Thinking beyond stimulus

June 11

Beyond Stimulus:  Thinking strategically about infrastructure

By John Davidson
For PlanPhilly

Infrastructure investment is more complicated than simply shoring up old bridges and building high-speed rail lines between major cities; it must be approached strategically and with a view to the greatest overall economic advantage. And simply to repair our crumbling infrastructure–not to mention building anything new–will take a concentrated national effort and a huge amount of planning and funding. That was the overriding theme of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation’s membership meeting Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel.

In response to the current national economic crisis, the Obama administration has indicated its support for massive infrastructure projects like high-speed inter-city rails. The CPDC invited a panel to address issues surrounding infrastructure, and brought in heavyweights like Robert Yaro, president of New York’s Regional Plan Association, as well as Gov. Ed Rendell, who spoke via video from Harrisburg. Other panelists included Tom Caramanico, chair of CEO Council’s Infrastructure Committee; Rina Cutler, deputy mayor, Office of Transportation and Utilites; and Alan Greenberger, executive director of the Philadlephia City Planning Commission.

CPDC Executive Director Paul Levy mediated the panel and gave a presentation on several infrastructure initiatives and ideas for Philadelphia, including plans for Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

The Center City District has been working with CPDC on an initiative to redesign and and transform the plaza into a broad, open space accessible from the street without stairs or ramps. The idea is to make the plaza one consistent level with green, shaded lawns, an outdoor cafe and a programmable fountain that can be turned off to accommodate special events.

Entrances to the layers of transit under City Hall will also be reworked. Current design plans call for sloping glass head houses to serve as gateways to transit. The entrances will be lit up and shaped with an arching profile so they will appear to slide under the central walkway through City Hall’s courtyard. The idea, said Levy, is to connect the project to SEPTA’s Broad Street Station renovation project.

The cost of the Dilworth Plaza redesign is estimated at $45 million, with funding expected to come from state and federal sources, as well as local foundations and private donors.

Contact the reporter at jddavidson9@gmail.com

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