Look into Far Northeast’s future

The City Planning Commission is collecting suggestions for what the Far Northeast should look like in about two decades’ time.

On Sept. 21, the commission hosted the first of three public meetings to introduce the Philadelphia2035 project to folks from what the commission has dubbed the Upper Far Northeast and Lower Far Northeast districts. Those two territories encompass many neighborhoods including Somerton, Bustleton, Pine Valley, Normandy, Parkwood, Modena, Morrell, West Torresdale, Academy Gardens, Pennypack and Holme Circle.

During the session, which was held at the St. John Neumann Center on Roosevelt Boulevard, local folks were asked to identify some of the existing strengths and weaknesses of their communities while recommending opportunities for improvement. The planning commission will compile those suggestions and release them publicly before the next meeting.

The date and location for the second meeting have not been determined, but it will probably happen in November. All information about the process and schedule will be posted at Phila2035.org. People who do not attend the meetings can still submit their ideas via the same website.

In the meantime, the planning commission’s own researchers have presented a detailed analysis of the statistical factors shaping the character of the Far Northeast.

The great period of growth in the area began after the second world war and continued through the 1960s and ’70s, when suburban-style residential and commercial development supplanted vast tracts of farmland.

Population also boomed. By 1980, there were 145,400 residents. That figure declined steadily through the ’80s and ’90s, but had crept back up to 136,945 by the 2010 census. Analysts predict that it will reach 145,000 again by 2045.

Meanwhile, the populace is getting older. Residents aged 44 and younger declined in number by 24 percent from 1980 to 2010, while the 45 and older group grew by 32 percent.

Within the Far Northeast, the portion west of Roosevelt Boulevard saw the most population growth from 2000 to ’10. East of the Boulevard, population declined slightly during that period, but not enough to offset the growth elsewhere in the Far Northeast.

The Far Northeast is the most diverse region of the city in terms of national origin with almost 27,000 foreign-born residents, according to the commission. That’s about 20 percent of the area’s total population.

Within the foreign-born group, 47 percent hail from Europe and 40 percent from Asia. There are more than 5,000 Ukrainian-born residents, along with almost 2,300 Russian, 664 Polish and 551 Belarusian. Among natural-born Asians, more than 5,400 are from India and 1,015 from China. More than 1,100 hail from African nations including Egypt, Liberia, Morocco and Nigeria; while 712 emigrated from Brazil.

Key financial facts about the Far Northeast include a high homeownership rate and a low poverty rate compared to citywide averages.

Seventy-three percent of homes in the Lower Far Northeast are owner-occupied, while 61 percent of those in the Upper Far Northeast are. Citywide, the figure is 54 percent. The poverty rates are 9.6 percent for Lower Far Northeast and 11.9 percent for Upper Far Northeast, compared to 26.5 percent citywide. Median incomes are $55,478 (Lower), $50,033 (Upper) and $37,460 (citywide).

The Far Northeast is a bedroom community as just 14 percent of resident workers are also employed in the area. Twenty percent of the workforce travels to Center City, while 11 percent travels to Bucks County and 9 percent travels elsewhere in the Northeast for work. Fifty-three percent of workers have jobs based within the city.

The leading job sectors within the Far Northeast are health care and social services, industrial and retail. The transportation and warehousing sector saw the greatest growth in the area from 2002 to 2014. It’s 2,663 jobs represented a 254 percent increase. Healthcare and social services saw a 49 percent increase to 13,438 jobs. Retail jobs grew 19 percent to 8,751. Manufacturing jobs declined 27 percent to 7,191. ••