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Zoning, planning & development

Get a review for an NCO or NCA

Service overview

Neighborhood conservation overlays (NCOs) and neighborhood commercial areas (NCAs) are sets of design standards. These standards help maintain an area’s look and feel. In neighborhoods with an NCO or NCA, building alterations or new construction trigger a review. The review considers details such as:

  • Building setbacks.
  • Cornice lines.
  • Landscape features.
  • Vehicle access.
  • Retail visibility.
  • Facade composition and materials.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) staff performs reviews for building projects in all of the City’s NCOs. They also review projects within the Ridge Avenue NCA and the Mount Airy subarea within the Germantown Avenue NCA. All other NCA overlays are reviewed by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I).

You can request a conceptual review in the planning stages of your project. You might also need an NCO/NCA review when you apply for a building permit.

When you apply for a building permit, L&I will tell you if your project needs an NCO/NCA review. To see the requirements of a specific overlay, please refer to the zoning code Section 14-503 for NCAs and Section 14-504 for NCOs.


Applicants include:

  • Homeowners.
  • Developers.
  • Architects.

Community groups, including Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), help write the NCO guidelines. They often ask PCPC staff to inform them of decisions made on specific properties.

Where and when

The PCPC office is located at:

1515 Arch St.
13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are required.


There is no charge for a conceptual NCO/NCA review. When you apply for a building permit, the cost of an NCO/NCA review is included in its fee.


Reviews can be conducted electronically through eCLIPSE or as an over-the-counter consultation with PCPC staff.

To schedule an in-person plan review, use our online appointment system. Once you’ve entered your contact information, select “Planning Commission” and choose “Urban design plan review.”

PCPC staff may require a meeting for large or complex proposals. Submission materials will vary depending on the NCO or NCA location and the kind of construction intended, but may include:

  • Drawings that illustrate the proposed work. These drawings should include facade elevations. They should also include building wall sections, if applicable. These drawings should show significant dimensions and labels for materials, finishes, and colors. Bring multiple paper copies for over-the-counter reviews.
  • A site plan that shows the structure in relationship to adjacent structures and the street, and curb cuts.
  • Plan and sectional drawings of all roof decks and building setbacks above the second floor.
  • Photographs of the existing building or site.
  • Photographs of the adjoining buildings on either side.
  • A sheet that describes material details. You should include photographs, along with the names of the manufacturers and products. Or, you might bring physical material samples.
  • Your building permit application.

After PCPC staff issues an approval, the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) will continue with the permitting process.