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Catching up with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

Established in 2007 after years of inactivity (and formerly known as PhilaPride), Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) works to build and sustain vibrant communities through sustainable initiatives. Now, with a new director on board and a federal campaign helping channel funds, the organization is poised to tackle more complex programs.
KPB is the local affiliate of the federal non-profit Keep America Beautiful, a network of more than 1,200 organizations. The national office recently launched "I Want to Be Recycled," a campaign that encourages people to recycle. In Philly, that means continued funding for litter prevention, recycling education and waste reduction.
KPB has already helped collect thousands of pounds of trash, removed thousands of tires and generated thousands of pounds of recycling. Those are impressive feats, but new Executive Director Michelle Feldman (former Commercial Corridor Manager of the Frankford Community Development Corporation) wants to amp up KPB's local presence.  

"We're working on partnerships with various city agencies and offices, trying to launch new programs and make organizing community beautification efforts easier for residents," explains Feldman. "We want to encourage innovative ways to keep areas clean."
One example is an "art to trash" scholarship program.

"Registrants would submit a piece of artwork made from recycled materials, or materials that would have been thrown out," explains Feldman. "The winner would receive a scholarship for a class -- at an art school, perhaps, depending on who we end up partnering with."
The program, which is still in its infancy, would also create a temporary pop-up gallery. "We'd love to involve art in our future efforts, however we can," says Feldman. "We are working on an art and sustainability project coming soon to West Philly.”
"We want to keep doing what we have done," she adds. "Be a resource to those looking to spearhead community beautification projects, spearhead our own community beautification projects and be a partner to the City and the Streets Department however we can."

Source:  Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful
WriterGreg Meckstroth

'Designed for Habitat' launches locally at the Center for Architecture

Architects, designers, community leaders and affordable housing advocates take note: On Tuesday, June 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Architecture, the Community Design Collaborative (CDC) and Habitat for Humanity are holding a local launch for the acclaimed book Designed for Habitat.
The book profiles 13 smartly designed Habitat housing projects.

"Taken together, the projects illustrate that high quality designs are possible with Habitat Homes," says David Hinson, author and current head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. "Current conventional thinking in the design industry often assumes otherwise."
The 13 projects were chosen not just because they feature innovative design choices, but because of their collaborative nature. "Affordable housing in this country can always be improved upon and good design alone isn’t enough," adds Hinson. "Smart collaboration is key."
Located across the country, the homes represent a wide range of Habitat projects, from large and urban to small and rural. Two of them are local -- one in North Philadelphia, the other in West Philly. Hinson, a former Philadelphian himself, is quite familiar with both buildings.
The first, Project 1800, delivered a new dwelling and site design prototype for a post-industrial neighborhood in North Philly. The project's 15 new homes and five rehabilitated row homes provide an effective solution in a blight-ridden urban district.

The other project, the Stiles Street Homes, brought nine new-construction Habitat units to Parkside in West Philly. According to Hinson, this project shows how advocates can navigate the waters of community resistance and NIMBY-ism. Through a collaborative process and community outreach, they managed to deliver a context-sensitive solution.

At the event, Hinson will talk about these two projects in detail, as well as the 11 others outlined in Designed for Habitat. CDC board member Daryn Edwards will then moderate a panel featuring Hinson, Jon Mussleman, Maarten Pesch, Megan McGinley and Sally Harrison.

Source: David Hinson, author & head of the School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture at Auburn University
WriterGreg Meckstroth

City Planning Commission hosts 'Visions for our Metropolitan Center'

On June 17 at the Center for Architecture, representatives from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) will be joined by the Citizens Planning Institute, local developers and public officials to discuss "Visions for our Metropolitan Center."
A large portion of the conversation will center on the recently completed Central and University Southwest District Plans, which cover the area between the Delaware River and 40th Street, and from Girard Avenue to Washington Avenue. With 335,000 jobs and 120,000 residents, it's the largest job center in the region and the third-largest residential downtown in the country.
With 18 district plans in some stage of development as part of the Philadelphia 2035 comprehensive planning process, planners were looking for a chance to highlight their latest ideas. 

"The [district plan roll-out] process can get a bit repetitive," says Laura Spina, Center City Planner for PCPC. "For the Central and University Southwest District plans, we wanted to make the presentation a little more lively."

The program also includes a talk by Pearl Properties’ Jim Pearlstein and the graduation of another class of Citizens Planning Institute students, the education and outreach entity of the PCPC.
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.; the program begins at 6 p.m. Click here to secure your ticket.

