It's been a banner year for urbanism in the City of Brotherly Love.
A West Philadelphia project led The New York Times' piece on brownfields redevelopment today, and a new report released this week finds that the city's community development corporations are cleaning up blight, rehabbing houses, and adding millions to Philadelphia's tax base.
Yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) officially launched a city Office of New Urban Mechanics dedicated to city innovation and problem-solving. "New Urban Mechanics will have the flexibility to experiment, the ability to re-invent public-private partnerships and the strategic vision to create real change for Philadelphia. I am excited to establish the Office of New Urban Mechanics as a civic innovation tool for urban transformation," Nutter said in a statement.
Like a lot of "urban innovation" initiatives these days, that is really vague! It could encompass everything from apps for tracking and fixing potholes to brainstorming around some of Philadelphia's big projects still in the works.
One big project: a bike share! Philadelphia wants to get one rolling. From the local CBS affiliate:
The city envisions getting a business plan together by next spring, then selecting a vendor, with the first bikes hitting the streets in 2014.
“We will need $3 million of city capital money,” says deputy mayor for transportation Rina Cutler, “then we hope to raise an additional five or six million in federal, state, and private funds.” ...
Cutler says they’re still working out how users will pay for the bicycles. Credit or debit cards might ensure that the bikes don’t get stolen, but she says they also want to figure out a cash model or cell-phone technology for payment that shows up on your phone bill, so they don’t eliminate low-income users.
Or the office could help set up a new city land bank to fight blight and grow Philadelphia's urban core. In October, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a bill paving the way for a Philly land bank. A recent surge in demand for central city housing has motivated the city -- with its 40,000 vacant lots -- to establish the bank. But there's no telling yet if the bank will give preference to big developers or small nonprofits, or put everyone on a level playing field.
Things are looking great for Philadelphia! Except maybe (maybe!) when it comes to the city's burgeoning urban agriculture scene. This summer, the city approved new zoning rules that acknowledge upwards of 350 community gardens and farms spread across 753 different parcels. From Next American City: