§14-1607. Special Controls for the Center City Commercial Area. [291]


(1) Legislative Findings. The Council finds that:

(a) Major public and private investments have been made and continued to be made to create and maintain aesthetic enhancement, economic viability and historic values within the Center City Commercial Area. Public funding expenditures include appropriations for improved access, street and sidewalk improvements, tree plantings and street furniture;[292]

(b) Within the said area there has been an increased number of certain uses such as amusement arcades, surface parking lots, and take-out restaurants. Said uses while not necessarily offensive by themselves, when concentrated in an area, tend to contribute to the deterioration of the aesthetics and economics of that area. There are other uses and accessory uses such as outdoor vending machines, retail sales windows, take-out windows, outdoor speakers, outdoor advertising signs, and flashing and animated signs, among others, which also tend to contribute to the deterioration of the character of an area.

(c) This area is important to the historic, cultural, and commercial vitality of Philadelphia and these types of uses could have a negative impact upon the City’s efforts to improve this area through planning and funding programs of economic development, and commercial revitalization.

(d) The pedestrian ambiance of Chestnut street and Walnut street would be enhanced by insuring the continued penetration of sunlight and air to the sidewalk areas of these streets by restricting building heights on the south side of these streets in a manner that ensures this.

(e) A uniform scale of development would enhance the aesthetic character of Chestnut street and Walnut street and Market street between Front street and Fifth street by maintaining a cornice line or height line of a pedestrian scale along said streets;[293]

(f) Therefore, special land use controls are needed to protect the historic, aesthetic and economic viability of this area. These controls should prohibit certain uses within the area, establish bulk and height controls along both sides of Chestnut street and Walnut street and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, and establish facade and sign controls for the area;[294]

(g) Additionally certain uses and accessory uses which contribute to the deterioration of the aesthetic, historic and economic viability of this area, while representing a small portion of the capital investment, existing on a rental or lease basis rather than as permanent parts of the real property, and/or, having a short-term usable life, should be removed from said area;

(h) The properties on both sides of Market street between Front street and Fifth street is known as "Historic East Market Street" and are on the National Registry of Historic Places. This area is also an important part of the City’s historic resources which attract tourists and visitors to the City and therefore in need of special zoning controls to discourage demolition, new construction, or reuse that is not of the same scale or character of these four blocks of Market street. These zoning controls should limit the width of new buildings, additions to existing buildings, and the attaching of existing building to a building width that does not exceed that of buildings along these four blocks. Use controls should prohibit and limit uses which are not compatible with a historic tourist and visitors area.[295]

(2) Center City Commercial Area.[296]

(a) No building shall be erected or altered, or building or land used abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn square and Washington avenue and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, unless there is compliance with all the applicable requirements of this Section.[297]

(3) Prohibited Uses. In any building or upon any land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn square and Washington avenue and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the following uses shall be prohibited:[298]

(a) Amusement arcades;

(b) Any use regulated by Section 14-1605, Regulated Uses;

(c) Car wash;

(d) Hand laundry;

(e) Non-accessory or outdoor advertising signs;

(f) Open air parking lots;

(g) Outdoor sales or storage including outdoor use of coin operated machines which dispense food or drink, but not including open air cafes within the property line and not including any open air cafe on Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue;[299]

(h) Parking as the sole use of a property;

(i) Repair of motor vehicles;

(j) Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other similar establishments for the sale and consumption of food and/or beverages, with drive-in or take-out service (sale of food and/or beverages to be consumed outside the confines of the premises); provided that take-out restaurants with a minimum of 20 seats for indoor dining of patrons shall not be prohibited along Market street between Front street and Fifth street;[300]

(k) Retail sales of products or food through a window or aperture which opens directly onto the sidewalk, a public arcade, or public entranceway into a building;

(l) Retail and wholesale sales of motor vehicles;

(m) Retail and wholesale sales of automotive parts and/or the installation of automotive parts to include audio equipment in motor vehicles;

(n) Accessory parking with vehicular ingress and egress from Broad street except on the west side of Broad street between Spruce street and Pine street; and,[301]

(o) Any accessory speaker or audio device that causes music or voices to reach the sidewalk area, public arcade, or public entranceway to a building, which is adjunct to any permitted retail use, used to advertise merchandise sold, and/or used to call to public attention the use of the premises.
(4) Uses Prohibited on the Ground Floor.[302] In any building or upon any land abutting Chestnut street and Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue, the following uses shall be prohibited from occupying the ground floor:

(a) Blueprinting, duplicating, printing, publishing, photoprocessing, and kindred reproduction services;

(b) Laboratories for analytical, chemical and research purposes, assay offices; and,

(c) Repair of household appliances and fixtures, musical instruments, photographic equipment, radio and television equipment, shoes, dental or prosthetic laboratories, and optical lens grinding.

