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The PSSS 2017 Historical Streets Restoration Program’s "Annual Update & Review Meeting & Report"
On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, from 3-5 pm, a meeting was held at City Hall with Councilman Mark Squilla, Chief Engineer Stephen Lorenz of the Streets Department, and Kim Broadbent of the Philadelphia Historical Commission, along with several citizens representing their neighborhoods and organizations (see attendees list at bottom). The meeting was requested and organized by Lynn & Cliff Landes, founders of the Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS). The following is a report of that meeting. Rather than strictly following the minutes of the meeting, this report will begin with the news of which streets will be restored next and make comments on the various agenda items in the following order.
The agenda included updates and discussion of the following topics:
The current priority list and timeline for restoration of historically certified streets
Streets Department’s plans for Camac “the wood” Street
Plumbers Patches - legislation to require contractors to restore historic streets in the manner that they were found, versus the current “voluntary program”
Construction design issues, specifically the issues surrounding the “concrete foundation and mortar requirements” of the Streets Dept., vs PSSS suggested “modified aggregate and screening/sand”.
A financial report from the Streets Department of the historic streets restoration program
Councilman Squilla spoke first, welcoming attendees to the meeting. He then introduced Stephen Lorenz, Chief Engineer for the Streets Department. Stephen spoke about various streets and projects, but focused mainly on the Street Department’s computer-generated Priority List for historic street restoration, a product of Gilmore & Associate > http://www.smallstreetsphilly.org/SteetsTopTen.htm. It is a list that PSSS has strongly objected to and countered with an alternative list > http://www.smallstreetsphilly.org/PSSSresponse.htm.
PSSS’s Priority Criteria for historic street restoration: LCCL
Location: Begin restorations near the center of the city and its historic districts and then radiate outwards.
Context: Select streets that are lined with historic homes.
Condition: Target streets that are unsafe and hazardous and in urgent need of repair and restoration.
Logistics: Restore streets in geographic clusters, when at all possible.
1. The current list and timeline for restoration of historically certified streets
American Street (300 block): Mr. Lorenz reported that work is targeted to start in April. The contract is for over $650,000 and is scheduled to last (at the most) 8 months. The high bid was $1.2 million. Bob Curely, with other residents, represented American Street at the meeting. The amount of cost and time needed for restoration surprised many and was discussed, and PSSS repeated our objection to the Streets Department’s requirement for a concrete foundation. That said, all attendees support American Street being restored as soon as possible.
Ted Zeitzer, a near
neighbor on Spruce Street, 200 block, expressed his concern regarding
potential construction damage that could affect historic homes and their
foundations. Mr. Zeitzer described how last year, Verizon/Fios used
jackhammers to excavate American Street, producing a vibration that affected
surrounding homes, which also caused his gas lines to crack and leak. Mr.
Zeitzer wrote in a Feb. 1, 2017 email to PSSS, “…I would like to say is that
the city and its contractors and their respective subcontractors, need to
understand the type of neighborhoods we live in and the types of "special"
homes we reside in and how fragile they can be. This is not NE Phila. or
Roxborough with new construction or cement and cinderblock foundations but
stone, dirt and brick foundations that can be adversely impacted by today's
modern construction methods and machinery. My wife and I witnessed this lack
of concern for our old, colonial era homes and suffered damages that could
have been avoided with a bit of understanding and tenderness. All is good now
but we do not want to experience similar missteps with the upcoming
construction on American street.”
PSSS strongly supports
the restoration of American Street, but opposes the Streets Department’s
required use of concrete foundations for historic street restoration, for
exactly that reason stated above; when restored historic streets need to be
excavated, contractors will most likely use jackhammers to penetrate the
concrete foundation, which will potentially cause severe damage to historic
structures, many of which have fragile foundations made of stone, dirt, and
Phillip Street (300
block): Mr. Lorenz reported that the bid has not yet been let out, but the
Street Department’s goal is to also restore Philip Street, either in the Fall
of 2017 or Spring 2018. He was concerned about running out of time and good
weather, therefore retained the option of not beginning work until 2018.
Funding will come from the Historic Restoration Program as well as the Water
Department. Sandra Williams of Philip Street and two of her neighbors
reiterated the extremely unsafe conditions of Philip Street, as it is
collapsing and pulling the sidewalk (on the east side), away from houses and
their foundations. Ms. Williams also expressed an interest in widening the
street, however Mr. Lorenz said that if Philip Street is the approximate
standard width of other historic streets (the narrowest being around 6 feet 4
inches), then there was little he could do. Discussion also included a “no
curb” solution (i.e., Elfreth’s Alley), however that would require an
exception by the Historical Commission and could delay the restoration
PSSS strongly supports
the restoration of Philip Street.
