Civic Vision


To the citizens of Philadelphia,

Over the past year, we had the privilege of working with thousands of Philadelphians who helped imagine a gleaming future for seven miles of the central Delaware riverfront. For that, we are extremely grateful. This report represents the fruits of those labors.

Civic Vision  for the Central Delaware rests upon the values, hopes and aspirations of the scores of Philadelphians from all walks of life who gave generously of their time, energy and passion to help craft a roadmap to the future. The civic vision is drawn from a sustained and, at times, provocative public conversation about how we can develop what is Philadelphia’s signal natural asset—the Delaware River. As such, this is both a hopeful and a challenging document.

It is hopeful because it paints a picture of a city by a river that grows gracefully towards the water’s edge. This is a vision of an inclusive Philadelphia—one in which commerce, culture and ecology peaceably coexist. It is challenging because it defies Philadelphia to aim high, change old habits and seize the opportunity to reestablish itself as a leading city of the world.

It dares us to believe in ourselves once again.

The work does not end with the publication of this document. Rather, the civic vision is a starting point for further dialogue and action, setting the table for the fruitful fulfillment of Philadelphia’s sparkling potential. It lays out choices we can make about investment in public spaces; it calls upon us to continue talking; and it provides a framework for growth that can help us find common ground.

Special thanks go to Mayor John F. Street for authorizing this work and to First District Councilman Frank DiCicco for championing the process. The Central Delaware Advisory Group provided exemplary collaborative oversight. We are extremely grateful to the William Penn Foundation and the Knight Foundation for their generous support of this work and for their sage guidance over the course of the project. I am particularly thankful to PennDesign dean Gary Hack for his constancy and counsel. And I am indebted to the indefatigable efforts of the PennPraxis staff, the Penn Project on Civic Engagement, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and the planning firm of WRT for producing a work of such sterling quality.

But it is the people of Philadelphia who merit the most profound thanks. Your efforts and engagement have created a work of depth and integrity, one that is real Philadelphia.
Harris M. Steinberg, FAIA
School of Design
University of Pennsylvania
November 2007

In March 2008 the Civic Vision received the national Charter Award from the Congress for New Urbanism

The Civic Vision, calls for the following:
1. Public access to the river over paths and extended streets;
2. Parks within a ten-minute walk of every home and neighborhood;
3. A recreational trail along the river for walkers and cyclists;
4. A streetcar line along the median of Delaware Avenue/Columbus Boulevard;
5. Parking that does not ruin water views or dominate the landscape; and
6. A healthy river’s edge that includes a 100-foot greenway along its shore.




CDAG October 12 Monthly Meeting Canceled

Hello ,

The CDAG Executive Committee had its monthly meeting this evening, and determined that the best course of action for this month is to cancel the October 12 board meeting.

The reasons:

  1. There is no update on the Central Delaware Overlay amendment bill process at this time, and there likely will not be any update in time for our slated Oct 12 meeting. The next stakeholder meeting with Councilman Squilla, which Joe and I will attend, is Oct 13.
  1. There are no other significant new Central Delaware Waterfront updates we are aware of.

We will update the board after the October 13 meeting with Councilman Squilla, and keep everyone up to date between now and the regularly scheduled CDAG November meeting

Thank you, and have a good weekend!


Matt Ruben

CDAG Chairperson

August Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) Public Board Meeting Minutes – 2017

August Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG) Public Meeting Board Meeting Minutes – 2017

CDAG – August 10, 2017Society Hill Towers Community Room, 6:00 P.M.

Society Hill Towers Community Room, 6:00 P.M.

Matt Ruben welcomes the group and asks for introductions from those present. Both Vice Chairs absent from the meeting. Matt noted that the Board of Directors made up of delegates from member groups. Meeting are public although only the delegates are allowed to vote.

  1. First order of business. Quorum established. Call to Order and Approval of July. Meeting Minutes.

Motion to approve. Seconded. Approved

  1. Nomination and Election of a Temporary Secretary.

Nina of Waterfront Square is still a delegate but no longer is the Secretary leaving a gap. Jane Winkel volunteered to act as secretary until the election. Nominations occur in December. Elections in January.

Motion to Approve. Seconded. Approved.

III. Officer Reports

Matt providing a report for Diane Mayer (not present). Foxwoods site is eleven acres and has been sub-divided into three parcels by Blatstein. The North-South length along the water is one parcel. The north-west parcel facing Columbus Blvd. has been divided into two parcels. The north-west parcel facing Co-lumbus Blvd. got a zoning by right for a supermarket. They are clearing the site. The site will need to Phase 1 Environmental and, if necessary, Phase 2 Remediation. Certifications are required.

Bart. wants a Wawa with a gas station, which does not confirm to the CDO. There needs to be a light at Columbus and Dickinson and the city has not shown an indication to do business with him. Bart Blatstein is dumping Northern Liberties properties to increase capital for other projects at Broad and Washington and in Atlantic City.

The existing Wawa across the street from the parcel is being gutted and renovated.

Treasurer Report – $5330 balance and seven members who have not paid dues.

Update and Discussion on Central Delaware Zoning Overlay bill status. The Executive Committee met and updated Joe and Matt of CDAG. The July meeting at the Independence Seaport Museum included Councilman Squilla, Director of Planning and Development Anne Fadullon, Joe Forkin of DRWC, Karen Thompson, and Nicole Ozdemir.

