Earlier this week, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission held the second of its series of public district planning meetings in the River Wards. The area is roughly bounded by Frankford Street, Front Street, Kensington Avenue, the Frankford Creek’s original course, and the Delaware and principally includes Fishtown, New Kensington, Port Richmond, and Bridesburg.
Being prepared alongside the South District Plan, the River Wards Plan is one of the 18 District Plans the Planning Commission is preparing to support the overarching Phila2035 Master Plan. The aims of the plan are updating the zoning maps; identifying historic buildings; and improving access to transportation and healthy food.
Specific challenges of the River Wards, according to the Planning Commission, include:
Loss of jobs
Traffic congestion and main street competition of the Aramingo Ave. shopping corridor
Many households in the area do not own a car
Drug use, especially around the Allegheny and Somerset El stops
Quality and location of new development, and compatibility of mills’ redevelopment
During the first public meeting, back in January, residents were asked to identify strengths, weaknesses, barriers, and opportunities in the district.
Strengths identified included the Delaware, the El, the traditional commercial corridors, the Frankford Creek, existing parks and squares, and the religious institutions; weaknesses, the Aramingo Shopping District, Lehigh Viaduct, Kensington Avenue, Bridesburg’s brownfields, the Monkiewicz Recreation Center at Richmond and Allegheny, and the corner of Front and Girard.
Barriers included Aramingo Avenue, the Frankford Creek, an inability to access the riverfront, the Lehigh Viaduct, El, and an abandoned rail line near Trenton Avenue in Kensington; opportunities, the Frankford Creek, York Street, Lehigh Viaduct, the former Reading coal piers, Allegheny Avenue, Richmond Street, Frankford Avenue, and the Port Richmond Industrial Development Enterprise (or P.R.I.D.E. for short).
From this, three focus areas -- Lehigh Avenue, Richmond and Allegheny, and Aramingo -- developed, and input on these guided the second public meeting. Participants were asked, first, to prioritize options to improve Lehigh Avenue, including (but not limited to) Take Me To The River-style amenities under the railroad viaduct, public art installation under I-95, a buffered bike lane along Lehigh, and commercial rezoning.
They were then asked to brainstorm ideas for the area around Richmond and Allegheny and the Monkiewicz Recreation Center -- this was the most unstructured of the three exercises -- and lastly, given a bunch of stickers to identify streetscape and access improvements along Aramingo.
During all three, public input and further community ideas were gathered and refined; these included everything from bike infrastructure improvements to angled parking along Lehigh to branding Kensington and Allegheny with its own “Poletown” ethnic-district flavor to redeveloping parcels along Aramingo by Frankford Creek.
Plan Philly asked Ashley Richards of the Planning Commission why the focus areas chosen for the input process were those three in particular, and not someplace like Kensington Avenue, and she responded that those “three focus areas were chosen that best met our criteria”.
The next public meeting is slated for May.