Your Ideas Needed at Planning Meeting, January 21, 2016

Add YOUR ideas for Eastwick, at the 2nd community planning meeting for Lower SW Philadelphia.  This public meeting will be held on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at Penrose Elementary School, 2515 South 78th Street, Philadelphia, from 6:00pm – 7:30pm.

This public planning meeting provides a forum for district residents, including Eastwick, to express vision for community growth, development & preservation. Results from the first public meeting held in November will be provided.

We urge all Eastwick residents and stakeholders to attend this meeting. Community input will become part of the official record, and is very important!

Sponsored by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, public meetings facilitate critically-important local citizen engagement in district planning. This comprehensive, multi-year process is part of the Philadelphia 2035 plan, which makes recommendations to create a more livable, healthy, and economically viable city in the future.

Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) is committed to active engagement in planning our community – we hope you are too!  Please join us at the public planning meeting on January 21, 2016.

For more information, contact Martine DeCamp, Philadelphia City Planning Commission Project Manager, at martine.decamp (at) phila.gov.

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Eastwick Urban Renewal Agreement Ends, New Chapter Begins for Community

Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) members came together this rainy afternoon two days before Christmas, to witness history first-hand. Crowded into an unassuming room, at a specially-called board meeting of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), we cheered when they voted unanimously to officially end the largest urban renewal agreement in history!

Though the meeting lasted less than 30 minutes, the Eastwick community has endured environmental justice challenges for decades, and has been actively advocating for an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable future since 2012, when residents and stakeholders joined forces to oppose a 722-apartment development proposal, and form EFNC.

Eastwick has much to celebrate this season, enjoying a moment that seemed nearly unimaginable 4 years ago, and eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the Eastwick story.  The PRA has committed to community planning, and every voice is needed in this important process!

EFNC is grateful for the leadership and support of many allies, including Brian Abernathy-executive director of PRA, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson-2nd district, and Amy Laura Cahn-staff attorney at PILCOP, whose expertise, determination, and legal counsel have guided us since our earliest days.

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Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition members with Brian Abernathy, executive director of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (left), Amy Laura Cahn, staff attorney at Public Interest Law Center (fourth from left), and Steve Cobb, legal counsel for Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (right).

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) issued the following press release about this historic occasion:

December 23, 2015 – Philadelphia, Pa. – The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) and developer Korman Residential have reached an historic agreement, which terminates the 50-year old Eastwick Redevelopment Agreement and returns control of approximately 135 acres of land adjacent to the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge back to PRA. The transfer to PRA comes with a four-year purchase option to the City of Philadelphia, subject to the results of a planning process, to be led by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

This deal comes after almost four years of advocacy by the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) and the broader Eastwick community to stave off unwanted and ecologically unsound development of this land. Under the Redevelopment Agreement, Korman Residential had held the development rights to the land for over fifty years.

“We are thrilled that this land is coming back under public control,” said Terry Williams, President of EFNC, who was born and raised and returned to live in Eastwick. “We are ready to work with the city to conduct the planning process promised to us last July to rejuvenate our community after decades of neglect and disinvestment. This is monumental to so many folks—folks who have passed on and folks who are still watching over this neighborhood.”

At a public meeting hosted by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson last July, PRA publicly pledged to lead a community-based planning process for the undeveloped land in Eastwick, if a deal with Korman could be secured. The last plan created for Eastwick was in 1957, a plan that led to the condemnation of over 2300 acres of land and the displacement of over 8000 people, in order to create the nation’s largest urban renewal project. PRA has acknowledged the negative impact of the top-down approach of years past and suggested future planning processes would be conducted with and for residents. Councilman Johnson has also consistently spoken of the need for the community to be involved in decision-making.

“This is an historic moment for this vital neighborhood,” said Councilman Johnson. “I look forward to supporting the community as we move into a planning process. We will ensure that residents will have a strong voice in the future of their neighborhood, including if and when the City chooses to exercise its purchase option.”

Eastwick, located in southwest Philadelphia, borders the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and the Philadelphia International Airport. Much of the neighborhood is located in a federally designated floodplain and has been subject to chronic stormwater issues and severe flooding from nearby Cobbs and Darby Creeks, as well as the impact of two Superfund sites, sinking homes, and a host of other environmental issues.

