Category Archives: Planning

Centennial Parkside CDC Awarded $200,000 to Advance its Solar Energy Initiatives

Philadelphia, PA (December 18, 2018) –

Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of tax credits to advance the Centennial Parkside CDC’s solar energy initiatives through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). This is part of nearly $18 million in tax credits to support 136
community revitalization projects across the commonwealth.
Spark Therapeutics, as the corporate sponsor and beneficiary of the tax credits, is contributing $200,000 toward the Centennial Parkside CDC. The funding will help deploy residential solar energy to low-income families and will lower their energy bills.

The solar initiative will be implemented in partnership with the Philadelphia Energy Authority and their Solarize Philly program. NAP encourages this type of private sector investment into mission-based non-profits to advance projects that will help improve
distressed communities.

“Fostering public-private collaboration and encouraging investment are some of the best ways we can revitalize low-income areas,” Governor Wolf said. “When we lift up our distressed communities, we lift up the entire commonwealth.”

“We thank Spark Therapeutics for their contribution to the CDC. We expect this form of solar energy deployment to become a model for partnerships between CDCs, the residents they serve, and local organizations to achieve meaningful investments in low-income neighborhoods,” said Chris Spahr, the Executive Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC.

About NAP
NAP provides tax credits to businesses that donate capital to support projects that address neighborhood and community problems – particularly in low-income areas that need it
most. This past 2017-18 fiscal year, the Department of Community and Economic Development received more than 190 applications, totaling over $32 million for NAP tax credits Out of that $32 million, DCED was able to award $18 million to those projects that best met the requirement guidelines laid out for NAP.

About Spark Therapeutics
A fully integrated, commercial company committed to discovering, developing and delivering gene therapies, Spark Therapeutics challenges the inevitability of genetic diseases, including blindness, hemophilia, lysosomal storage disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Spark Therapeutics is a
diverse, experienced team united in its goal to break down barriers for people and families affected by genetic diseases.

About Centennial Parkside CDC
The Centennial Parkside CDC is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization located in the East Parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Its mission is to preserve, promote and revitalize East Parkside through partnerships with businesses and institutions and programs that engage residents, increase opportunity, and grow a diverse, thriving
community.

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Nine Things To Look For In Parkside In 2019 – by Manuel McDonnell Smith

In 2018 – Parkside, Mantua, and Belmont overflowed with openings and ribbon cuttings as many long-promised development projects came to fruition. We celebrated the completion of renewed park spaces, play areas, and pedestrian improvements brought by the Parkside Edge project. The excitement over the new living and retail spaces at Centennial Village is still evident by a rental waiting list that is said to be years-long, showing that quality, affordable housing in our area remains a strong desire from residents. And the world watched as a new mural of hometown boy gone global, Will Smith, was painted on Girard Avenue. As much as we’re excited for what’s to come in 2019 with our list of nine projects below – the editorial team of The Parkside Journal would love to see more private and institutional investment begin to flow into our neighborhoods.

Much of the development work that is scheduled is funded by government entities, these are deserved dollars which are finally flowing to our areas after years of neglect. These projects will do much to improve our communities, but private dollars are the ones that will make the most impact, especially on our inside blocks where most residents live. What we hope for is a balance of development and progress, where developers and residents work together, for an improved quality-of-life for all in our neighborhoods. With a cadre of strong community groups and eager residents willing to partner and talk, here’s another official signal that our neighborhoods are ready for the future.

DaVita Care Center– construction underway – Construction is nearly complete on a new medical use facility in the 4900 block of Parkside Avenue at 50th Street. The facility will be leased and managed by Davita, which operates a large network of kidney and general medical care clinics. The opening date for the facility, which will also have its own private 30-space parking lot, is not yet known.

Medicare-Centered Medical Centers – 5050 Parkside Avenue & Parkwest Town Center – A local branch of national health care chain Oak Street Health recently opened at 5050 Parkside Avenue. Services there are aimed at Medicare patients who will have access to transportation to and from the center, individualized treatment plans, longer-than-average appointments and community-centered support that goes beyond symptom treatment according to a press release. “Dedicated Senior Medical Center”, a medical chain with similar goals and focus on Medicare patients also opened this fall inside of the Park West Town Center in the former pet shop location.

Lansdowne & Montgomery Creek Restoration – Fairmount Park – Following up on its successful Centennial Commons project along Parkside Avenue, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is working on restoring the two small creeks that wind their way through the park and horticultural center. Many people noticed the removal of invasive and non-native trees removed from the areas around Lansdowne Glen & Michaux Grove. Pedestrian friendly gates were then installed to keep out deer. In fall 2019, plans call for native species will be planted on the grounds in hopes of increasing plant diversity, improve wildlife habitat, and making the grounds around the Horticulture Center that more beautiful.

