Contemporary Development

"I remember often wondering if they would ever rebuild that neighborhood." - John Hemphill III

John Hemphill III grew up as Eastwick was being redeveloped. Here he describes projects left unfinished.

The landscape of Eastwick continues to be characterized considerable amount of open space. Although many residents speak fondly of the open fields, vacant lots are frequently subject to illegal dumping. The Redevelopment Authority has retained title to many of these vacant lots, while Korman and NEC have held the right to purchase and develop these lands. Although Korman had built several apartments in the 1970s and 1980s, 128 acres near 84th St. and Linbergh Blvd. remained undeveloped. In 2006, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission recertified Eastwick as "blighted" on the basis of a vacant lot which had become overgrown under the management of the Redevelopment Authority. 

Credit: Interface Studio

Credit: Interface Studio via PlanPhilly.com

The 128-acre parcel soon became the subject of a lawsuit between the Redevelopment Authority and NEC/Korman. The city had become disgruntled that the lot had been left vacant, and had designs to use 79 acres for an expansion to the Philadelphia airport. Korman, however, still planned to build single-family homes in the parcel adjacent to another Korman property. 

In 2011, Korman agreed to turn over 93 acres of the property to the city on the condition that the 35 acres retained by Korman be rezoned for multi-family use. After the settlement, Korman developed a plan to build 722 apartments and 1,034 parking spaces on the site.

Leonard Stewart describes the day he found surveyors studying the 128 acre parcel and the movement that followed.

Terry Williams discusses his opposition to the proposed development and some common concerns of Eastwick residents.

Margie and Nancy Cobbs' houses flooded during Hurricane Floyd. Here they describe the event.

Leonard Stewart describes how living in the 100-year floodplain affects living in Eastwick.

In April 2012 two residents, including Leonard Stewart, found representatives from Korman surveying the lot at 84th St. and Lindbergh Blvd. near the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Community members had various concerns about the rezoning bill, but the risk of flooding stood out as a primary concern. Eastwick is one of the lowest elevation neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The majority of land in Eastwick lies 4 to 12 feet above sea level, while the lowest elevation site, the former Pepper Middle School, lies two feet below sea level. Severe floods figure strongly in the experiences of many Eastwick residents. Many residents were traumatized by flooding after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which inundated the neighborhood under 4 to 5 feet of water. The Pepper Middle School sustained over $1 million in damages from Floyd, and was eventually closed in 2013. Residents who evacuated Eastwick during Hurricane Floyd worried that increased population density from the proposed apartment complex could impede escape routes in the event of an emergency. 

Residents also argued that the impervious asphalt from Korman's proposed parking lot would exacerbate flooding. Prior to the construction of the Philadelphia International Airport, the wetland system encompassed by John Heinz stretched across Eastward along the Schuylkill. The extra tidal marsh played a critical role in mitigating floods. Eastwick has become more vulnerable to flooding over the past century. Much of the neighborhood lies in the 100-year floodplain, meaning the area has a 1% risk of flooding every year. Lands in the 100-year floodplain require more intensive work to develop and maintain: sites need to be built up to a foot above flood elevation, a high water table may damage utilities, and fluctuation in flood insurance rates can impose unexpected expenses.

Use the map above the examine the extent of the FEMA-designated 100-year floodplain. Credit: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Scott Maits discusses how the Clearview landfill has shaped the Eastwick landscape.

Leonard Stewart describes how a combination of expert research and resident testimony built a compelling case at the rezoning hearing.

The original urban renewal project in the mid-twentieth century left residents bitter and suspicious of government intervention in Eastwick. Here, Earl Wilson articulates the community's desire to be included in the planning process. 

Resident concerns over flooding dovetail with concerns over pollution. Eastwick is home to two Superfund sites: the former Folcroft and Clearview Landfills. Both landfills opened along the Cobbs Creek in the late 1950s and were the receptacle of municipal waste, industrial waste, hospital waste, incinerator ash, and sewage sledge until the early 1970s. As the banks of the Cobbs Creek overflow, pollution from Clearview can flood into the neighborhood. Residents weren't satisfied with the consideration the proposal had given to flood mitigation.

Still other residents opposed any kind of development in the site, which was underlain by silt from the Schuylkill laid down in the 1950s. The silt settled unevenly and buckled many homes' foundations. Another subset rejected Korman and NEC specifically, still bitter from the trauma of forced migration.

On May 22, 2012 representatives from the Korman company presented their plans at a community meeting called by the newly formed Eastwick Action Committee and the Friends of Heinz Refuge. 150 Eastwick residents attended and voiced their concerns. When a Korman representative told the crowd "you people" should be grateful for the project, the room erupted in anger. All but two residents in attendance rejected the proposal.

Terry Williams discusses the Eastwick Community Survey, a measure Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition used to gauge public opinion about the Korman development.

Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition has worked to build partnerships with both residents of Eastwick and experts outside the community. Here Terry Williams discusses how EFNC has worked with stakeholders at the John Heinz Refuge, the Philadelphia Water Department, and the EPA.

Within the next week, representatives from the Eastwick Action Committee and the Friends of the Heinz Refuge formed the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition (EFNC), which has since demanded inclusion in the public planning process. EFNC mobilized over a hundred residents to voice their concerns at a City Council on Rules hearing on June 22, 2012 to fight the rezoning bill.

Their work convinced councilman Kenyatta Johnson to further examine the potential for flooding in Eastwick and table the rezoning hearing until an additional hearing on October 9, 2012. Over the next fourth months, Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition hired Prof. M. Richard Nalbandian, an associate professor of community and regional planning at Temple University, and Prof. Franco Montalto, an assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Drexel to testify that the proposed development would present an unacceptable risk to flood conditions in Eastwick.

At the hearing, residents reiterated their concerns and experiences with flooding, while Profs. Nalbandian and Montalto explained that current floodplain maps could quickly be made obsolete due to climate change. 

http-planphilly-com-sites-planphilly-com-files-final_final_enviros_flood_hearing_testimony_10_9_12-doc.original.doc

Prof. M. Richard Nalbandian and Prof. Franco Montalto's testimony at the October 9, 2012 rezoning hearing.

Earl Wilson tells how the coalition between residents and experts changed the course of the proposed development in Eastwick.

Councilman Johnson voted against the rezoning bill and has remained opposed to Korman's proposed development ever since the October 2012 hearing.

Three years later on December 23, 2015, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority unanimously voted to end the urban renewal agreement in Eastwick. Korman and the Redevelopment Authority reached a $5 million settlement which turned control of 135 acres back to the Redevelopment Authority. In 2016, the Redevelopment Authority approved a contract with Interface Studio to conduct a nine-month study on the old 135 acre site at 84th St. and Lindbergh Blvd., plus two additional sites owned by the Philadelphia school district. This study was concluded in September 2017 and presented at a community meeting on September 27, 2017

"We are ready to work with the city to conduct the planning process promised to us last July to rejuvenate our community after decades of neglect and disinvestment. This is monumental to so many folks—folks who have passed on and folks who are still watching over this neighborhood" -Terry Williams, 2015

The findings of the 2017 study were drafted into a preliminerary plan which was presented to the community on July 26, 2018. The draft proposes five main developments: (1) reuse of the Communications Technology High School Building on 81st St. and Lyons Ave., (2) a commercial hub along 84th St., (3) a senior apartment development on 84th St. and Lindbergh Blvd., (4) completing some of the origianl low density housing plans past Dicks Pl., and (5) a light industry development on 86th St. and Mario Lanza Blvd. Residents have until October 31, 2018 to submit public comment the plan, which will then be drafted into its final form.

Contemporary Development