(5) Uses Prohibited on Market street between Front street and Fifth street.[303] In addition to the uses prohibited as set forth in § 14-1607(3) and § 14-1607(4), the following uses shall be prohibited on Market street between Front street and Fifth street;

(a) Athletic and drill halls, dance halls, nightclubs, theaters with live stage performances and fixed seating, (provided, that theaters with live theatrical stage performances and fixed seating shall not be prohibited), motion picture auditoriums with more than 50 seats; and other entertainment of guests and patrons as a main use;

(b) Billiards, pool and bowling;

(c) Bottling and/or wholesale distribution of liquids for human consumption;

(d) Central heating plants;

(e) Laboratories (analytical, chemical and research) and assay offices;

(f) Penal and correctional institutions;
(g) Trolley and bus terminals and car and bus barns.

(h) Water booster or sewer booster substations, electric transforming or gas regulating substations.

(6) Uses Prohibited on Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue.[304] In addition to the uses prohibited as set forth in § 14-1607(3) and § 14-1607(4), the following uses shall be prohibited on Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue:

(a) Retail sale of drugs and cosmetics as a main use;

(b) Retail sale of groceries;

(c) Retail sale of general merchandise;

(d) Retail sale of delicatessen goods as a main use;

(e) Retail sale and/or preparation of bakery items as a main use;

(f) Retail sale of variety store merchandise;

(g) Treatment and sale of pet birds and pet animals, including boarding of pets;

(h) Water booster or sewer booster substations, electric transforming or gas regulating substations.

(7) Conditional Uses.[305] In any building or upon any land abutting Chestnut street and Walnut street between Seventh street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue (except as noted in § 14-1607(6) above), the following uses shall require a Zoning Board of Adjustment certificate:

(a) Airline ticket offices;

(b) Restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other similar establishments for the sale and consumption of food and/or beverages, without drive-in or take-out service (service at tables or sit down counter facilities only); except for restaurants on Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue and, except for restaurants located within hotels and, except for restaurants accessory to an office building (intended principally to serve the occupants of the building) provided that there shall be no ingress or egress directly from any street (accessible solely from the interior of the building) and there shall be no signage visible from the street;[306]

(c) Rental of bicycles, clothing, and consumer goods;

(d) Retail sale of delicatessen goods as a main use;

(e) Retail sale of drugs and cosmetics as a main use;

(f) Retail sale and/or preparation of bakery items as a main use; and,

(g) Treatment and sale of pet birds and pet animals, including boarding of pets;

(h) Water booster or sewer booster substations, electric transforming or gas regulating substations.

(8) Use Regulations, With a Special Use Permit.[307] The following uses shall be permitted only if a Zoning Board of Adjustment Special Use Permit, as herein provided, is obtained:

(a) Restaurants when located in any building or upon any land located on the north side of Market street between Front street and Fifth street;

(9) Prohibited Buildings.[308] Upon any land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the following buildings shall be prohibited:

(a) Kiosks, as defined in subsection 14-102(46).

(10) Bulk and Height Controls.[309]

(a) The main cornice line on any building erected on land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street shall not be less than thirty-five feet above the average sidewalk level.

(b) No building shall be erected which is located at a point two hundred fifty feet south of the south side of Chestnut street between Front street and a point one hundred thirty feet east of Broad street or two hundred fifty feet south of the south side of Chestnut street between a point one hundred thirty feet west of Broad street and the Schuylkill River, or within two hundred fifty feet south of the south side of Walnut street between Front street and Eighth street and between Ninth street and a point one hundred feet east of Broad street, or within two hundred fifty feet south of the south side of Walnut street between a point two hundred twenty feet west of Broad street and the Schuylkill River, unless there is compliance with the following height and bulk controls:

(.1) The main cornice line abutting the south side of Chestnut street or Walnut street shall not exceed fifty feet in height above the average sidewalk level; provided, that no portion of any building within two hundred fifty feet south of the southerly property line of Chestnut street or two hundred fifty feet south of the southerly property line of Walnut street shall exceed this fifty feet height limitation unless the portion or portions above this fifty feet height limitation recede from the plane of the cornice line a distance equal to or greater than the distance it extends above the fifty feet height limit; provided, further, that in no case shall any portion or portions of a building exceed three hundred feet in height.

(.2) Building Width Controls. For buildings fronting on Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the maximum width of any building measured from Market street to the rear lot line shall not exceed 35 feet; provided, that existing buildings which exceed this width shall not be extended in width or combined with any other building or lot so as to exceed a combined width of thirty-five feet; further provided, that any existing building of less than thirty-five feet in width shall not be extended in width or combined with any other building or lot so that the total combined width exceeds thirty-five feet.[310]

(11) Facade Controls.[311] No building shall be erected nor any facade altered on any building or land fronting on Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, unless plans of the facade have been approved by the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission shall have sixty (60) days to take action, after which its approval shall be presumed.