Mantua Greenway – Phase I construction scheduled for spring 2020 – Fundraising is still underway to complete a proposed “greenway” that will follow Mantua Avenue and Parrish Street, from the Spring Garden Bridge at 31st Street over to the 40th Street Bridge. The project was inspired by the efforts of Bessie Washington, a lifetime resident who lives on Mantua Avenue who was tired of seeing overgrown weeds along the railroad tracks. A community group meets monthly to work on progress. www.mantuagreenway.org

East Parkside Green Stormwater Project – projects to begin early summer 2019 – The Philadelphia Water Department is working on public outreach on a series of nearly twenty planned green stormwater infrastructure projects scheduled to begin construction in the Parkside neighborhood between 38th and 41st streets by summer 2019. These projects including tree trenches and curb bumpouts are designed to capture rainwater runoff and prevent water overflow into the nearby Schuylkill. Neighbors should expect about a month’s disruption with parking and work crews while construction on each project progresses.

West Philadelphia Community Center – redevelopment plans in progress – This past June, Drexel University announced its purchase of The West Philadelphia Community Center (WPCC), a two-story, 37,000-square-foot facility at 3512 Haverford Avenue in Mantua. Caring People Alliance (CPA) previously owned & operated the space but has announced that they will be relocating to another facility. According to the University, current programs by CPA will continue at the WPCC for another year, while the University works with local residents to determine how the facility can best address community interests in conjunction with its Dornslife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

Rebuild Philadelphia – four sites selected in Parkside, Mantua & Fairmount Park – ReBuild is Mayor Jim Kenney’s initiative to invest millions of dollars to improve neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries across the city. Funding for these projects comes directly from the Philadelphia Beverage Tax (a.k.a. “Soda Tax). The city has just begun releasing funds for the projects this year after a legal battle over the tax was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The four rebuild sites selected in our area include:

  • Carousel House 1701 Belmont Avenue
  • Parkside Fields West Fairmount Park
  • West Mill Creek Playground 5100 Westminster Avenue Miles Mack Playground 732-66 N 36th Street

46th and Market Street Redevelopment: Potential opening: 2019: The latest white-knights of the saga of the redevelopment for the building that was once slated to be the new home of the Police Department is a partnership between development firm Iron SStone and the Public Health Management Corp. (PHMC). Published plans for the site include a federally funded health center that will provide primary care and dental services and a 20- to 30-bed overnight site. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is also said to be planning a children’s mental health services center along with a daycare center possibly operated by the YMCA.

Additional retail construction could also occur along Market and 46th Streets along the site’s perimeter. Plans are still in progress.

Ujima Developers Invests in Real Estate Solutions for our Community – Leon D. Caldwell, Ph.D

Ujima Developers and Ujima Community Transformation Partners as a CDC were launched to help solve problems with existing residents. The mission is to co-create strategies for affordable housing while also re-designing neighborhoods so that people can live an optimal life, if they choose. It is no secret that many of the blocks in our neighborhoods have not had investments for some time. We can argue if this is intentional or happenstance however it will not move us closer to putting the chairs back on porches. At a certain point we need to move past the analysis and start working to restore.

This can all be done but it’s going to take people in our community voicing their vision for what is truly impactful for the neighborhood. This means giving developers projects, programs and long-term plans that improve your quality of life not just check off a box in an RFP. Too many times neighborhood associations and RCOs only flex their power for zoning hearings. Another form of power is looking for partnership opportunities with developers that create development projects that benefit everyone over time.

As a social impact real estate development group, Ujima Developers, demonstrates how to collaborate with neighbors for solutions to challenges in the community. For example, we are working on age-friendly housing strategies that are intergenerational, affordable and accessible. This could help many of our neighbors worried about aging parents living alone in big row homes. Or maybe you are reading this concerned that soon you will be faced with the decision to stay or move out of your row home. The narrow bathroom, steep flight of steps and high energy bills add up. What if we could design a row home that functions for grandparents just as well as it does for grandchildren? Can you imagine a community that has healthy food options, community owned stores with services for the entire family can enjoy? Or can you dream about a livable community that values your ideas for how to improve Parkside without inviting the kind of gentrification that disrespects people already on the block?

Ujima Developers is extending an invitation to contribute solutions for creating age-friendly row homes in our neighborhoods. We are planning an Age Friendly Row House Summit in East Parkside community. Dinner will be served and your ideas accepted. In addition, we will be discussing age-in-place remodeling solutions. This effort is being sponsored by AARP, American Institute of Architecture, West Philadelphia Financial Services, and American Society of Interior Designers, and Locus Developers.

