Founded in 1682 as a "Greene Countrie Towne," Philadelphia is successfully reclaiming this heritage as it transforms itself from a manufacturing center to a 21st century sustainable city. Like many cities of its type, Philadelphia reached a peak population in 1950, experienced a precipitous decline – losing more than 700,000 residents in the next four decades – and due to vision and persistence is seeing a revival. In the past decade, its population increased as it strengthened its assets, adapted former industrial and other land uses to meet present-day needs and focused on such other aspects of sustainable urban development as poverty reduction and better governance. It has developed two major, integrated sustainability plans (Greenworks and Green City Clean Waters, has adopted a new comprehensive plan, Philadelphia 2035 and its currently in the last stages of a major overhaul of its zoning ordinance.Highlighted here aresix of the city's sustainable urban development programs/best-living practices now taking place :
Greenworks: The Philadelphia sustainability plan initiated in 2008
Philadelphia Green: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's work
Fighting Food Deserts: Dealing with the absence of food markets
Green City Clean Waters: innovative storm water management program
Mayor's Office of Innovation and Urban Mechanics: New unit to promote better governance and public/private entrepreneurship
Anchor Institutions: universities, cultural institutions, sports facilities strengthen neighborhoods
When Mayor Michael Nutter
in 2009, he pledged to make
Philadelphia "the greenest
city in America
The City of Philadelphia's sustainability plan, perhaps with a section on what elements are gaining traction and/or success stories"Going green" has become the mantra of the 21st century conscientious citizen. While there are now standard practices for individuals to follow in order to minimize their impact on the environment, how a whole city can become greener is a different matter altogether. Over the past five years, several major cities have published large-scale plans that tackle such issues, from Chicago's Climate Action Plan (http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/) to New York City's PlaNYC (http://www.nyc.gov/planyc2030). Philadelphia is no exception. In November 2007, Mayor Michael Nutter created the Mayor's Office of Sustainability (http://www.phila.gov/green/mos.html) and quickly announced that its first task would be to draft Greenworks Phladelphia (http://www.phila.gov/green/greenworks/index.html), which would outline how to make Philadelphia "the greenest city in America" by 2015. The plan delineates 15 key targets in the following areas: energy consumption, environmental footprint, neighborhood equity, green economy, and public engagement.
Conceptually, as Mayor Nutter puts it, "Greenworks Philadelphia is a vision for how Philadelphia can and should seize this moment, building on the assets of the city left to us by the past and creating a better future for ourselves, our children and generations to come." The real strength of Greenworks, consequently, is in the dimensions of city life that it covers. How do we get around town? Where does our food come from? What kind of energy does our street lights use? Where does the rain go when it hits the ground? Ultimately, the reader comes to understand that sustainability is a function of essentially ever feature of urban life, and Greenworks admirably tackles it all, funneling much of it through the lens of economic growth and prosperity, which are goals that most all citizens can get behind.
Creating a plan and especially implementing it require extensive coordination among the various municipal agencies controlling land use, buildings, and policies that affect the energy consumption of the City. In turn, rigorous measurements are required in order to track progress and show the public the progress that has been made. Ultimately, Greenworks' combination of lofty yet achievable goals and a strong commitment to measuring its progress place it in the upper tier of citywide comprehensive sustainability plans. As Van Jones, President Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, says, "Greenworks Philadelphia is an example of what cities and communities throughout this country can do to develop smart, green solutions on a local level."
History of Greenworks
The Greenworks project builds upon the 2007 Local Action Plan for Climate Change, which was formulated by the Philadelphia Sustainability Working Group. The Local Action Plan outlined a number of steps that the City of Philadelphia local government needed to undertake in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent in 2010. The majority of these protocols were implemented into the Greenworks project when the plan was issued in 2007.
