North American Street in North Philadelphia has been home to COFCO since 1999.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why COFCO chose this location. As any Economics student will tell you, efficient transportation is the lifeblood of successful industry. This is especially true for businesses like COFCO, which relies on the ability to quickly and efficiently receive and ship deliveries. North American Street’s wide, 4-lane roadway provides large tractor trailers easy access in and out of industrial lots. This was a major consideration for COFCO when purchasing their current premises.
This ideal situation looks as if it could change for the worse. A proposal is afoot to change the very fabric of this thriving, bustling industrial bastion in North Philadelphia.
An attempt is being made to ‘gentrify’ the area by introducing a residential element into what has been traditionally an industrial area.
While this type of ‘gentrification’ can be a creative way to rejuvenate a neglected downtown core, or revitalize a ‘dead’ formerly industrial zone, it’s not being welcomed by current businesses in this busy location.
Residential developments popping up in ‘dead’ warehouse districts or deserted downtown cores is nothing new. However, North American Street is far from dead or deserted. It’s an active industrial community.
One has to wonder how successful an amalgamation of industrial and domestic life would be. Imagine living amidst the bustle of heavy industrial traffic. Imagine the safety concerns.
Although it’s true that some lots in North American Street are vacant, neglected and could do with a facelift, business operators in the area don’t see the introduction of a residential element as a viable solution.
The key objection to the plan is the unavoidable conflict between current industrial traffic and residential ‘beautification.’
To make the proposed residential developments more attractive to potential homeowners and tenants, the 4-lane street would be split in half by a grassy island lined with trees. While this may be visually appealing, it’s a death knell to industrial traffic. Accessing the warehouses would become extremely difficult and increase liability risks exponentially.
These increased risks, difficulties and costs could force North American street’s industrial population to move to more industrial friendly locations.
It’s a plan that doesn’t seem to benefit anyone in the long run.