 

Could A New Monorail Take A ‘Bite’ Out of Zoo Area Traffic Crunch?

by Manuel McDonnell-Smith

The image above is not the proposed Monorail for the planned zoo project. We show this file photo of what the Monorail could possibly look like.

Executives from the Philadelphia Zoo are on tour asking residents of Parkside and Mantua to support a new train plan from 30th Street Station. Anyone from Lancaster Avenue to Leidy Avenue knows the weekend routine – get into your car and avoid 34th and Girard Ave if you want to get anywhere fast. Zoo crowds are notorious for backing up traffic in and around the neighborhood. While things have gotten somewhat better in the past few years with the addition of the parking deck at the Zoo Transportation Center and other slight traffic pattern changes on Girard Avenue and 34th Street, backups are still a too-often occurrence.

So, with packed roads and less-than-ideal public transit options for Zoo Visitors, where should we look for solutions to the traffic nightmare around 34th and Girard? “Up high” says Kenneth Woodson, Vice President for Community Relations at the Zoo who has been circling around the neighborhood touting a new Zoo community outreach plan, part of which includes the monorail, which if built, would operate on a new line to be built between the Zoo and 30th Street Station, with a possible future extension from the Zoo up Parkside Avenue to the Mann Music Center.

With a high-flying idea like this, you might think Woodson is over-inspired by the runaway success of the Zoo Balloon, which sends huge crowds into the air over the Zoo each weekend. But a recently released study published by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) shows there is some merit to the Zoo’s idea.

In the DVRPC analysis, commissioned by both the Zoo and SEPTA, a 1.5-mile system is envisioned beginning at 30th Street Station and then snaking northward along SEPTA’s Powelton Rail Yard through University City and Mantua before making a stop at the Zoo. An expansion across Girard Avenue, and up Parkside Avenue providing access to the Please Touch Museum and the Mann Music Center “is only a possibility”, says Woodson, but it’s enough of one that conceptual plans for the actual Zoo stop have not been finalized. If the eventual monorail line stops in front of the Zoo, then future expansion north and west would be stymied by the large four track Northeast Corridor Bridge that abuts Zoo’s western boundary. “Going along Zoological Avenue could offer options for an overpass,” explains Woodson.

But those Parkside Avenue options are far-off in potential phase two plans. There’s still much to be decided in the first phase of the project. Two guideway options currently exist, one that stays closer to the rail yard, and another that would stop closer to the existing street grid along 32nd Street. Under either scenario, neighborhood access would be provided by stops at Race Street, Spring Garden Street and on Mantua Avenue. Authors of the study propose that operations be kept “simple, realistic, and easy to understand”, who plan service to operate with ten-minute headways.

While the report authors and Zoo Officials are optimistic about simple operation, much of the monorail concept faces complex questions. What would it look like, and how big would it be? Will residents in neighborhoods with historic character like University City, Mantua, and Parkside support a dual-track modern monorail running down the streets?

Another issue is ridership. If you build it, will they come? In the most optimistic ridership projections provided by the study about 6,000 riders would use the system daily. But that’s only if the system offered free fares. With full-fare added, the daily total of passengers drops to just over 1,400.

The Zoo is also promoting the monorail plan as a way to relieve congestion caused by crowds visiting the Zoo. But even free monorail service is only expected to capture just over 220 riders daily. Most riders using the potential service are forecast to use the neighborhood stops, not the one at the Zoo. Woodson says the Zoo prefers to see the project in terms of “total ridership: how many residents will get to ride and the opportunity for access to other cultural institutions in the area”.

SEPTA, the most-likely potential operator of the system, and one of the stakeholders in the eventual fare decision on the monorail system declined to offer formal comment other than to confirm their participation in the study and to commit to “continue to work with area stakeholders in the future.”

Marjorie Ogilvie, chairperson of the Business Association of West Parkside was one of the first in the neighborhood to learn of the monorail plan and is initially supportive of the plan. “We need more viable direct transportation in this community. What we really need is a train stop [along SEPTA’s Paoli Line] to allow our residents access in and out for work and play. But we’ll support a monorail if that’s what we can get.”

Woodson says additional community outreach events are planned for later this month where he hopes to get more feedback from neighbors as the Zoo plans the next steps in promoting the project. He says that there could be additional benefits beyond traffic relief from this project, adding that “this could be an huge opportunity for economic development.”