Source:  Laura Spina, Center City Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

It's ribbon-cutting time at Paine's Park, Philly's new skateboarding mecca

On May 22 from 4 to 6 p.m., the Philadelphia skating community will converge on brand new Paine's Park for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The park, which incorporates sustainable design elements while accommodating both pedestrians and skaters, is already garnering national attention as the first -- and largest -- open space in the country designed specifically for skateboarders.

Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund Executive Director Claire Laver says the ceremony is particularly significant considering the project's long history.

"It's a momentous occasion," she says. "After nearly a decade of planning and fundraising, we’re finally opening the park."
The park cost $4.5 million to build; the money was raised through a variety of funding sources. To help with the finishing touches, the Fund launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, earning over $10,000.

The design also accommodates pedestrians and other uses; it features pedestrian seating areas, a 360-degree observation deck, an amphitheater for outdoor events, and connections to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Schuylkill Banks. In a nod to other public spaces popular among skateboarders, the design incorporated reclaimed granite slabs from LOVE Park and eight benches from Dilworth Plaza.

A number of events are already lined up for the space. On Go Skateboarding Day (June 21), the Zumiez Couch Tour will swing through Paine’s Park as part of their nine-city tour; in October, the park will host the finale of the second annual Philly Cup Skateboard Series.

Source:  Claire Laver, Executive Director, Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Delaware River Waterfront Corp. preps pedestrian-friendly improvements

With two new projects -- one in Fishtown and one in South Philly -- the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is taking big (and small) steps towards making the waterfront more functional, accessible and pedestrian-friendly.
In Fishtown, DRWC's board recently approved a $290,000 contract with artist Donald Lipski to install a piece honoring the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Native American Tribe at Penn Treaty Park. Sculptures of five bronze turtles, a lit-up fiberglass turkey and a wolf will be installed along Columbia Avenue east of I-95. Evoking the symbols of the three Lenni Lenape clans, the project has also received a $60,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant.

When complete, the public art installation will join a streetscaping design by landscape architect Bryan Haynes in a coordinated effort to connect the waterfront to Fishtown via Columbia Avenue. The streetscaping plan includes new street trees, rain gardens for stormwater management and underpass lighting, among other elements.

Further south, DRWC is turning Pier 53 at Washington Avenue into the next Race Street Pier, with an ecologically-minded twist. The land at the foot of the historic pier is already a park -- the recently completed Washington Avenue Green. The Pier's new design (just unveiled by DRWC and lead designer Applied Ecological Services) is Washington Avenue Green's Phase II.

"The design was influenced by four goals," says DRWC's Lizzie Woods, restoring the health of the river through ecological uplift, historical sensitivity, providing public access and providing a place where people can touch the water."

Pier 53 served as an immigration station for Philadelphia between 1873 and 1915. In addition to elements reflecting this unique history, other aspects of the $1.5 million project include native gardens, floating wetlands, rain gardens, gathering areas and rubble meadows.

According to Woods, three elements of the park's design are currently unfunded: the boardwalk, a "welcome spire" at the Washington Avenue Green entrance and a "Land Buoy" sculpture at the water's end of the pier. DRWC is currently conducting a cost analysis for these improvements and hopes to identify funding soon.

The goal is to start construction on Pier 53 within six months. Currently, DRWC is seeking a slew of permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward. The open space should be ready for public enjoyment in early summer 2014. 

Source:  Karen Thompson and Lizzie Woods, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
WriterGreg Meckstroth

