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Phila. seeks federal funds for list of projects

The morgue and the medical examiner's offices are obsolete. A new Youth Study Center needs to be built. Both the Belmont Water Treatment Plant and the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant are deteriorating.

Mayor Nutter's list includes 100 projects worth $2.6 billion.
Mayor Nutter's list includes 100 projects worth $2.6 billion.Read more

The morgue and the medical examiner's offices are obsolete. A new Youth Study Center needs to be built. Both the Belmont Water Treatment Plant and the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant are deteriorating.

There also are an airport runway that needs repaving, streetscape improvements to transform North Broad Street into the Avenue of the Arts North, and plans to overhaul the eastern end of Market Street in preparation for the possible opening of a casino.

As Barack Obama prepares to take office as president, Mayor Nutter has compiled a funding wish list for his new administration to consider.

Nutter is armed with 100 city projects totaling $2.6 billion, saying they have the potential to create nearly 25,000 jobs.

The mayor's aides compiled the list a few weeks ago in response to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of cities. More than 400 other cities also submitted projects - a total of $73 billion worth - for which they are seeking federal funds.

In turn, the mayors' coalition is using the survey to try to persuade the Obama administration to dispense funds directly to cities rather than having cities rely on state governments as pass-throughs, a procedure that they believe can slow or divert the flow of money.

Tom Cochran, executive director of the conference, personally handed the list to Valerie Jarrett, co-chairwoman of the Obama transition team, during a meeting in Chicago last week. It was a "book as thick as the Bible," said Clarence Armbrister, Nutter's chief of staff, who, along with the mayor, attended that meeting.

The mayor's senior aides acknowledge that they do not think a majority of what's on the list will receive federal funding - but they do think some projects might, as Obama moves to stimulate the economy with a massive infrastructure effort.

With Obama considering a stimulus package designed to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011, the Nutter administration's strategy is to offer up a wide range of local projects, with hope that some will fit into the new president's priorities.

In general, projects were limited to those that could be quickly started next year and completed by the end of 2010.

Many of Philadelphia's projects were identified in the city's capital program, a long-term plan highlighting the city's infrastructure-related priorities, from reconstruction of the loading docks at the Art Museum to $63 million in upgrades and repairs at Philadelphia's prisons.

Other projects included are "probably more far-reaching and not fully developed," Armbrister said.

Also, while the mayors' coalition put a special emphasis on projects creating jobs, "we didn't limit ourselves to that. We included aspirational-type projects," he said.

For example, the administration wants $4 million to create a residential solar-energy revolving fund to underwrite solar projects at 500 residences.

Also, in anticipation of the proposal to build the Foxwoods Casino in and on top of the Gallery, the city requested $100 million to redevelop the Market East business corridor, though no detailed plan is in place.

"We just want to make sure the opportunity for funding doesn't go away just because the project's not ready to be defined," said Terry Gillen, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority and senior adviser to the mayor.

That money would go mainly toward "acquisition, construction, infrastructure and related costs to revitalize Market Street corridor and Convention Center district, including adjacent Chinatown development," according to the list. Gillen said transit improvements would be an important element.

Gillen and other administration officials speak about the Foxwoods relocation in theoretical terms, because Foxwoods holds a state license to construct a casino on Columbus Boulevard in the Pennsport section. Foxwoods needs approval from the state Gaming Control Board to move, and has not submitted a plan of development for the Gallery for Planning Commission and City Council approval.

Yet the city's list of requests includes not only the $100 million for Market East - Foxwoods has been promoted as a catalyst for development there - but $25 million for new police, fire and emergency medical services that would serve Foxwoods and other projects.

Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, said $17 million requested for a new police facility would relocate the Sixth and Ninth Districts in a new building. An estimated $8 million more could be used to locate the Fire Department's Engine 20, Ladder 23 and Medic 1 in a facility that ideally would be combined with the police building, Gillison said.

"We're going to have to change our thinking and at least be prepared" for the coming of Foxwoods to the Gallery, Gillison said.

Also, $10 million was listed for a Chinatown Community Center, a project that has been talked about for 25 years but now represents a potential carrot for anti-casino neighbors in Chinatown. In September, Gov. Rendell signed legislation turning over a state Department of Transportation parcel on the northwest corner of 10th and Vine Streets to Redevelopment Authority for such a project, not yet funded.