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Zoning, planning & development

Get a civic design review

Before you begin

Getting ready for a civic design review (CDR)? Keep these things in mind:

  • A CDR referral from L&I must be received by PCPC.
  • All CDR materials must be submitted at least four weeks before the CDR meeting.
  • The RCO meeting must be held (and properly noticed) before the CDR meeting.

PCPC posts the CDR meeting agenda about two weeks before the meeting. When developing the agenda, PCPC gives preference to applicants whose RCO meeting is held before the agenda is posted and to projects with earlier L&I referral dates.

Service overview

Building projects of a certain size and/or location are subject to a civic design review (CDR). In a public forum, a review committee evaluates the project. The committee is composed of one or two community representatives, as well as design and development professionals appointed by the Mayor.

It is the role of the committee to consider how well the project’s design relates to the public realm—that is, the part of a development that people can see or physically access. Subjects of discussion may include:

  • Sidewalks and streets.
  • Open spaces.
  • Public access.
  • Building height and bulk.
  • Landscaping.
  • Parking and loading conditions.
  • Building materials and transparency.

Residents, business owners, and other community stakeholders may comment at the forum. The committee then recommends improvements to the project that positively impact the public realm. Recommendations are advisory, and the development team may choose whether or not to implement them.

Once the review process is complete, the committee will send its recommendations to the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). If the project also has zoning refusals, the recommendations are forwarded to the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) for their consideration.

You can view current CDR agenda and meeting materials. If you have questions, you can call PCPC at (215) 683-4615.


Applicants for CDR include:

  • Architects.
  • Landscape architects.
  • Engineers.
  • Attorneys.

Where and when

CDR meetings takes place once a month. To be placed on the agenda, proposals may be submitted until 4 p.m. four weeks prior to the scheduled CDR meeting. A proposal may be placed on a later meeting if the agenda is already full.

Email digital copies of your submission materials to Hard copies must be mailed or hand-delivered to:

Philadelphia City Planning Commission
Civic Design Review
1515 Arch St., 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102


The zoning permit fee includes the cost of the CDR.


CDR is an applicant’s opportunity to gather design feedback and demonstrate that the proposed project will positively impact the public realm of the project and community. The process follows these steps:

L&I reviews project submission and determines CDR requirement.

When you submit zoning plans to L&I, they’ll notify you if the project’s size or location triggers a CDR. These triggers are described in Chapter 14-300 of the Philadelphia Code.

Submit your materials to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC).

Submit materials for CDR that describe your project and illustrate its impact.

Arrange to meet with registered community organizations (RCOs).

Meet with community organizations to hear their concerns about your project and get their feedback. Learn more about RCO notifications for zoning applications.

Attend Civic Design Review and hear the committee’s recommendation.

The committee will discuss and consider your proposal in a public, advertised forum. They may make their recommendation at this time. Or, they may ask you to attend a second public forum.

If your project is concluded, the committee will send their recommendation to L&I.

This will complete the CDR process. You can then proceed with your zoning permit application.

Submission materials

Proposals must include documentation, imagery, and plans that illustrate your project.

Submit your materials in PDF format on a CD, USB flash drive, or by email. You must also submit five bound hard copies in 11 in. x 17 in. format.

Submissions must include:


  • The referral sent from L&I to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
  • Your CDR application form.
  • A certificate of mailing from the postal service for the notifications of the registered community organization meeting.
  • Your CDR sustainability questionnaire.
  • Your Complete Streets Handbook checklist. For this item, you must also submit a copy as a Microsoft Word document.
  • A letter from a registered community organization, showing the date and location of your meeting.
  • A full-sized print or plot of the site survey, 24 in. x 36 in. minimum size.
  • A full-sized print or plot of the plan submitted for the zoning permit application, 24 in. x 36 in. minimum size.
  • if the project is returning for a second review, a response to comments given at the first review.


  • The proposed building site, taken from eye level.
  • The immediate area, taken from eye level.
  • Aerial views, both in plan and in three-dimensional images.
  • You should also provide images of your proposed building materials. Include a written description of the materials, their textures, and their colors.

Plans, renderings, and models

  • An existing site survey. This survey must show all existing street conditions. Submit both an 11 in. x 17 in. hard copy and a 24 in. x 30 in. plan.
  • A proposed ground floor plan. This plan must show all building entrances and exits. It should also show vehicle loading and unloading areas.
  • A landscape plan. Include a list of plant species and any hardscape materials.
  • Building elevations. Include all sides of the proposed development with all exterior materials labeled.
  • Site sections. Show the relationship of the proposed development to at least two adjacent buildings and spaces.
  • Renderings. Show a minimum of two views, including at least one from a street-level perspective. Exterior materials must be shown in the renderings.
  • A 3D massing model. This model must show the proposed development within the context of surrounding buildings.