The buzz of speculation surrounding the fate of 40th Street retail and residential corridor should soon give way to details of development, thanks to a series of recent and upcoming planning discussions between Penn and community and local business representatives.
"The University will have a clearer sense of what it wants to do by spring," said Tom Lussenhop, Penn's managing director for institutional real estate.
For now, discussions have been progressing positively, said Lindsay Johnston, president of the 40th Street Area Business Association and broker/owner of Common Ground Realtors.
"Sure, there's some frustration things aren't moving more quickly, but there's no doubt in my mind that things are moving forward," Johnston said. "There's a lot of evidence that the University is looking farther north than Walnut Street, that it understands the need for the viability of the entire 40th Street corridor."
The University has met several times with the small, ad-hoc group of community representatives and area business owners, who include Johnston, Paul Steinke of the University City District, Barry Grossbach and Joseph Ruane of the Spruce Hill Community Association, Blane Stoddart of the West Philadelphia Partnership Community Development Corporation and Larry Bell of the West Philadelphia Partnership.
"We'll be moving from the planning to the implementation stage soon," said Managing Director for Economic Development Jack Shannon. The next meeting of the group is set for Feb. 19.
Shannon said area residents are especially interested in a specialty supermarket and a new cinema.
Recent meetings have focused on ideas for uses related to housing, streetscape, retail, traffic circulation and "the character of the 40th Street area," said Scott Killinger, an architect and urban designer working with the group to come up with its plan.
The corridor will also get a boost from a recently awarded grant to the 40th Street Area Business Association of more than $200,000 from the city's Commerce Department, Johnston said. The money will go toward improving the physical environment and streetscape.
"Good things are happening," Johnston said.
Originally published on February 12, 1998