Earlier today, we felt like asking a question about neighborhood retail, namely, are you being served? We’re curious because the district planning process has included an exhaustive update of our commercial corridor surveys, so we’re getting a better handle on the growth, shrinkage, diversification, and stagnation of various shopping locales across Philadelphia. All well and good – everybody loves data! – but most fundamentally, it’s about the user experience.
Which brings us to our next question:
What scares you about density?
Yeah, we went there. The “D” word. And this time, we’re doing it SAT style with multiple choice:
a) I’m scared of density because density means there’s nowhere to park
b) I’m scared of density because density means there are too many people close to me
c) I’m scared of density because density is a code word for gentrification
d) I’m scared of density because density means height
d) I’m scared of density because I’m happy with my neighborhood exactly the way it is (what shops it offers, what i can walk to, etc)
e) some combination of the above (please explain)
We really want to know. We want to know because it has become the phantom menace, a go-to reason to oppose development of many kinds in many locations. We will admit that we are, broadly speaking, pro-development as a planning agency: we like to see growth in the city’s population, we like to see its tax coffers fuller, we like to see the livability of its neighborhoods maximized, and we like to see unnecessary or unsafe vacancy removed from its streetscape. That said, we are not blindly pro-development. As a planning agency, we can’t be. There’s lots of valid reasons to question development: compatibility of uses; impacts on the transportation network; safety, environmental, or public health impacts; design decisions that may somehow act against the public good (which we will dare to dig into at this time).
Don’t read between the lines here. We are not responding to any particular project proposal, nor to any group’s response to that proposal. We’re sharing a concern that we hear all the time, one that knows no income bracket, no age group, no neighborhood affiliation. We tend to hear it in association with one of the multiple choice answers above, and we find it interesting for two reasons.
1) density is not a given precursor to any of the conditions we suggested in those choices, and 2) a certain level of density is critical to achieving urbanity. So what say you, Philadelphia? Let it out. What makes you admire it in other people’s backyards and fear it in your own? Looking forward to the comments on this one.