Washington Ave. Case Study: The Transformation of the Union Burial Ground

A Temple University economic geographer, Sanjoy Chakravorty, writes in his study of Indian industrialization that “even post industrial growth, which is characteristic of the more developed nations today, is based on the foundations created by industrial growth.”  As Philadelphia begins to take on the trappings of a global city, its new residents connected to distant countries and capital, Chakravorty’s observation calls us to look at the ways in which the spatial realities of the industrial city are being reworked to meet the needs of a more global Philadelphia.

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Trasfer Here For the Future: SEPTA’s New Silverliner V Preview

One of SEPTA’s brand spanking new ROTEM-Hyundai-built (American assembled) Silverliner V cars is on permanent display on Suburban Station’s Track 0 until October 15.  And if you’re bewildered by the LCD screens and strangely placed doors at quarter points there are about 15 SEPTA personnel on the platform prepared to guide you through the boarding and detraining process.  And in a bit of nimble PR, SEPTA prepared a handout to address the inevitable questions about their circumvention of the Buy American contract clause.  Entitled “Silverliner V Philadelphia Regional Manufacturers”, the sheet lists the regional firms that will supply components for the assembly.  Batteries from Cherry Hill, operator seats from Exton; HVAC systems from West Chester! Glass from Trumbauersville?  And true to the Regional Rail’s form, Philadelphia is not well represented in the list of suppliers.

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Mantua Hall Implosion from Lemon Hill

[excerpted from “A New Look at Public Housing”: A Summary of the Report of the Committee on Public Housing Policy, Basic Policies for Public Housing for Low Income Families in Philadelphia, 1957, p. 2]

“New projects should be primarily of row houses rather than elevator buildings in order to provide children with yard space, prepare families for eventual home ownership, and provide more of the four and five bedroom units needed by Philadelphia’s families.  While accepting elevator apartments for single persons and families with no children, the Committee notes that ‘experience in Philadelphia has been that elevator apartments have been used to achieve high densities without undue land coverage but with resulting project and neighborhood congestion’ and goes on to say that ‘it would be preferable to build no public housing projects at all rather than to construct project that increase the density of an already congested area.’ The Committee advocates more flexibility in federal regulations regarding the ratio of land cost to total project to make low density, row house developments possible in cleared areas.” (emphasis added)


[excerpted from Twenty Years of Service: The Story of Public Housing in Philadelphia, 1937-1957, p. 26]

“The large developments made possible a new kind of neighborhood planning, better adapted to the automobile age than the gridiron street system–that is, better for the person living or walking in the neighborhood.  Among the most attractive blocks in Philadelphia are those with almost no through traffic. Large block planning also attempts to have convenient service roads going into the neighborhood.  Through traffic, however, is encouraged to pass by on the outside.  The resulting increase in livability is obvious.  Automobiles are often described as one of the chief villains of blight. As traffic increases, there is a sharp increase in problems of danger, noise and irritation and lack of parking space.  The planning of large blocks, such as at Schuylkill Falls, Wilson Park and Mill Creek all show what can be done to return neighborhoods to their residents.

Medium sized developments have been built on one to several existing city blocks.  It is economical not to change existing street and utility patterns, at least in the short run. Such housing developments have added attractive open space, interior parking, safe small play yards within the existing blocks, and the usual accompaniments of improved housing, safety, adequate light and air, good room sizes and the prevention of overcrowding.  Harrison Plaza, Mill Creek and Hawthorne Square are good examples of fitting the medium sized development into existing street patterns.”