In 2012, residents discovered, by accident, that Korman intended to build 722 rental units and 1034 parking spaces on a portion of the larger undeveloped parcel, raising huge concerns from residents and environmental groups. Citing a lack of community input and impact of development on stormwater management and flooding, District Councilman Johnson put a stop to the zoning changes necessary for Korman to build. Instead, Councilman Johnson and Mayor-elect Jim Kenney responded to resident concerns by holding hearings on flooding in Eastwick, spurring a series of efforts to begin mitigating decades-old problems.

“Eastwick residents have been working for years to self-determine the future of their community and move beyond being labeled as a “blighted” neighborhood,” said Amy Laura Cahn, a staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center and legal counsel to EFNC, along with Dechert LLP. “We know that the Kenney Administration will work with residents to find the best solution for the land. Today’s agreement signals a new era for Eastwick and demonstrates, once again, that communities are powerful.”

Contact: Amy Laura Cahn, Public Interest Law Center, 917-771-3385, acahn@pilcop.org

Connect to YOUR community! Attend Lower SW Philly Public Planning Meeting November 9

Come on out to the first public meeting for community planning in Lower SW Philadelphia! The meeting will be held on Monday, November 9, 2015 at Ezekiel Baptist Church, 5701 Grays Avenue, Philadelphia, from 6:00pm – 7:30pm.

This public planning meeting provides a forum for residents of Lower SW Philadelphia, including Eastwick, to contribute suggestions, ideas and input in the future of YOUR community, including zoning, city-owned land and facilities, and public investments in the district.

Sponsored by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, public meetings facilitate critically-important local citizen engagement in district planning. This comprehensive, multi-year process is part of the Philadelphia 2035 plan, which makes recommendations to create a more livable, healthy, and economically viable city in the future. Goals include:

  • Guide Zoning Remapping – future land use and zoning maps.
  • Focus Areas – examine underutilized spaces.
  • City Facilities Planning – study location and effectiveness of facilities such as libraries and playgrounds.
  • Public Landscapes – recommend improvements to streetscapes, landscapes, parks and plazas.
  • Community Health Improvements – improve access to healthy foods, physical activity and healthy lifestyles.
  • Coordinate Neighborhood Plans – review previous community plans and set priorities for future planning.

Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) is committed to active engagement in planning our community – we hope you are too!  Please join us at the public planning meeting on November 9.

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City Seeks to End Troubled, 60-year old Development Agreement in Eastwick

EFNC greatly appreciates the work and words of reporter Samantha Melamed, who posted a compelling article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 17, 2015, highlighting city maneuvers, challenges and hopes in the Eastwick community.

News article excerpt below. Click on the title to read the full story by Samantha Melamed. (If link disabled, click here to download PDF article.)

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Eastwick community activist Earl Wilson stands at the edge of the elevated Darby Creek after heavy rains on Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 in Southwest Philadelphia. (MICHAEL BUCHER / For the Inquirer)

“City seeks end to troubled, 60-year Eastwick urban renewal effort

The last time the city developed a plan for Philadelphia’s Eastwick section, in 1957, it proved disastrous for residents: Over the next several years, it condemned more than 2,000 acres of private property, evicting 8,636 people to make way for a vision of urban renewal.

Today, that vision remains largely unfulfilled: Suburban-style cul-de-sacs lie curled up in wait for houses that were never built. Those who did move in faced years of flooding, sinking houses, and exposure to pollution from two Superfund sites.

But soon, there could be a new Eastwick plan – one developed with input from the community.

That hinges in part on whether the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority can reach a deal with developer Korman Corp. The authority wants to retake control of the last large swath of vacant land optioned to Korman as part of a 1961 redevelopment agreement, which expires at the end of this year.

Authority spokesman Paul Chrystie said the agency was in early discussions over the 128-acre expanse. “The PRA’s preferred option,” he said, “would be to return control to the city for the beginning of a community-planning process.”

An attorney for Korman….”

(Read the full article: http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20151016_City_seeks_end_to_troubled__60-year_Eastwick_urban_renewal_effort.html)

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