Pro­posed his­toric dis­trict out­lined

Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion de­scribes plans for Ridge Av­enue The­matic His­toric Dis­trict

The Review - - FRONT PAGE - By Kier­sten McMona­gle For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

The Roxborough com­mu­nity met with Coun­cil­man Cur­tis Jones Jr. and mem­bers of the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion at Roxborough Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal Wed­nes­day, July 18, to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of 188 prop­er­ties through­out the com­mu­nity be­ing iden­ti­fied as his­toric.

If ap­proved, the pro­posal would re­sult in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a Ridge Av­enue The­matic His­toric Dis­trict run­ning from the Wis­sahickon Creek to the Mont­gomery County line. In to­tal, 188 prop­er­ties along Ridge Av­enue would be cat­e­go­rized as his­toric and there­fore pro­tected from de­mo­li­tion and other un­ap­proved changes to the prop­erty.

Jones opened the meet­ing with an ac­knowl­edg­ment of the Bunting House, which was de­mol­ished in 2012 and later re­placed with a Wendy’s.

“As you can tell, I love Wendy’s burg­ers,” he said. “But not at the ex­pense of his­tory. We re­ally need to look at the as­sets that we have.”

Jones’s goal of pro­tect­ing his­toric prop­er­ties through­out Roxborough has been a long time com­ing, with last year’s de­mo­li­tion mora­to­rium seek­ing to ad­dress the prob­lem tem­po­rar­ily. If ap­proved, the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion’s pro­posal for a the­matic his­toric dis­trict through­out Roxborough would be a per­ma­nent re­place­ment for that mora­to­rium, which is slated to end in De­cem­ber 2018.

The ma­jor­ity of the 188 prop­er­ties in­cluded in the pro­posal

are res­i­den­tial, ac­cord­ing to Kim Chantry, the his­toric preser­va­tion plan­ner of the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion. Chantry also noted that among the prop­er­ties in­cluded in the pro­posed his­toric dis­trict are schools, ceme­ter­ies, churches, parks, mixed-use build­ings and com­mer­cial build­ings.

All of the prop­er­ties in­cluded in the pro­posal are be­lieved to have been built or gained sig­nif­i­cance in the com­mu­nity be­tween 1681 and 1908. The com­mis­sion de­ter­mined that this pe­riod in Roxborough’s his­tory was the most sig­nif­i­cant in it be­com­ing the com­mu­nity it is to­day.

“We de­cided that the ear­li­est days of Roxborough re­ally oc­curred up un­til that point that the au­to­mo­bile be­comes the pri­mary source of trans­porta­tion,” said Jonathan Farn­ham, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion. “So we de­signed the his­toric dis­trict to rep­re­sent the his­tory of Roxborough” from the time Wil­liam Penn founded the com­mu­nity to the con­struc­tion of the Manayunk Walk­ing Bridge.

Farn­ham fur­ther ex­plained that the goal of the pro­posed his­toric dis­trict is to pro­tect the look and feel of Roxborough.

“The pri­mary ad­van­tage of a his­toric dis­trict … is to pro­tect the vis­ual and aes­thetic ar­chi­tec­tural char­ac­ter of your neigh­bor­hood,” he said.

Both Chantry and Farn­ham as­sured com­mu­nity mem­bers in at­ten­dance that the com­mis­sion has no power to con­trol in­te­rior de­sign changes on any of the prop­er­ties in­cluded in the pro­posal. Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­mis­sion is un­able to re­quire changes that would re­sult in an un­due fi­nan­cial hard­ship to the prop­erty owner.

Chantry ex­plained that among the changes which must be ap­proved by the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion, should the his­toric dis­trict be ap­proved, are win­dows and doors; ex­te­rior light fix­tures; driveways and park­ing lots; ex­te­rior me­chan­i­cal equip­ment such as vents, wiring, pipes and satel­lite dishes; sid­ing and roofing; and fenc­ing, among other sim­i­lar changes.

Any­one own­ing a prop­erty des­ig­nated as his­toric would need to ob­tain ap­proval and a per­mit from the Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Dis­trict be­fore start­ing any con­struc­tion or other work.

While both Chantry and Farn­ham ac­knowl­edged that the list of changes re­quir­ing com­mis­sion ap­proval seems ex­ten­sive, they as­sured those in at­ten­dance that the com­mis­sion ap­proves nearly 95 per­cent of all per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions, with the ma­jor­ity be­ing ap­proved dur­ing the same day or week the re­quest was sub­mit­ted.

The Philadel­phia His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion’s his­toric des­ig­na­tion com­mit­tee will be meet­ing next month in a pub­lic meet­ing to fur­ther as­sess the pro­posal. This meet­ing will be held on Sept. 12 at 9:30 a.m., fol­lowed by a re­view by the com­mis­sion on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. Both meet­ings are open to the pub­lic and will be held in Room 18029 of One Park­way Build­ing, lo­cated at 1515 Arch St. in Cen­ter City.

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