X Marks the Spot for New PhillyU Development


Funny what you learn walking the dog!

Sunday, the Pack Walk was buzzing with reactions to PhillySpeaks chatter about Philadelphia University’s “30 Year Master Plan draft” (picture above) that showed up online late last month.  Seems ambitious, but it’s still just a draft — plenty of time to figure things out, right?

Except… this morning, signs popped up in little corners of the campus that have us raising our eyebrows…

Of course, Philadelphia University has every right to use their own land for expansion, duh. But is it the best land?  Seems weird for a University that actively works to support green space would aim to level our natural landscapes, and fill in our craggy valleys.

With all the empty storefronts and vacant buildings on Ridge and in the Mills — maybe instead of tearing up native habitat, PhillyU would be open to the idea of using already-existing structures for new housing and other facilities?

Cause students are foot traffic! And OMG our business corridor could use more steady foot traffic.

We’re a college town — but where’s the “college town” feel?  Where are the cafes, bookstores, boutiques, etc. that most people associate with college towns? Maybe more students down by the river would be fun for everyone?

Just imagine the businesses PhillyU’s famously creative student population might attract to our historic storefronts! Perhaps a fashion district (featuring local  Project Runway winners)? Maybe stores selling art supplies or architecture books? Or how ’bout a COFFEE SHOP..?!

With traffic & parking already such an issue for our area, students fixed to class schedules make the ideal population for shuttle buses — which maybe makes that 700-car parking garage on Henry Avenue obsolete?

Not that parking garages are a bad thing. But are they the best thing, right there in the middle of East Falls’ most “parkish” corner…? All things considered?

Honestly asking, here — we’re not urban planners of any sort.  Timber Lane resident (and lifetime local) Jonathan Berger, however, is.

He’s got a PhD in City, Regional & Environmental planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and comes from a remarkable family. His father, David Berger, was a pioneer in class-action litigation who won major cases involving Three Mile Island and Exxon Valdez.

His mother, Harriet Fleisher Berger — who called East Falls home from the 1950’s till her death in 2012 — was a professor & activist supporting workers’ rights, occupational health and safety, public education, civil rights, rights for women, universal access to health care, and environmental protection.

She was also active in local politics — and in fact was one of the founders of East Falls’ Community Council. Dr. Berger finds it ironic, how today’s EFCC worked with PhillyU on this current, environmentally-dubious plan for two years, without consulting neighborhood input. They’re coming around, he says… but is it too late? Signs have gone up, turf has been spray-painted.

This month’s East Falls Zoning Committee meeting is 7:00 PM this Wednesday, February 18 in Downs Hall on the campus of Philadelphia University.

Meanwhile, Dr. Berger’s casing East Falls with his letter along with a petition calling for more discussion before zoning is changed to accommodate this expansion.

Dr. Berger feels strongly that Philadelphia University’s plans will drastically alter the rural appeal of this historically bucolic East Falls enclave, and diminish quality of life for students and neighbors alike.  What do you think?



Get the scoop first-hand:  Come to the East Falls Zoning Committee’s February meeting this Wednesday the 18th at 7:00 pm in Downs Hall on the campus of Philadelphia University.

At the very least, we’re all kinda wondering…


1 Comment

  1. It is noteworthy that when you visit PhilaU’s web page you learn about the institution’s “sustainability committee” (http://www.philau.edu/plant/sustainabilitycommittee.html). Unfortunately the link provided is dead, and has been for many months. Clearly the University needs to be reminded of their own often stated commitment to sustainability. Is it more than greenwash, President Spinelli?

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