Pittsburgh WOW!

The title pretty much says it all.  If you don’t know much about Pittsburgh other than it used to be a dirty steel town, this video montage certainly gives you a sense of what Pittsburgh is like now.  If you live in Pittsburgh or used to live in Pittsburgh this video is certainly fun to watch.  It made me homesick!

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Chester’s $500 Million Dollar “Renaissance On The River”

PPL Park during the inaugural match between Ph...

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It all began when PECO Energy closed its inefficient Delaware County Power Plant along the banks of the Delaware River in Chester.  The 400,000 square foot structure and the surrounding site needed some serious clean up.  After all, for most of the last century the 100 acre site was home to a huge coal to steam to electric power plant!  PECO sold 63 acres to Preferred Real Estate Investments (PREI).  They gave the City of Chester seven acres and PECO operates some small peak generating units and a substation on 20 acres.

PECO and PREI spent 1½ years and $10 million dollars on environmental clean up and demolition so that this structure could be turned into a mixed-use Class A office and retail space.  The Wharf at Rivertown is also located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) which gives amazing tax incentives to companies who open a business within its borders. (Pottstown has a KOZ off College Drive).  This project is an example of adaptive reuse.  From 10,000 tons of scrap metal to 20,000 tons of bricks (and everything in between) were recycled in this project.

This $60 million dollar project has 1.4 million square feet of space, two marinas, restaurants and a river walk.  Tenants include Wells Fargo, Synergy, AdminServer, Achristavest and the Power Home Remodeling Group

Also included within the larger Rivertown complex is the $120 million dollar, 18,500-seat, PPL Park.  PPL Park is the home of the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer team, and was financed in part by a $25 million dollar economic revitalization package given by the state of Pennsylvania.  Chester also received another $7 million dollars from the state to be used towards a two-phase project in the Rivertown complex which includes 186 townhouses, 25 apartments, 335,000 square feet of office space, a 200,000 square-foot convention center, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a parking structure for 1,350 cars.  The second half of the project will include 200 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space and 22,000 square feet of retail space.

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Institution Chester and the 100,000 square-foot Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack are also located within Rivertown.  Originally, this land was part of the Sun Shipbuilding Complex that at one time employed 40,000 people!

The Wharf at Rivertown has added 1,200 jobs to Chester.  It is expected to eventually add 2,500 jobs.  Other projects such as PPL Park, the prison and Harrah’s significantly add to that total.  PPL Park, which opened June 27, 2010, is seen as “the spark” that will ignite a full-scale renaissance of Pennsylvania’s first city, Chester.

Another benefit of this project is that a half mile of riverfront was opened back up to the community after nearly 100 years.

Sounds better than senior rental apartments, now doesn’t it!

Hat tip to Jeff Leflar for suggesting I write about this.

Company Relocating National Headquarters To Chester Riverfront

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

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This is great news for Chester!  Power Home Remodeling Group, the nations fourth-largest home-remodeling company, is relocating their corporate headquarters to Chester’s riverfront.  (Sounds like a ULI recommendation to me) 

The Wharf at Rivertown is a mixed-use office and retail project along the Chester riverfront.  Governor Rendell, when he’s not busy yelling at Leslie Stahl, said “This project will continue the impressive development of the city’s waterfront area and build upon its growing reputation as a great location for businesses looking to relocate or expand.”

The Governor’s Action Team (GAT) coordinated the project.  GAT is made up of economic development professionals who work with businesses that are interested in expanding in or relocating to Pennsylvania.

A $300,000 grant was obtained with the help of the Delaware County Commerce Center.  The entire Power Home Remodeling Group project will cost $1 million dollars.  It will create 270 new jobs within three years and keep the 278 jobs already in Chester.

Sounds like Chester, PA is open for business!

Citizen’s For Pottstown’s Revitalization (CPR) – Thoughts For The New Year And Upcoming Events

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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I am pleased to pass on this important information from CPR!

Happy New Year All!!

