With multiple developments planned, is Washington Avenue being primed for a new beginning?

There’s a movement brimming that could see Washington Avenue transform from an industrial, tractor trailer-filled corridor to lively commercial strip lined with restaurants, green space and possibly a beer garden.

chocolate (2)
The former Frankford Chocolate factory at 2101 Washington Ave.

With developer Bart Blatstein’s plans at Broad and Washington already in the fold, there are a few factors that could see Washington Avenue west of Broad Street take the next step.

We already know that the restriping efforts are well underway at this point with the goal of easing traffic congestion while adding bike lanes and back-in parking. The Inquirer profiled the efforts of Washington Avenue Property Owners Association, a group that has been leading the charge for change, most notably the Blatstein project but also a few others, including the Frankford Chocolate Factory site and “At least a half-dozen developments are under consideration.”

Foobooz recently checked in on the marketing materials for 2118 Washington Ave., which feature a new brick entertainment facility complete with a beer garden and restaurant. As The Inquirer reports that developers Tom and Robert Donatucci look to make that vision a reality to “water cuisine desert and bring young people out at night.”

But that’s not all:

At 1601 Washington Ave., developer Rory Scerri-Marion aims to build a mixed-use residential project. At 18th and Washington, Mario Carosella, owner of C&R Building Supply, envisions a multifamily development. At 2401 Washington Ave., two local developers hope to build more apartments.

Carosella would like “to get a big national retailer down here. It might be the whole block, but if they can put it together, it could really work.”

According to PlanPhilly’s recent interview with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, there’s a possible project from Toll Bros. planned for the northwest corner of Broad and Washington. 

As per The Inquirer, the kicker for a lot of these project will be proper zoning on Washington Avenue in the future:

Rezoning is a major issue for the district, currently designated industrial. The city Planning Commission could recommend that it be designated either an industrial commercial mixed-use zone or an industrial residential mixed-use zone.

Look at all those map points!
Look at all those map points on Washington west of  Broad. 

You can get involved and help process by contributing to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s interactive map and/or comment publicly on existing points. As you can see, there are already a lot of points located on the western portion of Washington Avenue, be it for barrier, assets, opportunities or weakness.

So what do you make of all this activity on Washington Avenue: Are we finally seeing the beginning of the transformation? 


14 thoughts on “With multiple developments planned, is Washington Avenue being primed for a new beginning?

  • December 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Slant parking or “back-in” parking fits perfect for this area of the city. Bike lanes don’t ease traffic and the use of those lanes take a dip with the temperature… But there is actually room for them on Washington Avenue, so its no big deal when used here… But those stupid peninsulas jutting out into the street at every corner will suck. They all suck. People don’t need to stand out in the street to look at their oncoming bus blocks away… And people need to stop texting when they get to the corner and look both ways when the cross a damn street… It would save us money on con-crete peninsulas designed to protect the stupid.

    That said, this development is exciting! And even though some particulars of the Blatstein development might be a little off, that is exciting as well and both projects are long overdue.

    • December 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Great points! Couldn’t agree more

  • December 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    It’s great to see all this development happening. I no longer live in Philly, but I’m so glad that things are on the upswing. That area at night is currently terrifying and a wind tunnel for trash. The design may not be the most beautiful, but it is much needed. I hope the city could put some flowers/trees in the median and that the McDonald’s in that area goes away or at least is no longer a free-standing one. It faces a beautiful building, the Creative Arts High School.

  • December 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Pull in slant parking is so much easier, I don’t know how this back in parking started.

    • December 9, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      It’s probably more dangerous to back out from the spot into traffic then go forward into traffic. While it’s easier to go forward into the space than back in, at least with backing in a car can slow down and signal to the cars behind it what it intends to do. Does it slow traffic a little? Probably. Is that a problem? What’s the hurry? Investing a tiny bit more time getting into the spot can pay off huge for exiting it. The net difference on traffic speed would seem to be negligible while the increase in safety is big.

    • December 13, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Back in angled parking is thought to be safer for bicyclists although it does create some challenges for some motorists.

      The reason it is thought to be safer as opposed to pull in the angled parking – such as what exists along Bainbridge Street between 3rd and 5th – is because when the motorist is pulling out of a parking space it is much easier for the motorist to look over his or her **left** shoulder to see if there is an approaching bicyclist – or an approaching car for that matter – as he or she is exiting the parking space. Conversely, while the pull in angled parking which was more popular decades ago — and is MUCH easier to execute — sight distance can be limited as the motorist is exiting the space and looking over his or her **right** shoulder through the rear of the car to see if any oncoming cyclist or motorist is approaching.

      Unfortunately, something the Planning Commission has failed to recognize is that back in angled parking is generally not a good solution in high-turnover situations. Along residential blocks of south philly, where the spaces generally turn over much less frequently and in some cases only ’empty’ in the morning and ‘fill’ later at night, the added complexity of the back in angled parking is not problematic. Along commercial corridors — like the sort which is apparently now being encouraged on Washington Avenue — the impact to traffic flow will be significant. This is because back in angled parking involves potential “rear bumper to door” contact as opposed to “bumper to bumper” contact, as with parallel parking. Put differently, some motorists are more cautious — as they should be — when backing into an angled space for fear of hitting an adjacent parked cars’ door. With parallel parking, there is less consequence, motorists are more experienced with the manuever generally, and things go along faster. Additionally, back in angled parking involves the articulating (i.e., turning) wheels being at the effective rear of the vehicle (when in reverse), making it more difficult to compensate once an initial approach path is taken, meaning it is much more likely a motorist may “start over”, pulling into the travel lane more than once, and causing added delay to through motorists. The fact that the Planning Commission is suggesting reducing Washington Avenue to one travel lane for nearly 75% of the length of the corridor is going to put even added pressure on the motorists attempting to park — not to mention add significant delay to through motorists, who are likely to reassign themselves to nearby parallel side streets (Federal, Carpenter, etc) to avoid the added delay to Washington Avenue. These residential streets are not intended to convey through traffic and those communitites will be impacted. The PC has not investigated this nor have they addressed a written request for more information which was sent to them in February of 2014 by not one but two RCOs.

