By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council members were spending part of the day today looking at ways to revitalize the city as an industrial hub.

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It’s been decades since most industries fled Philadelphia for other parts of the country — or other countries — and that has left hundreds of acres of vacant land.

A City Council committee today looked at the dual task of making use of that land and luring back industries.

Michael Cooper, of the city’s Commerce Department (top photo), said doing both is difficult, since developers of vacant properties often want to build for retail or residential uses.

“If you take an average acre of industrial land, you’re talking about a significantly higher value if you change that use to residential or commercial,” Cooper told the committee.  “If you’re a commercial building owner, you stand to make a lot more money if you redevelop for an alternative use other than industrial.  So we’re constantly fighting back, pushing back against rezoning industrial properties in industrial corridors.”

He pointed out that industry provides more and better-paying jobs for the local economy.

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Cooper’s boss, city commerce director Alan Greenberger (far right in photo), says part of the challenge is getting beyond the mindset that industries are gone from Philadelphia for good.

“This is very much about a culture change in the city,” Greenberger said.  “I’d say about ten years ago, most people assumed Philadelphia was past an industrial future.  And I think we all now espouse (an industrial future) as being, ‘No, this is a real thing.’ ”

Greenberger says the city has more than 17,000 acres of industrial-zoned land and buildings.

 

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