Lower Moyamensing sees zoning shifts in the Philadelphia2035 plan

This objective of this ongoing multi-year process focuses on bringing the entire city’s zoning codes up to date to reflect Philadelphia’s evolving residential, commercial and industrial uses.

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The proposed zoning map of the Lower Moyamensing neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.)

The Lower Moyamensing neighborhood could see some development shifts in the foreseeable future. 

Envisioning business booms in some areas and residential growth in others, the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association has recently helped to craft the South District portion of the colossal Philadelphia2035 master plan, a comprehensive proposal for “managing growth and development” throughout the city of Philadelphia. 

The objective of this ongoing multi-year process focuses on bringing the entire city’s zoning codes up-to-date to reflect Philadelphia’s evolving residential, commercial and industrial uses. 

For the last five years, the project’s manager, the City Planning Commission, has been engaging with elected officials, community leaders and citizens across the city to sketch the proposal, which is broken down into more than a dozen districts around Philadelphia. 

Though the South District section, which encompasses Washington Avenue to the north and Interstate 76 to the south from the Delaware to the Schuylkill rivers, was adopted by the Planning Commission in 2015, the LoMo Civic Association recently met with Councilman Mark Squilla and Ayse Unver, the Planning Commission’s South and Lower South Community Planner, to offer a few zoning adjustments to Lower Moyamensing. 

“We, at the LoMo Civic Association, felt this was a good time to adopt the 2035 plan in our area,” said Christian Matozzo, an executive board member of LoMo Civic Association. “Maybe, try to correct or improve some parts of our neighborhoods.”

Residents gathered at a monthly LoMo Civic Association meeting a couple of weeks ago to gain a better understanding of such changes they could see in their neighborhood.

The essential goals of remapping Lower Moyamensing mirrors the overarching targets of the Philadelphia2035 plan, which includes preserving single-family homes, promoting multi-family uses along commercial corridors and at highly transit-oriented locations and concentrating and strengthening commercial corridors.

Specifically, the revised LoMo rezoning includes adding more residential zoning where commercial mixed-use currently exist, which indicates the recent decrease in corner stores throughout the neighborhood. 

“A lot of what you’ll see is that some of these corner CMX-1 commercial goes away,” Unver said during the meeting. “A lot of these are changing, because we see that people didn’t want to put another business on the first floor of their building. It’s completely residential at this point, so we wanted to change that so it reflected what’s going on on the ground.”

“They’re never going to be converted back to corner stores,” added LoMo Civic Association vice president Al Girard. “It just is not anywhere near economically viable to change a first-floor residence into a first-floor corner store. It just isn’t.”

Off of Broad Street and throughout the neighborhood, Matozzo says conversions to more single-family homes will also prevent the presence of more duplexes and triplexes, which requires variances. 

Along these lines, another element to the new zoning map includes updating the former brush factory at 12th and Jackson streets from industrial commercial mixed-use to accommodate more residential uses, as the space operates as loft apartments. 

“The level of intensity kind of varies based on what someone wants to come in and build…It makes sense to have more density and some of these more intense uses closer to transit,” Unver said. “On the edges of the neighborhoods, you kind of keep that residential core preserved.” 

While more homes could pop up within the neighborhood, the civic association intends to foster additional businesses along the east side of Broad Street from Oregon to Snyder avenues, specifically changing some properties from single-family to neighborhood or community commercial mixed-uses.

The existing zoning map of the Lower Moyamensing neighborhood under the Philadelphia2035 plan. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.)

“I think one of our main concerns is that we don’t want Broad Street to look kind of desolate like it does right now,” Matozzo said. 

Two major adjustments on Broad Street include the rezoning of South Philadelphia High School and Methodist Hospital.

While both properties are zoned as residential, their new adjustments will incentivize more businesses, as opposed to more apartments, if either entity should ever permanently close. 

The hospital is being proposed to community and Center City commercial mixed-use or (CMX-3), which is “intended to accommodate community- and region-serving mixed use development, including retail and service uses,” according to the Philadelphia Zoning Code.

The high school is proposed for industrial residential mixed-use District (IRMX), which is “intended to accommodate a mix of low-impact industrial, artisan industrial, residential, and neighborhood commercial uses,” according to the Philadelphia Zoning Code.

“The proposal for Methodist, for example, is that – should it ever stop being a hospital, somebody can build a commercial property….you can put either a mixture of commercial and residential or you can make it all commercial or all office spaces,” Matozzo said. “That’s the kind of way you want to approach the thinking.”  

Lower Moyamensing residents echoed the civic association’s thoughts. 

“I’m happy that the location of the school, South Philly High, is being changed from residential to IRMX, which is industrial,” said resident Eve Miller. “I’m also happy that the Methodist Hospital site is being changed to CMX 3…it’s better than being residential. I don’t want it torn down to be apartments.” 

In drafting a new map, the LoMo Civic Association thought it was also crucial to rezone a few auto-oriented commercial sections to either neighborhood commercial mixed-use or single-family houses, including one parcel at 10th and Ritner. 

“Neighbors want as many single-family houses….We need to get that changed to RSA-5 hopefully before someone comes in with a plan so we can preempt an apartment building on that block,” Girard said. 

After community outreach is completed, the final Philadelphia2035 plan will eventually be transformed into legislation introduced in City Council. Following a Planning Commission review, the plan will undergo a rules committee hearing and approval. 

Finally, the plan will require a City Council vote and mayoral approval before being implemented.

“I think we want to have a say in our neighborhood and we want to kind of be able to advocate for the entire community and make sure that there are businesses that are consistent with the quality of life,” Matozzo said. “We’ve got a very stable neighborhood and we want to keep it that way.”

gmaiorano@newspapermediagroup.com 

Twitter: @gracemaiorano