Task Force to Revise City Preservation Policy

Mayor Kenney has charged the panel with developing ways the city can more effectively protect and reuse its historic buildings.

It may or may not be too late to save these buildings on historic Jewelers' Row, but a task force announced today by Mayor Jim Kenney aims to make it easier to preserve and reuse other historic buildings in the future. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

It may or may not be too late to save these buildings on historic Jewelers’ Row, but a task force announced today by Mayor Jim Kenney aims to make it easier to preserve and reuse other historic buildings in the future. | Photo: Oscar Beisert

Mayor Jim Kenney has appointed a panel of developers, scholars, city officials and preservationists to recommend ways the city can better prevent its historic buildings from falling to the wrecking ball.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that the task force, formally announced today, includes more than 24 members representing all the interests involved in the discussion over preservation. Its charge is to come up with ways to catalog the city’s historic buildings, create incentives for their reuse, and educate the community about the benefits of historic preservation.

The panel both keeps a promise Kenney made during his mayoral campaign and responds to widespread concern in the wake of the loss of such landmarks as the Boyd Theater and the possible loss of others, such as the Jewelers’ Row buildings where Toll Brothers plans to build a condo tower.

Harris Steinberg, head of Drexel University’s Lindy Center for Urban Innovation, will chair the task force. Other noteworthy members of the panel include Building Industry Association of Philadelphia Treasurer Leo Addimado; guerilla preservationist Oscar Beisert; Patrick Grossi, director of advocacy at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia; developer Roland Kassis, who has successfully recycled a number of older buildings along Frankford Avenue in Fishtown; land use attorney Matt McClure;, and Julia Gutstadt, chief investment officer at Dranoff Properties, daughter of company founder and CEO Carl Dranoff and the representative of the Urban Land Institute Philadelphia District Council on the task force.

“Our historic-preservation ordinance is more than 30 years old and was written when Philadelphia was a very different place,” Kenney said in a statement released to the Inquirer. “We need to look at preservation for a city that is adding people and jobs, while still keeping in mind the resource constraints we face.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation will provide technical assistance to the task force, whose work will be supported by a $183,750 grant from the William Penn Foundation.

The task force will begin its work in June of this year and issue its final report in December 2018, with interim and draft reports to be released in the spring and fall of 2018.

Kenney aiming to keep preservation pledges with task force on historic protections [The Philadelphia Inquirer | Philly.com]

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