Monday, January 08, 2007

Stuff Will Happen

This is shaping up as a week of Skyline-changing meetings, starting this morning with Penn Praxis' waterfront seminar at WHYY with New York City's Greenpoint-Williamsburg planner Howard Slatkin. I didn't attend, but I heard Slatkin's presentation during Praxis' field trip to New York in November. Slatkin makes waterfront planning sound easy. Together with his colleagues, he put together a road map for setting the height and massing of waterfront towers. What's great about the NYC system is that, when a developer wants more height, he has to pay for it in the form of public amenities. Read my column on the subject here. Incidentally, a pending City Council bill on zoning reform, sponsored by Frank DiCiccio and Jim Kenney, could ultimately help Philadelphia create the same kind of thoughtful, professional zoning that New York enjoys.
SOUTH STREET BRIDGE: Meanwhile, on Philadelphia's other waterfront, there are rumors that the South Street Bridge reconstruction project is imminent. The city Streets Department will hold an informational meeting TONIGHT at 7 p.m. in Greater St. Matthew Fellowship Hall, Grays Ferry Ave. and Fitzwater Street, to talk about the state of the bridge, pictured above. Would you believe that I reviewed the design in October of 2001, when it last looked like the project was on the verge of reality? The new bridge could be a great pedestrian connector between Center City and Penn's territory, not to mention, a great work of civic architecture. But, since PennDot is involved, Philadelphia will be lucky if it's a prettier, and less dangerous, version of the Walnut Street Bridge. The bike shop owner and cycling advocate Michael McGettigan, who lives about as close as anyone can get to the bridge (except for those who actually live on the bridge), worries,"it will be great to drive across really fast" - only to find yourself facing a "merge or die" situation on the Schuylkill Expressway.

CENTER CITY PLANNING: Meanwhile on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, the Center City Residents Association will unveil its long-awaited master plan for its quadrant of Center City. The plan, which should contain plenty of progressive ideas that could influence other neighborhoods, represents the triumph of citizen action over City Hall inertia. The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street.

DURHAM SCHOOL: The CCRA was one of the enlightened groups that supported the sale of the Durham School to the Independence Charter School. But now, sadly, it looks like the ICS is getting cold feet. Fearful that renovation costs could escalate, the school's board will vote to reconsider the purchase of the old school building at 16th and Lombard Streets. That's bad news for the school's kids, bad news for the neighborhood and bad for the School Reform Commission, which went out on a limb to support the ICS purchase. Stay tuned for an update later this week.

PHILLY'S BEER LEGACY: The city of rowhouses was also once a city of brewhouses. (the photo on the left is the former Bergdoll Brewery on 29th Street in Brewerytown). On Saturday, Jan. 20, brewhouse historian Rich Wagner will present a free public lecture entitled "The Breweries of Kensington, Frankford and Bridesburg" at Yards Brewing Co., 2439 Ambler Street.

It's only week two of 2007, but this is already shaping up as the Year of Planning in Philadelphia. Not only will there be several mayoral forums devoted to the subject, two major national planning conventions will converge in Philadelphia this spring. The folks from the American Planning Association arrive April 16, while the Congress of New Urbanism takes up residency here May 17-19. If nothing changes in Philadelphia, it surely won't be for lack of debate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wholly Makerel!

This is Gonna...

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The forthcoming new South St. bridge is a disaster in coming for the Rittenhouse and Fitler neighborhood. Bigger, faster and badder, it will finish turning South Street and 22nd Street into highways. This bridge should not have been made larger. Why run a highway into a (historic) residential area? Really bad idea.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And after it turns 23rd Street into a highway it'll turn 24th Street into a through street with motorist seeing how fast they can go between the 'Pause' signs posted at Locust, Spruce, and Pine. Maybe something will eventually be done when some taxi driver talking on his cell phone runs over a kid leaving Fitler Square.

9:42 AM  
Blogger ACM said...

well, it's not just about size -- the current bridge has been crumbling away for a long time. they should replace it with something skinny and crappy??

what better suggestions do you anonymous gripers have for getting traffic across the river? a new bridge at Spruce or Locust? forcing cars to stay in Center City and visit West Philly by monorail? I mean, traffic problems are real enough, and safety measures need to be put in place, but just keeping things cloggy does no service to the residential area or the city as a whole...

