Morning Headlines: Plans Presented for Market Street Building Collapse Memorial

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On Wednesday, the Art Commission got a “walk through” of the plans for the memorial park at 22nd and Market, the site of a tragic building collapse in June 2013. Though there were concerns about some of the design elements, depth of shrub beds and types of trees planted for a sense of permanence, “The commissioners unanimously recommended conceptual approval,” reports PlanPhilly’s Matt Golas.

The park will include three granite structures designed by artist Barbara Fox, who described the piece as a “remembrance” to people who died in the collapse and its overall impact. More from Fox, via PlanPhilly: Read more »

Inside Take: How City Hall Makes Blight Worse

One arm of city government plans to make a Germantown street look like this, while another...

One arm of city government plans to make a Germantown street look like this, while another…

(This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

This could prove to be a seminal year in Philadelphia’s seemingly intractable fight against blight. The launch of the long-awaited Land Bank and stepped up efforts by agencies like the Department of Licenses & Inspections and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority are encouraging developments. And yet, with an almost Jekyll & Hyde approach, one major obstacle still stands in the way of progress – city government. Read more »

Land Bank Defeatism Solves Nothing

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr

[Editor’s Note: This story was first published on the blog of Progressive Philly Rising. It’s reprinted here in full with permission from the author. It’s a response to Citified insider Jay McCalla’s column criticizing the formation of the city’s new land bank.]

In a recent post on PhillyMag’s new Citified blog, contributor Jay McCalla argued that the new Philadelphia Land Bank is a bad idea. As the convener of the Philly Land Bank Alliance, a coalition of 16 diverse organizations that advocated successfully for passage of the Land Bank ordinance, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) made a strong case to the contrary. We continue to work for implementation of an effective, accountable, transparent and equitable Land Bank. Here’s why: Read more »

A Hearing On the Land Bank Strategic Plan Is Coming Up

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Could Philadelphia’s Land Bank Plan be better? We asked this of you last month, but now is your chance to really make your voice heard.

On Monday, December 1st, a hearing on the Land Bank’s strategic plan and polices resolution will be held by City Council’s Public Property Committee. If you like the plan (or don’t) and want to testify, you can sign up here.

Details below. 

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Could the Land Bank Plan Be Better?

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr

We’ve been waiting for it since the beginning of the year, but now that the city’s new Land Bank is expected to launch in 2015, some worry the blueprints for the plan need improvement.

The Daily News’ Valerie Russ reports that advocates of affordable housing are less than impressed with the Philadelphia Land Bank’s draft strategic plan and see it as being “too general.” Said Nora Lichtash of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities:

“We want to make sure that when they transfer land to get rid of blight, that they’re doing it in a way to ensure that not only market-rate development takes place, but there’s also affordable development that comes back out of the land bank.”

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Land Bank to Start at the End of this Year

Buildings in Mantua, the West Philadelphia neighborhood with close to 15% in vacant properties.
Photo credit: Ian Freimuth via Flickr

At long last the much anticipated and nationally acknowledged Land Bank has become official. Yesterday, Mayor Nutter signed the bill that permits the formation of a division in charge of taking over Philadelphia’s tax-delinquent and vacant properties, and selling them to buyers.

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez estimates that the bank, which will be a branch of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., will require somewhere between $3 million and $5 million to get going. With more than 11,000 properties throughout the city, is that really surprising?

Read more »

Morning Headlines: New York Times Thinks Philadelphia Could Set An Example

• Could this be the year Philadelphia sticks to a new year resolution regarding vacant properties? The New York Times highlights the city’s steps to make things right.

• Attention mortgage borrowers! Erik J. Martin from CTW Features reminds us that Jan. 1 marked the expiration Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act.

• The 146-room Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia/Ft. Washington now belongs to the Laurus Corporation after buying it for $16.4 million. That’s about $112k per unit, as CoStar Group’s Vickie Katlic points out.

Read more »

What Philly Should Have Learned From Baltimore About Land Banks

maria-quinones-sanchez-head-Shot-400x400After two years of crafting a land bank bill that would streamline the messy, maddening process of buying land from the city, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez’s legislative magnum opus finally passed a first-reading last week, but far less triumphantly than many would have liked. In the 11th hour, Sanchez capitulated to an amendment by Council President Darrell Clarke that would effectively retain the stifling councilmanic control over the sale of land. (The bill  has since been passed.)

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State House Reps Back Land Bank Advocates

As City Council members debated yesterday the land bank legislation voted out of committee last month, two of the state representatives who drafted the legislation that made the land bank possible have lent their voice to those of the advocates who say it needs further streamlining.

In a letter released Wednesday, state Reps. Chris Ross (R-158th District; Chester County) and John Taylor (R-177th District; River Wards) criticized the current land bank bill for not doing away with the Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC).

Read more »

Is the Current Land Bank Bill Strong Enough?

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The coalition of developers, Realtors and community development corporations pushing to create a city land bank praised the bill Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez is sponsoring for streamlining the city’s cumbersome process for getting vacant land into the hands of those who will redevelop it. But at a news conference today, they argued that the bill could speed things up even more and urged supporters to work for changes that would improve it.

The main purpose of the news conference called by the Philadelphia Land Bank Alliance (PLBA) was to spell out in detail just how cumbersome the process is and how both the current and improved bills would return vacant land to productive use faster.

Read more »