The Philadelphia City Planning Commission recommended a bill Tuesday that would authorize the city to lease a 50-acre property surrounding the East Park West Basin in Strawberry Mansion to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development. Under the terms of the bill, PAID would then sublease the property for the creation of the East Park Leadership and Conservation, a collaborative project of the National Audubon Society and Outward Bound Philadelphia.
The plan for the property, currently controlled by the Philadelphia Water Department, includes the construction of a building of no more than 17,000 square feet, with classrooms and areas for viewing the more than 200 species of birds that visit the park, according to a project overview released earlier this year. The Center will also include paths and trails that will be publicly accessible Thursday through Sunday in the warm months and Friday through Sunday in the colder months.
The area in question, west of 33rd Street between Oxford, Diamond, and Reservoir Drive, includes the 37-acre East Park Reservoir.
Judith Robinson of Strawberry Mansion Civic Association said that her group held a meeting on the project and that they “all agree it’s a great thing.” Robinson said she can remember a time years ago before the Water Dept. controlled the land when it was accessible to the public, and she emphasized that the most important component of the project is ensuring that the Strawberry Mansion community has access to the center.
The bill will be subject to a hearing in City Council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs on Tuesday, June 18 at 3 p.m.
Also on Tuesday, the Planning Commission recommended a bill authorizing the conveyance of city-owned land at the northwest corner of 34th and Ludlow streets to the University City Science Center. According to Martine Decamp, the Planning Commission staffer who presented the item to the Commission, UCSC plans to use the property as a parking lot--its current use--in the short-term. In the long term, it plans to build a “multi-story research center.” The lot is being transferred for $512,000, Decamp told PlanPhilly.
Commission Chairman Alan Greenberger said he looks forward to the lot being redeveloped, and that encouraging high-density building near transit stations is exactly what the Planning Commission should be doing. He said that some of the areas surrounding subway stops, like that at 34th and Market, near the property in question, as well as the area surrounding Broad and Girard, are misused.
The Commission also approved two other property conveyance bills on Tuesday. One gives a small portion of land at 8205 East Roosevelt Boulevard to PennDOT for a road improvement project involving the replacement of two small bridges. The other would deed a 90-foot-wide, 1300-foot-long strip of land adjacent to the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory property at 2700 Southampton Road in the Far Northeast for the expansion of the property’s parking lot.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.