The Chinatown Stitch: Philadelphia’s Bold Plan to Bridge a Community Divide

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — In a city known for its rich history and vibrant neighborhoods, an ambitious infrastructure project is in the works that aims to heal a long-standing divide. The Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) has released its vision for the Chinatown Stitch, a project designed to reunite Philadelphia’s Chinatown and Chinatown North neighborhoods, currently separated by the Interstate 676 or Vine Street Expressway.

A Stitch in Time

The Chinatown Stitch envisions a highway cap over the expressway, an innovative solution that seeks to repair the harm caused when the expressway was first constructed. The impact was severe, with significant portions of the neighborhood demolished and many residents displaced. The expressway continues to present challenges including traffic crashes, pedestrian safety threats, congestion, and air and noise pollution.

To ensure the project met the needs of the community, OTIS teamed up with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC). Together, they undertook a comprehensive community visioning and engineering feasibility study throughout 2023, gathering input from the Chinatown community and the general public.

Community-Driven Design

The engagement process was divided into three phases. Initially, the team sought to understand the needs of the Chinatown community through a series of surveys, pop-up events, and a public community visioning workshop.

In the second phase, the team used this feedback to develop potential highway cap design concepts. Three possible designs were presented to the public through a second survey, more pop-up events, and another visioning workshop. Additional workshops were hosted by PCDC specifically for Chinese speakers to ensure their voices were heard.

The final phase saw the study team review the latest community feedback and arrive at a preferred design concept. The two-block cap, known as Concept 1, emerged as the top choice after two rounds of workshops and surveys.

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The Road Ahead

While the preferred concept sets the direction for the project, there are still many questions to be answered over the next two years. Philadelphians are encouraged to stay engaged with the project and provide feedback at future milestones.

The preliminary design and engineering phase is set to take place in 2024-2025. To fund the remaining engineering and construction work, the City will apply for a grant under the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) program, specifically the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant. This is the first program of its kind, designed to address problems created by federal and state highway construction.

If funding is secured, the City anticipates that construction could start as early as 2027, marking a significant step forward in healing the divide caused by the Vine Street Expressway and reuniting the Chinatown community. The Chinatown Stitch is not just a symbol of urban renewal, but also a testament to the power of community engagement in shaping the future of the city.

Visit the Chinatown Stitch project materials page to access presentations, renderings, and reports from the past year.

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