The Central Northeast District-level Comprehensive Plan will focus on improving three key areas: Foxchase Town Center, Five Points, and the area around Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Residents, community and business leaders, and planning commission staff all agreed that these areas “are most in need of attention,” Planner Mike Thompson told planning commissioners during an update at their Tuesday meeting.
Thompson said Fox Chase, Burholme, Rhawnhurst, Lexington, Bells Corner, and the northern portions of Lawndale, Upper Northwood and Castor Gardens are already community anchors, popular with and important to the roughly 78,000 people who live in the neighborhoods that make up the district. The goal is to make them work better, he said.
Foxchase Town Center is anchored by Hop Angel Brauhaus – site of a bar and restaurant dating back to 1683 - and by the Fox Chase library branch, recreation center, religious institutions and schools.
Steps should be taken to reduce traffic congestion near Rhawn and Oxford. And pedestrians need sidewalks on Oxford Avenue. “There are no sidewalks at all,” Thompson said.
Five Points is the intersection of Cottman, Oxford and Rising Sun, and it's extremely busy with vehicular, mass-transit and pedestrian traffic, Thompson said. The area needs transit upgrades and better traffic enforcement, he said. The commercial center building facades and a public memorial should be rejuvenated, and the commercial corridor also is somewhat cluttered by billboards and store signs.
Around Cottman Avenue and The Boulevard, “street improvements are needed to make it safer and more attractive” for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic, Thompson said. The area is anchored by a mall with 1.6 million square feet of commercial space, and facade improvements are needed there, he said.
PCPC Chairman and Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger said the mall is a “big asset” for both the surrounding neighborhoods and the city as a whole, but “it's just not very nice street frontage.” He noted that it's the back of the buildings that face Cottman Avenue, while the fronts face a huge parking lot.
Noting that such a large field of impervious surface has got to translate into a large water bill for storm water run-off fees, Greenberger suggested, “there may be the ability to leverage a solution to that problem with improvements to the street front. We have to apply some real creative thinking to make this better.”
Thompson assured him that the owners of the mall have been included in talks, and are interested in the comprehensive planning for the area.
There's another public session for the Central Northeast District Plan next week: Sept 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Northeast Regional Library, 2228 Cottman Ave. Similar information as to what was presented to the PCPC will be given, Thompson said, but then attendees will be asked to provide more feedback on how the identified problems should be addressed, and what the community's wants and needs are. A final public session will be held in November.
The presentation given and a summary of information gathered at the first public session, held earlier this summer, can be found here.
Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.