The Philadelphia School's innovative expansion earns LEED Silver rating

When The Philadelphia School (TPS) opened its brand new Ellen Schwartz and Jeremy Siegel Early Childhood Education Center at 2501 South Street last September, the project received praise for transforming a neighborhood eyesore into a multipurpose space for students and community gatherings. The hype was channeled mostly towards the building's concept -- a country classroom in the city -- but now, after earning a LEED Silver rating, the project has solidified its sustainability bonafides.
TPS, a K-8 educational institution, was founded in 1976 in an old pie factory at 2501 Lombard Street. Local parents were concerned about families fleeing the city for better education opportunities elsewhere. Since then, the school has grown in leaps and bounds, expanding into the entire pie factory.
In the late 2000s, still in need of space, TPS looked to an adjacent South Street property with aspirations of creating an education campus for up to 450 students. Now complete, the Schwartz Siegel Building houses four ground-floor classrooms, two for preschool and two for kindergarten.
"The new campus is a physical translation of the school's progressive education philosophies," explains Tom Purdy of Purdy O’Gwynn Architects, the firm behind the design.
The campus features a 3,100-square-foot eco-friendly school garden, outdoor play spaces that are easily accessible from the classrooms, flexible-use L-shaped classrooms, working gardens, porches to bridge the gap between inside and out, a shared art room and lots of natural light.
"We feel we produced a really nice building," says Purdy. "We wanted to be a good neighbor, but still create something clearly different and modern."
Construction managers Wolfe Scott & Associates didn’t stop there with smart design principles. The school's sustainable strategies include a large stormwater retention basin under the parking lot, geothermal wells beneath the gardens that heat and cool the building, recycled and regional material usage and stringent waste management practices.
: Tom Purdy, Purdy O'Gwynn Architects
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Author of Ed Bacon biography to speak at Center for Architecture

William Penn's vision for a gridded five-square city may have laid the original groundwork for Philadelphia, but it was Edmund Bacon, another urban planner, who shaped much of the city as we know it today.

On May 16, writer Greg Heller will discuss Bacon at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture -- he is author of the first biography on this beloved yet controversial figure.

To people outside planning, architecture and urban enthusiast circles, the name "Edmund Bacon" might not ring a bell. And that's a shame -- as director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 through 1970, he oversaw the planning and implementation of dozens of redesigned urban spaces, included the restored Society Hill, Penn Center and the shopping center at Market East.

Following his public office tenure, he became well known as an outspoken urban advocate. In 2002, at the age of 92, he skateboarded across LOVE Park to protest the city's ban on boarding in the park. 

In 2005, Bacon passed away at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy that extended beyond his professional accomplishments.

"When he passed away, there were a lot of interesting articles that came out about his life," says Heller. "It was clear people perceived him as something more than just a governmental figure. He was a local legend."

Heller didn’t want the biography to be "totally academic," acknowledging that despite his iconic status to some, there are many potential readers who are not familiar with Bacon. The biography begins with exploration of Bacon's significance to modern day Philadelphia. Heller then delves into his two-decade tenure as city planning director, a period of great change in urban areas and significant federal investment.

Heller also paints a personal portrait of a man determined to transform planning ideas into reality in Philadelphia. Heller spent a lot of time with Bacon, and saw his dedication firsthand.

When Heller was in college working on his thesis, he wrote Bacon a letter, hoping to gain insight into his research topic. After interviewing Bacon a few times, Heller was invited to take a year off from college to help the retired planner write his memoirs. Heller agreed.

"After he passed away in 2005, I was approached by a publisher to write this biography," adds Heller. That was in 2007. Six years later, the book is finished and the legend of Ed Bacon lives on.

6 - 7 p.m. May 16 at the Center for Architecture (1218 Arch Street); free but registration is required. The new book will be available for sale at the event and Heller will sign books after his talk.

Source:  Greg Heller
WriterGreg Meckstroth

PHS to host nationwide Civic Horticulture conference in May

This spring, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is bringing together prominent landscape architects and civic horticulture enthusiasts for a three-day conference showcasing Philly landscapes. The event will launch Friday, May 17 in Center City.  
The conference, Civic Horticulture -- which is being held in conjunction with the Cultural Landscape Foundation -- will feature nationally recognized speakers discussing how Philadelphia has used civic horticulture (a discipline that bridges aesthetics, economics and ecological systems) to successfully shape the city's urban resurgence.
"The conference builds off what we've done to transform the city's public spaces," says Drew Becher, president of PHS. "A lot of the speakers have never been to Philly, so this gives us an opportunity to show how other places can learn from our example."
Free expert-led tours will follow the conference. Dubbed What’s Out There Weekendthis series of tours will showcase more than two dozen significant examples of Philadelphia's standout landscape architecture, including hidden gems in Fairmount Park, on the grounds of the Rodin Museum and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  
The conference will take place in tandem with the unofficial unveiling of a draft form of PHS’s new civic landscapes plan for Philadelphia, developed with PennPraxis. The plan is the first of its kind in over 20 years.
"In the late '80s or early '90s, a plan was completed that laid out landscape projects in and around Center City," explains Becher. "More recently, we looked at the plan and said, 'Wow, we completed a lot of the projects.' We decided a new plan was needed."
The new plan, which is still months away from being completed, includes proposals that are divided into three categories: image makers, place makers and partner makers.