The Greenworks plan is very explicit and specific about its objectives, which it organizes into 5 goals and 15 targets and 167 initiatives.Greenworks is a living document. Although the city leaders remain faithful to its overall structure, during the course of implementing Greenworks, they added 28 initiatives and removed 12. The goals span the breadth of contemporary "green" issues from the obvious (reducing energy consumption) to the less obvious (bring local food within 10 minutes of residents). The outline below summarizes the goals and targets:
Goal: Reduce vulnerability to rising energy prices by increasing energy efficiency and cultivating renewable energy sources
Lower city government energy consumption by 30% =1.62 trillion Btus saved by 2015
Reduce citywide building energy consumption by 10% = 12.9 trillion Btus saved by 2015
Retrofit 15% of housing stock with insulation, air sealing, cool roofs = 100,000 project by 2015
Purchase/generate 20% of electricity from alternatives = 2.93 million MWh in 2015
Results: Efforts will lead to decreased dependence on carbon-based energy sources, personal and commercial financial savings, and the creation of new businesses and new jobs
Goal: Reduce the city's carbon footprint, improving regional air quality, and diverting solid waste from landfills by adopting environmental standards, environmental technology and public incentives
Reduce Greenhouse gas emissions by 20% = 1.77 million tCO2eq avoided by 2015
Improve air quality towards attainment of federal standards = AQI "unhealthy" <20 days by 2015
Divert 70% of solid waste from landfill = 656,000 tons avoided by 2015
Results: Efforts will lead to a more environmentally-friendly, mitigating many of the environmental consequences typically associated with a thriving metropolis
Goal: Encouraging equitable access to healthy neighborhoods by creating park and recreation opportunities, making fresh, local food accessible and increasing tree coverage across Philadelphia
Managing stormwater to meet federal standards = 3200 green infrastructure acres by 2015
Providing park and recreation resources within 10 minutes of 75% of residents = 500 new acres by 2015
Bring local food within 10 minutes of 75% of residents = 86 new farms and markets by 2015
Increase tree coverage toward 30% in all neighborhoods in 2025 = 300,000 additional trees by 2015
Results: Efforts will lead to an increased equality of life in the cityand more equitable access to healthy neighborhoods
Goal: Promoting a competitive advantage with sustainability by increasing job opportunities, fixing infrastructure, and leveraging existing assets
Reduce vehicle miles traveled by 10% = 1.15 billion miles avoided by 2015
Increase the state of good repair in resilient infrastructure = 80% state of good repair by 2015
Double the number of low and high skill green jobs = 10,500 new green jobs by 2015
Results: Efforts will attract new residents and companies and promote an economic development strategy based on sustainability
Goal: Uniting Philadelphians to build a sustainable future
Partnering with neighborhoods and commissions to support the plan
Allowing public to track progress with annual reports
Making data available online for independent analyses
Results: Efforts will increase public awareness on the plan and unite Philadelphians for the ultimate goal of making Philadelphia the greenest city in the America
Through these specific goals and targets, Greenworks aims to raise the profile of sustainability issues within Philadelphia. The framers of the plan believe that while the city once looked obsolete, a relic of the Industrial Revolution, in fact the compact urban form, public transit system, and regional accessibility to natural resources make Philadelphia perfect for an energy-challenged future.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the plan was creating a methodology to frame the cluster of issues that are labeled "sustainability' and make them relevant to a city like Philadelphia, as well as to overcome negative perceptions of green issues as harmful to the economy (through regulations). The best way to address this challenge is through framing the issue. To that end, the plan argues that sustainability "is not just about preventing ice caps from melting or crops from drying up thousands of miles away, but about decreasing the cost of cooling a Southwark house in the summer or heating it in the winter; reducing the number of trips a mother in Oak Lane takes to the hospital with her asthmatic son; preventing sewage from backing up into a into a basement in Northern Liberties; and giving every child in every neighborhood a safe, clean, healthy place to play." In other words, it does not appeal to the relatively abstract concerns of polar ice caps, but to the direct and immediate experience of Philadelphians.
Additionally, from the beginning, the local city government understood that the policy was based around the economy. When certain practices and policies are encouraged that promote economic growth around sustainable activities, then they have the positive externality of helping the environment. Ultimately, Greenworks is about re-positioning Philadelphia from being a city of the past with a declining core to a city of future as a green jobs and green economy leader. This also helped make the plan more salient and relevant to Philadelphians.
