Nearly 60 years after Philadelphia mapped out its first and only plan for the Eastwick neighborhood - one that led to the displacement of more than 8,000 residents - officials are starting fresh.
On Monday, the city said it was in search of a firm to study and outline a vision for a series of undeveloped or underutilized parcels in the neighborhood just north of the airport. City officials, in response to residents who say they were cut out before and will not be this time around, have promised that the process will be community focused.
"We are not the kind of group that will forget what has happened in the past," said Earl Wilson, 74, a neighborhood organizer who has lived in Eastwick for 30 years. "We are determined not to let the same thing go on again.
"We don't want there to be any decisions that are going to be made in the smoke-filled back rooms during the late hours of the night without us knowing anything about it."
Monday's historic step is possible only because the city in December closed the book on the last urban revitalization of Eastwick. In a $5 million settlement, the Redevelopment Authority bought out the entity originally contracted to redevelop the land, New Eastwick Corp., a joint venture of Korman Corp.
Korman built 3,000 homes, 1,100 apartments, two shopping centers, and an airport hotel complex on the land. But other parts of the plan were never carried out, and parts of the neighborhood today are little more than deserted, houseless streets.
During the development, the city condemned about 2,000 acres and forced out residents. Community members have complained of pervasive flooding and environmental problems.
The land now being discussed for development includes about 130 acres owned by the Redevelopment Authority as well as smaller properties owned by the Philadelphia School District.
The city through Sept. 15 is accepting proposals from firms interested in leading the effort, with plans to award a contract by late October. Officials have said they are looking for applicants to have an understanding of Eastwick's history; of the environmental, economic and social challenges at play; and of how to build consensus.
The study is expected to take nine months.
Community members hoping to have a central role in the planning have discussed the need for increased flood control, more walkable streets, and businesses that draw in visitors from the nearby airport, among other things.
"The neighborhood has a great deal of potential, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally," said Terry Williams, president of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition. "But we have to plan it properly, which has never happened. I mean, this is a golden opportunity to participate in the planning process."