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NW Philadelphia city council members discuss plans for 2014


PHILADELPHIA (January 22, 2014)Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass wants to tackle loitering in the New Year. The persistent kind that makes some residents think twice before shopping along commercial corridors and gives business owners headaches or worse.

As part of her legislative agenda in 2014, Bass will introduce a measure aimed at keep-

English: 1st Presbyterian Church of Germantown...English: 1st Presbyterian Church of Germantown, near the corner of Chelten (35 West) and 5700 Germantown. Church near this location for 200 years. In the Colonial Germantown Historic District on the NRHP. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ing sidewalks clear so businesses — and the neighborhoods they're in — can thrive.

"Loitering can often be a cover for other things and so we really want to get in front of that," said Bass, who returns to her desk inside City Council chambers on Thursday, when the body holds its first full session since the holidays.

Bass' district includes Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Germantown, and parts of Nicetown and West Oak Lane.

Loitering in and around Germantown and Chelten avenues, the heart of Germantown's commercial district, was the catalyst for the legislation.

The bill, which Bass hopes to introduce sometime in the spring, puts pressure on business and property owners to report loitering to city officials.

Bass said the measure, the details of which are still being hammered out, will provide owners with an easy-to-follow process for alerting authorities. Businesses or property owners who fail to do so would be penalized.

"The idea is that everybody has to have some skin in the game. It can't be a hands-off approach," said Bass, adding that business owners will not be asked to be "confrontational" with loiterers.

Bass said all city departments will have "some level of involvement."

The legislation will be one of two bills Bass plans on introducing in 2014.

Short dumping in the Eighth District

The first-term lawmaker also wants to address short dumping in the city.

The measure, scheduled to be introduced sometime in February, is specifically aimed at cutting down on the number of construction crews that illegally discard job-site materials. It's an act Bass said has become commonplace in the Eighth District and elsewhere.

"It's very hard to catch them," she said.

To help address the issue, Bass will propose what she's calling a "sensible" solution.

The bill focuses on setting up a network of alternative, sanctioned dumping sites around the city. The facilities will most likely be city-owned, but may also include some private locations, said Bass.

"We believe we're going to make it easier to not have to ride around at midnight and do this," she said.

Bass sees both bills as potential game changers.

"These are the kinds of things that can transform neighborhoods," she said.

A 'different approach' to development

Asked about upcoming development projects in the district, Bass was somewhat tight-lipped. She acknowledged that there are a few that her office is eyeing, but didn't want to go into much detail.

Bass would say she would be trying a "different approach" to development, one that includes bringing "different players to the table," people who are not traditional developers.

Bass, who chairs Council's Committee on Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, will also look to boost the profiles of the city's recreation centers in an effort to bring more residents to their doors.

"We want to take it to a whole other level," she said.

In her district, that effort will include events such as "Oldies in the Park," the weekly event held throughout the summer at Germantown's Vernon Park. This summer, the free, nightly dance parties will take place at Morris Estate, a recreation center in West Oak Lane.

Plans for the Fourth District

When it comes to Northwest Philadelphia, Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. will focus on two areas in 2014: development and marketing.

From the "friendship table" inside his fourth floor office, Jones said he wants to see Manayunk become more of a destination in the New Year, especially for the neighborhood's suburban neighbors.

Cutting the ribbon on a recreational path planned for the iconic Manayunk Bridge is a piece of that vision, he said.

Once completed, the $3 million project will give bike riders and joggers the ability to travel between Philadelphia and Montgomery County. The span was initially slated to open in November 2013.

Jones, who is serving his second term, will also help encourage more businesses that back the Manayunk Towpath to build outdoor decks. He said the neighborhood's position along the Schuylkill River needs to be highlighted. He thinks the move would also make Main Street, the neighborhood's commercial corridor, less congested and noisy.

"I love Chestnut Hill, but we have water," said Jones.

Promoting NW Philly 

Jones will be talking to Visit Philadelphia — formerly the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation — about not only pitching in to help promote Manayunk, but all of Northwest Philadelphia.

Those discussions would also include SEPTA. Jones wants to offer reduced tickets during certain days to encourage visitors to venture out to Northwest Philadelphia.

"We need to promote more than just Center City," he said. " There's a historic nature to Germantown Avenue and a commercial viability to Main Street and to East Falls."

Parking woes

A parking study is also being planned that will cover East Falls and Manayunk, among the city's worst neighborhoods for finding a space.

"As we grow, we need to plan for how we do parking," said Jones, noting that solutions may entail looking into mechanical, multi-tiered parking. It's an idea he knows may see some pushback if it's proposed.

Development plans

Development-wise, Jones said there's a possibility that a brand new hotel will be built in the Northwest section of his district. He also represents a large piece of West Philadelphia.

It's unclear where the hotel would be built. The EPPI site — the former home of the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute — in East Falls could be a possibility, said Jones.

Jones' office has also started discussions with Philadelphia Housing Authority officials about "modernizing" the units inside Abbotsford Homes, a public-housing development that sits just south of the Queen Lane Reservoir.

"It's in negotiations now. We've met with PHA. We literally are starting to reach out to the community," said Jones.

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