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First steps a little shaky for Lower North Philly redevelopment

11/7/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Over the past few years, city planners have more and more frequently turned to the charrette as a way to develop consensus and buy-in for community redevelopment. That is why city planners included charrettes in the Philadelphia 2035 plan.

A charrette can take place in an evening, a day or over several days, depending on the scope of the project and the number of stakeholders. At the very least, it brings together city officials, developers and area residents. The meetings are devoted to resolving a community problem, whether through public or private sector action or both. The idea is to collaborate and to own the outcome as a community, to understand how each stakeholder group contributes to a revitalized city.

Philadelphia is now working to implement the solutions developed at neighborhood charrettes across the city. The Planning Commission has taken a few first steps toward making the Lower North District Plan a reality. The commission has proposed zoning changes for three parts of the neighborhood that would downzone several multifamily housing areas into single-family neighborhoods and modify zoning for some commercial properties as well.

The multi-family housing in question is, for the most part, student housing that has sprung up in the last 10 years or so. The commercial zoning changes will limit the types of businesses that go into the neighborhood.

The charrette process apparently fell short of unanimous consent in a few areas. Some residents are accusing the city of not talking over the specifics with area residents before presenting the changes to the city council for approval. For the council, though, moving quickly on the multifamily zoning bill was essential: Neighbors of Temple University students had been complaining quite loudly to the council about the student housing.

The planning committee will soon hold hearings on a couple of the initiatives, and there will be a follow-up charrette on design issue for the vacated school buildings in the neighborhood.

The city is working on 18 neighborhood plans, including this one. Each has used the charrette as a tool, but each will likely present the commission and the council with some challenges.

Source:, “Planners OK rezoning to thwart multifamily dwellings in N. Philly,” Jared Brey, Oct. 22, 2014