A development group's proposal to bring an Olympic-class bicycle arena to South Philadelphia's historic Franklin D. Roosevelt Park has met with resistance from the city Commission on Parks and Recreation, which handed the group its first negative recommendation in its effort to capture four acres of land.
The proposed 6,000-seat competitive cycling velodrome, called Project 250, has spurred avid support among bicycle enthusiasts and resistance from FDR Park neighborhood residents since the proposal was unveiled last year. For cyclists, Project 250 offers the possibility of the indoor track's becoming a destination for international bicycle races. For residents, it's another large facility encroaching on South Philadelphia.
In its Friday letter, the parks panel said City Council should not approve a lease of FDR Park land for the project, saying it does not meet conditions of the city's Open Lands Protection law. Specifically, the commission said that FDR Park is used by hundreds of thousands of people year-round, and that Project 250 does not prove necessary for public interest.
"While a velodrome is a worthwhile project, it would be better located in a different location," the commission's letter said.
Though the commission does not serve as a final word on the fate of the $100 million project - the proposal must be vetted by the Historical Commission, City Council, and federal and state agencies - city officials must give "substantial weight" to the panel's determination, said Nancy Goldenberg, commission chairwoman.
Backers of Project 250 could not be reached for comment about whether they would continue to pursue the proposal. The group has long said the for-profit project would benefit the park, including a promise to spend between $5 million and $15 million for FDR Park improvements.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, an advocacy group that has supported Project 250, said in a blog post Tuesday that FDR Park provided Philadelphia children ample space to learn new sports.
"We also hope the city can find space for a velodrome for Philadelphia's adult citizens and youth in the near future," the post said.