Too much traffic on Ridge? Not enough parking? A proposed parking lot and through street between Ridge Ave. and Kelly Drive could improve both.
Tomorrow night’s joint East Falls Forward/EFCC zoning meeting (7PM at Downs Hall, PhilaU, interactive map here OR driving directions here) could have big repercussions for traffic and parking on Ridge Ave., East Falls’ own rush hour cattle chute. A proposal to design a parking lot that would eventually become a through street between Ridge and Kelly Drive will be open for discussion.
Gina Snyder, of the East Falls Development Corporation, gets us up to speed on the history of the site and the issues at hand:
The EFDC is excited about proposed changes to Ridge Avenue and is looking forward to tomorrow night’s zoning discussion. The proposed temporary public parking lot improvements and, ultimately, a new through street between the old West River Japanese Restaurant and Castle Ringstetten. (4422-24 Ridge Avenue) would allow for more parking and better traffic flow through that area.
First, a little background about the site and the community’s involvement in planning its development.
East Falls Planned for this. In 2014, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission incorporated the East Falls community design priorities (including ideas from the East Falls Reconnects to the River traffic and circulation plan) into the Lower Northwest Plan. The Plan shows a new through street in the 4400 blocks of Ridge Avenue and Kelly Drive and a boat landing on the river across from the new through street.
There were numerous public meetings and participation from residents: The East Falls Registered Community Organizations – the East Falls Community Council and East Falls Forward approved the plan and its zoning changes that are being legislated.
(The NW Plan @ page 43.)
The project. The current project plan is for How Properties to temporarily improve the existing public parking lot. They would maintain and operate the lot as a parking lot for the Business District and community.
The EFDC would then work to determine what kind of through street could be built (one-way or two-way, whether it needed traffic signals on Ridge and/or Kelly) and raise money for the project.
Ultimately, the bulk of the parking lot would demolished and replaced with a public street and the remainder would be for parking.
The current Parking lot. 4422-24 Ridge Ave is a public parcel that is a parking lot between the old West River Japanese Restaurant and Castle Ringstetten (Undine’s upper river social club). The lot has been used for parking for decades. Both adjacent parcels have drives directly into the lot. The parking lot is not in good condition – How Properties would landscape it and create a street entrance on Ridge Avenue.
River landing. The highest priority project for the East Falls Riverfront Business District, based on the planning work that went into the Lower Northwest Plan, is the boat landing. It is also one of the top five priority projects of the East Fairmount Park Coalition. The landing is across the street from the new through street – off the parking lot on Kelly Drive. It is planned as a 160 foot path to the river with a simple ‘apron’ onto the water. It is for human powered boats only: canoes, kayaks, paddleboards.
The new through street idea came out of the community planning process. The street would be built to comply with the City’s Complete Streets standards.
Reasons for the through street:
- In the planning meetings, residents said they wanted more connections to the River – the proposed river landing is across Kelly Drive from the street. Only 17 cars fit in the Kelly side parking lot. The new through street, with on street parking, would create more parking for river users.
- This new street would create needed vehicle circulation in this block – once a northbound vehicle passes along this block, there is no convenient way to return to East Falls. A vehicle has to travel about a mile to make a legal turn. The alternative is a U-turn on Ridge Ave or Lincoln Drive or using a business parking lot in Manayunk to reverse direction.
- Possibly eliminate two hazardous Kelly Drive curb cuts. Currently, both Castle Ringstetten and 4501 Kelly Drive have curb cuts on Kelly Drive. With a new street, there is the possibility of eliminating those curb cuts and giving those properties ingress/egress onto to the through road. This has not been explored, but could be safer.
- Reduce congestion. One more connection between Ridge and Kelly would pull traffic off of Ridge Ave. Several new buildings are planned for this block. This density of new buildings was approved by the East Falls community in the Lower Northwest Plan and the zoning changes that are being legislated. Better circulation will reduce congestion.
Proposed EFDC involvement in the project: The plan is for the EFDC to hold the lease to the lot because parking here will only be temporary, until funding for the through-street allows construction to begin.
EFDC REQUIREMENTS for UNDERTAKING the LEASE
The EFDC wants to be involved in this project because it furthers our goals. To this end, we have established these Criteria for Participation:
- Find out what kind of through street is feasible. We will have a traffic engineer to see what kind of street would be permitted and under what conditions.
- We have a written document that outlines that the parking lot use is temporary while the EFDC plans and secures funding for the new through street with the support of the neighborhood.
- That the EFDC Design Committee and East Falls community review the parking lot plan to ensure that the lot is attractive.
- How Properties carries all of the costs of building, maintaining, and insuring the lot.
We encourage everyone to attend tomorrow’s meeting and contribute to the discussion about this very important project. If you cannot attend and would like to share your comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.