The following week on July 20 Joe Schiavo and Matt Ruben attended a working meeting including the above-mentioned participants and additional stakeholders. Steve Pollack, the attorney from K4, and Peter Kelson, a zoning attorney with the NY based Durst Organization attended. Durst has purchased four piers above Race Street. The President from Pennsport Civic also attended. The ordinance introduced in May by Councilmen Squilla, would amend the CDO and have raised the overall height limit with bonuses from to 316’ from 244’. The base height limit would remain 100’. The bill will also create a new height bonus of 72’ for “through connections” for connections from the water or the trail to Columbus Blvd. The third thing the bill does is create a new bigger tier of height bonus for public space. CDAG, DRWC and Planning were concerned because the bonus seemed ill-defined and had already be abused at One Water by PNC where they got a height bonus without actually providing usable public space. The through connection is worrisome because K4 was using ‘large driveways’ or access roads that they would have to provide any way as through connectors. One of K4’s through connectors is opposite a highway ramp. The bonus seems ripe for abuse and double dipping which was never the intent of the CDO. Raising the height from 244’ to 316’ seemed arbitrary and like it was designed for a specific developer’s proposal. The height increase itself is not a problem.

The Planning Commission agreed that the public space bonus needed to be tightened up. The Planning Commission wrote and City Council approved an Omnibus Zoning Bill for the entire city late last year. The bill included language tightening the broader city-wide floor area ratio to better define public space. If it seems private that is not really public. The regulations are attempting to set up standards so that public space, must be meaningful if developers are using it to gain height bonuses.

CDAG’s position: If developers are looking to maximize their density to make the numbers work why not let them vary building heights. Can we put a formula in the CDO that keeps the baseline bonus limit at 244’ but if developers want to take a height bonus from one building and stick it on another building can we make that work? The Planning Commission is developing a formula.

Through Connectors – DRWC is adding river connector streets to the overlay. There are eight streets that are called out in the overlay. The developer cannot block the crossing over of those eight streets. DRWC is proposing to add more through connections to the CDO. If you develop those river connectors you can receive bonuses. They are considering regulations on through connectors including 1) they must be x distance from the river connector streets, 2) they must be x distance from the other streets to prevent driveways and access roads from counting as Through Connectors.

As soon as the Planning Commission wrote legislation to amend the whole CDO it stopped being about that the K4 development and started being about the overlay.

Durst attorney suggested ‘Master Plan’ for sites including a detailed development that has to be approved by the Planning Commission if a site is over a certain size or includes multiple buildings and the developer is taking advantage of bonuses. The Durst attorney, Peter Kelson was there as a member of the Zoning Commission under Mayor Nutter. Planning Commission working on language to that effect. August 18 is their next meeting.

Squilla wants to introduce the bill to the Rules Committee ASAP. As soon as they approve it, under the doctrine of pending legislation it is considered approved by L&I. As soon as Council reconvenes Squilla want the bill ready for a ceremonial vote.

CDAG, DRWC, Planning Commission and Councilmen Squilla are in agreement on the general changes to the bill and improvements to the CDO.

Jeff, the lead developer from K4 said he would build in one giant seven-year phase. The expense to shore up the piers and get to the ground level is $50,000,000. No one believes that he will build all four towers.

A meeting attendee noted that the pier between 55 and 57 is non-existent. K4 have a yacht basin in their renderings but they would need to dredge for that.

The K4 land is currently for sale. It is common for an owner to have an agreement of sale and then go after the zoning because the sale can be pulled out of if they can’t get the zoning.

The waterfront is full of two types of projects – 1) developments that are never building because of up zoning and reselling before construction and 2) under building.

100’ height limit was recommended under CDO because of the absorption rate – 250 units a year demand. The biggest problem for development on the waterfront is speculation — not zoning.

Usually, developers propose parking in excess of the required parking minimums, although K4 has not and Pennsport residents are not happy with that.

The Amendment to the ordinance is city-wide and covers the whole city code. We have height bonuses in the CDO because the developers could not get financing on a vague idea of a waiver. Height bonus based on FAR in existing code.

It has become clear that Squilla did not intend to push the bill forward and it is unlikely that he will jam the bill through if Anne Fadullon does not like the bill. If the new bill is introduced next Friday then it will be forwarded to CDAG board list to forward to their member groups.

At the planning meeting, a Pennsport representative suggested bonuses for connecting neighborhoods to the Central Delaware. Anne Fadullon said the connection must be an infrastructural commitment to achieve a bonus.

DRWC may have a medium to long-term plan for a Business Improvement District along the river, which is a long and arduous process.

The trail setback is regulated at 50’ in the citywide zoning code. Some of the biggest height bonuses are available if you build out part of the trail. There is interest in proposing widening the minimum setback.

Currently, there is a height bonus for upgrades to a transit station. The Planning Commission is talking about increasing the distance from the stations to the waterfront.

A parcel owned by DRWC on the northern section of the trail between Sugar House and Penn Treaty Park can now be completed.

  1. Old Business

Joe and Matt met with Peter Kelson, and other representatives from the Durst Organization. They have no imminent development plans in Philadelphia. There is speculation that the market will crash in two to four years. Durst may be in Philadelphia for the next upswing. Durst has sold only one building in one hundred years. They built one of the first LEED buildings. Peter Kelson is conversant in green building, placemaking, and urbanism. They seemed above board.

Callowhill Court Zoning. Rivers Edge Community Association wanted the front to be on Callow Hill. Most of Callow Hill Court is facing Water Street, which is their communities rear. They asked them to change the frontage. There are two different deeds. The developers deed is accurate and Rivers Edge Community Association will support the development. The developer showed Rivers Edge Community Association why they couldn’t change the face of the buildings. The developer is big on garages.

  1. New Business

Liberty Property Trust is presenting their Camden plan to Design Advocacy Group on Sept. 7, at 8:00 A.M. Recommendation to invite Liberty Property Trust to present to CDAG.

VI. Motion to Adjourn. Seconded. Approved