The start of a new year brings the promise of renewed hope and energy into revitalizing Pottstown.  This momentum  is pushing us towards new possibilities and uncharted territory of growth and progress.  The winter’s festivities brought in an unprecedented number of revelers, proving that Pottstown still has heart and promise.  Despite our many differences of opinion and spirited discourses we ultimately share the same goal; to live in a safe environment.  The way we achieve this goal is to stay involved!  You can now stay in touch with the Pottstown Neighborhood Watch through Facebook- search Citizens for Pottstown’s Revitalization (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizens-For-Pottstowns-Revitilization/143692659014127?v=wall). Please join us at the following events listed below.

January 16, 2011 @ 1PM : Female Safety Clinic (PKC-21 North Hanover St.) Space is limited so please RSPV to  610 327 1321 and leave a message.

February 18, 2011 @ 7PM : Neighborhood Watch Meeting (146 King St. PAL Bldg.) 

March 2011 (Date to be determined) Witness Training by Pottstown Police.      

I hope this new year brings each of you happiness, health and the energy to take back our town!! 
  
Anna Johnson 
 
 
 
 

 

Philadelphia’s Chinatown Cleans Up Blight – Neighborhood Expands North Past Vine Street Expressway

Chinatown district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Philadelphia’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the United States and a must see for visitors to Philadelphia, residents of the city and suburbanites alike.  For that matter, anyone who loves Asian cuisine and culture should explore Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

In recent years Chinatown was threatened and some area was lost due to the construction of the Vine Street Expressway, the Gallery mall, Market Street East train station and the Convention Center.  It was also the proposed location for a prison and a new ball park for the Phillies.  45 years ago, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation was formed to keep Chinatown alive and well in Philadelphia.

Chinatown’s borders are Arch Street on the south, Vine Street on the north, 11th Street on the west and 8th Street on the east.  Recently Chinatown has expanded across Vine Street into what has become known as Chinatown North.

The area where 10th Street crosses the Vine Street Expressway had become a garbage dump and a sleeping area for the homeless.  10th Street is a vital link from Chinatown to Chinatown North.  The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Hahnemann University Hospital cosponsored a new gateway area for Chinatown. The $300,000 project was recently completed and has transformed an undesirable area into a beautiful public space called 10th Street Plaza.

A seven ton foo dog, hand carved from granite in the Fujian Province, stands guard at each end of the newly formed plaza.  One is male, the other female.  An Asian-style pergola was constructed, which during the warmer months will provide shade from climbing vines.  Tables, benches and lighting were also added transforming the area into an outdoor gathering place.  An eight-foot-tall statue of Lin Zexu will also join the foo dogs in the plaza.

The area north of Vine Street was formerly a warehouse/industrial district but has now become a haven for businesses who want to be near Chinatown.  Restaurant suppliers, travel agencies and construction firms for starters.  This northerly migration has created much needed room for Chinatown to expand, thus making the 10th Street crossing a pivotal component for neighborhood revitalization and stabilization.  Many people who live and work in Chinatown must use the 10th Street overpass every day.

A formal dedication of 10th Street Plaza is scheduled for spring.

Detroit Looks To Pittsburgh On How To Revitalize Their City

The Detroit City Council paid a visit to Pittsburgh, PA to see first-hand what transformation looks like and to learn from Pittsburgh’s successes.  Unlike Pittsburgh, Detroit is at the beginning of their process.  Pittsburgh is not sitting back on their laurels as city leaders are continuously making positive changes that have made Pittsburgh the poster child for economic revitalization.  Watch a cool video about this tale of two cities.

Lansdale Slated For Downtown Makeover

Location of Lansdale in Montgomery County

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Downtown Lansdale is getting “spruced up” soon thanks to a $500,000 federal grant procured by U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz and an additional $1.8 million dollars in funding from the Transportation Equity Act of 2005.

A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for January 24th at Railroad Plaza, on the corner of Main and Madison Streets.  The construction will take place on several streets in downtown Lansdale.

New sidewalks, streetlights and (dare I say) shade trees are being added to bring curb appeal to the downtown shopping district.  Wonder if Mr. Hylton was consulted about this???  

