PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Jim Kenney today announced steps his administration will take to strengthen historic preservation across Philadelphia. The actions are implementing recommendations made by his Historic Preservation Task Force.
“The Task Force has given us short- and long-term recommendations to better preserve our City’s historic assets, and today we take the first steps to implement them.” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Taken together, these actions will enable Philadelphia to continue its job and population growth while protecting what makes people want to live and work here in the first place.”
The recommendations include operational improvements and regulatory and statutory changes. The City has already begun action on some.
Mayor Kenney announced steps to:
- Begin an ongoing, citywide survey program to document Philadelphia’s historic resources
- Create two new tiers of historic preservation to protect more properties and to protect them faster
- Form a Historic Preservation Policy Team with representatives from multiple City departments
- Improve clarity, predictability and transparency in the historic designation process and in the permit review process for historically designated properties
Mayor Kenney also announced that the City would begin to examine:
- How to create an “index” of properties that would require a review of historic significance when a demolition permit is sought
- Energy and Building Code Standards for historic properties
- Strategies to better honor the City’s underground artifacts
Councilmember Mark Squilla appeared with the Mayor to announce that he would introduce legislation that would offer incentives for historic preservation. Those incentives would:
- Reduce parking requirements for redevelopment of historic buildings
- Allow Accessory Dwelling Units on certain residential historic properties
- Increase by right use opportunities for special purpose buildings such as churches and schools
- Create a zoning bonus to fund a new Historic Preservation Fund
- Create two new types of districts allowing for more options for preserving our neighborhoods
“Every neighborhood in Philadelphia has valuable historic assets that make the neighborhood unique,” said Councilmember Mark Squilla. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to better preserve those assets.”
The work of the Task Force was informed by best practices from other cities. The National Trust for Historic Preservation participated on the Task Force and provided research into those best practices.
“Having worked on the revitalization of cities through preservation for decades, we have found there is no one ‘silver bullet’ policy or innovation to promote the reuse of older and historic buildings,” said Seri Worden, field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are very encouraged by Mayor Kenney’s commitment to a multi-faceted, comprehensive preservation approach for Philadelphia’s future, and look forward to further supporting these important reforms during the implementation phase.”
A key recommendation by the Task Force was to build a constituency around historic preservation. Mayor Kenney called for advocates, developers, civic groups and residents to take up that charge.
“Mayor Kenney has taken strong first steps toward better preserving Philadelphia’s historic fabric,” said Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “Our challenge is to build support for those actions – and for historic preservation – in every community in Philadelphia.”
Mayor Kenney appointed the 33-member Task Force in April 2017. It held 11 public meetings that were attended by more than 400 residents. It issued two reports before presenting its draft recommendations for public comment in December 2018.
“I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless work to develop these recommendations,” said Harris Steinberg, chair of the Task Force. “Their efforts have charted a path forward for historic preservation in Philadelphia.”
The executive summary and the full report can be found at phlpreservation.org.