University of Pennsylvania School of Design / Green 2015: Managing Equity & Opportunity

Professor Tom Daniels
Dept. of City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania

Andrew Goodman
AICP PennPraxis, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania


Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

In an urban setting, 500 acres of park space is a large landscape. The City of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation hired PennPraxis to develop a strategy for creating 500 additional acres of park space from 2011 to 2015. Especially important was identifying underserved neighborhoods in terms of their lack of access to park space.
Like the Single Large/Several Small debate in conservation biology, a large park and several small parks both have advantages. The primary purpose of the initiative is to identify many small parks that could be created from holdings of government agencies or abandoned lots.

Key Academic Disciplines 

Land Use Planning, Landscape Architecture, park and open space planning

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

City of Philadelphia, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Philadelphia Housing Authority, School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Industrial Corp., Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

Initiative History and Champions 

 Mayor Nutter was an early champion of the Greenworks sustainability plan for Philadelphia.  Michael DiBerardinis, the Parks Commissioner, was a strong supporter. Identifying the holdings of various government agencies and how they could be added to the park systems was critical. The private sector has created 45 acres of the first 100 acres of new park land under Mayor Nutter, which saved the city millions in acquisition and construction dollars.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

It’s an urban example of adding a significant number of acres to a city’s park space.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

 Qualitatively, the initiative has the potential to reclaim abandoned and underused sites and provide recreational opportunities and attractive green space in underserved neighborhoods. This kind of effort is essential for urban redevelopment. The 500 acre goal is well within sight and hopefully park expansion will continue after 2015. 100 acres of public green space have been constructed since Mayor Nutter took office in 2008, with 105 additional acres identified that have funding or staff time tied to their implementation. 

Transferability of the Initiative 

 Many government agencies do not understand the value of the land they or manage. A unifying vision and involving stakeholders early in the process are key.  Money isn't so much the issue, especially when dealing with abandoned properties.  The key in Green2015 is inter-agency communication so that departments with overlapping missions are combining existing resources toward the same goal.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

The initiative is likely to endure in the short run, as long as Mayor Nutter stays in office, and for decades if land is added to the city’s parks. 

Engagement Strategies 

Maps of underserved neighborhoods in terms of access to park land.