With the possible exception of some token cynics whose continued presence here negates their moaning, we Philadelphians love our city.
Loyalists might like to note that despite its declining population, there’s evidence to indicate that it is on the road to becoming a hipster hot-spot. And it’s not just about the Real World either.
Philly is starting to make a name for itself; considering that it’s the 6th largest city in America, it’s really about time. Sure, we’ve earned a spot on the map with TastyCakes, cheese steaks, soft pretzels, high obesity rates and overzealous sports fans.
Nobody’s knocking that, but optimists among us aspire to an even more prestigious role in the national urban scene.
Economic and social trend writer Joel Kotkin confirmed this “comeback” in Knowledge-Value Cities in the Digital Age.
“Philly is finally benefiting from city-sponsored revitalization of its urban neighborhoods,” says a review by CoolTown Studios, a group dedicated to improving communities.
We’re on the upswing. We’ve got a downtown reinvigorated by an influx of residents, a slew of snazzy restaurants, and those neatly lighted A’s along the Avenue of the Arts.
Dusty old neighborhoods are becoming fashionable again, like Bella Vista and Northern Liberties. And as of this past summer, the Ben Franklin Parkway basks in 5.3 million dollars worth of mood lighting.
Given the new competition of mid-sized cities to draw young professionals, the new target group according to David Thornburgh of the Pennsylvania Economy League, the Parkway may be a pivotal point in upping Philadelphia’s productive headcount, namely young professionals.
“Demographers tell you that the people who are most likely to move are better educated, younger people ages 20 to 44,” Thornburgh said. “They move for jobs, education, and to take advantage of the vitality driven by the buzz associated by a particular place.”
The buzz right now comes mainly from the mosquitoes hovering around the new lights, but a walk around Logan Square reveals amazing potential for a nighttime pedestrian paradise. Its institutions already offer daytime attractions of the upscale variety.
The Art Museum currently holds a Friday night jazz cabaret and periodic concert events. It’s a high-brow haven, and then 10:30 rolls around and everyone heads home. And the Parkway lights blaze on.
Let’s be fair. The museum mile is decidedly more pedestrian-friendly with new sidewalks, traffic rerouting and crosswalks.
The institutions along it are reportedly more prepared than ever to cooperate and participate in bringing the Philly nightlife further west.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, $30 million in state capital grants have been designated for further development that “seeks to strike a balance between the idea of the Parkway as a park and as a Parisian boulevard.”
Yep, that sounds good. Think Parisian-style sidewalk cafes, independent art venues, and live music playing late into the night.
The Center City District, which oversees the development that has already provided lighting for walkways, buildings and statues, may have just that in mind.
Director Paul Levy told the Associated Press, “Cities have a limited number of really special places that can raise their national and international profile, and the Parkway has that potential for Philadelphia.”
The District’s Web site, www.centercityphila.org, outlines general plans that are very encouraging for anyone who has driven down the parkway and wished for an excuse to linger.
American City and County magazine suggests that “with illumination levels now double or even triple what they once were…more tourists and residents will spend time enjoying the attractions on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and at night.” That probably depends on those attractions materializing.
They could become Philadelphia’s ticket back into contention as a top urban destination.
The execution has been a little sluggish, but don’t lose heart Philadelphians, there may a light at the end of the Parkway.
Elizabeth Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.