Finally, adding another office to the city bureaucracy creates its own challenges, especially in terms of inter-agency cooperation. City agencies can be notoriously protective of their perceived "turf," and Greenworks requires the coordination of many agencies in pursuit of a common objective. The Deputy Mayor for Sustainability is the newest voice at the table of city politics and will have to overcome the entrenched political culture in order to accomplish the department's goals. In order to help ease this process, the Office of Sustainability has an advisory board with a mixture of people from various parts of the government (both local and national), from various advocacy groups, from different sectors (private/public), all with differing interests. Each has a different stake in the success of sustainability in Philadelphia and can provide unique insights to help move the Greenworks goals forward.
Quantitative measurements are the most salient aspect of Greenworks. Benchmarks provide accountability for all parties involved and encourage them to reach their targets on time. In order to come up with the 15 targets in the first place, the Greenworks planners determined a baseline figure based on the most recent data available. They then estimated where that target would be if nothing were done between now and 2015. Finally, a target was determined that seemed realistic based on hoped-for changes to improve that particular target area.
With the targets established, the plan provisions to track them rigorously through annual reports until 2015 – the year when all targets are supposed to be completed. The first annual report was released May 26, 2010 to detail the progress of these goals and all of them are on or ahead of schedule. The Office of Sustainability celebrated the first anniversary of Greenworks in a working class neighborhood near Temple University where many of the strategies that the plan proposes are already in place. By 2012 with the issuance of that year's Greenworks report, the halfway mark for the plan, the city reported that it had either started or completed 89% of the initiatives.
The 2012 Greenworks Update included
this graphic illustration of achievements.
At the top, the targets to manage stormwater to meet federal standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% are both at 60% complete after only one year. For the former, the Philadelphia Water Department's Green City, Clean Waters plan (internal link to other initiative) deserves the credit. For the latter, the City of Philadelphia is hard at work on an updated greenhouse gas emissions inventory in order to benchmark major emitters throughout the city. For example, the Philadelphia International Airport completed an inventory in 2009. Most importantly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a byproduct of almost every initiative that Greenworks promotes.
At the bottom of the list is retrofitting 15 percent of housing stock with insulation, air sealing, and cool roofs; bringing local food and park and recreation resources within 10 minutes of 75 percent of residents; and increasing the state of good repair in resilient infrastructure. They clock in at 25-31%. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (known as the stimulus bill) provided $30 million for weatherization, the funding only covered 550 homes. In a city with approximately 660,000 housing units, unfortunately that's a drop in the bucket. Reaching the 15% target means retrofitting almost 100,000 homes. Sheer numbers will make this a difficult target to reach. Increasing local food access (internal link to Food Deserts initiative) is slow but steady, as new community gardens and farmers markets take time to grow – literally and figuratively – and catch on with neighbors and customers. New park space also doesn't materialize in just one year, but will be abetted by the engagement process for developing Green2015: A Plan for 500 New Acres of Public Open Space (internal link to Parks and Rec initiative). Finally, repairing infrastructure in such a down economy is a challenge. While stimulus bill loans have helped and more than 1,275 city blocks were repaved in 2009, this target will require the economy to improve some in order to reach the goal on time.
Finally, the vast majority of targets sit in the middle, hovering between 40-55% range. Some are at a tipping point to grow faster, like reducing vehicle miles traveled by 10%. Currently almost halfway there at 47%, the success of the east-west bike lanes (http://www.bicyclecoalition.org/spinzone/spruce-pine) through Center City, coordinated by the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, is hopefully the harbinger of more safe bicycle routes throughout Philadelphia. For every target, the annual report indicates what is currently underway or planned to make sure the target is reached by 2015. They claim 44% progress to their goals in the first year – hence the claim that Greenworks is ahead of schedule – and an impressive 72% of the way there for making Philadelphia "the greenest city in America."