With place and partner makers, improvements will be made to specific neighborhoods or significant plazas -- this is where small moves and neighborhood partnerships can make a big difference. Implementing a pocket park or a streetscape improvement program are examples of work in this category.
Image maker improvements, meanwhile, aim to improve the look and feel of major transportation areas and corridors in the city. Areas of interest include Philadelphia International Airport, Amtrak’s northeast corridor rail line in North Philadelphia, Girard Avenue over the Schuylkill River, Vine Street in Center City and Broad Street from Passyunk Avenue up to Temple University.
For these corridors, improvements could include illumination enhancements, gateway and signage improvements, art and object installations, planting and surfacing improvements, or landform creations and creative screening.
"[At the conference in May], we will introduce the many ideas in the plan and begin to reach out to the public for feedback," adds Becher. "From there, we’ll put together a cohesive plan and begin its implementation." Extensive public outreach is expected to begin in earnest in September.

Source: Drew Becher, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Associate AIA's CANstruction builds on the idea of a traditional food drive

What do you get when the the American Institute of Architects Associate Committee fights hunger in Philadelphia? Colossal structures made out of canned goods, of course. Now in its seventh year, the CANstruction Competition asks local designers to create structures out of canned food, taking the idea of a food drive to new heights. Literally.
All the food used in the competition is donated to Philabundance, the Delaware Valley's largest hunger relief organization. Last year, the event provided over 87,000 meals to those in need. The 2013 installment looks to improve on that impressive feat -- 14 teams from across the region will display their works in the rotunda of the Shops at Liberty Place (1625 Chestnut Street) April 13 through 21.
The building starts on April 12, but teams have been hard at work planning their complex designs. There are certain restrictions: structures can be no larger than 10-by-10 square feet and no taller than eight feet.
"From there, it's up to the teams to decide how practical, tall and creative their structures are," explains CANstruction Event Chair Jared Edgar McKnight, an architectural designer.
Designs will then be judged on seven different categories.  
"We have awards for everything from structural integrity and aesthetic choices, such as best use of labels," says McKnight. "We also have fun awards like Best Meal, which looks at potential meals that could be made from each teams' structure of cans, and People's Choice, which is voted on by the public throughout the weeklong exhibition."
The awards will be given out at a reception on April 13 (tickets are still on sale) with all proceeds benefitting Philabundance.
"Internationally, this competition puts a spotlight on the issue of hunger in America and around the world," says McKnight. "Locally, the competition allows creative people in the Philadelphia design community the opportunity to make a difference and be catalysts for positive change in our own backyard."
Source: Jared Edgar McKnight, CANstruction Event Chair
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Ambitious Pearl Street renovation planned in Chinatown North

In 2008, after two years of transition and multiple moves to make way for the Convention Center expansion, the Asian Arts Initiative moved into their current home at 1219 Vine Street. Now, nearly five years later, AAI is still looking for ways to make their presence known in "Chinatown North" (an area also referred to as the Loft District, Callowhill or Eraserhood).
AAI’s recent attempts to solidify the neighborhood's identity are rather ambitious -- the community-based arts center is aiming to revitalize four blocks of Pearl Street, an alleyway that runs from Broad to 10th just north of Vine Street. The goal is to turn the street into a public space, outdoor gallery and gathering spot, bringing together the area's diverse communities.
Currently in the early planning stages, the Pearl Street project has been on AAI's radar for a number of years. "Since we moved into this space we’ve been staring at Pearl Street outside our windows," says AAI Executive Director Gayle Isa. "The alleyway is a place you don't want to be right now. It has a reputation as dark and dangerous."
Until recently, the project was little more than an idea. "We were actually approached by a funder who was interested in partnering with us on one of our pet projects," says Isa. "We pitched the Pearl Street renovation and they were on board."
AAI is hiring Oakland-based landscape architect and artist Walter Hood -- he was in town recently collecting feedback from stakeholders along the alley. Hood will be back in Philadelphia this summer to conduct further research. Final designs are expected in the fall.
That group of stakeholders is exceptionally diverse: there's the homeless shelter Sunday Breakfast Mission, folks from the Philly Streets and Planning Departments, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (the group behind the upcoming Eastern Tower Community Center) and Post Brothers, the developers behind upcoming luxury condos along the alleyway.