Could This Be the New Vision For Leidy Avenue?

by Michael E. Burch

A shot of the front of the Leidy School taken on November 28, 2013.
A shot of the front of the Leidy School taken on November 28, 2013.

It has been one year since Leidy school closed its doors for good as a public school. Leidy had a fifty year lifespan in the Parkside community but last June it lost that life when Leidy became one of 24 schools forced to close by the School Reform Commission. The closing of a neighborhood public school is painful to all involved (including teachers, students, parents and the community as a whole). Leidy is closed and that’s a fact, but what happens now? One result of the closing means that the community is left with a large vacant building in our neighborhood. Vacant schools can quickly become eyesores, and dangerous places. The situation is the same in every community this happens to. The question cries out: whado you do with these old buildings? In the best case scenario you sell these building to interested parties, and hopefully they can start a new life of service. However, it can often take years to find interested and responsible buyers.

In Leidy’s case, however, there is at least one young developer who has an idea, not for the school building but for the land area Leidy currently sits upon. Mr. German Yakubov is a young developer who along with his brother formed Haverford Square Properties a small property investment company working primarily in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.

The Yakubov brothers began buying, rehabbing and then renting properties to university students along Haverford Avenue. In fact many of their properties still lie in Mantua. After working and going to college in University City the brothers have become very familiar with West Philadelphia, particularly Mantua and University City. Looking to expand their business and grow into a new community Mr. Yakubov was advised to take a look at the Parkside neighborhood.

A rendering of one developers' vision for the Leidy School Property
A rendering of one developers’ vision for the Leidy School Property

His company has already purchased land in our area with the intention to build new homes and stores for residents. Mr. Yakubov has real hopes for continued development in our area, but his real ambitions are directed toward Leidy School or to be more accurate the land it sits on. His company
envisions a triangular shaped, four or five story, mixed use building structure.

The building will have retail space on the first floor levels, and one, two, and possibly three bedroom apartments above. This new building would use the entire perimeter of the Leidy school footprint.

According to Mr. Yakubov “The retail space would be filled with stores that support local residents such as restaurants, barber shops, frozen yogurt shops, or coffee shops; something that complements the residents in the community and the people who live above the retail space. “The proposed structure would have an open courtyard at its center where people could meet after dining, or having coffee at one of the restaurants on the first floor. German Yakubov’s hope is that his building will attract new residents to the area, as well as appeal to current residents. He seeks to attract people who visit the area, but don’t live here. People who visit the Zoo, Please Touch Museum, The Mann Music Center, The Shufuso Japanese House and the other events and
attractions that take place in our area. These individuals visit our area but never cross Parkside Avenue.

Mr. Yakubov;s question is “why not live here in Parkside?” German Yakubov’s hope is that his building will attract new residents to the area, as well as appeal to current residents. He seeks to attract people who visit the area, but don’t live here. People who visit the Zoo, Please Touch Museum, The Mann Music Center, The Shufuso Japanese House and the other events and attractions that take place in our area. These individuals visit our area but never cross Parkside Avenue. Mr. Yakubov;s question is “why not live here in Parkside?”

If things progress the way Haverford Properties envisions, they will have tenants who may be recent college graduates, professionals from University of Pennsylvania, Drexel or even Saint Joseph’s. During my conversations with Mr. Yakubuv he enthusiastically points out all the selling points of our area, easy access in and out, close proximity to City Line Avenue, and equally close to Center City or University City, and we have a new shopping center also. Parkside meets all of the requirements to attract new residents. The proposed plan is bold but with any plan there are problems. If the above shown building is built where is the parking space for the added people? What will the traffic patterns be like during peak driving times? How will current residents fair during such a transition? German has been paying close attention to community residents, and we hope this type of attention will continue throughout the construction process and beyond.

Like any development in our area this is just a proposed plan right now. Mr. Yakubov has not been awarded the project from the city. There are many more community meetings to be held; and I’m sure major discussions with Councilwoman Blackwell’s office before any such project would be allowed to
progress.

It’s our understanding that there are least two individuals interested in the Leidy space. Mr. Yakubuv has been the most direct in meeting with community residents, and this project will stir moreneeded development in the area.

It should be noted that on May 6th. 2014 Leidy school was placed on the available school sale list from the City of Philadelphia and given a price tag of 2.3 million dollars. Haverford properties has placed a bid in for the property.

If all goes as the Yakubuv brothers would like, and they do get to purchase the Leidy space, and they get the necessary funding, he sees this as a two year project from breaking ground to finished project.