The genesis of Greenworks lies in Mark Alan Hughes (http://www.mahughes.org/), who was the first Director of Sustainability in the City of Philadelphia. He is now a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and a columnist on architecture for the Philadelphia Daily News. During Mayor Michael Nutter's mayoral campaign in 2007, Hughes served as chief policy advisor and authored a policy paper on sustainability. In mid-2008, the Nutter administration recruited Hughes to turn that paper into a reality by drafting Greenworks.
(http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/Nutter_Makes_Sustainability_Pick_Official.html) succeeded Hughes about a year later in July 2009. She was brought on board to oversee the implementation of Greenworks, which she has done with gusto as the annual report outlined above indicates. Her leadership task is a formidable one, as she must rely on the cooperation of all of her fellow deputy mayors, quasi-public entities like the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, major infrastructure like the airport and port, and a constellation of non-profit organizations. Her ability to manage the competing interests of these stakeholders will define the success of Greenworks' leadership.
Sustainability plans are a new trend in American urban policy and the specific model of Greenworks can absolutely be replicated in other cities in the U.S. or abroad. The most important ingredient is political will – a commitment from the mayor and the rest of the administration to assessing the city's current energy and environmental indicators, and then address them through concrete steps. Equally important is the benchmarking process. Any meaningful sustainability plan will be able to quantify the progress made over the course of the plan's engagement.
Civic Innovation: the creation of the new urban mechanics office and [anything else?] and large civic dialogues like the planning process for the Central Delaware
Social media and civic engagement: includes the texting program, [official title?], and open data initiatives
Greening the City: PHS's Philadelphia Green program, the PHS pop-up garden in center city, PHS's 1 million tree campaign, the Schuylkill river trail, race street pier (maybe not all of these, perhaps just focusing on PHS?)
For more than 30 years the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadelphia Green Program has used horticulture to build community and improve the quality of life in Philadelphia's neighborhoods and downtown public spaces.
The devastating effects of urban blight have become one of the most serious problems in Philadelphia for years.Residents in Philadelphia's low-income neighborhoods have struggled with its draining effects for years and have often sought out solutions on their own.Since the 1974, having seen the demand of a citywide solution to the overwhelming amount of vacant land, unattended gardens and draining problems, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society(PHS) founded Philadelphia Green, a program which uses greening as a tool for city regeneration and community revitalization.Currently, Philadelphia Green mainly emphasizes on the inadequate green infrastructure in Philadelphia and promotes comprehensive approaches in urban renewal.
Philadelphia Green originated from a small number of people who tried making use of several vacant lots in the City of Philadelphia to produce fresh food produce.However, the birth of Philadelphia Green was largely due to the unique complex of Philadelphia' history and culture. In fact, Philadelphia was considered the "Horticultural Mecca" of the country. Philadelphia has a tradition of horticulture which traced back to the Benjamin Franklin era. Further, the climate and soil conditions in the city are suitable for various kinds of plants. Secondly, like many other old cities in the U.S., Philadelphia experienced a decline in the second half of the 20th century.The moving-out of manufacturing to the South and residents to the suburbs emptied the city and resulted with large amount of vacant land. The phenomenon of deindustrialization had greatly affected the land-use pattern of the city. Thirdly, as the "northern most southern city", Philadelphia became the first stopping place for many people migrating from south to north.This is particularly evident through the growing and integrating of African and Puerto Rican cultures into the preexisting culture in Philadelphia. With such history and cultural background, the founding of Philadelphia Green became a natural result, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society finally made it realized.
With the aims to promote a comprehensive approach to revitalizing and maintaining the city's green infrastructure, Philadelphia Green puts this approach into action by partnering with local residents, community groups, government, and businesses.To gain sufficient funding for the program, Philadelphia Green cooperates with the acclaimed Philadelphia International Flower Show, which is the largest indoor flower show in the world which is held by PHS annually. All proceeds from the Philadelphia International Flower Show support Philadelphia Green, PHS's urban greening program.