3:17 PM  
Anonymous John said...

I'm pretty sure the dead kid was going to cure cancer too....this stinks

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Fen Branklin said...

What a bunch of whiners! Did you not read the part about the bridge being more accessible to walkers and the fact that it will have a ramp leading down to Schuylkill Banks. How is this a bad thing people?! -- other than the obvious temporary inconvienence of it being closed.

Have any of you actually walked or biked across the bridge. THIS IS NECESSARY!

The bridge is already two lanes in both directions, although half of the drivers think it's the widest single lane in history, so how does building new mean it's being turned into a highway?

Can't you people find anything else to complain about?

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael McGettigan here (I'm not anonymous). It's a shame to see these apathetic, "let em build crap-quit complaining" comments.

It wasn't that long ago that "complainers" stopped the Crosstown Expressway, which would have buried South Street and part of Society Hill under 8 lanes of elevated freeway.

Naysayers stopped it, and may well have saved Philly from becoming Detroit.

The new South Street Bridge is firmly in the Crosstown Expressway tradition. Pedestrians get 4 more feet. Bikes get 5 foot bike lanes. Cars get 16 more feet, with dedicated turning lanes and radiused corners to handle monster trucks.

This is not an freeway. This is an urban bridge with a campus on one end and a neighborhood on the other. A high-speed bridge is not needed. Bike and ped counts on the bridge are huge. Car traffic is low--but no, PENNDOT and Philly Streets Dept. are all about moving cars.

BTW -- I went to the Monday's meeting, where PennDOT and Streets officials showed a lame powerpoint show, then basically told a packed hall, "We can't really change anything and your comments don't matter."

They also admitted they had budgeted ZERO for bike and ped safety during the bridge detours. They also boasted about 50 new linked signal boxes and a "reworking" of signal timing along 22nd and 23rd Streets south of Market.

Translation: really long waits for east-west streets, and really fast mobs of cars on 22nd and 23rd. Of course, their dream of somehow pushing 3 times as much traffic through this area has a few kinks--like the Greenfield Elementary School on Chestnut between 22nd and 23rd--with its 15mph limit in the morning and mid-pm.

Did the Streets Dept. chief engineer Charlie Denny consider any programs to reduce auto trips--car pooling, shuttles, disincentives. Er, no. His deal was, hey, time the lights, and welcome the cars. Oh, people LIVE here? Well they can just deal for 2 years or so.

Then the new high speed bridge will open and they'll be like, nostalgic for the traffic jams--which were at least slower!

This bridge design can be made better easily. Take space away from cars--that will cut speeding. Give more space to bikes and peds. Bad truck traffic on and off I-76 (it's almost impossible to use those ramps anyway.)

It' not too late for a better bridge--NO contractors have plans yet--bidding isn't even formally begun. We can get a civilized bridge--ONLY if we contact our officials (go to and make a Crosstown Expressway style deal out of it. You passionately apathetic types can go on posting your "why bother?" comments for now.

You can thank us later for saving your property values and keeping your kids out from under a tractor trailer's rear wheels.

Michael McGettigan
Trophy Bikes University City
Philadelphian since 1954.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

"It wasn't that long ago that "complainers" stopped the Crosstown Expressway, which would have buried South Street and part of Society Hill under 8 lanes of elevated freeway."

Not that long ago? It was 40 years ago.

I'm all for public debate. However, I hope there is more than one success based on public opposition that we look back on during the last 40 years.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone know if there are designs posted any where?

3:26 PM  
Blogger Jayfar said...

There will be a package posted on R. Bradley Maule's site

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, yards is on Amber street, not Ambler street... Hope to see everyone there

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Mark Chalupa said...

It needs to be replaced soon. I work underneath it and large chunks of concrete are falling all the time. With some thought and good planning, I think it will be a great connection to both sides of the river. I would just like to see it more pedestrian friendly with access provided to the park below.

6:30 PM  

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