The weather should be just dandy for a parade tomorrow morning.
How convenient that our occasional segment on projects, policy-makers, and other plannerly things that we’re thankful for lines up with the holiday that’s all about giving thanks! Since we can’t be here tomorrow – well, we could be, but we’re thinking of eating a lot instead – we thought we’d take a break from the intense activity and discussion around zoning and planning in recent weeks. For Thanksgiving, we are offering a Top 10 list of things for which we and all Philadelphians can be thankful (with a focus on the built environment, obviously).
10) We’re thankful that Philadelphia is growing again. Our population is growing, and there are cranes in the sky. From the windows of our office alone, we can see the steady progress on underground infrastructure to support the new Dilworth Plaza, pile drivers getting started at 1900 Arch, colorful panels going up on the walls of the Goldtex building in Callowhill, and construction crews up and down North Broad (the State Office Building conversion, the new PA Ballet HQ, Morgan Hall at Temple University). Some of these enviable views will disappear as the Family Court climbs just outside our window, but that’s cool too, cause it leads us to our next point:
9) We’re thankful that stakeholders are aligning to make the Parkway more complete. No, the Family Court building next to our office is not along the Parkway, but it is providing new space for a Parkway institution that can enter a new phase of its life. We don’t know yet exactly what it might be – we’d lean towards hotel if we were betting folk – but whatever it is, a new use at 1801 Vine will help bring added vibrancy to an increasingly grand boulevard that only a year ago was much less grand. The Barnes, Sister Cities, a major streetscape overhaul, the Rodin rehab, the Mormon Temple, and now a forthcoming plan for additional improvements…one of our signature spaces is looking real good these days!
8) We’re thankful that DRWC & company are making real progress on the Central Delaware Waterfront. It seems forever ago that Mayor Nutter replaced the Penns Landing Corporation with DRWC, and we think part of that is because they’ve been so gosh darn busy. They’ve carried the Civic Vision for the waterfront into a full-fledged masterplan. They’re working on getting a zoning overlay finalized. And just yesterday, our own PCPC commissioners recommended approval for both a rezoning of a major parcel at Washington Avenue AND bills that allow the construction of the Penn Street portion of the waterfront trail…starting this winter! Oh, and they’re working on the SECOND phase of Washington Avenue Green. Yeah, this stuff is slow, and never enough for those who want a world class waterfront overnight, but we’ve made remarkable progress in just a few years.
7) We’re thankful for momentum on that other waterfront, too. Oh yeah, the Schuylkill! We’ve got the boardwalk under construction, a beautiful new connection from trail to neighborhood park, a skate park just getting started by the Art Museum, planning underway for Bartram’s mile, and a master plan for the Lower Schuylkill inching closer to adoption.
6) We’re thankful that people love us back. Have you read this piece in Salon? We challenge you not to well up with pride.
5) We’re thankful that companies seem to be loving us back, too: First Round Capital, Bentley, Fiberlink…we’ve had some serious attraction and retention successes in 2012. Everyone knows we have a long way to go to make Philadelphia supremely attractive to companies, particularly from a tax perspective, but we’re getting there.
4) We’re thankful for Civic Design Review: this significant update in the new code is off to a great start, and we’re looking forward to regular meetings in 2013.
3) We’re thankful for your input and participation: 2012 has shattered our previous records on pretty much all fronts related to civic participation. We’ve graduated more than 150 people from the Citizens Planning Institute, made over 1300 facebook friends, developed loyal (and talkative) Twitter followings (on two accounts!), heard from 800 or so of you via text message, and we’ve launched this blog. Educating people about how planning and development work is very important. Hearing local opinion about planning and development is very important. Getting everyone to talk to everyone else is very important. We hope to keep expanding the conversation in the years to come.
2) We’re thankful that so many people care…a lot: We’d be the first to admit guiding the orderly growth of a major metropolis is complicated. Very. Trying to improve established systems is even more so. Whether it’s going to a meeting in your neighborhood to learn about a development proposal, or following the legislative agenda of City Council as we all seek to advance a zoning code that works for everyone, it’s encouraging to see how strongly people feel. It doesn’t matter where you stand on a given policy issue or regulatory mechanism; the important thing is that you care. We promise you that not every city’s populace would get excited or riled up about things like building setbacks, parking requirements, meeting notification, zoning overlays. Stay wonky, Philadelphia.
1) Last but certainly not least, we’re thankful that Philadelphia’s food scene continues to be off the chain. This is not strictly a matter of urban planning, we know. We can’t take credit for it, nor can we claim to understand how it keeps getting better. What we do understand is that Thanksgiving is all about food, and so we feel it only appropriate to raise a glass to an arena in which Philly almost always wows the crowd. We hope that those celebrating tomorrow can do so with some beer or spirits brewed within city limits, cause there’s lots of both