Philadelphia's urban greening program touches many neighborhoods, turning abandoned lots into productive gardens. The PHS supports an interactive map of community gardens. (Source: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society we
Gardening Event, the Philadelphia International Flower Show Source: PHS Official Website
Daily Performances, the Philadelphia International Flower Show Source: PHS Official Website
To achieve a higher level of sustainability for the city, Philadelphia Green had launched the following initiatives in the past years:
Develop and preserve community green space;
Create green streetscapes;
Revitalize parks and public spaces;
Reclaim abandoned land;
Provide long-term landscape management;
Support open space planning; and
Build community capacity.
The main challenge Philadelphia Green confronts now is that the program is being heavily influenced by the downfall of economy. Funding remains a big issue. In tough times, the program may be short of supporting funds to maintain the various ongoing projects.Nevertheless, in the long run, Philadelphia Green will see brighter future because the improvement in city landscape will continue play a critical role in attracting people back to the city from suburbs, which is being viewed as a possible solution to numerous current urban issues resulted from suburbanization.
Philadelphia Green seeks diverse partners to reduce the risk of funding shortage in tough economic periods.Philadelphia Green also promotes the spirit of horticulture to larger audience to let more people understand that horticulture is not merely an enjoyment, but a necessary economic tool to raise surrounding property values by adding aesthetic value to the area.
The key goal of Philadelphia Green is to promote a comprehensive approach to revitalizing and maintaining the city's green infrastructure as a key element in urban renewal. To achieve this goal, Philadelphia makes efforts to:
Develop and preserve community green space
Create green streetscapes
Revitalize parks and public spaces
Reclaim abandoned land
Provide long-term landscape management
Support open space planning
Build community capacity
Philadelphia Green does not use measurements, indicators or metrics to measure its success because its achievement is based on diverse aspects and therefore hard to be quantified using single indicator/measurement.However, Philadelphia Green was recognized by receiving numerous awards and praise by the press. Here areseveral highlights:
Raise Property Value in Surrounding Areas
"A 9.5 % rise in property values within 1,000 feet of a community garden in disadvantaged communities within five years of the garden opening."- Vicki Beene& Ioan Viocu, "The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values," New York University, 2006
Increase Tax Revenue
"A $750,000 increase in tax revenue over a 20-year period of a community garden opening."- Vicki Beene& Ioan Viocu, "The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values," New York University, 2006
Help Reduce Crime
"Half the number of crimes committed in and around buildings near vegetation that did not hamper visibility compared to areas with no vegetation." According to a study of housing projects in Chicago as cited by National Geographic, 2006.
"Philadelphia Green, the community outreach program of PHS, was also recognized earlier in the month by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission for its success in transforming vacant lots throughout Philadelphia and older suburban communities into vibrant green open spaces."- June, 2007. Philadelphia Green works with different partners, including communities in Philadelphia, the city government, corporations, non-profit organizations, foundations and individuals.A large number of Philadelphia Green's projects are under the management of communities.The city government provides information and communication channels where as corporations, non-profits, foundations and individuals provide funding and other types of resources. Currently, Philadelphia Green is involved with six types of projects:
Philadelphia Green is committed to restoring the tree canopy in Philadelphia, partnering with the State of Pennsylvania's "TreeVitalize" initiative.
Source: PHS Official Website
Community Gardens and City Harvest
Philadelphia Green promotes health and nutrition, improves local economies, and allows neighbors to come together for a common interest through the more than 400 attractive community gardens in Philadelphia. Community gardens provide produce to city dwellers, and PHS's City Harvest project is a collaborative partnership that enables gardeners to share their bounty. Through City Harvest, inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System nurture vegetable seedlings that are grown to maturity at 30 participating community gardens.The nonprofit group SHARE (Self Help and Resource Exchange) helps connect gardeners with local food cupboards for distribution of the produce while the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania provides nutrition workshops and recipes to food cupboard clients.
Source: PHS Official Website
Center City & The Riverfront
Philadelphia Green's expertise in landscape construction and management make high-quality landscape possible at many iconic city locations (e.g. City Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Arts), treasured public space (e.g. Logan Square) as well as distinctive neighborhoods.
