January 18: 30th Street Station plan wins AIA award | Society Hill Acme rumble | Knight Cities Challenge finalists

More than 4,500 applicants proposed civic innovation projects that encouraged either talent, engagement, or opportunity for the Knight Cities Challenge this year. Of the 144 challenge finalists, 20 of the selected finalists are from Philadelphia. Generocity reviews our share of  finalists, which includes some familiar non-profits such as the Food Trust, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, Bartram’s Garden, as well as businesses new(ish) to the scene, such as Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse and Little Giant Creative. Last year, the four winning projects from Philly together earned the largest amount — $873,364 — of all Knight cities, and in 2015, nine winning projects came from Philly.

While the City lifted its short-lived ban on wall-sitting, the discussion for who has rights to public space continues. Friends of Rittenhouse stands its ground, saying it didn’t want to see all it invested into park repairs be set back by those that may not appreciate it as much. Wall sitters argue “that public parks belong to everybody, not just the civic groups that have oversight and help fund upkeep.” Philadelphia Parks Alliance, giving a shout-out to Jane Jacobs, sees this scuffle as an opportunity to capture this energy and direct it at Philly’s other 300-plus parks and rec centers that Philadelphians rely on and need attention, stewardship, and resources, too.

Philadelphia developer Alterra Property Group had been in lease negotiations with the ACME supermarket on 5th Street in Society Hill, and in communication with community members via Society Hill Civic Association about future development plans. Now, Jacob Adelman reports the Society Hill Acme is slated to close after its lease is up in two years and Alterra’s development plans have shifted since earlier discussions. Neighbors wanted Alterra to maintain a full-sized grocery store and build a low-slung residential development to suit the historic low-density fabric of the neighborhood. Now the developer is aiming bigger but says it will include a fresh food market. Residents say they feel betrayed, but the developer states that failed negotiations with the grocer prompted them to move forward with a larger residential development. The project will be subject to review by the Philadelphia Historical Commission because it is located within the Society Hill historic district, and by the Civic Design Review board.

Curbed reports the AIA has awarded the 30th Street Station District Plan regional and urban design of 2017. Years upon years in the making, the super-team including Skidmore Owings & Merrill, OLIN, private developers, SEPTA, Amtrak, and the City of Philadelphia, unveiled its finalized 30-year plan last year. The plan puts the public infrastructure costs for area redevelopment plans at around $2 billion, but the area is also projected to attract about $4.5 billion worth of private investment over that period. The AIA Award declares that achieving the plan’s goals will mean working among some of the most complex infrastructure found in a single area, calling the plan “daring in its scope but achievable in its details”

Planners, journalists, and historians have long used digital technology like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize, understand, and analyze trends and systems. Sarah Bond shares five fascinating GIS projects that use spatial analysis to “see how racism is instituted, but also to see how historical decisions continue to have an impact on the U.S. today.” Among the powerful projects are maps visualizing lynching locations, racial composition in schools, and redlining criteria.  

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