By Janice Woodcock
This past summer, several citizens wrote to The Philadelphia Inquirer saying that Philadelphia 2035, the city’s new Comprehensive Plan, places too much emphasis on what it labeled “gentrification,” and not enough on the needs of Philadelphia’s current residents. Such stinging criticism would be difficult for any urban planner to hear, but do the writers have a point? Have planners overlooked the needs of the current population?
To answer this question we need to know whom we are trying to serve. Who are Philadelphia’s residents and what do they need? Like the population of many other rust belt cities, Philadelphia’s working age population is disproportionally disadvantaged. Only 32 percent of Philadelphia area residents over the age of 25 hold bachelor’s degrees, and only 21 percent of residents are educated beyond high school.
Given this reality, Philadelphia needs jobs–particularly jobs that can provide a living wage to entry level workers and those who have little or no college education. And here’s the rub: policy makers believe that our days as an industrial nation have passed. But this is not entirely true.