      Some other things:

      The PC’s plans did not include any consideration of future traffic growth along the corridor — it only included an analysis of existing volumes.

      The PC’s investigations did not include any data collection on weekends — a obvious huge mistake and oversight.

      The PC’s study has never been published or otherwise made available to the taxpayers who funded the study any sort of written report whatsoever — the only “data” which was shared, which was extremely limited, has only been revealed in one power point presentation (at least for the communities east of Broad St).

      Numerous requests made in writing, email, and in person by me to Jeannette Brugger, the manager of the study have been completely ignored. I should note that I am a transportation professional, a registed engineer, and the current chair of the Queen Village Transportation Committee.

      The PC’s efforts did not include any direct, initial consideration for the loading zone needs of the existing businesses. They are now scrambling to “tack on” new loading zones after the plans were already “finalized”, and are only doing so if the businesses initiate the outreach to the PC, instead of the PC going to each individual business along the corridor. This has had the effect of reducing the net yield of parking spaces and it is very likely that there will be FEWER parking spaces along the corridor once the plan is finalized. The citizens and business owners will also have one less travel lane. In fact, the only net “add” will be about 4 more blocks of bicycle lanes — and there are already over 23 blocks of bike lanes — in both directions — along the corridor. And there is less than 3% bicycle patronage along the corridor (according to census and DVRPC data — the bicycle coalition of philadelphia falsely reports a slightly higher number because it apparently used bicycle INTERSECTION counts in some of its recent statements [i.e., they conducted a count at, say 9th and Washington and included the bicycle volumes traveling north-south along 9th Street as well as east-west along Washington Avenue, the latter of which is the only relevant data point with respect to an evaluation of the proposed changes to the Washington Avenue corridor])

      The Planning Commission should start over and solicit more community — business and residential — input. They should also conduct data collection on weekends and include traffic estimates for the proposed new development which have been proposed only recently and were not in the original study which the PC started nearly 2 years ago. Finally, the PC should also correct mistakes it made. For example, it erroneously cites Washington Avenue as having an average daily traffic of ~9,000 vehicles per day whereas readily availalble DVRPC count data shows it to be closer to 20,000 vehicles per day (AND THAT WAS 10 YEARS AGO). They should also stop trying to use scare tactics such as when they include NON REPORTABLE crash history in their analysis. You don’t need to be a PE with 21 years experience (like me) to recognize that the reason a NON REPORTABLE crash is called NON REPORTABLE is because it shouldn’t be included in traffic studies.

      The planning commission — and Jeannette in particular — should start off 2015 resolving to be more responsive to the residents she serves and more thoughtful regarding the plans and the impacts said plans could have on communities for generations to come. The plan for Washington Avenue, if implemented the way it is currently envisioned — will very likely result in added fuel consumption, added traffic delay, added polution, reduced safety for pedestrianssss and cyclists, and reduced economic benefits.

      In closing I’d like to point out that the fact that this proposed striping is a failure — at least so far — is obvious for many reasons. First, I have not met a single business owner — at least east of Broad — who is in favor of the plan. In fact, many of them were unaware of it when I went door-to-door in July of this year to ask if they even knew it existed. The PC failed its outreach efforts and it is obvious that if I — as an unpaid yet concerned individual — could have direct outreach with businesses, that the PC could have — and should have — done the same. Additionally, there is no question that the plan will have the effect of consuming more fuel (and costing residents more money), increase the time people will spend stuck in traffic, and increase polution in our atmosphere. Finally — and most plainly — the fact that no response to a written request made nearly a year ago — and presented more than once — “speaks volumes” as to the Plannning Commissions own lack of convictions regarding its own plans. Put differently, if someone ever challenged you with a question about something you were doing, wouldn’t you respond to show them why you were right — and underscore how they were wrong? The fact that two RCOs have not received any response underscores that there **IS** no valid response and that there **IS** no real data that supports the need for this project in the first place — just what appears to be a desire of the planning commission to foist its desires on a community (and let them deal with the consequences).

      • December 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        I agree with a lot of the points you make Frank. And it sucks that taxpayers pay for a study they are not made privy to.. More community involvement is needed.

      • December 15, 2014 at 11:50 pm


        It’s paint. You’re getting all worked up about paint.

  • December 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

    My guess is that someone can’t parallel their monster SUV….

    • December 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Anthony G.. You are such a mean negative person. And just because you parallel park so well, does not make up for the fact that you failed the multiple choice questions 3 times before getting your permit!

      • December 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm


        Very good Jill!

      • December 16, 2014 at 9:09 am

        Sorry honey, but that isn’t even remotely clever or funny. Just lame. Hence a stunatu like Provie thinking it’s hilarious….

  • December 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Consideration should be given to a new trolley line running from 49th and Woodland along Grays Ferry Avenue and Washington Avenue before turning north along Columbus Boulevard / Delaware Avenue and connecting with the Route 15 loop near SugarHouse Casino.

    • December 13, 2014 at 12:32 am

      That’s a cool idea, the street is big enough for one and if I’m not mistaken there are already trolley tracks there from the way back when.

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