"The constituents really reflect the diversity of the neighborhood," says Isa. "The alleyway is a chance to tie them together.... Everyone we've met with has had an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm. There is a lot more openness to working together than I would have expected."
Few details have been worked out, but the overall vision involves improved public space, public art, lighting improvements and multi-sensory programmed activities meant to enliven the street. Green features will also be included, with the hope of eventually connecting Pearl Street to the long-envisioned Reading Viaduct project.
Source: Gayle Isa, Executive Director, Asian Arts Initiative
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Infill Philadelphia's Soak It Up! Competition winners announced

This past Thursday at the Academy of Natural Sciences, three teams were awarded the top prize in Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, the widely publicized and much anticipated national green stormwater design competition. (Flying Kite previewed the contest in October.)
The event was a collaboration between the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), the Community Design Collaborative and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In all, 28 teams, 101 firms and 315 professionals from across the country submitted proposals that explored the potential of green infrastructure tools. Submissions came from places as diverse as Seattle, New York and St. Louis.  

Teams were asked to address the unique stormwater management challenges and opportunities at one of three Philadelphia sites. Each site embodied a different urban context and land-use challenge (industrial, commercial or neighborhood).

Submissions ranged from greening existing warehouse facilities to creating neighborhood-level EcoDistricts and tackling sewage overflow problems, to determining creative ways to green surface parking lots and large shopping centers.

Of the 28 entries, nine finalists were selected to present their entries to a jury and the public. The jury then selected three winners – one for each study area.
"We wanted projects that were innovative," explains juror Nathan Boon with the William Penn Foundation. "We also looked for submissions that could actually be implemented, ideas that can be replicated over many areas."
So many creative ideas came out of the exercise that PWD leaders plan to not only work with the winning teams but also the losing teams to make the designs a reality.
"Our expectations were far exceeded," says Joanne Dahme from the PWD. "It's given us so many new ideas for new ways to manage stormwater."
Over the next 25 years, PWD plans to spend $2 billion on green stormwater infrastructure improvements at varying scales across the city. Many of the competition’s ideas will be used as prototypes.

The three winners are as follows:
Industrial: "Leveraging Water + Plants in Zero Lot Sites," led by local firm Roofmeadow.
Neighborhood: "Greening the Grid," led by local landscape architecture firm OLIN.
Commercial: "Retail Retrofit," led by local firm Urban Engineers Inc. with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects of New York. 

Source:  Nathan Boon, William Penn Foundation; Joanne Dahme, Philadelphia Water Department
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Innovative playground installation at UArts attracts all ages

Twenty-four-year-old Temple architecture students Nick Auman and Keith Hartwig might have outgrown the monkey bars, but that doesn't mean they don't like to play.

Their exhibit, "Between Space," an interactive sculpture and installation, challenges the way we think about playground landscapes. A series of suspended nets designed to react to the presence of an individual, "Between Space" is currently on display at the University of the Arts as part of the Hamilton Hall Arts Initiative.

"Inspiration for the project came after observing the conditions of several public Philadelphia playgrounds in which static play elements were isolated in a rigid organizational grid," explains Auman. He and Hartwig concluded that a low-tech, low-cost solution was possible, and that it could improve the quality of public space in Philly while also expanding user reach beyond children.
In the display, a full-scale prototype of the playground piece (alongside models) shows how the net could be expanded to create an entire playground system.
The two young architects have been working on “Between Space” since the summer 2011. The net is composed of 560 individual knots, a process that took longer than initially expected.

"The scale of work that we proposed was difficult to complete," says Auman. "We were using third party fabricators to create specialized components that we did not have the means to create ourselves." 

Their efforts were well worth it. "We envision the project being adopted by individual neighborhood parks as a temporary event installation," explains Auman, who says they have already created a conceptual design for how the installation could be used at Penn Treaty Park.

"Between Spaces" will be on display at 320 S. Broad Street through March 22.

Source:  Nick Auman and Keith Hartwig, Designers, Between Space
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) proposed for four major subway stops

This Wednesday at the final Central District Plan Public Open House, city planners will officially announce big changes for four of the city’s central subway stops.
The stations -- the Fairmount and Lombard-South stops along the Broad Street Line, and the Spring Garden and Girard stops on the Market-Frankford Line -- will each be covered by a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) overlay district, a zoning tool that encourages higher densities and use diversity within walking distance of transit stations.
Brand new to the Philly planning scene, the TOD districts are being implemented through the Philadelphia 2035 Comprehensive Plan district planning process.
TOD is a common tool used by urban planners to encourage development around transit assets in an effort to build walkable, pedestrian-oriented cities. According to Central District Plan Manager Laura Spina, the four stops were chosen because development potential around them is high and surrounding land is somewhat underutilized. The Girard stop, for example, currently attracts auto-oriented development such as drive-thrus and surface parking lots. 