The contractor, Wexcon Inc., will be establishing a construction headquarters in Lansdale, which is expected to cut costs.  Wexcon is trying to make the project minimally invasive to downtown merchants by doing construction in one block increments and on one side of the street at a time.  Sounds better than ripping up the entire downtown all at once!

A webcam installation is being considered so residents can watch the progress on the borough website.

New Destination Flea, Farmers And Co-Op Market To Open In Harrisburg

Recreation of the flag of the city of Harrisbu...

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A new 80,000 square feet indoor marketplace is opening across from the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburgeither late January or early February 2011.  The marketplace will feature a variety of vendors, selling a vast array of merchandise.  A food court is being added in addition to merchant space, galleries and co-op retailers.  Another unique feature of the market is a stage and seating area where demonstrations, children’s activities and musical acts can take place during market hours.

North End Markets has a prime location, across from the busy Farm Show Complex and easy access to Interstates 81 and 83 as well as Routes 22 and 230!

North End Markets will be open every Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

You can visit their website for further details:

http://www.northendmarkets.com/

Downtown Wilkes-Barre Becomes A Destination – Kings And Wilkes Play Large Roll

Location of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropol...

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In 2001, downtown Wilkes-Barre hit bottom.  There was no reason to go there and the merchants who remained wanted out.  Kings College and Wilkes University tried to keep students on campus and played down their downtown Wilkes-Barre locations.  Now, on the verge of 2011, things are reversed.  Businesses are relocating downtown, Wilkes and Kings proudly show prospective students downtown Wilkes-Barre and the downtown is now viewed as a “destination” by Wyoming Valley residents.

How did this miraculous transformation occur?  Four community meetings were held which drew 1,000 people.  These meetings spawned Diamond City Partnership, a public-private alliance for downtown revitalization http://www.wbdcp.com/about.htm.  After years of hard work and “seed planting” center city Wilkes-Barre is “the place to be” again.

King’s College and Wilkes University have invested over $30 million dollars in downtown Wilkes-Barre by expanding and renovating their campuses.  There are 6,500 students between both schools.  With the abundance of clubs, bars, restaurants, stores, coffee shops, the Kirby Center and a 14-screen Cineplex, downtown Wilkes-Barre is a draw for students and residents alike.  This renaissance is helping the recruitment efforts of both colleges and is attracting new downtown residents who are looking for city-living in a “walk to everything” environment.  More residents downtown will help spur more economic development.

I think this line sums it up.  A visitor at the Kirby Center was overheard saying “Wilkes-Barre?” “Who knew?”

York County Group Looking To Advance Economic Development In Downtown York

York, Pennsylvania: Market Street between Quee...

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YorIT, a York County Community Foundation has a Social Venture Fund with $20,000 and is looking for a person or persons with “new, creative, out-of-the-box ideas that can attract retailers and restaurants to the area as well as get more people to come downtown” to give it to.

I seriously think I should move to York!  I am continually amazed at the level of cooperation between the city, county and private sector.  How refreshing to see that suburbanites get that York City is the heart of York County and are trying to do all in their power to revitalize it! 

Around here, it’s the opposite.  Most suburbanites do not seem to care if places like Philadelphia, Norristown and Pottstown fail.  Many avoid coming into these places at all costs.  Very sad.

Check out their website for more information:

http://www.yorit.org/Challenge/

Three York County Projects Will Benefit From Pennsylvania Bond Sale

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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The Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program is going to receive just that, an infusion of capital that will make three York County projects possible.  Approval has been given for the sale of $650 million dollars in bonds by Pennsylvania Treasurer, Rob McCord.

The Northwest Triangle project is waiting on a $7.5 million dollar grant to demolish buildings and make way for new construction.  For more information on the Northwest Triangle, you can read my post on this very large brownfield redevelopment project in York City.

York College is waiting on $4 million dollars to complete various projects around their campus including the creation of a business incubator!

