Proper opposition to development

Natalia Olson de Savyckyj and Judith Eden at a ZCC meeting in early 2008.

By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

A forum will be held Thursday evening (Feb. 26) in the memory of the late Judith S. Eden, a lawyer and Center City community organizer, with the provocative title, “Community Groups and Distressing Economic Times: Should the criteria for opposing development projects be re-assessed?”

The one-hour discussion will be moderated by Avi Eden, Judith’s husband, an electronics industry business consultant and a newly appointed member of the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., which last month replaced the Penn’s Landing Corp.

Panelists will include Terry Gillen, senior economic development adviser to the mayor; Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program; Peter Kelsen, zoning commissioner and land use attorney for Blank Rome LLP; Inga Saffron, The Inquirer’s architecture critic; Mary Tracy, executive director of SCRUB (Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight); and a to-be-announced local real estate developer.

Avi Eden said his wife was a “community activist extraordinaire who passionately loved Philadelphia,” and that he anticipates a lively discussion with a Q & A involving the audience.


Judith Shuman Eden, a respected private practice attorney, was a member of both the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Zoning Code Commission before her death in August at age 61. She was co-chair of the Center City Residents’ Association Zoning Committee for more than 10 years, and was a board member of the Center City District and the Friends of the Mural Arts Program.

“My wife was a great believer in ‘process,’” Eden said. “She believed that matters concerning zoning, for example, were best resolved in direct discussions between strong community groups and developers. She hated ‘the fix.’ On most zoning issues, she believed that a pragmatic approach to problem-solving could lead to a project acceptable to the neighborhood and the developer.

“So this time of economic recession would have been a true test of her commitment to pragmatic processes. The subject seemed appropriate. All of the speakers are friends of hers.”

In addition to her many admirers, Avi Eden said his wife “was also pretty disliked by certain ideological developers, preservationists and design groups” because of her vocal opinions about “ideological ‘design / good taste arbiters’ who had no feel for the fabric of the community.”

The event is free. Avi Eden says that a donation in his late wife’s memory – to the CCRA, the Mural Arts Program or SCRUB – would be greatly appreciated.

He requests an RSVP via email at

Other details:
Where: Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Broad Street
When: Thursday, February 26, 2009
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. A reception will be held starting at 5 p.m. at the restored
former Mother Divine Mission, next door to the Senior Center, at 507 South Broad. (“A walk through this mansion designed by George Pearson for James D. Lippincott is a real treat,” Avi Eden writes.)

Contact the reporter at

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