In the early 20th century, Philadelphia was among the country’s biggest industrial cities, cranking out everything from military weapons to textiles. But since the 1950s, those jobs have steadily declined, leaving a large inventory of abandoned and vacant buildings.
City planners hope to transform seven of these “industrial legacy” areas over the next several years, according to a rough draft of the city’s comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035, released last week. They include Hunting Park West, the Lower Schuylkill and the Far Northeast.
“In Hunting Park, we did a study in the past year doing a new plan for Hunting Park West and it really called for trying to modernize some of the uses in that area,” said Gary Jastrzab, executive director of city planning. “One of the things that’s proposed is a new shopping center on the site where there had been one of these older industrial loft buildings.”
Industrial areas still account for 13 percent of the city’s current land use. They offer potential for mixed-use developments including office, residential and commercial — primarily because of their proximity to transit lines and major roadways, Jastrzab said.
As an example, Jastrzab pointed to the transformation at the Navy Yard, which has gone from a ship-making hub to being the home of Urban Outfitters and Tasty Baking Co.
“There are a lot of different kinds of uses these buildings can be put to,” Jastrzab noted. “The city can help through tax incentives of various kinds — but it’s mostly the market that’s going to determine [if development takes place].”