed a large meeting room in The Enterprise Center, located at 4548 Market St., for the first of three public planning meetings concerning the re-zoning of the University City/Southwest District of Philadelphia Tuesday night.

This area is one of 18 district plans divided by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to make the physical redevelopment of the city over the next several years easier.

The PCPC’s comprehensive plan is called Philadelphia2035, and the group is using it as a tool to implement the city’s new zoning code. Mayor Nutter signed the zoning code into law in December. The first part of this two-phase plan, called the Citywide Vision, was adopted in June 2011.

“The Citywide Vision had big ideas for the whole city like transfer redevelopment and sustainability, but we needed to find a plan to do a more granular level of detail, so we broke the city into 18 planning districts and that’s what this plan for the University City/Southwest District is,” said Andrew Meloney, University City/Southwest District project manager.

Currently, three district plans have been adopted and one is working its way through the process. The University City/Southwest meeting marks the start of the fifth district plan.

At the meeting, Meloney went over the background of district planning and explained the make up and challenges of this area of the city.

Andrew Meloney, University City/Southwest project manager, explained the district plans at the public meeting.

“So looking at the district, it’s about 2,800 acres. It includes a lot of different institutions, CHOP, Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, the Restaurant School, things of that nature,” said Meloney. “There are also a great number of neighborhoods. Anywhere from Kingsessing down in the Southwest all the way up to Powelton Village up in the Northeast, so it encompasses a pretty good area. Lots of different interests, lots of different ideas. We’re really happy that we’re getting started.”

Representatives of all those different interests and ideas were present at the community meeting. Everyone participated in a group mapping activity to give their thoughts on what should be changed in their district under this redevelopment and zoning plan. Participants were encouraged to take markers and indicate areas they value and barriers they see in their neighborhoods on maps placed in the center of each table. They were asked what they thought their district could possibly look like in 10 years.

Meloney explained that one of the large goals for this redevelopment is to preserve single-family homes in neighborhoods impacted by population growth, specifically those surrounding the universities, and extend amenities to areas of the district that are seeing population decline. This meeting was a first step for the PCPC to get feedback from residents on what they think needs to be done in their communities.

Public opinion is an important part of this redevelopment process, so there will be two more public meetings for the University City/Southwest District, one in January and one in March. The PCPC intends to move the meetings around the district to draw the largest sampling of residents to voice their opinions about this plan.

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