Looking ahead to 2007 planning

Jan. 15, 2007
The Central Delaware River planning process in 2007

In early October, Mayor John F. Street authorized PennPraxis to work with the citizens of Philadelphia to create a civic vision for the Central Delaware Riverfront that balances, public good, access to the waterfront, open space and quality urban development.

In just over two short months, the process has been in high gear, racing up to and past mileposts that will help mark a lasting vision for the people’s waterfront. The process to date has been based on robust civic engagement in the form of a series of public forums designed to chase out the most important values people hold for their neighborhoods and the waterfront.

Since October, 1,200 people have signed onto the PlanPhilly website in order to take part in this unique citizen-driven exercise. More than 850 people attended three “value session” forums held on weekday nights in December in river ward locations. At these forums, citizens talked very frankly about what’s important to them about the waterfront. They shared their ideas about how neighborhoods and the city should value and intersect with the riverfront.

Now a new year is upon us. We have 10 months to work with the public, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and design and planning experts to complete a project that will issue a final report to the city in fall 2007; one that is based upon a set of citizen-derived, values-based planning principles for the Central Delaware waterfront.

Out of this process will emerge a strategy for implementing the vision; a strategy that will include the application of practical solutions to congestion, sprawl, out-of-scale development and lack of connectivity between people and the river.

Essentially, this project will include design and urban planning recommendations for public access to the waterfront, maintaining a working port, transportation, parking, walking, cycling, connections to the adjoining neighborhoods, scale and character of development within the project area and recommendations for the creation of a publicly accountable implementation body and strategy.
In early 2007, distilled “values” from the recent grassroots civic engagement, which continues to gather momentum, will inform world-class design experts who will translate the goals and aspiration of Philadelphians into a 21st century roadmap for development of the Central Delaware from Allegheny Avenue to Oregon Avenue and from the river to I-95.
Here’s a rundown of what the public engagement exercise will consist of in 2007.

 www.PlanPhilly.com is redesigned by early January.  The site will continue to be a unique experiment in project-based journalism, that will cover the riverfront project with thorough news and enterprise beat coverage delivered by the Praxis staff, and a team of seasoned professional journalists. Through the website, the public can participate in this civic engagement effort to design the people’s waterfront. With that in mind, PlanPhilly will continue to comprehensively cover a series of public meetings in 2007 that will measure the citizens’ vision for the riverfront plan.

 Best practices forums featuring presentations by leading national and local voices on topics such as creating a balanced riverfront, managing transportation infrastructure, and successful implementation strategies in early February. These talks, which reflect the values about their neighborhoods and the waterfront citizens brought to the surface from the December 2006 forums, are open to the public.

 In early February, Harris Sokoloff, an expert in civic engagement with the Penn Project on Civic Engagement who is working with Praxis on facilitating the public forums, will conduct “History of the Future,” a civic exercise designed to create values-based planning principles. Participants will deliberate about how the Delaware Riverfront became the envy of the nation by, say, 2030 and what obstacles had to be overcome to get there.

 In early March, a three-day design workshop with leading design professionals, citizens and public intellectuals will integrate the civic design principles into the beginning of a vision for the Central Delaware. The workshop, which in simplest definition is a collaborative planning process that includes multiple voices to achieve a productive change in a community, will produce a preliminary design vision that will be evaluated by the public.

 From March through August, the design vision will be refined by a design team that will be lead by Praxis and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.  There will be opportunities for facilitated civic feedback throughout the design phase.

 The design phase ends in a public exhibition that will be open to the public in fall 2007.

 The process will culminate with the formal presentation of the vision along with recommendations for an implementing entity and strategy designed to protect the public’s role in the creation of the vision, to the mayor in fall 2007.

“The citizens of Philadelphia will offer feedback as the design team translates these ideas into world-class design images and models,” said Praxis Executive Director Harris Steinberg. “There will be a public exhibition of the design and the people of Philadelphia will ratify the vision through their active participation in public forums, through participation in our web site and by visiting the exhibition. ” 


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