Since 1995, EFDC has spearheaded public and private initiatives to revitalize East Falls’ historic riverfront, once a thriving commercial hub serving both residents of our historic neighborhood and visitors alike. That work has been based upon community-driven, comprehensive plans and studies.
The center of the business district at Ridge and Midvale Avenues, which like a lot of other main streets experienced disinvestment in the 1970s, became the focus of more than one million dollars worth of plans and studies funded by government agencies and private foundations. Undertaken to inform phased implementation of infrastructure improvements and other capital investments, most of the plans’ major development recommendations have been realized or are in the process of being completed.
East Falls Riverfront Master Plan
The original East Falls Riverfront Master Plan was completed in 1998 and provided three possible scenarios for future growth based on community preference, developer interest and ever-changing market forces. The 25-year plan outlined 6-phases of work with recommendations for major public improvements, key community-focused capital improvements, existing property renovations and major private sector development.
Three themes – “Mainstreet,” “Festival Market Place” and “Goldcoast” – were developed based on information detailed in extensive studies of traffic and market conditions included in the plan. Pros and cons of each scenario were presented and, based on community input gathered in several public forums, a redevelopment plan was published to prioritize next steps in funding and implementing individual projects.
East Falls Reconnects to the River: Phase 1, 2004
The East Falls Development Corporation led a community-based design process to plan improvements for the 4100-4200 blocks of Ridge Avenue and Lower Midvale Avenue. The design team began by reviewing the numerous studies that have been developed over the years for the Riverfront District, including the EFDC’s 1998 Riverfront Master Plan. The team presented a draft plan at a community meeting that had been broadly advertised through newspaper articles, emails, and hand delivered flyers. The resulting input was then used to refine the plan.
Concepts and ideas were vetted by governmental entities including the Planning Commission, Streets Department, the Redevelopment Authority, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, PennDOT, and the Mayor’s Office. Specialized reviews also were made by bicycle organizations, East Falls Tree Tenders, and other local developers and business owners. The revised plan was enthusiastically received, and overwhelmingly endorsed by our neighborhood civic associations.
The final result was two booklets: “A Public Improvement Plan for the Riverfront District” and “Design Guidelines and Goals for Facades and Signs,” describing a series of public infrastructure improvements and addressing private improvements such as facades and signs.
East Falls Reconnects to the River: Phase 2, 2018
With four major developments planned between 4300 and 4500 Ridge Avenue, an 8 1/2 acre stretch of long vacant and/or underutilized land overlooking the Schuylkill River and recreational loop, EFDC commissioned the next phase of “East Falls Reconnects to the River.”
This plan outlines infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to create a cohesive visual identity for the Ridge Avenue corridor between Calumet Street and Schoolhouse Lane. The plan follows the City’s Complete Streets guidelines to ensure safe, multi-modal passage through the commercial district, and sets forth design standards for hardscaping, landscaping and systems upgrades that should be considered by both private developers and government agencies.
The major themes of the plan are:
(1) COHESION – creating a comprehensive vision for the East Falls Riverfront Business District
(2) CONNECTION – incorporating safe pedestrian access to the new East Falls River Landing, set to be constructed during the summer of 2021
(3) IDENTITY – drawing from existing East Falls streetscapes to create a palette of materials and site furnishings that highlight neighborhood character
PHILADELPHIA2035: The Lower Northwest District Plan
The citywide vision presented in Philadelphia2035, the city’s most recent comprehensive plan and spearheaded by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC), lays out broad, far-reaching goals for the future under the themes of THRIVE, CONNECT, and RENEW. These themes guide specific objectives across the following nine planning elements: economic development, land management, transportation, utilities, open space, environmental resources, historic preservation, and the public realm.
The scenarios originally described in the East Falls Riverfront Master Plan are aligned with PCPC’s vision for the city and, in fact, much of EFDC’s work to date has been showcased in Philadelphia2035’s Lower Northwest District Plan.
Further, the Lower Northwest District Plan envisions thriving commercial corridors offering a mix of goods, services, and shopping. We believe the East Falls Riverfront Business District is positioned to become a strong specialty center, and we are committed to ensuring significant public and private investment in the corridor moving forward.
Focused on a shorter time frame than the 25-year Citywide Vision, the Lower Northwest District Plan was developed via a civic engagement planning process which included three public meetings, frequent Steering Committee meetings, and several public presentations to the PCPC.
Between 2021 and 2022, EFDC has received generous funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community + Economic Development to undertake two additional community planning efforts:
- A transportation study examining both Ridge Avenue and Kelly Drive to determine means of traffic calming as well as more safely and conveniently connecting pedestrians and bikers from the East Falls River Landing and Schuylkill River Trail to our business corridor – and back
- A flood mitigation study in partnership with the Manayunk Development Corporation to help direct fundraising and advocacy efforts tailored to the unique needs of our neighborhoods in the wake of what we know will be more frequent and disruptive extreme weather events
To get involved in either of these efforts or to learn more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planning and Feasibility Studies Completed To Date
East Falls Riverfront Master Plan, 1998
- Traffic Study
- Market Study
- Redevelopment Plan
East Falls Reconnects to the River Phase I, 2004
- Public Improvement Plan
- Private Design Guidelines
East Falls Gateway Feasibility Study, 2004
River Access at East Falls, 2006 (with surrounding neighborhoods Manayunk, Lower Merion, Shawmont)
Navigating the Gateway, 2006 (with surrounding neighborhoods Manayunk and Roxborough)
East Falls Neighborhood Stormwater Management Plan, 2007
A Wayfinding System for EF, 2007
Wissahickon Gateway Study, 2008 (with surrounding neighborhoods Manayunk and Roxborough)
Schuylkill Project Activity Plan, 2009 (with surrounding neighborhood Manayunk)
Business Improvement District Feasibility Study, 2010
Hunting Park West (EPPI Redevelopment), 2010 (with MultiCommunity Alliance and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation)
East Falls Heritage Action Plan, 2014
East Falls River Landing Plan, 2014
East Falls Reconnects to the River Phase III, 2018
GoNWPhilly Wayfinding Signage, 2019 (with the Northwest Commercial Corridor Coalition)