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Phila. Lawmakers Move Old City Zoning Changes Forward

(A vacant lot in Old City, left, where owner Jeffrey Brown wants to build a high-rise that exceeds Old City height rules.  File photo by John McDevitt)

(A vacant lot in Old City, left, where owner Jeffrey Brown wants to build a high-rise that exceeds Old City height rules. File photo by John McDevitt)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A City Council committee today agreed to relax zoning restrictions in a portion of Old City near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

The current zoning regulations for Old City include a 65-foot height limit and limits on the density of properties.

But developers led by Jeffrey Brown say that because of those limits, it is very challenging to develop in the area neighboring the Ben Franklin Bridge.

“It makes you build a building that is below the bridge structure, and that’s not very appealing to people as a place to live,” he says.

Brown hopes to build an apartment building at Second and Race Streets, but he would not discuss the specifics of his proposal.

Philadelphia City Council’s Rules Committee approved changes to the zoning regulations that lift the height limit and ease the density requirements within that area, from I-95 to 4th Street, and from New Street to Race Street.

(Councilman James Kenney, at zoning hearing.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Councilman James Kenney, at zoning hearing. Image from City of Phila. TV)

There was one ‘no’ vote to the changes, from councilman-at-large Jim Kenney (right).

“Old City is Old City for a reason.  And if we’re going to start massing large buildings, removing light and air and the view of bridges and the like, I think that’s a mistake,” he said.

The bill now goes to the full Council for a vote.  A representative of the Old City District, a business improvement agency for that portion of Center City, spoke in favor of the changes.

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