The Brief: City Council Signs Off on a $7.27 Million Purchase of Land for New Waterfront Philadelphia Prison

The long-closed Eastern State Penitentiary. | Photo by John Van Horn.

The long-closed Eastern State Penitentiary. | Photo by John Van Horn.

1. A City Council committee has authorized spending $7.27 million to buy a new 58-acre parcel on the Delaware waterfront for a new city prison.

The gist: PlanPhilly reports on the council committee’s approval of a bill that gives the Nutter administration a green light to purchase 7777 State Road, reports PlanPhilly. The lot is next to an existing city’s prison, which houses 1,500 inmates. If built, the new prison would replace the aging House of Correction next door, a project that’s estimated to cost between $300 million and $500 million.

Why it matters: City officials are adamant that the new facility is required. Councilman Bobby Henon described the existing facility next door as deplorable. But the huge investment highlights the enormous costs the city absorbs every time it locks somebody up. The city’s prison population stands at about 8,000 now, which is lower than it was in the earliest years of the Nutter administration but higher than it was a 12-15 years ago. The capital costs of a new facility are significant, but they’re paltry compared to the operating expenses. The city’s prisons budget this year is $244 million, more than any other single department in the city except for Police. Read more »

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).

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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.

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