§14-1610. Old City Residential Area Special District Controls. [384]

(1) Legislative Findings. The Council finds that:

(a) Major public and private investments have been made and continue to be made in and around the Old City section of the City to enhance visual aesthetics, preserve and protect the nationally registered historic district, prevent declining property values, encourage economic investment and tourism, promote residential uses in and adjacent to the downtown core, and protect the economic vitality of this section of Philadelphia;

(b) Public expenditures have included appropriations for restoration of historic sites, improvement of vehicular access, street and sidewalk improvements, reconstruction of Market street from Front street to Fifth street, interstate right-of-way landscaping and sound barriers to protect Old City;[327]

(c) Private investment within and immediately adjacent to Old City includes the restoration, adaptive reuse, and reconstruction of numerous historic structures, representing upwards of five hundred million ($500,000,000) dollars of investment and creating more than two thousand (2,000) new housing units, the new construction within the Independence Mall Urban Renewal Area, the rehabilitation of historic churches and the private development of City-owned piers at Penn’s Landing;[328]

(d) The large amount of public and private investment in the areas adjacent to Old City, namely, redevelopment within the Independence Mall Urban Renewal Area, Market Street East Urban Renewal Area, Vine Street Expressway, Interstate 95 access ramps, and Penn’s Landing may pose a threat to the retention of the unique historic character, cultural significance and residential viability of Old City;[329]

(e) Old City is important to the economic vitality and diverse character of Center City Philadelphia in that it serves as a major tourist destination within "America’s Most Historic Square Mile," with more than 1.6 million sightseers per year visiting Independence National Historic Park, Elfreth’s Alley, Christ Church, the Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite, the 1802 Society of Friends Meeting House and the Museum of American Jewish History;

(f) Old City is a neighborhood consisting of a unique collection of 18th and 19th century structures, the great majority of which do not exceed 5 stories in height. The area is considered one of the greatest intact collections of 19th century cast iron facade buildings in the United States. The district is now and has been for over 100 years essentially fully developed, thus there are few vacant development sites. Pressure to develop these few vacant parcels with higher density projects for greater economic return will intensify. This will ultimately lead to construction of buildings of a height, bulk and density that will overshadow existing historic 3 to 5 story structures. Such higher density development may be incompatible with sensitive historic areas such as Elfreth’s Alley, the Betsy Ross House and Christ Church;[330]

(g) Higher density development may over burden local streets with additional vehicular traffic and strain utility and City provided services. Structures in excess of 5 stories may block out light and air to the predominantly lower historic buildings nearby, now occupied by predominantly by residential uses. They may also block historic views of important historic sites and groups of restored facades typical of the district. This will serve to lower the quality of life for existing homeowners and tenants and may negatively affect the property values of previously converted residential structures;[331]

(h) Therefore, special land use and zoning controls providing for limitation on the height of new construction or additions to existing buildings as well as on the size and location of certain specific entertainment and commercial uses, are required to protect the historic, residential, cultural and economic vitality of this section of the City.[332]

(i) In addition to the areas covered by the special land use and zoning controls when this Section was first added to the Code, there are equally important areas within Old City that require protection under the Code. [390.1]

(j) There are over 91 restaurant, bar, or nightclub uses within a 25-square block area of Old City with a residential occupancy of over 4,000 people.[390.2]

(k) Within these 25-square blocks (Front Street to Sixth Street, Wood Street to Walnut Street) seven blocks are the Independence National Historic Park. The 13 remaining blocks contain mixed-use zoning.[390.3]

(l) This 13-block area of Old City supports 91 restaurant and bar establishments, 72 of which are located south of Market Street.[390.4]

(m) The 72 restaurant, bar, or nightclub establishments south of Market Street operate within a 5-block area and 67 of these establishments have liquor licenses.[390.5]

(n) Within an area of only 2 square blocks (Front Street to Third Street and Market Street to Chestnut Street) there are 58 restaurant, bar, or nightclub establishments, 56 of which have liquor licenses.[390.6]

