FDR Velodrome site is in flood hazard zone—Real Estate Appraisal used old data.

South Philadelphia’s FDR park is the proposed site for a new “Olympic caliber velodrome.” The proposal (Project 250 Alternative Analysis) has roused passions on both sides (e.g., “yea” from from Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, or “nay” from Philadelphia Parks Alliance) and has brought an important debate to the table: whether or not the City of Philadelphia should be giving away public land to private businesses. Tonight, December 17, 2014, a meeting will be held at the American Swedish Historical Museum in FDR Park at 6:00pm to discuss the future of the project.

As a city resident and environmental scientist, I took an interest in the proposal and read carefully through the documents provided by the city. One of the major targets of Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks initiative is to “Manage Stormwater to Meet Federal Standards” (Target 8, p.17). The site of the proposed velodrome (Property A) was appraised by Binswanger for Philip J. Senechal, CEO of Project 250. The appraisal shows the property to be coded “Zone X” on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), which means that it falls outside of the boundaries of the 100-year flood inundation zones. However, that map was created with old data (2007).

FEMA published an updated FIRM with the most recent data on February 20, 2014. The 2014 map clearly shows that the flood boundaries have shifted since 2007 and Property A is now located in “Zone AE” — the Special Flood Hazard Area. Installing a large impermeable surface (i.e., a Velodrome) in a flood hazard zone is a terrible idea for obvious reasons. I STRONGLY ADVISE the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council to reject this proposal.


(LEFT) Map as published in Project 250’s Real Estate Proposal, created from 2007 FEMA data on Flood Inundation Levels at the proposed site (Property A, encircled); this map was used by Binswanger to appraise the property in 2014, apparently ignoring or ignorant of the new data. (RIGHT) Map released in February 2014 by FEMA, made with the most up-to-date data available, shows the site has been reclassified as “Zone AE” and now falls within the Special Flood Hazard Zone.

Categories: Philadelphia

1 comment

  1. Good, updated information last night Mathew. I am on the PPA board that opposes this project. Although I really like the project, I do not agree with partnering with a for profit project on park land. I grew up in the concrete jungle exploring the unbuilt natural, wild, disturbed landscape – where I enjoy spending my time observing.
    Ken LeRoy

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