Irving Street: Private or Public?

Courtesy of Lynn LandesThe Philadelphia Society of Small Streets, (PSSS) in collaboration with the Philadelphia Streets Department and the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, has constructed their newest agenda to preserve, repair and restore some of Philadelphia’s small, historic streets. Their current street of interest: Irving Street.

Irving, located between the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Locust and Spruce streets, has found itself the focus of a battle between Dr. and Mrs. Victor Navarro, property owners on Jessup Street who want to make the small strech of the street a private place, and other members of the neighborhood who want to preserve its history and allow the public to have access to it.

"Four years ago, the Navarros asked the neighborhood for support in erecting a gate in between their house, effectively fencing off historic Irving Street," Lynn Landes, a resident of Jessup Street and founder of the PSSS, said. "Many of the neighbors adamantly opposed the idea."

According to Save Irving Street’s Research Page, Irving Street is part of the Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District, sometimes referred to as the Historic Cartway. The Philadelphia Historical Commission says that the cartway includes the entire stretch of Irving Street and therefore falls under the City Plan's protection.

However, it appears that a small part of the street, the east end, was actually not put on the Philadelphia City Plan with the rest of the street in the late 1800s when the plan was first enacted. Therefore, it can be subject to privatization.

“[Irving Street] is a favorite stop for walking tours, artists and photographers,” said Landes. “Should Irving Street become privatized, we are very concerned that the Navarros will change [and] restrict public access.”

Cliff and Lynn Landes believe that in order to keep Irving Street in public hands, thereby preserving its historic integrity and guaranteeing it to remain a street open to the public, the City of Philadelphia should take the necessary steps to put it on the City Plan along with the rest of the street.

“We believe that the solution to Irving Street’s untitled status is to amend or correct the City Plan,” said Landes. “We suggest that this might be best accomplished by utilizing the City Plan Action Request Process or by asking Councilman Frank DiCicco to put legislation before the City Council,”

To follow their progress or for more information, go to www.SaveIrvingStreet.org.