UPDATED (2/1/14): City Paper’s Ryan Briggs also has a recap of Thursday night’s meeting at the People’s Baptist Church. He also caught up with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell after the meeting to ask why she was missing and what’s happening with the land around 50th/51st and Baltimore. Read more here.
If one thing is clear following last night’s public meeting on the future of the 5000 and 5100 blocks of Baltimore Avenue, it’s that nothing is clear about the future of the 5000 and 5100 blocks of Baltimore Avenue.
About 150 people jammed into the basement of the People’s Baptist Church, to talk about what kind of development, if any, might take place in the area. The block is a patchwork of city and privately held land. Some parcels have structures – many are abandoned – and some are empty lots.
One longstanding plan by a private developer would expand the Mercy Wellness Center at 5008 Baltimore and include parking lots. Another plan by a private developer would have put a garden center on the block, but investors were scared off by the possibility of eminent domain seizures by the city.
Much of the background was included in a story last week.
Anxiety about the future of the area among nearby residents and property holders prompted the meeting. The meeting was well-intentioned, but some key players – like folks from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and others – were missing, so many questions and concerns went unaddressed. People were looking for answers about blight certification, eminent domain and definite plans for the block. We don’t purport to have all of the answers in this post. We do try to fill in some holes by providing information (if you know more about this than we do, which is quite possible, comment below and we’ll try to fill holes together). For those of you have been keeping a close eye on this there will likely be nothing new here:
• Blight certification. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority oversees blight certification in the city. The ins and outs of that process are spelled out (somewhat) here. Blight and redevelopment reports are here. The area near 51st and Baltimore was certified for redevelopment in 1995, so the report is not online. The area is now due for recertification, which could pave the way for redevelopment. Certification clears the way for lots of things, including condemnation or seizure through eminent domain.
• Redevelopment plan. Before the city proceeds with redevelopment, it must have a plan. In the Philadelphia 2035 plan, the City Planning Commission identified 51st and Baltimore as an area where blight certification needed to be updated and a new plan written. It also notes that “senior housing” had been identified as a possible priority. The key here is that there needs to be a legitimate, specific plan in place with “demonstrated financing.” One plan that has been on the table for many years is the expansion of the Mercy Wellness Center, but no action has been taken.
• Eminent domain. Several speakers at last night’s meeting voiced concerns about the threat of eminent domain seizure as part of a redevelopment process chasing away potential investors. This requires a City Council resolution.
So that’s about the size of it. More questions were probably raised than answered last night. Perhaps the best thing we can do is serve as a public discussion platform. If you have comments, insights or answers, please feel free to comment below.
– Mike Lyons