(12) Sign Controls.[312] No signs shall be erected or maintained on any building or land fronting on or within 200 feet of Chestnut street, Walnut street, Broad street or Market street between Front street and Fifth street if said sign is visible or intended to be visible from Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River or from Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue or from Market street between Front street and Fifth street, unless approved by the Art Commission, after consultation with the Planning Commission; provided that, the Art Commission shall have 60 days to take action, after which its approval shall be presumed; further provided, that flashing signs, intermittent or flashing light sources, revolving signs, animated signs, roof signs (excluding signs identifying the name or address of a building), and projecting signs except along Market street between Front street and Fifth street shall be prohibited.

(13) Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Uses.[313]

(a) In all buildings and/or upon all land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Seventh street and the Schuylkill River of from Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue, and Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the uses prohibited in § 14-1607(3), relating to prohibited uses, subsection (g), relating to outdoor sales and storage, and (o), relating to accessory speakers, shall be discontinued immediately and shall not be resumed or maintained, provided, all such material and devices shall be permanently removed within 90 days of the effective date of this ordinance; further provided, that the uses prohibited in subsection (k), relating to retail sales through a window, shall be discontinued immediately and shall not be resumed, provided all such windows shall be permanently removed within one year of the effective date of this ordinance; further provided, that the uses in subsection (e), relating to outdoor advertising, shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed or maintained at the expiration of 2 years from the effective date of this ordinance.[314]
(b) Nothing in this section shall imply or incur any obligation on the part of the City to compensate any person for any financial loss attributed to the discontinuance of a non-conforming use.

(14) Discontinuance of Operation.[315] If in any building and/or upon any land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue or Market street between Front street and Fifth street any use prohibited in § 14-1607(3)(a) through (o) and § 14-1607(5)(a) through (h), above, should cease or discontinue for a period of 90 or more consecutive days, it may not resume, or be replaced by any similar use unless it complies with all the requirements set forth in this Chapter.

(15) Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Buildings:[316]

(a) Upon all land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Front street and the Schuylkill River and Broad street between South Penn Square and Washington avenue or Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the buildings prohibited in § 14-1607(9), relating to prohibited buildings, shall be permanently removed within 3 years of the effective date of this subsection.[317]

(b) Nothing in this section shall imply or incur any obligation on the part of the City to compensate any person for any financial loss attributed to the discontinuance of a non-conforming building.

(16) With respect to non-conforming uses in buildings and/or upon land abutting Chestnut street or Walnut street between Eighteenth street and the Schuylkill River, the time periods referred to in subsection (13), concerning Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Uses, shall relate to the effective date of this subsection (16).[318]

(17) With respect to non-conforming buildings and non-conforming uses in buildings and/or upon land abutting Broad street between Pine street and Washington avenue, the time periods referred to in subsection (13), concerning Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Uses and subsection (15), concerning Discontinuance of Non- Conforming Buildings, shall relate to the effective date of this subsection.[319]

(18) With respect to non-conforming uses in buildings and non-conforming uses in buildings and/or upon land abutting Market street between Front street and Fifth street, the time periods referred to in subsection (13), concerning Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Uses, and subsection (15), concerning Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Buildings shall relate to the effective date of subsection.[320]
(19) Conflicting Regulations.[321] When the provisions of this section conflict with the provisions of § 14-224, relating to the "RC-4" Residential District, and/or the provisions of § 14-305, relating to the "C-4" and "C-5" Commercial Districts, the more restrictive provisions shall control.

(20) Enforcement.[322] No permits for any construction, alteration and/or renovation of any building or upon any land shall be issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections unless there is compliance with all of the applicable sections of this Chapter; provided, that within the specified time periods after the enactment of this ordinance, the Department shall institute any appropriate action or proceeding to enforce the requirements that all uses listed in § 14-1607(13), Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Uses, and all buildings listed in § 14-1607(15), Discontinuance of Non-Conforming Buildings, have been removed; further provided, that any person aggrieved by any decision of any officer, department, board or commission of the City acting under the authority of this Chapter shall have the right to take an appeal of such decision by requesting a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

(21) Sidewalk Cafes.[323] Nothing in this Section 14-1607 shall prohibit or require a Zoning Board of Adjustment certificate for the maintenance of sidewalk cafes, if licensed in accordance with Section 9-208 of the Code, at any of the following locations:

(a) Chestnut street, from Front street to Broad street;

(b) Walnut street, from Front street to Broad street;

(c) Market street, from Front street to Fifth street;

(d) Broad street, from South Penn square to north houseline of Washington avenue;

(e) Chestnut street, from Broad street to Eighteenth street; and

(f) Walnut[324] street, from Broad street to Eighteenth street.