After months of research and development, the City of Philadelphia released its first comprehensive plan in June 2011, since the “1985 Plan” back in 1960. The new city plan, which predicts how the city will look 25 years from now in 2035, focuses on the key ideas of thrive, connect, and renew. But unlike the previous plan, which had big ideas and grand visions, the 2035 plan exhibits a scaled-down urban planning philosophy. In this document, urban planners advocate that smaller steps and recommendations will generate a larger overall impact.
As Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, “the city is being realistic,” with the bulk of the document being “a collection of little plans, many of them terrific, but small-scale nonetheless.” This strategy is best exemplified by the way the plan has been broken down internally. While there are citywide strategies, initiatives, and visions that will guide the future of the whole city, the majority of the plan assigns community-related tasks and plans to each of the 18 newly created planning districts within the city. Their generic names (Lower Northeast, Upper Northwest, etc…) suggest that these communities will take on their own future identities and create their own neighborhood “branding” during or after the plan’s completion.
One other noticeable element of the plan is its vision to greatly modernize the city itself. Building off of the city’s existing resources and infrastructure, the city envisions itself as being a core regional entity both in the Delaware River Valley and the greater Northeast Megalopolis. By strengthening its cultural institutions, promoting its environmental resources and networks, better connecting residents to important transportation and recreational areas, and diversifying its economy, the city hopes to once again put itself on a trajectory of growth and prosperity. It won’t be in the same way that it once envisioned itself decades ago, but it will be enough to have an impact on its existing population and perhaps attract future residents seeking a brighter future.
Of course, there are ways for residents and those interested to get involved with the city’s ongoing efforts to execute the plan. Community meetings and civic engagement remain a core part of the implementation strategy, and social media helps reach the more engaged, tech-focused residents through Facebook and Twitter. Do you think that this plan is the right approach for Philadelphia’s future? What suggestions and changes would you make?
For more information on the 2035 Plan, visit their website, where you can download the executive summary and full report.