What do you think of this project, is this something our community wants? Send you comments to The Parkside Journal at: parksidejournal@yahoo.com

Parkside Edge Project Update

by Jennifer Mahar

There is exciting news for the West Fairmount Park and West Parkside community! On Tuesday,February 4th representatives from the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes presented initial design ideas for a new recreation zone’ and other immediate interventions planned for the edge of West Fairmount Park to a group of key community stakeholders in the Parkside neighborhood.

Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.
Fairmount Park Conservancy staff meeting with Parkside stakeholders about the Parkside Edge Project.

Eight years removed from a Centennial District Master Plan that produced several important changes to the area but few that directly impacted the adjacent neighborhood on a daily basis, the Conservancy believes that the time is right to bring community-inspired changes to the park that will dramatically improve the experience of and interaction with the park among Parkside residents.

This planning work has been guided by a set of principles established by the Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes, namely that the project must benefit the surrounding community, celebrate the rich history of the Centennial District, connect to existing local, citywide and regional assets, and offer diverse programming that provides options for all age groups during different seasons.

  1. With these guidelines in mind, the Conservancy identified and presented five key project areas:A gateway where Girard and Parkside meet that will calm traffic at the corner and provide sculpture or signage that designates the historic area.
  2. Parkside Edge improvements, including a plaza-like edge alongside Parkside Avenue, safer crossing features, and bringing some of the park’s gorgeous trees across the Avenue and into the neighborhood.
  3. A new youth play area near Kelly Pool , which would include a small building with restrooms and other amenities that would be open to the public, natural playground feathers, a spray water feature and a ‘trail of water’ that could be waterplay in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
  4. A creative play area just south of Smith Memorial Arch, which would provide recreation opportunities for kids who are slightly older but are still looking for imaginative play and exercise, potentially with giant swings, climbing walls, climbing nets, hammocks and trampolines.
  5. Restoration of the historic Smith Memorial Arch.

At the February 4th meeting the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was also on hand to report that they have hired Studio: Bryan Hanes to conduct a planning study for improvements to the once-iconic and long idle Welsh Fountain in front of the Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall. In addition to hardscape and planting improvements, Studio: Bryan Hanes will be exploring ways to make the fountain functional again. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation recently scheduled improvements to the Abstinence Fountain located near the Mann Center.

In other West Park news, the Conservancy is now working with an engineering firm to determine why Concourse Lake has been losing water. Knowing that so many residents enjoy Concourse Lake, the Conservancy made improvements to the area surrounding the lake several years ago, installing a native plant garden, signage, walking path, and benches. Knowing that maintaining an adequate water level long-term is key for the health of the thriving local habitat, our current work at the lake will allow us to determine the cause of water loss at the lake and ultimately solve the problem, restoring Concourse Lake to proper levels to ensure that it continues to provides a beautiful visiting experience for both people, birds and other animals.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell at the Parkside Edge meeting at Christ Community Baptist Church

Finally, this we spring will be bringing a fabulous project to communities surrounding West Park. On Saturday, May 10th, the Conservancy will kick off our third annual Love Your Park Week at Parkside Evans. All residents and park user are welcome to join us for a volunteer service day from 9am – 12pm followed by the first ever ‘PUMPJAM’ at the new public Philly Pumptrack from 1pm -4pm.

All are welcome at this event, which will feature demonstrations, raffles, music, giveaways and more, and celebrates the grand opening of Philadelphia’s first pumtrack- the fast-growing attraction in biking among cyclists of all ages.For more information on LOVE YOUR PARK WEEK and the volunteer service day at Parkside Evans, please call 215-988-9334

Fact Sheet: President Obama’s Promise Zones Initiative

excerpt from a January 2014 White House Press Release

 

Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.
Promise Zone Map released by the City of Philadelphia.

For decades before the economic crisis, local communities were transformed as jobs were sent overseas and middle class Americans worked harder and harder but found it more difficult to get ahead.  Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zone Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.  Today, the President announced the next step in those efforts by naming the first five “Promise Zones”. 

The first five Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, have each put forward a plan on how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity.  In exchange, these designees will receive the resources and flexibility they need to achieve their goals.

Each of these designees knows and has demonstrated that it takes a collaborative effort – between private business and federal, state, tribal and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; children and parents – to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American, in every community.

Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia)

The City of Philadelphia’s key strategies include:

  • Putting people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses; and the development of a supermarket providing both jobs and access to healthy food.
  • Improving high-quality education to prepare children for careers, in partnership with Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation, through increasing data-driven instruction that informs teacher professional development; developing school cultures that are conducive to teaching and learning; mentoring middle and high school youth with focus on college access and readiness; and increasing parent engagement.
  • Preventing and reducing crime in order to attract new residents and long-term investments, through strategies such as focused deterrence, hot spots policing, and foot patrol.