Civic Design Review is a feature of the new zoning code, triggered by large and impactful proposed development projects in Philadelphia. At CDR, a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, representatives from the local RCO, and members of the community have an opportunity to provide feedback to the developer and ask for changes that relate to planning and community opinion. Yesterday, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia presented their Schuylkill Avenue project at CDR. For lots of info on the project, click here. For thoughtful critiques of the project, click here and here.

All four phases
At CDR, the committee provided some favorable feedback, but some significant criticism as well. To their credit, CHOP has made some changes to their plan thanks to community input, and they were sure to mention them at length. Included among the changes were plans for a CHOP funded playground in Schuylkill River Park, an expanded, glass-enclosed cafe with extended hours, and traffic-calming measures on Schuylkill Avenue.

View of cafe

Changes CHOP is making after community input
But these changes don't really cure the project's biggest problem- the fact that it revolves around parking. Eventually, the buildings that make up this campus will sit upon a giant parking podium that all but divides the neighborhood from the river. Yes, it will provide a few access points to the river and the park on the other side of the CSX tracks, but now CHOP is claiming that they may not even be able to build a pedestrian bridge over the tracks in the first phase the project, as had been implied from the beginning of the process. Thankfully, the CDR review board presented a ten-point list of recommendations, most of which relate to the issues we just mentioned. Hilariously, we're pretty sure that CHOP can simply thank the Planning Commission for their advice and proceed on with whatever plan they desire.
1. Explore alternatives to the number of curb cuts off South Street Bridge‐make site less “auto‐friendly”.
2. Commit to connection to the Schuylkill River trail from neighborhood and pedestrian pedestrian bridge crossing crossing the railroad tracks, with public amenity as articulated by the community.
3. Work with Streets Dept on resolving point #1.
4. Stronger connection to the surrounding urban fabric. Clarify connections through design, such as more commercial site amenities as indicated by neighboring uses.
5. Garage wall facing Schuylkill Ave‐ look for more “activation” uses, such as commercial or community uses.
6. Look for ways to reduce the height of the pedestrian bridge and connecting plaza.
7. Address traffic calming south of Bainbridge along Schuylkill Avenue.
8. Clarify site plan for Phase II and show view from South Street Bridge.
9. Explore feasibility of CHOP shuttle as way to stagger traffic influx to site.
10. Summary‐more connected to city and river and less auto‐centric
The tenth point hits the nail on the head. CHOP really needs to rethink several aspects of the project to allow the surrounding neighborhoods to achieve a better connection with the river, and to look forward several decades to an era where perhaps we'll be less dependent on the automobile and a huge parking platform isn't appropriate. As for river access, This Old City has a pretty solid recommendation to dramatically improve the "bridge that will only be built if the budget allows it."

Some thoughtful revisions from This Old City

This plan still doesn't deal with the car situation which represents the project's biggest issue, but you'd have to agree that a Schuylkill Rivertheatre would make the site much more friendly to the surrounding neighborhood.

Do you want to make your voice heard? Tonight is (probably) the last community meeting about this project. It takes place at 2501 South St., at the Philadelphia School Annex at 5:45pm.

See you there?