As we look forward confronting the challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities 2016 and a new mayor will bring to 2016, the Workshop will be considering several new priorities. First and foremost, we will be engaging the new mayoral administration in structuring a city government responsive to the development process.
The next few months will be a critical time at the Workshop as I work alongside our Chairman and our members define the role of a new executive director who will focus on these priorities and continue to promote our city’s economic growth and redevelopment.
Moving forward, our top priority is to provide insights and recommendations to the new mayor on how to successfully organize the government to send a consistent message to the development community. Eighteen months into the new administration, the mayor will need a management structure that comports with the proposed Charter change to create the new Department of Planning and Development (assuming as is likely, the change is approved by the electorate in November). Crucial to this effort will be the ability to attract the right talent to lead the many boards and commissions which oversee the development process.
In addition to this major task, the Development Workshop will also keep its eye on the ball and continue pushing a number of management and policy reforms designed to continue the fight against blight and the continued economic growth of Philadelphia for the years to come.
Among the management reforms that we will be focusing on addressing are:
Continuation of the citywide zoning remapping project and the timely completion of the individual Council district plans currently being developed by the Planning Commission.
Restructuring of the Department of Licenses and Inspection to promote safety and streamline bureaucracy.
Assessing the realistic expectations of the plans developed by the current administration.
Developing flexible policies for pre-development permitting, especially within the Streets and Water departments.
We will also grapple with a number of major policy reforms, including:
Developing a neighborhood development policy that balances our city’s continuing development with appropriate protections for long-term residents.
Conducting a serious assessment of infrastructure needs citywide and promoting public understanding of the importance of infrastructure upgrades for our city’s continued economic vitality.
Providing continued support for the Center City, Navy Yard, and University City renaissances.
Gaining state legislative support for an expanded 20-year real estate tax abatement as a crucial new tool to combat blight and promote investment in poorer neighborhoods.
Making workforce housing affordable within the city’s fiscal constraints.
Removing obstacles to making the Land Bank workable.
Rationalizing city taxes to encourage new business and job development.
Over the years, the Workshop’s strong partnerships have helped us advance the cause of economic development and growth in Philadelphia. Successful partnerships with the BIA, the Crosstown Coalition and BUILDPhilly and have given developers an understanding of neighborhood issues and given community groups a better understanding of the development process and the challenges we face in working to grow our city. These partnerships fostered mutual respect, and we will continue to expand and deepen them as we tackle the challenges ahead. At the same time, we will continue to foster close relationships with media outlets that cover Philadelphia planning issues – especially with PlanPhilly, which has emerged as a top news source for the development community.
The Workshop will continue to provide meaningful and useful content to Workshop members at our monthly meetings by continually bringing political, development, design, planning and policy thought leaders to engage in dialogue with the members.
We are excited to continue to work with our members and our partners to build on our current momentum and to take advantage of the energy and opportunities a new administration will bring.
G. Craig Schelter