Transit, housing revitalization's ground zero: Broad & Erie

Posted: September 08, 2009

The city wants to make the intersection of Broad Street and Erie Avenue the hub of a new revitalization zone, the City Planning Commission says.

A plan scheduled to be released in the coming weeks calls for transit, commercial and housing redevelopment in an area that extends in a half-mile radius from the intersection.

The area stretches from 10th Street to 20th Street, and from Allegheny to Hunting Park avenues.

"We did a market study . . . and there is actually pretty good market demand for 10 new sit-down restaurants," said David Fecteau, community planner for North Philadelphia.

The Broad and Erie area is just up the street from Temple University's new medical school and research building, at Broad Street between Tioga and Venango.

Officials said that the comprehensive plan puts a special focus on two neighborhoods - the 17th and Tioga area to the west, and the community around the Bethune Elementary School, on Old York Road near Germantown Avenue, to the east.

As part of the plan, city officials want to give new life to the Beury Building, an abandoned 14-story former bank building at Broad and Airdrie streets.

Just north of Broad and Erie, the Beury could be key to developing the area, said Richard Redding, the Planning Commission's director of community planning.

Redding said that the city can encourage property owners to restore vacant buildings like the Beury by helping them connect with federal funding sources, especially if a building is part of an area targeted for economic development.

Fecteau said that it could cost up to $30 million to renovate the building. Built in 1926, the Beury was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of Art Deco-style architecture.

Included in the plan, even with the city's finances in question, is a recommendation for a new Nicetown-Tioga library branch, now on Broad between Erie and Germantown avenues.

Redding said that the city's plans are guided by the principle of "transit-oriented development."

That means that the city wants to support development projects in neighborhoods close to transit lines, such as Broad and Erie.

Although progress has been made in North Philadelphia, Redding said that more needs to be done.

He'd especially like for developers to restore other massive vacant properties, such as the Divine Lorraine Hotel, on Broad at Fairmount Avenue (where an attempt at revitalization has stalled), and the old Botany 500 factory, on Broad at Lehigh Avenue.

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