January 23 2012

Despite Setbacks, Philadelphia Makes Big Strides in Responsible Urban Planning

The Race Street Pier was one of the city's most recent planning highlights, bringing residents back to the Delaware River Waterfront. Image courtesy of Flickr user J. Poore.

Normally, I use this column to write about social media trends in planning, and highlights of local planning efforts close to home, but last week, a headline in the local campus paper alarmed me. According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, Philadelphia had the highest homicide rate in the country of the nation’s 10 most populous cities. Although the number has gone down from over 400 homicides in 2006, the city’s 324 homicides in 2011 is part of a rising trend over the past three years. Even Mayor Nutter has weighed in on the statistic, and went on the record to scold Philadelphians for their less than model behavior.

Yet, none of the negative recent press about Philadelphia, despite this hair-raising homicide factoid or the flash mobs from this past summer, mentioned any of the positive progress the city has made in terms of being better planned and more enjoyable for its residents. 2011 saw the completion of two outstanding examples of progressive landscape architecture: The Race Street Pier, a vibrant and unique public space with breathtaking views of the Ben Franklin Bridge and Delaware River, and the adjacent Race Street Connector which helps to finally bridge the gap between the city and the waterfront.  Philadelphia also saw, this past year, the release of a new comprehensive city plan, the completion of a new multi-use recreation and sports complex for Penn, and a greenlight for the upcoming Philly Live entertainment center to anchor the city’s massive sports complex.  Even locals, inspired by the success of New York’s High Line, have now begun to make plans to create a similar project by using the long neglected Reading Viaduct.  And we also saw the sweeping plans to reshape and re-energize dull Dilworth Plaza.

Yet, there are continued acts of crime and senselessness that perpetuate negative city stereotypes and have added to Phillly’s reputation as an unsafe city.  Even this past week as a man in Old City was beaten to death (for no reason), it continues to add to the city’s negative energy and takes away from the amazing progress and successes of 2011. In 2012, I’m hoping that residents can make a change and become inspired by this city’s incredible progress and willingness to become less provincial and more worldly.

It’s time that Philadelphians stop acting out against each other, and help contribute to the positive energy that’s helping reshape our city.

Barrett Lane

Barrett Lane is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania where he is pursuing a Master of City Planning with a concentration in Urban Design. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining The Grid, Barrett was the Director of Creative Content at Yipit, and most recently interned with the New York City Department of City Planning. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 at 3:51 pm and is filed under Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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