City officials are in the process of developing a multimillion-dollar plan to redesign Cottman Avenue between Roosevelt Boulevard and Castor Avenue.
The project aims to make the stretch near the Roosevelt Mall and Northeast Regional Library safer and greener as well as more commercially viable. It was inspired by recommendations made in the city’s 2035 plan for the Central Northeast.
“It’s not just a safety project. It’s not just an economic development project,” said Darin Gatti, chief engineer for the Department of Streets. “It’s everything.”
Right now, the plan is still in the conceptual phase. However, the bulk of the changes under consideration have to do with Cottman Avenue’s streetscape, meaning the road and adjoining sidewalks.
City representatives last week held an open house at Northeast Regional about the project.
Residents were asked what they wanted to see and were encouraged to vote using multi-colored stickers for a variety of different design options.
For instance, one poster board gave people the opportunity to choose what they prefered for the sidewalk near the Roosevelt Mall. The options were a wide sidewalk with benches, a medium-sized sidewalk with landscaping or a narrow sidewalk with a cafe area.
Those who attended the information session could also fill out a comment form to leave suggestions and questions.
“These meetings actually teach our design team about what’s important to the neighborhood,” Gatti said. “So this is where we get a feel for what the residents want and what the residents need.”
One area already identified by city officials as a problem spot is Cottman and Oakland Street. For years, people have been parking in the shopping plaza lot and jaywalking across the four-lane road to get to the library and Health Center 10.
Officials recently set up cameras and counted 716 illegal pedestrian crossings between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on a single weekday.
A part of the project could be installing a crosswalk with a traffic light near the library, and designers at the open house were collecting feedback from residents about that possibility.
“We get input from the residents,” Gatti said. “We get input from the businesses, the community groups and we kind of take all that in and try to find the best fit for everyone.”
Officials are meeting separately with businesses to discuss the project. Gatti said the city is looking for ways it can cooperate with the owners of the Roosevelt Mall and other shopping plazas on Cottman Avenue.
Roosevelt Mall is owned by Brixmor Property Group.
“We appreciate the plan to invest in the area, and we look forward to working together to further enhance how Roosevelt Mall can better serve the Northeast Philadelphia community,” said Ryan Guheen, a senior vice president for Brixmor, in a statement to the Times.
Kimco Realty, which owns Great Northeast Plaza (site of the former Sears store), Cottman-Bustleton Center and Cottman & Castor Shopping Center, declined to comment on the project.
The Philadelphia Water Department, which is partnering with the Streets and Commerce departments on the plan, is also offering certain businesses along Cottman Avenue special grants if they agree to install green stormwater infrastructure on their property.
Options for the stormwater improvements include green roofs, rain gardens and subsurface storage basins. Commercial entities that participate in the department’s program will get reduced stormwater bills or a one-time incentives payment.
Officials hope to develop a finalized concept plan for the Cottman Avenue project by January. Early next year, they will host a second public meeting to get feedback on the concept plan.
Complete detailed design plans are expected to be finished in December 2019, and the city anticipates construction on the project will begin in spring of 2020.
For more information or to give feedback on the project, email CottmanAveStreetscapeProject@gmail.com ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org