The York Fire School wants to construct a new building for live-burn training.  They have applied for $1.5 million dollars to complete this project.

What Can Pottstown Learn From Scranton?

This is certainly news we do not read about often!  Scranton City Council unanimously adopted a $74.9 million dollar budget that features a 10.55% property tax decrease AND a 25% decrease in mercantile and business privilege taxes.  The budget restores 44 of 69 positions which had previously been recommended to be cut. 

Mayor Chris Doherty submitted a $75.5 million dollar budget to council in November which included 69 jobs being eliminated.  Mayor Doherty has until December 24th to act of council’s $74.9 million dollar budget.  Council has a veto-proof majority so any attempt to veto the budget by Mayor Doherty would be symbolic.

Scranton, PA                                        Pottstown, PA

Population – 71,944   2009 estimate                Population – 21,421   2009 estimate

Land area – 25.2 square miles                          Land area – 4.83 square miles

2011 Budget – $74.9 million dollars                2011 Budget – $39.3 million dollars

Police – 150 officers                                         Police – 47 officers

Est. 2008 median income – $32,794                Est. 2008 median income – $45,941

Est. 2008 per capita income – $19,034            Est. 2008 per capita income – $24,044

City-data crime index 2009 – 306.7                City-data crime index 2009 – 454.7

After carefully reflecting on the above figures some questions may develop.

How does a city 3 1/2 times our size (population) and 5 times our size in land area have a lower crime rate with less police per 1000 people?

How does a city 3 1/2 times our size have a budget less than twice as big?

How does a less affluent city in terms of median and per capita income reduce property taxes 10.55% and reduce business taxes 25%?

Any thoughts?????

Demographic information from City-data.com

Quakertown Takes The “Rebranding” Plunge

The next town in my series of redevelopment success stories in Quakertown, PA.  Pottstown area residents are all familiar with Quakertown.  We even share Route 663. 

Quakertown has benefited over the years, to some degree, by their proximity to the big cities in the Lehigh Valley.  They are part of suburbia on heavily traveled Route 309.  What many people think of when they get a visual of Quakertown is the “Big Box” sprawl on 309.  However, there is more to Quakertown.

Quakertown Borough is 2.0 square miles and contained 8,931 residents according to the 2000 census.  A 2009 estimate put the population of the borough at 8,672.  The estimated median income for Quakertown in 2008 was $53,340.  The 2008 estimated per capita income was $27,000.  The City-data crime index for Quakertown in 2009 was 258.0, which is considered low.

This all sounds rather idyllic.  Why not roll with it?  However, the status quo was not good enough for Quakertown officials who felt they needed to get people excited about their downtown and what it has to offer.  Honestly, I never thought there was much more to Quakertown than Route 309, if the truth be told.  So now I am excited too!

Quakertown has come up with the all important “tag line” which is “Explore The Possibilities”.  Kind of peeks your interest further, doesn’t it!  I enjoy exploring!  Now I feel the urge to drive up to Quakertown and venture into their downtown to “explore” the possibilities!  Local officials want to make Quakertown a destination.  To that end, they hired Delta Development Group of Mechanicsburg, PA to help lead them to the promised land of redevelopment.  In addition, Quakertown has hired Marketing Solutions of Quakertown to help them identify and market their borough.

The $64,000 question:  What kind of destination does Quakertown want to be?  The winning answer is recreation, culture, shopping and dining.  To that end a logo was carefully crafted incorporating these elements.  Because Quakertown is strategically located on the edge of the Lehigh and Delaware valleys, they are marketing themselves in both areas.

Quakertown was once a manufacturing and commercial center.  With the decline of industry, Quakertown is now a bedroom community and regional shopping destination.  Quakertown has decided to work with the assets they have and improve upon them.  Instead of crying over what once was, they are embracing what is.

Click here to check out the Quakertown development organization’s website – Quakertown Alive! http://www.quakertownalive.com/

Hat tip to readers Katy and Andrew for bringing this story to my attention!