Source: PHS Official Website
Philadelphia has more than 100 neighborhood parks, each reflecting the history and culture of its neighborhood.Philadelphia Green works in partnership with community groups and city government to keep the parks in peak condition.
Source: PHS Official Website
Vacant Land Restoration
Philadelphia Green works hand-in-hand with community-based organizations and the City to transform vacant land, namely abandoned, trash-strewn land, into an asset for the community.By making the land more attractive, communities are better able to retain existing residents and businesses while attracting new ones.
Source: PHS Official Website
Vacant Land Management, Philadelphia Green Source: PHS Official Website
Philadelphia Green's commitment to the environment extends far beyond just parks and gardens.In recent years the Philadelphia Green staff has launched a variety of programs to tackle some of the city's toughest challenges, including pollution to both the air and water.Major projects include Stormwater Management, which targets the city's major drainage areas to address combined sewer overflow, and the green roof technology.
Philadelphia Green also provides educational offerings including Tree Tenders, Garden Tenders and Youth Programs.
As mentioned previously, the development of Philadelphia Green is largely from the city's own unique history and cultural heritage. For over 30 years, the PHS's Philadelphia Green program has served as both a catalyst and an advocate to transform the city through greening. In a partnership with governments, residents, and local organizations, Philadelphia Green has created a Green City Strategy that links greening to community redevelopment and thus creates a vibrant environment for new business, housing, and tourism. These efforts havegreatly contributed to the city's overall sustainability. The design principle of Philadelphia Green's projects is based on the notions of enhancing both urban qualities of life and levels of sustainability. One example is the Stormwater Management program which helps recycle water and receives recognition as one of the most acclaimed sustainable programs nationwide.
To thrive in today's economy, cities and regions must compete for jobs, residents, and visitors. Cities that offer quality-of-life amenities have a better chance for success. As in the case with the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Green's efforts in creating beautiful, tree-lined streets and well-maintained open spaces dramatically contribute to enhancing city residents' quality of life.
Philadelphia Green brings benefits to the physical environment.Parks and gardens—along with streets lined with trees and barrel plantings ("garden blocks")—help soften the hard angles of a city's built environment.They bring color and vitality to even the most troubled communities and help contribute to a sense of hope.Gardens and other communal spaces—ranging in size from a single rowhouse lot to an entire block—can act as havens for social interaction, bringing people out of their homes and into a shared space. Further, a garden provides an effective bridge for crossing racial, generational, and economic boundaries.
One key objective for Philadelphia Green is to enhance the city's levels of sustainability through its projects. The projects aim for a sustainable development course for the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Green is confident in making the city economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. As described and mentioned earlier, different projects come with different purposes but all of which lead to desirable outcome: making Philadelphia a better place to live in.
Philadelphia Green makes Philadelphia become a forerunner in using environment-friendly tools to revitalize the city.Through improving the city landscape, Philadelphia Green aids in the city's regeneration process and successfully transforms the once deteriorated urban land into a city with pleasant living space. As a result, the city becomes more adaptive to service-sector and the rising knowledge-based economy and thus attracting investors worldwide.
Without doubt, the numerous diverse projects initiated by Philadelphia Green have contributed to creating positive images and reputation for the city. One evident example is the initiative which emphasizes green roof technology. Green roofs offer big benefits to the environment. They absorb and retain large quantities of rainwater, reducing runoff that contributes to flooding. In addition, they filter pollution from rainfall and keep it from entering rivers and streams. In fact, just recently Philadelphia Green staff contributed to the design and installation of a green roof located at PECO headquarters in Center City.
PECO's Green Roof, Center City, Philadelphia
Source: PHS Official Website
Video: Volunteer Event: The Making and Maintaining of the Triangle Garden
Philadelphia Green has received increasing attention from cities in the U.S. and abroad. In 2009, the cities of Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came to learn how to manage Philadelphia Green's vacant land project.Some other cities may have adapted part of Philadelphia Green's projects and tailored them into their local conditions and environment.Philadelphia Green providesand shares valuable experience on the process of city revitalization through greenery.
