Interface Studio provided an industrial land and firm inventory of Philadelphia, producing a complete citywide (over 23,000 parcels) and district-level “atlas” of the City’s industrial sector. Additionally, we conducted an industrial supply and demand analysis, developed a land and market strategy, and modelled alternative and green mixed-use industrial development scenarios.
Realizing that small, diverse industry has long been and continues to constitute the City’s greatest economic strength, we advocated with key decision-makers on behalf this under-appreciated sector. Fundamental to our approach was finding innovative ways to visually represent the local economy in Philadelphia such that our recommendations could most effectively support and grow the City’s urban industry.
Philadelphia was once the “Workshop of the World” which fueled its growth in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. As the suburbs expanded and industrial production shifted from multi-story buildings to single-story, sprawling complexes, Philadelphia faced the dual challenges of population and job losses. In the wake of these losses, the collection of vacant industrial structures has largely shaped the perception that Philadelphia is no longer a viable location for industrial uses. The result is that far too much land is zoned away from industrial use for other uses.
However, production, distribution, repair continue to be critical components of the Philadelphia’s economic base accounting for over 100,000 jobs citywide and more than $322 million annually in direct tax to the city’s coffers. But to maintain the long-term viability of industry use in the city, land policies will need to change to protect and expand viable industrial districts while also transitioning formerly industrial land to other uses where appropriate.
To ensure the long-term viability of urban industry in Philadelphia, land policies need to change to protect and expand viable industrial districts while transitioning formerly industrial land to other uses where appropriate. Efforts to update both the City’s zoning code and comprehensive plan created an opportunity to provide effective policy intervention for industrial land use in Philadelphia. To this end, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, and PIDC jointly sponsored this unique study with the goals of expanding and retaining the right industries in the city, protecting employment opportunities, and rationalizing the city’s supply of industrially-zoned land.