Demographic data from Wikipedia and City-data.com

York City Making Improvements To Market Downtown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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One year ago, Roger Brooks visited York City and came up with 33 recommendations how downtown York could market itself and attract people.  This idea should sound familiar to Pottstown residents after a ULI study and recommendations were made for Pottstown.

What did York do with these 33 recommendations?  Do you suppose they ignored them or possibly took an expert at their word and went about trying to carry out these ideas?  I know, sounds pretty zany, doesn’t it!

Mr. Brooks gave York a 3 – 5 year time frame to make the changes.  Like Pottstown, York has a downtown entity similar to PDIDA, called Downtown Inc.  Their Executive Director, Sonia Huntzinger reports they have completed 18 out of 33 recommendations in the first year!

Some of these recommendations, Pottstown has already completed (mainly the cosmetic ones).  One unique recommendation, completed in October, was a “best of” guide.  Downtown Inc. released a Downtown Destination guide which promotes downtown York!

Brooks recommended that York brand itself as “America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital”.  The York County Economic Development Corp. has developed “Creativity Unleashed” to support this effort.  The idea is to attract young professionals and artists to York along with tourism.  A logo was developed to be used by organizations and companies in their advertising to help promote this rebranding.

How refreshing to see that the county and the city work together to achieve these goals.  How refreshing to see the vigor with which York is embracing these recommendations for positive change.

If you would like to check out Downtown Inc.’s website site, click here: http://downtownyorkpa.com/

To view their 25 page Downtown Destination brochure, click here:

http://downtownyorkpa.com/storage/Destination%20Guide%20ALL%20Pages.pdf

To view Creativity Unleashed info, click here:

http://downtownyorkpa.com/creativity-unleashed/

If this doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse!

York YMCA Gets Involved At Grassroots Community Level

York, Pennsylvania: Market Street between Quee...

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The York YMCA is giving away money to neighborhood groups in York City who are looking to fund various beautification projects.  The projects, if selected, are eligible to receive a grant from the YMCA for between $500 and $1500 dollars.  The dollar amount will be determined by the scope of the project.  This could be for tree-planting or flower-planting, for example.  Basically any projects that help make city neighborhoods more attractive will be considered.

The $30,000 pool of money, available in 2011, is being donated by the Women’s Giving Circle and the York County Community Foundation.  The York YMCA has a “Resources for Urban Neighborhoods” program that will be the initial recipient of this money.  In turn, the YMCA will distribute these fund based on the applications they receive.

If you are a York City resident who would like more information, a meeting is scheduled for January 11th at 6:00 p.m. at the York YMCA which is located at 90 N. Newberry Street. 

Grant applications can be found online at http://www.runyork.org starting January 1st

You may contact York YMCA Community Service Director, Jessica Fieldhouse at (717) 843-7884 ext. 243 or email her at jfieldhouse@yorkcoymca.org for information.

Pittsburgh’s North Shore Connector 80 Percent Complete

11:32, 31 December 2004 . . Jon144k (1280x960,...

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Pittsburgh’s controversial North Shore Connector project has passed the 80% completion mark.  The project is on time and the $528 million dollar budget is on track!

When the project is completed, Port Authority Transit (PAT) will be able to reach the three sports stadiums, museums, a casino and other North Side businesses through two twin tunnels that were bored 22 feet below the Allegheny River

The “T”, Pittsburgh’s light-rail system and subway, will leave the Golden Triangle, go under the river and come up on the North Shore.  This means that all those sports fans, concert goers, museum goers,  gamblers, shoppers and diners can park their cars and use mass transit to glide through Pittsburgh to their destination.

Being from Pittsburgh and having used mass transit there extensively, including the “T”, I think this will make life so much easier.  Sitting on 376, stuck in the Squirrel Hill Tunnel waiting for traffic to move ain’t pretty.  I have sat inside the Squirrel Hill tunnel many times going downtown for a game, shopping, or just trying to cross Pittsburgh during rush hour.  Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic. 