In recent years, Philadelphia’s low-income neighborhoods have not only suffered significant residential disinvestment but also the loss of great numbers of food stores -- 34 of the city's supermarkets have closed. Smaller stores have also disappeared, leaving thousands of people unable to purchase food within a mile of their residences. While this phenomenon has manifested itself in inner city neighborhoods in Philadelphia, it has occurred in poor neighborhoods throughout the state. These areas are known as “food deserts,” and the goal of this Living Practice is to integrate fresh food alternatives into these “deserts.” Benefits generated by this Living Practice include an improvement of health from access to healthier food alternatives, as well as nutritional instruction initiatives by The Food Trust. They also include greater economic benefits brought in by job-creation and overall neighbourhood improvement that is brought about by investment
The response against the “food deserts” was led by three Philadelphia-based groups, the Food Trust (www.thefoodtrust.org), The Reinvestment Fund (TRF, www.trfund.com) and the Greater Philadelphia Urban Coalition. The solution is not dependent on one initiative, but the ongoing efforts of both public and private sectors. Although it was first noticed by private groups, such as the Food Trust, they obtained state support through representative Dwight Evans and the passing of the state’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative in 2004. (This is a public/private partnership funded with $30 million of state money, $120 million of private funding and federal new market tax credits.)
Fighting Food Deserts has led to many design projects aimed
at re-envisioning urban places to accommodate corner stores,
supermarkets, farmers' markets and storage facilities.
(Source: Infill Philadelphia http://infillphiladelphia.org/
Key achievements of this Living Practice so far include the building of 8 supermarkets and dozens of smaller food stores in the city and 81 stores and 4,800 jobs statewide. There is sustainable economic benefit to this initiative, as it provides not only access to food, but also generates employment in the areas reached. In order to be successful, there must be other smaller-scale initiatives to supplement and reinforce Fresh Food Financing Initiative. The major players in this initiative, primarily the Food Trust, has succeeded in jumpstarting other programs and projects with the same objective of increasing the provision of fresh food. These include the Farmer’s Market Program, which bridge the communication between Farmers and Urban centers, as well as School and Recreation Center Programs and serve to instruct students on healthy eating. Its Food Marketing Task Force initiative creates collaboration between leaders from the Supermarket industry, city government and the non-profit sector. Moreover, the Food Trust has created the Mid-Atlantic Food and Farm Coalition, which is a collaboration of people, businesses, and government agencies who try to improve the food and farming system. One method of doing this has been to increase urban food farming and community gardens. According to Professor Dominic Vitiello of the University of Pennsylvania, community gardens have generated over 5 million dollars in fresh produce over the last year.
Another main actor in this Living Practice is The Reinvestment Fund, which seeks the best social and economic return for invested capital into the “food desert” areas. The Reinvestment Fund and The Food Trust work as a coalition, while the TRF manages financing initiatives and public funds, The Food Trust is more focused on social initiatives. Therefore, the partnerships between Private and Public, financing and grassroots action – are at the heart of this Living Practice.
To measure its needs and successes, The Reinvestment Fund uses a variety of methods, including reports from Census and in-field surveys. Also, the USDA’s recently launched, Food Environment Atlas (http://www.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas) provides a good source for helping to identify needs in different areas. It is important to measure the density of affected areas, as well as access to public transport and income level to determine how difficult access to fresh food is. Once these steps are taken, the Reinvestment Fund can determine what are the best investments for each area: which are the ones that most need large-scale Supermarkets and which would gain from an increase in the variety of corner stores or the presence of a Farmer’s Market.
In terms of quality of life, the Living Practice, which deals with the eradication of “food deserts” has become indispensable to the communities it has assisted. As mentioned, the increased access to food, by way of supermarkets, community gardens or farmers’ markets has had positive influence on the health of residents. The access to healthy alternatives has been linked to a lower rate of obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. . As the Fresh Food Financing Initiative moves people away from unhealthy, packaged food to more organic fresh food, it is working to create more sustainable living. Moreover, the very nature of this practice includes a priority to sustainable development. While access to fresh food significantly decreases health risks, it also generates employment, a higher rate of which serves to improve the surrounding neighborhood. Furthermore, the Initiative looks to equip the supermarkets it develops with sustainable forms of energy. According to Patricia Smith, of the Reinvestment Fund, the supermarkets often purchase equipment that is energy efficient and sustainable.
