The Department of Licenses and Inspections opened its new North Central Philadelphia office on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th street on Friday — nearly a year after Philadelphia City Council approved the new space last June.
With this new space, the department intends to improve community relations and find solutions for the pervasive development issues in the North Philadelphia area.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke and L&I Commissioner Dave Perri spoke to a crowd of about 50 L&I employees, community leaders and North Philadelphia residents about the importance of the new office.
“I don’t have to tell anyone here that Philadelphia is experiencing a building boom,” Kenney said. “This part of the city has been experiencing that building boom in full force.”
In response, people in the crowd replied “mhm” in a tone that illustrated how new development and construction has had a major impact on the community residents in the audience.
Laughter erupted in the room, and Kenney replied, “Enough said.”
Kenney noted the positive change that increased construction and development brings to a city — more jobs and more businesses coming to Philadelphia, but there are “dangers” that come with construction projects. He said hopes this building will alleviate the issues brought on by development.
“We’re going to do our best by being right in the middle of it to handle the ones that are not doing the right thing, who are disrespecting the neighbors, who are dumping trash in empty lots, who are allowing concrete to fall on people’s cars,” Kenney said. “So I know how difficult it’s been.”
The building will house 35 L&I inspectors and four supervisors, said Karen Guss, L&I’s director of communications.
L&I will require builders and subcontractors to attend pre-construction meetings, so the department can “lay down the rules,” like signage requirements, clean-up procedures and other rules that have been violated in the past, Perri said.
Clarke commended L&I for being responsive to development issues throughout the city.
“This is going to be an awesome opportunity for the citizens of North Philadelphia,” Clarke said.
The department will hold monthly meetings with community organizations in the area to “gain intelligence and put out education in the community,” Perri added.
Perri, who said he receives the most calls about issues in this area from Kenney and Clarke, believes community outreach will make a “real difference in the area.”
The Yorktown Community Development Corporation, which handles issues in the neighborhood adjacent to Main Campus, had its first of the promised monthly meetings with L&I last week. In November, The Temple News reported that there were allegedly 79 homes illegally rented to students in Yorktown, violating a 2005 zoning ordinance that limits student housing in the area.
Robert McMichael, the president of the CDC, attended Friday’s event and hopes the new space and regular meetings will help solve the city ordinance violations happening in his neighborhood.
Margo Robinson, 72, and Patricia Crosby, 74, have both lived in Yorktown for nearly three decades. They said they are happy with the closeness of the new location.
The North District office, which covered development west of Broad Street, is on Rittenhouse Street near Wakefield, approximately a 25-minute drive from Main Campus. Now, residents will have just a short walk to get in touch with L&I officials.
“We want to own these issues” Perri concluded. “We want to solve these problems.”