Tunnels are a way of life in Pittsburgh!  The Liberty Tubes and the Fort Pitt Tunnel are also pretty unavoidable and back up as well.  For example, it would be nice to ride from the South Hills all the way to PNC Park on PAT.  No parking worries and not being stuck in traffic!

While this project has its detractors and has been labeled a gigantic waste of money, hopefully once Pittsburgers are able to use this extension and reap the benefits from it, time will show it was a good thing.  I would most definitely use it!

To read more and watch a cool video shot inside the Connector, click here:

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_712911.html

Pittsburgh Building Comprehensive Growth Plan With Participation From Thousands Of Residents

Duquesne University's view of the Pittsburgh s...

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Pittsburgh is establishing a comprehensive growth plan to “right size” the city after years of population loss.  Year one has already been completed with thousands of residents taking part in helping to shape a way forward for Pennsylvania’s second largest city.

This plan, which is expected to be completed in 2014, will focus on the following areas in order:

Open spaces and parks – wrapping up

Cultural heritage and preservation – up and running

The next ten have yet to be started:

Transportation

Public art

Design

Energy

City-owned buildings

Infrastructure

Economic development

Housing

Education

Zoning

Land Use

The Pittsburgh planning department is enthusiastically seeking participation from city residents!  The cost of this long-range plan is $2.3 million dollars.  Cities are not required to submit comprehensive plans but they can opt to do so.  Only a handful of cities have done this.  Pittsburgh is once again being a leading innovator in their approach to managed growth and sustainability.

These components were not accidentally chosen.  Open space is first because vacant land use will influence every other category on the list.  Pittsburgh has 5,500 acres of open space.   Half is parks and 14,000 vacant lots make up the rest.  Pittsburgh realizes that green space has an impact on property values.

These meetings last two hours and are held on various nights and in several locations around Pittsburgh to maximize citizen involvement.

Pittsburgh is consistently ranked as one of America’s most livable cities.

Scranton PA – Electric City Building Boom Defies The Recession

Scranton

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Normally, when we think of boom towns, Scranton is not generally at the top of the list.  For decades Scranton has struggled with declining population and employment, as the area dealt with the death of “King Coal” and huge manufacturing losses.

Yet despite a major nationwide economic downturn, Scranton is in the middle of a building boom.  Another unusual factor is that this boom is primarily in center city.  Most cities are not seeing growth in their downtown areas.  Usually growth is occurring in the suburbs.

There are four major projects being built in Scranton that total more than $260 million dollars!  That’s not a small chunk of change for a city of 72,000 residents.  Heck, that’s not a small chunk of change for a larger city!

The projects include:

Construction of the Commonwealth Medical College – $120 million dollars

Several building projects at the University of Scranton – $116 million dollars

Connell Building renovation – $23 million dollars

Tobyhanna Army Deport Federal Credit Union headquarters construction – $4 million dollars

This is encouraging news for NEPA!  1,400+ workers in the building trades are finding employment during this frenzy of activity in Scranton.  These employers will add permanent jobs that will continue to benefit Scranton for years to come.

Philadelphia International Airport Plans $5.3 Billion Dollar Expansion

Philadelphia International Airport

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A plan to expand Philly International (PHL) is being met with mixed reactions from airlines and local residents.

Passenger traffic is expected to grown from 15 million passengers in 2009 to 27.8 million passengers by 2025.  To meet this demand, the airport is adding a 5th runway, expanding two current runways, adding a new commuter terminal and relocating the UPS facility to another part of the airport complex.  72 homes and 12 businesses will be demolished to relocate UPS.

18,800 employees work at the airport.  Another 1700 – 2000 Delaware County residents work for UPS.  The airport contributes $14 billion dollars to the regional economy and supports 141,000 jobs.

US Airways and Southwest Airlines had mixed reactions because of their increased costs.  Tinicum Township residents feel this expansion will further infringe on their community.

Click on the link below to read the entire article which includes a map showing the proposed changes to be made at the airport. 

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/front_page/20101203_Airport_expansion_plan_stirs_concern_among_airlines__neighbors.html?viewAll=y