Thomas Paine Place, 200
block, between Dock and 3rd Streets: Mr. Lorenz reported that work was
targeted for 2018 or 2019. He said that the street was put up for a grant
from the state, but did not receive it. There was discussion of a possible
developer restoring the street. Mary Purcell, spoke on behalf of the Society
Hill Towers Homeowners Association, whose members would like to see Thomas
Paine Place restored.
PSSS takes the position that Thomas Paine Place should not precede more distressed historic streets that are in urgent need of restoration, clearly unsafe, and hazardous for residents to traverse. The residents of Society Hill Towers can safely leave their condominiums and walk to their cars in their garage. They can also easily avoid driving or walking on Thomas Paine Place. That said, PSSS very much appreciates Ms. Purcell’s contribution to the meeting and assistance in the issuance of this report.
Other streets discussed at the meeting:
block)/Manning Streets/Bonaparte Place cluster: PSSS strongly suggests that
this cluster of streets be restored next, after American and Phillip Streets.
Hutchinson was put in for a state grant by the Streets Department last year,
but did not receive it.
Quince (200 block): Lynn
Landes reported on Quince Street, which is located within her block, is
collapsing in 3 places and now has its first asphalt “plumbers patch”. She
emphasized that Quince is recognized as one of Philadelphia’s most filmed,
photographed, and beautiful historic streets and should be restored as soon as
Panama Street (2400 block):
Lynn Landes reported on Panama Street, emphasizing the charm of its historic
homes and unique location, across from Fitler Square and one block away from
The Schuylkill River Park and Community Garden, also recognized as one of
Philadelphia’s most beautiful streets and therefore should be restored as soon
as possible >
Chestnut Street (100 block)
and Quarry Street (200 block): Job Itzkowitz and Kate McGlinchey of Old City
District reported that the 100 block of Chestnut Street has been dangerous to
drive on for a while due to its deteriorating condition. Also, they noted
that the 200 block of Quarry Street has a variety of issues, but particularly
water pooling at the intersection of Quarry and N. 3rd Street. Mr. Lorenz
reported that there are some PECO issues involved. No timeline for repair or
restoration was discussed.
N. Orianna (300 block) &
North Marginal Street (400 block, north side of the Ben Franklin Bridge): Rick
Camitta of Franklin Bridge North Neighbors represented these streets. His
concerns are with the patches to the cobblestone streets. Currently, N
Orianna St appears to be in the process of being repaired.
Waverly Street (off of 15th
Street): Mr. Lorenz reported that this street has blue pavers, but apparently
not enough to restore the street completely. It was suggested that Waverly
Street could be restored using Belgium Blocks instead, and that its blue
pavers were better used elsewhere, such as Alter Street (off of Front, across
the street from the Rizzo Skate Rink in Pennsport), or Bodine Street in Old
City (at Market and Elbow Streets). Other blue streets are listed on the PSSS
PSSS supports the plan to
use Waverly Streets blue stones elsewhere and believes that Bodine and/or
Alter Streets are good choices. However, we do not believe any restoration
should take place until other historic streets that rank higher on the LCCL
Criteria are restored first, such as: Hutchinson, Manning, Bonaparte,
Quince, and Panama.
Maiden and Mansion Streets
in Manyunk: These two streets were also discussed by Mr. Lorenz, but a date
for restoration was not discussed.
PSSS strongly opposes the
restoration of these streets at this time. Their location is in Mayayunk,
7.7 miles from Center City, they are not in a heavily trafficked area, and
their use appears to be mainly as a back alley to adjacent properties.
New Construction/Development: Mr. Lorenz addressed the issue of new construction & development and historic street restoration. There was general agreement that developers should be prevailed upon to restore historic streets before being granted permits for construction. How this could be accomplished, including a legislative remedy, was briefly discussed. PSSS would like to see a legal opinion from the city on the options the city would have in this regard.
2. Streets Department’s plans for Camac “the wood” Street
Mr. Lorenz reported that
work is tentatively targeted for summer 2017. He spoke about plans for
allowing better drainage to preserve the wood blocks are still being
developed, including ways to put more distance created between the wood pavers
and the concrete foundation. He added that more “weep holes” (i.e., drainage
holes) will be drilled into the concrete foundation. However, the concrete
foundation will remain. The funds for this project will not come from the
Historical Streets budget, but from the Streets Department general budget.
