Frankford Avenue Corridor Transit Oriented Development Plan
The Frankford Avenue Corridor Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Plan provides a vision and framework for redevelopment of three station areas – about a quarter-mile radius around three stations on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s (SEPTA) Market-Frankford EL. These stations are located in the Frankford neighborhood of northeast Philadelphia. SEPTA has reconstructed parts of the EL line and developed a multi-modal transit hub at Frankford. Wishing to leverage these investments, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission asked the consultant team led by Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC (WRT) to develop TOD-based land use plans and redevelopment guidelines for the Frankford Avenue neighborhood commercial corridor, which runs adjacent to EL.
Transit Oriented Development refers to compact, pedestrian-oriented mixed use development, characterized by moderate to high density development around transit stations. The consultant team developed land use and urban design plans for high opportunity sites to create conditions for strategic public and private investments tied to structural and service improvements to the EL. A best practices manual was also developed for use throughout the corridor. The project planning process included meetings with stakeholders and discussions with advisory committee members at important phases of the plan for feedback and comments.
Existing Neighborhood Conditions
Frankford is one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Frankford Avenue acts as a ‘main street” to Frankford. An analysis of market and physical conditions revealed high concentrations of vacant and underutilized buildings and narrow parcels along the Frankford Avenue Corridor. Second floors of many buildings along the corridor are vacant due to noise, shade and vibrations from the El structure. Physical conditions studies also revealed potential parcel consolidation and development opportunities near the stations that could be targeted for public and private investment.
Analysis of consumer spending patterns within the census tracts around the corridor, however, showed a need for retail with an estimated surplus demand of approximately $109 million. The market analysis revealed that 10 percent of current sales along the avenue are to households living outside the area. There is high potential to attract consumer dollars from commuters taking the EL from Frankford Transportation Center to jobs in Center City.
Guiding Principles and Land Use
Seven guiding planning and design principles are identified for the corridor that combine best practices for transit oriented development as well as address specific physical conditions that exist along Frankford Avenue. These principles provide a basis for redevelopment guidelines, land use plans and illustrative station area vision plans developed in the plan.
The objective of the land use plan is to encourage private investment near the station areas as well as provide pedestrian oriented developments near stations. The land use plan calls for high or medium density mixed use developments based on the distinctive characteristics of each station. For example, high density residential is recommended near the Church Street Station in order to take advantage of proximity to the proposed Frank-ford Creek greenway and Womrath Park. Neighborhood retail is proposed around the centrally located Margaret-Orthodox Station. Regionally-oriented retail development should occur near the FTC to service the large number of commuters coming from outside of Frankford. It is envisaged that some of the retail along the corridor would be combined with residential uses to create high density mixed use developments near the stations.
Station Area Development: Vision for the Frankford Avenue
Redevelopment guidelines encourage use of open space such as public plazas around the stations and near the mid-blocks along the corridor. These open spaces will provide a forecourt and relief to buildings close to the El structure. These guidelines identify predominant block conditions or typology and suggest alternatives along the avenue that maintain the existing block size, building character and connectivity in Frankford.
Sustainable planning and building design techniques are strongly encouraged. New pedestrian connections, local landmarks, gateways and special paved crossings are encouraged throughout the corridor and particularly along the station access streets that connect neighborhoods with El stations with improved streetscape, lighting and signage.
Structured or underground parking is preferred near the stations with an emphasis on parking management and Transportation Demand Management (TDM) techniques such as encouraging shared parking, marketing of innovative TDM programs and improved bicycle network connectivity. Transportation improvements and traffic calming measures such as mid-block crossings and pedestrian priority at traffic signals are encouraged around the station areas.
Illustrative vision plans demonstrate land uses, redevelopment guidelines and transportation related recommendations for three station areas in Frankford. These illustrative site plans identify strategic development sites, new pedestrian connections, open space plazas, gateways and landmarks to provide a pedestrian friendly vision for the corridor taking advantage of the proximity to transit stations. The plans also integrate historic buildings as anchors to redevelopment. The plan encourages renovation or adaptive reuse of many historic buildings that surround stations in Frankford and envisions incorporation of historic tours, related activities and markers to encourage visitors to Frankford.
A new TOD zoning district along Frankford Avenue Corridor is proposed to implement the vision and encourage private investment along the corridor. The new zoning district would provide TOD-related controls including redevelopment guidelines and related development parameters such as FAR, building heights and uses and on-site and off-site requirements. Additionally, a site plan review procedure will be provided to ensure that proposals .t within the corridor framework and vision.
The plan recommends short-term (five-year timeframe) and long-term (ten- to fifteen-year timeframe) opportunities, listing specific steps to implement and generate re-investment along the corridor. Possible funding resources at all levels of government, TOD-related programs and transportation related improvements are identified.