The Central Delaware Advocacy Group wants to weigh in on whether proposed developments do – or do not – fit in with the city's vision for the future of the waterfront.
But members want to do so in a “use-neutral” way that focuses only on form. And they do not want to encroach on the role of neighborhood civic associations, which vote on development proposals and forward the results to the Philadelphia Planning Commission and City Council.
This discussion, held at Thursday's meeting, touched on issues that came up when Steve Wynn was planning to get involved with the Foxwoods Casino project. CDAG Chairman Steven Weixler wrote a letter published in The Inquirer back then saying CDAG would like to sit down with Wynn to discuss how the casino design could better reflect the goals established in the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware and the coming Central Delaware Master Plan that is to be heavily based on that vision.
Some CDAG members thought the organization should definitely meet with any developer to discuss Civic Vision-friendly development. But Foxwoods has been controversial, and many of the community organizations represented on CDAG's board have taken positions against it. And so some members found the proposed discussion unpalatable.
Thursday's renewal of the discussion was also brought about by a development proposal that has generated strong feelings both pro- and con: A music venue at 2055 Richmond Street, which Fishtowners voted against, 57 to 38, at a late August Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting.
Members agreed that CDAG should always make itself available to civics in an advisory capacity – if a civic organization requests that help - but should not take a position on whether or not a development is right for a community, or whether that community should vote for or against it.
“We cannot be seen as trying to be a “super civic” in competition with our members,” said Weixler.
Weixler said that Fishtown Neighbors leaders did, in fact, request input on how the venue proposed by developer David Grasso matches up with the Civic Vision. He told them that in some ways, it fits right in. The proposal to reuse the existing building and keep its warehouse flair intact is a good fit, he said. But other elements go contrary to the vision, such as the large wall facing Beach Street with virtually no interaction with the street.
Weixler said that once a development proposal goes beyond the civic association level and is before the Planning Commission, CDAG may want to take a less behind-the-scenes role and voice its praise or criticism of a project directly to decision makers. The board agreed this is part of its mission.
Member Jim Moss suggested that the board should consider only weighing in on projects that either greatly exemplify or go terribly contrary to the principles of the Civic Vision and the future Master Plan, which is expected to be finished early next year.
But member Rachel Vassar got strong support for her idea that CDAG weigh in on all development proposals with the exact same mechanism – a list of key goals from the Vision/Master Plan and comments on how well the proposal meets or fails to meet each goal.
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