Broad Street Brief: Community Meeting Around FDR Park Renovations Draws Protesters; Continued Life Sciences Development in Philadelphia
February 2, 2023
February 2, 2023
A coalition of local organizations under the umbrella of Philadelphia’s progressive Working Families Party announced Monday that it would be endorsing former Councilmember Helen Gym for mayor in the upcoming primary. The Working Families Party has risen in prominence as a legitimate third-party contender in recent years, with At-Large Councilmember Kendra Brooks being the first member from the party to be elected to City Council in 2019 and Larry Krasner’s candidacy for district attorney having been bolstered by the party’s support twice.
Residents and candidates alike have also been speaking out about which issues they believe will be top-of-mind when ballots are cast in May. The Kids’ Campaign, an alliance of local organizations that has stated it will not be making any official mayoral endorsements, hopes to draw attention to concerns of children and families, such as education, safety, and uplifting families, among other priorities, while local advocacy group coalition Waste Free Philly is calling for the 100th mayor to address the perennial illegal dumping issue. Meanwhile, crime rates have continued to be a pressing campaign issue, with nine Democratic candidates publicly stating that they would declare a gun violence state of emergency if elected.
Last week, a planned meeting for Parks and Recreation officials to report progress and answer questions about the renovations to FDR Park turned chaotic as protesters voiced their discontent with various elements of the plan. The meeting at Grand Yesha Ballroom in South Philadelphia garnered a crowd of more than 400 people, many of whom have differing visions of what the park should ultimately look like and what purpose it should serve. The renovation plan involves creating a wetland and artificial hill that are intended to mitigate flooding that the park is currently extremely prone to, and is unlikely to change in any substantial way moving forward, according to Parks and Recreation Commission Kathryn Ott Lovell.
Philadelphia has been hard at work in recent years proving itself as a hotspot for groundbreaking scientific research and discovery in life sciences — and several exciting announcements in the real estate development and higher education spheres this week serve to do just that. Gattuso Development Partners and Vigilant Holdings of New York announced that it will be breaking ground this month on a new $290 million lab and research facility — Philadelphia’s largest to date — in University City, while the Curtis announced that it will be adding 200,000 square feet of lab space adjacent to its home in Washington Square. Furthermore, Penn Medicine has committed to “going all in on proton therapy,” with a new $45 million leading-edge treatment facility slated to open in South Jersey this spring.
With Philadelphia rents remaining relatively high, keeping residents in their homes, without risking the livelihood of the city’s landlords, is a top priority. This week, a new financial assistance initiative — called Targeted Financial Assistance (TFA) by officials — was launched by the city in order to help resolve landlord-tenant disputes over back rent. The $30 million investment will go toward one-time payments to participants in the city’s lauded Eviction Diversion Program in order to prevent back rent from becoming the basis of an eviction filing.
While Philadelphia’s tourism and hospitality industry has done a commendable job bouncing back from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has yet to officially return to pre-pandemic levels. That is expected to change this year, according to officials at Visit Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, who anticipate that hotel revenues will surpass 2019 numbers by around 4%. The sunny financial forecast is due in large part to the return of business travel and the dominance of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams within the past year, as well as an ambitious new marketing campaign that urges travelers to “come for Philadelphia, and stay for Philly.”
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