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PHILADELPHIA-The Philadelphia City Planning Commission will undertake “a comprehensive evaluation of parking policies and regulations in Center City.” The study will be funded with a grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s transportation and community development initiative.

Announcement of the effort, which planning commissioners say has been in the works for more than a year, comes at a time when area civic associations and the Design Advocacy Group (DAG) have called to question three specific planned parking garages as well as current policy that a DAG member terms “catch as catch can.” DAG, an ad hoc group of architects and others, is pressing for greater consideration of design in city development.

This summer, Jefferson University Hospital, which had planned to demolish the Western Union Building at 11th and Locust streets to make way for an above-round garage, acquiesced to members of the Washington Square West Civic Association and sold the 70,000-sf building to a developer that plans to convert it into residential housing. Now, Jefferson’s alternative choice for the garage, a block-long section of Chestnut Street, is also meeting with resistance. So is a proposed parking garage near Rittenhouse Square.

According the commission’s announcement, the evaluation will “take a fresh look at the interconnected issues of automobile access, parking, and the development of Center City.” Among the issues to be addressed are: the cost and convenience of parking, the impact of parking facilities on Center City’s built environment and quality of life, and the effect of added parking on public transit.

Although no RFP for a consultant has yet been issued, the commission promises the study will encompass a review of other cities’ parking strategies in a search for alternative approaches. Zoning and tax revisions are on the table along with the feasibility of remote parking and park-and-ride locations outside Center City. DAG is urging the commission to cast a wide net in hiring “the world’s best talent” to perform the study.

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