(o) While much of this growth is positive, some of its negative effects have been severely impacting the residents and reputable businesses in the area. Some of the existing restaurants, bars, and nightclubs have become a nuisance to the community by contributing to more crime, public intoxication, vandalism, litter, and other anti-social forms of behavior and by reducing parking spaces for residents and patrons of more reputable establishments in the area.[390.7]

(p) Recent fights and shootings have been committed as a result of disputes arising within some of the restaurants, bars, or nightclubs. In response, police activity has been increased in the area.[390.8]

(q) The City should protect this vital residential and commercial community from these negative influences by enacting legislation that creates a positive environment for current and future residential and commercial development.[390.9]

(2) District Boundaries. For the purposes of this section, the Old City Residential Area Special District regulations shall apply to:[390.10]

(a) All the properties within the area bounded as follows and depicted on Map "A": On the north, the south street line of Wood street; on the east, the west street line of the Delaware Expressway; on the south, the north property line of all properties fronting on the north side of Market street; and, on the west, the east street line of Fifth street;

(b) All the properties within the area bounded by Market Street on the north, (including properties fronting on both sides of Market Street), the east street line of Fifth street on the west, the north street line of Walnut Street on the south and the west street line of Front Street on the east.

(3) Prohibited Uses. Within the Old City Residential Area Special District and notwithstanding any other Chapter of this Title, the following uses shall be prohibited as set forth below:[390.11]

Within the area described in subsection 14-1610(2)(a), the following uses shall be prohibited:

(a) Amusement Arcades;

(b) Athletic and drill hall, dance hall, and other entertainment of guests and patrons as a main use;

(c) Automobile repair shops, automobile service station for the retail sale of automobile fuels, lubricants and accessories, retail sale and installation of automobile parts, tires or audio equipment, car wash, automobile and truck sale lots;

(d) Billiards, pool and bowling;

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

(f) Central heating plant;

(g) Courtroom and courthouse building;

(h) Garages as a main use and public parking lots;

(i) Installations of auto, boat, motorcycle or truck parts;

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

(k) Penal and correctional institutions;

(l) Restaurants and nightclubs;

(m) Theaters with live stage performances and motion picture auditoriums;

(n) Trolley and bus terminals and car and bus barns.

(o) Fortune teller establishments;[333]

(p) Tattoo and body piercing establishments;[334]

(q) Palm readers, Tarot Card readers and other related types of so-called psychic personal services;[335]

(r) Take out restaurant;[336]

(s) Telemarketing, as that term is defined in the Telemarketer Registration Act, Act of December 4, 1996, P.L. 911, No. 147, § 2, as amended (73 P.S. § 2242).[394.1]

Within the area described in subsection 14-1610(2)(b), the following uses shall be prohibited:[394.2]

(a) Cabarets;

(b) Dance halls;

(c) Entertainment of guests and patrons as a main use;

(d) Fortune teller establishments;

(e) Nightclubs;

(f) Palm readers, Tarot Card readers and other related types of so-called psychic personal services;

(g) Private clubs;

(h) Restaurants;

(i) Take out restaurants;

(j) Tattoo and body piercing establishments;

(k) Telemarketing, as that term is defined in the Telemarketer Registration Act, Act of December 4, 1996, P.L. 911, No. 147, §2, as amended (73 P.S. §2242).

(l) The expansion or extension of any use listed in (a) through (k) above.

(4) Height Regulations. Within the area described in subsection 14-1610(2)(a), the following height regulations shall apply:[395]

(a) The maximum height of a building or an addition to an existing building shall be 65 feet about the average ground level at the base of the structure, provided, that this height restriction shall also be applicable to:

(.1) Any rooftop parapet wall, mechanical or elevator penthouse, any mechanical or building support equipment;

(.2) Cable service equipment of any type including antennae;

(.3) Non-accessory outdoor advertising signs.

(5) Maximum Building Width.[396] Within the area described in subsection 14-1610(2)(a), the following building width regulations shall apply:

(a) The maximum width of any newly erected building or existing building to which an addition is added which increases the building’s street frontage after the effective date of this Section shall comply with the following building width requirements:

(.1) Buildings or portions of buildings shall be constructed so that the total width of the building at its widest point measured on a line parallel with the street does not exceed 70 feet.
(Map "A" appears on the following page)


Old City Residential Area
Special District Boundaries