Richard R. Goldberg of the Franklin Inn Club on Camac Street (and experts
working on their behalf, who have written a report) has previously met with
the Streets Department and continue to offer the Streets Department their
PSSS has long argued that the concrete foundation of Camac “the wood” Street should be completely removed and replaced with modified aggregate or some other porous foundation materials. Weep holes have not been effective. We have also recommended that instead of pine or oak, more rot resistant wood be use (perhaps, red cedar, black locust, or Osage orange). PSSS has published historic research on that subject at http://www.smallstreetsphilly.org/WoodStreets.htm. We oppose the use of creosoted wood blocks as creosote is a toxic substance and hazardous to humans, ground water, and the environment in general, according to The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) > https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=64&tid=18
3. Plumbers Patches: See http://www.smallstreetsphilly.org/PlumbersPatches&CaveIns.docx
discussed legislative possibilities, while Mr. Lorenz appeared to support the
status quo, which is a voluntary program. The voluntary program was only used
by one resident since its inception in 2014. In the meanwhile, Cypress Street
(1200 block) which was restored in 2012, already has a plumbers patch, and
Warnock got a plumbers patch 2 weeks after it was restored in 2012. In
addition, Lynn Landes pointed out that, according to the Streets Dept.
website, the voluntary program was only for July 2014 to December of 2014 -
Mr. Lorenz said that the voluntary program is ongoing, and that he would
check out the website.
PSSS supports legislation to require property owners and their contractors to restore historic streets in the manner that they were found. PSSS believes that this is necessary to prevent plumbers patches from undermining the Historic Street Restoration Program. If legislation is not written, then PSSS recommends that the Streets Department should have a policy of restoring plumbers patches with 3 months of their appearance.
4. Construction design issues, specifically the issues surrounding the “concrete foundation and mortar requirements” of the Streets Dept. vs PSSS suggested “modified aggregate and screening or sand”.
Construction design issues were discussed throughout the meeting, particularly the damaging use of jackhammers on historic homes and their foundations.
5. A financial report from the Streets Department of the historic streets restoration program.
Mr. Lorenz gave an account of the past few years, but unfortunately we did not record those numbers. We will try to get those numbers and update this report at the following webpage http://www.smallstreetsphilly.org/2017annualreport.htm. From our recollection, it appears that the Streets Department has received between $200,000-$300,000 annually for the Historic Streets Restoration Program. The Streets Department receives $20 million annually for its general operations. We have also asked the Streets Department for a list of the historically designated streets restored since the program’s inception in 1989.
To our knowledge the following streets have been restored:
Camac “the wood” Street, 200 block (in various years)
N. Water Street, off of Callowhill
Panama Street, 2500 block (2010 or 2011?)
Jessup Street, 200 block (2012)
Warnock Street, 200 block (2012)
Panama Street, 1200 block (2012)
Cypress Street, 1200 block (2012)
These streets have been restore, but we are not sure by whom:
1200 block of Chancellor Street
1200 block of St. James Street
200 block of Fulton Street
We want to thank Councilman Mark Squilla for being a constant supporter of the historic streets. PSSS is also very appreciative of the Streets Department and Historical Commission and their work with residents on these issues. We are eagerly looking forward to the restoration of American and Philip Streets. We hope that our Priority List Criteria (LCCL: location, context, condition, and logistics) is accepted as a more appropriate guide than Gilmore & Associates’ computer-generated list.
We also appreciate the Street Department’s efforts on behalf of Camac Street, although we believe that the removal of the concrete foundation and the use of naturally rot-resistant wood blocks is necessary for the success of that project. Plumbers Patches on historic streets are a thorn in the side of residents and the Streets Department, alike. Either legislation should be written to put a stop to them, or the Streets Department should make a commitment to restore them within 3 months. Concrete foundations may sound solid, but historic streets are like any other street that often need to be excavated. Jackhammers and fragile historic homes do not mix well.
And lastly, there is the issue of the need for additional funds, which would lessen the amount of time residents must wait for their historic streets to be restored. Although not mentioned at the meeting, PSSS will be doing more outreach into the Philadelphia community to find funds for our historic streets. We want to thank the residents of historic streets for their support of The Historic Street Restoration Program. This program definitely depends on effective and diligent civic involvement.
Thank you for your attention. Comments and corrections are always welcome.
Lynn and Cliff Landes,
The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS)
LynnLandes@earthlink.net / 215-629-3553
ATTENDEES LIST: Please email any additions or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilman Mark Squilla,
Streets Committee, Chair
Kim Broadbent, Historical Commission
Stephen Lorenz, Philadelphia Streets Dept., Chief Engineer
Lynn and Cliff Landes, The
Philadelphia Society of Small Streets
Patrick Grossi of the Preservation Alliance
Bob Curley, representing American Street
Tom McFeeley, American Street resident
Lorna Katz Lawson, Society Hill Civic, Zoning & Historic Preservation Committee
Ted Zeitzer, Spruce Street, 200 block
Sandra Williams, representing Philip Street, plus 2 neighbors
Mary Purcel, Society Hill Towers Homeowners Association
Rick Camitta of Franklin Bridge North Neighbors
Richard R. Goldberg, Franklin Inn Club, Camac Street
Kate McGlinchey, Old City District
Job Itzkowitz, Old City District