Monday night, the last phase of public forums designed to give civic engagement a crucial voice in the Central Delaware Waterfront planning process continued at St. Anne’s Social Hall in Kensington as 40 residents focused on developing a set of “design principles” based on the core riverfront values that citizens from Philadelphia and the region surfaced during the three December forums.
Tuesday night, the final forum is scheduled to take place at Furness High School in South Philadelphia.
Listed below are the citizen values consolidated from the “values sessions” on Dec. 11, 13 and 14 (St. Anne’s hosted a values session in December):
A safe place to live:
We value a neighborhood where children can play outside, where adults and kids alike walk the neighborhood, where they can feel safe because they know and trust each other, whether they live or work in the community.
Varieties of diversity and culture:
We appreciate the economic, ethnic, racial, cultural, generational and physical (ecological and architectural) diversity in our neighborhoods.
The quality jobs on the waterfront are an economic engine of the city. It is important that we sustain, if not expand, industrial and shipping jobs as well as small locally owned businesses. This will underpin a strong economy for adults as well as jobs for youth.
We value a clean and open environment – including the river, trees, air – and access to that environment.
We value Philadelphia’s history – where our democracy was born, where different ethnic groups came and prospered. The traditions that grow from that history – from the Mummers Parade to our block parties and our celebrations of freedom – make us uniquely Philadelphia. Our history is a vital aspect of our city — be it bricks and mortar, cultural/educational or other.
With these values in mind, participants interviewed each other Monday night, asking a question about what each value represented in terms of broadly framing a set of design parameters for the waterfront.
The “reporter’s” task was to try to understand the other person’s views as richly and clearly as possible and to record them briefly and accurately. Later the group as a whole synthesized ideas with others who asked the same question.
When answering the questions, participants were urged to draw on their hopes and dreams for the waterfront.
The facilitators for this process: PennPraxis director Harris Steinberg of Penn’s School of Design and Harris Sokoloff, an expert in civic engagement with the Penn Graduate School of Education, see this stage of public forums as a way to capture and use the voice of the people to help lay the foundation for creating a lasting vision for that waterfront.
Steinberg got the evening started by restating the position the leaders of the planning process are taking on the strong possibility that casinos will be part of the seven miles of riverfront revisioning.
“We need to keep the issue of casinos in balance. There are multiple voices and multiple visions about what should occur,” he said. “This riverfront process will be a private/public partnership that can help us achieve all of our goals.
“There is passion, tension, anger over casinos but this process is not about taking a stand. We support everyone, no matter their viewpoint, using what they have learned in these forums to make their personal cases and arguments about what the riverfront should be.”
The value questions posed Monday night in order to establish design principles were:
A safe place to live: Please tell a story that describes your experience with the waterfront and the neighborhoods being a safe place to live, work and play. What does your story suggest about what could or should be done to preserve or improve this value?
Varieties of diversity and culture: Please tell a story that describes your experience with variety of diversity and culture on the waterfront and the neighborhoods. What does your story suggest about what could or should be done to preserve or improve this value?
Economic sustainability: Please tell a story that speaks to you about the importance of the waterfront economy. What does your story suggest about what could or should be done to preserve or improve this value?
The Environment: Please tell me a story about a time when you were able to appreciate the value of a clean and open environment along the waterfront. What does your story suggest about what could or should be done to preserve or improve this value?
History: Please tell a story about a time when you had a meaningful experience of Philadelphia’s history along the waterfront. What things could have been improved to make your experience of that history more meaningful does your story suggest about what could or should be done to preserve or improve this value?
The principles that were identified Monday night are, in effect, guidelines for the development of the civic vision for the waterfront. They inform and tell the planning and design teams the kinds of things to include in the plan and they will be used in the March 1-3 design charrettes.
Some of the principles that surfaced were:
Better stormwater management through water features.
An improved storm sewer system that does not pollute the river.
Swimming pools at river’s edge.
The variety of many different ideas: cruise ships, small shops, restaurants.
Street easements that allows access to the river from neighborhoods.
Murals under I-95.
A plan that takes into account global warming.