The “food desert” problem is not unique to Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. In February 2010, President Obama released details of an over $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. This clearly demonstrates the impact that Philadelphia’s Living Practice continues to have, even at a federal level. However it remains important to note the success of this endeavor is due to the joint efforts of Public and Private spheres.
Clean City Green City
In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved
the City of Philadelphia's innovative green infrastructure plan.
Like many older cities in the United States, Philadelphia has a combined sewerage outflow system, one that collects rainwater and sewage. During times of heavy rain or snowfall, the treatment plants cannot handle the entire flow and sends it into the area’s rivers, thus polluting these waterways and placing the City in non-compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, a situation that carries heavy financial penalties. To address this problem, the city’s Water Department, under the leadership of Howard Neukrug devised an innovative plan, a 25 year, $3 billion plan. The Water Department anticipates spending more than half the budget on green infrastructure and adaptive management. It has allocated the remainder to new and upgraded treatment facilities. Its vision incorporates regional and citywide goals to conserve, rehabilitate and upgrade the area’s water supply.
Green City, Clean Waters has an ambitious
but realizable goals as seen in its
Green City Clean Waters, handles the runoff sustainably through watershed protection, installation of regional and city-wide green infrastructure(improved streetscaping, tree and vegetation planting, green roofs, daylighting streams, adding porous surfaces to city-owned spaces like school playgrounds) and instituting an impervious surface tax. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency entered into a partnership agreement with the city to engage in its implementation. Green City, Clean Waters Activities May 2012
Philadelphia is endowed with a large number of well-regarded anchor institutions – universities; hospitals; cultural institutions including museums, performing arts facilities and public libraries; and sports venues –it is one of the few American cities that hosts four major national sports teams (baseball, football, hockey and basketball). Not only do these anchor institutions enrich the lives of city and regional residents but also they provide ample employment and neighborhood/city development activities. For example, the University of Pennsylvania with more than 30,000 employees is the city's largest private employer. In the past decade, Penn has been an active community developer having implemented the prize-winning and much replicated West Philadelphia Initiatives (an extensive program of housing rehabilitation, commercial redevelopment, purchasing, educational support, greening, public safety and other activities) and is currently engaged in a second plan, Penn Connects, to link the university to the downtown, including a 24 acre park open to the public designed by noted landscape architect Michael von Walkenburgh.
Penn Park, opened in 2011,
links the university to the down-
town. It is a huge brownfields
reclamation project that sits on
a flood plain, thus requiring
massive clean-up and under-
ground infrastructure to support
the surface activities.
Other notable anchor institution activities include Temple University's developments in the North Philadelphia encompassed in its Temple 20/20 plan that aims to density its 105 acre campus and integrate it into the neighborhood more fully through construction and landscape projects and in the process rehabilitating the city's main avenue, Broad Street at the center of the University.In this effort is its most recent accomplishment is the adaptation of the area's abandoned 119 year old Baptist Temple, as the university's performing arts center.
Back in Center City, two arts and cultural districts are thriving. The first is the 3.5 mile long Avenue of the Arts centered on the Kimmel Performing Arts Center. Once the city's central office district, this avenue is now re-invented to heighten major city assets in music, theater and dance. A fully integrated cultural district, it hosts more the 37 cultural institutions including the Philadelphia Orchestra, several theaters, dance companies, galleries; educational institutions including the University of the Arts, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Community College of Philadelphia, Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University; hospitality facilities including more than 70 restaurants, 8 hotels and many retail stores.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (left) is one of the centerpieces of Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts, an important redevelopment effort designed to adapt the city's early 20th century commercial district to 21st century use.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (left) is one of the centerpieces of Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts, an important redevelopment effort designed to adapt the city's early 20th century commercial district to 21st century use.