Do You Have a FIRM Understanding?

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the banks of the Schuylkill River were home to industries that provided the region and nation with a variety of products. Now, in the 21st century, many of those industrial operations have shut down, leaving the eyesore of decaying buildings.

For the visionary, this is the perfect opportunity for redevelopment, to demolish the drab, crumbling factories with modern housing overlooking the water. A look at the FEMA Flood Insurance Map (FIRM) tells you the elevation needed to build homes is above the floodplain, but then you see the property is in… the dreaded floodway.

You typically can’t build in the floodway, as it provides a corridor to preserve the flood-carrying capacity of the river. But don’t give up the vision just yet – you might be able to revise the floodway and build along the banks.

The FEMA hydraulic models define the floodway, but, in this case, the modelers didn’t refine the floodway. Many times, the floodway on the FIRM can be narrowed by refinement in the modeling, allowing land along the banks to be reclaimed and redevelopment to proceed.

We have revised the Schuylkill River floodway on the FIRM along properties in Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, leading to new townhome projects. The Locks in Manayunk was recently completed, and River Place in Conshohocken is now under construction.

Don’t let the FIRM floodway dash your dreams – floodway revision can help realize your vision.

Manayunk Canal, 2017
The Locks, 2024