These sites were also chosen because their base zoning lends itself to a TOD overlay. Plus, major commerical corridors run through each stop -- an ideal situation for restricting curb cuts and encouraging pedestrian-oriented development.

In addition to higher densities and more mixed-use development, affordable housing will likely be a big component of TOD around each stop. "The overlays include incentives for affordable housing," says Spina. "Access to transit is particularly important for elderly and low-income populations."

Spina says the four locations are tentative and could change depending on public feedback at the Open House on Wednesday, February 27 (5 - 7:30 p.m. at City Hall).

From there, barring any major hiccups, the Central District Plan and newly minted TOD overlays will be adopted by the Planning Commission by June.

According to Spina, TOD won’t stop there -- this zoning tool is likely to play a large role in future district plans.

Source:  Laura Spina, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Veolia Energy North America spearheads major 'green steam' project

Thanks to Greenworks Philadelphia, the city’s ambitious sustainable action plan, Mayor Nutter is committed to making Philadelphia the greenest city in the country by 2015. Thankfully, he has a major partner in Veolia Energy North America, a leading operator and developer of efficient energy solutions with a big local presence. In January, the company completed a multi-million dollar investment in its Philadelphia district energy network, converting it to 100 percent "green steam."

The green steam project will reduce the carbon footprint of Philadelphia by 70,000 metric tons each year. When combined with the company's other green initiatives, that number jumps to 430,000 -- or the equivalent of removing 70,000 cars from the streets annually.

According to Veolia's Elinor Haider, that reduction singlehandedly "helps the city achieve 10 percent of its [20 percent Greenworks] goal."

It’s no surprise that a company like Veolia can have such a large impact on a citywide initiative. Its Philadelphia district energy network is the third largest energy system in the United States. "We provide steam to 500 buildings with 100 million square feet of total space," explains Veolia's Michael Smedley. Most of their clients are located in University City and Center City.

In fact, the University of Pennsylvania is the company’s largest customer, responsible for 40 percent of their business. Veolia is in negotiations to renew that contract, adding Penn to the list of institutions -- including Thomas Jefferson University, the Barnes Foundation and Drexel -- that have either recently renewed or agreed to long-term lease agreements.

While big clients with long-term contracts are the global firm’s primary targets, Smedley and Haider say smaller-scale work also drives their green market edge. "We feel very responsive to customers' desire for green living," explains Haider.  

Source: Elinor Haider and Michael Smedley, Veolia Energy
WriterGreg Meckstroth

City Planning Commission recognized as national leader

In some cities, land use planning and zoning are the last places you’d look for news on cutting edge innovations. Here in Philly, we know better. This April, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) will receive a Best Practice Award from the American Planning Association (APA) for their innovative efforts integrating planning and zoning processes.

PCPC recently coordinated three distinct planning efforts simultaneously: the Citizens Planning Institute, Philadelphia 2035, and a zoning code and map revision.  

"I’m not aware of any other comparable city doing such a comprehensive planning treatment in such a brief period of time," says CPC Executive Director Gary Jastrzab.

Jastrzab and his staff began tackling these projects nearly four years ago. "The last comprehensive plan or major zoning revision was in the 1960s, so it was time for a modernization," he explains.

Four years and countless public meetings, hearings, drafts and re-drafts later, Philadelphia now has a regulatory environment featuring those three profound tools. The Citizens Planning Institute, PCPC’s education and outreach entity, encourages leadership and participation among residents, educating them on urban planning in their communities. Philadelphia 2035, the city’s first comprehensive plan in over 50 years, includes 18 specific district plans either completed, underway or about to get started. Lastly, the city’s zoning reform included both a rewrite of the city’s 50-year-old code and multiple zoning map revisions as recommended in the ongoing Philadelphia 2035 district plans.

"In any city -- let alone one as large and politically complex as Philadelphia -- undertaking either a comprehensive plan, zoning code rewrite, or citizen planner leadership program, would have been a major accomplishment," explains APA Pennsylvania Awards Committee chairman Dennis Puko in a press release. "Philadelphia through 2011 to 2012 did all three, and integrated them to achieve the most positive outcomes."

The Best Practice award for Philadelphia’s Integrated Planning and Zoning Process will be presented at APA’s National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16.
Source: Gary Jastrzab, Executive Director, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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