The New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2015” ranked Philadelphia as the third-best travel destination in the entire world earlier this month. Not too surprisingly, the city’s new recognition was not received rosily by some of the urban population, as negative comments are strewn all over public forums, like media outlets including Philadelphia Magazine. However, pride, not disbelief, should be expressed by all who reside in Philadelphia because of the positive direction the city is heading.
A collective disapproval of Philly’s ranking may be detrimental to the city’s image. Those who claim that the title was undeserved are most likely just citing common issues like overpopulation, pollution and crime. Residents, temporary or not, who joined in on the negative commentary, are basically harnessing a derogatory perception of their own neighborhoods. Furthermore, they have overlooked the city’s efforts to become a better place.
The Philadelphia Tribune reported in December that Philadelphia has spent $8.5 million on city projects since January 2013. These projects range from riverfront development, like the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, to the skyline, which will change with the construction of the 1,121-foot Comcast Innovation and Technology Center looking down on the 974-foot Comcast Center. Businesses will be able to flourish in University of Pennsylvania’s upcoming Pennovation Center and South Philly’s Navy Shipyard.
More importantly, initiatives on improving public transit have increased over the past few years, resulting in parklets, the bike share program, and Transit First. The city is making an effort to accommodate all who step foot within its boundaries. Philadelphia, described by The New York Times as an “urban outdoor oasis,” now seems more attractive because of its unremitting surge in various developments; but, the success of the city lies in its brand and the community who contributes the most to it. Consequently, a negative attitude toward Philadelphia will only bring it down.
Somewhat of a social phenomenon, a city brand is based on the perceptions of its target audience: tourists and residents. From slogans on mugs to recognizable stereotypes, cities all over the world compete with each other to have the most favorable and familiar identity. For instance, the modern-day branding of New York City can be traced from its fiscal crisis of the late 1970s, a period known for soaring crime rates, civil dissent, local disintegration, and strikes.
This made the city an unattractive place to live and work in, therefore hitting its economy with a hard blow. New York City did not really pay any mind to its impression on potential visitors until the 1970s. When the city finally did, it attentively cultivated a public image of being hip, professional, and tourist-friendly, as compared to its previous one of being a working-class city. It is crucial that Philadelphia stays ahead of the game as civic pride and an increase in tourism can provide socio-economic rewards.
These goals are ultimately achieved when Philadelphia caters to its community. Local efforts bring small, positive changes that may improve people’s daily surroundings. Urban revitalization programs like the Mural Arts Program, which promotes artistic expression on an urban canvas, the Orchard Project, where volunteers gather to grow local produce and Shared Prosperity, whose aim is to combat poverty, along with many more programs encourage the community to give back to the city.
Those pursuing post-secondary education also benefit. Colleges reach out to thousands of students every year for an invaluable experience in an extremely diverse setting. Internships exclusive to Philly, reliable public transportation to almost everywhere and opportunities for any interest have added to its appeal.
Through its city branding, Philadelphia sells itself not only as a worthy stop on travel to-do lists but as a great place to establish a home, in order to become the superior urban area. Since Philadelphia is now recognized as one of the best destinations in the world, it should be accepted by its own population as such. Appreciate Philly for its eclectic mix of culture and attractions, and many will flock to the City of Brotherly Love with the hope to be intertwined in its magic, too.
Diana Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org