On Tuesday, October 27th ULI Philadelphia and the Knight Foundation hosted a panel at WHYY of industry leaders in real estate, community development, and urban planning. A presentation of the ULI Survey’s findings preceded an hour long discussion around the question “what makes a great neighborhood.”
Keynote speaker Kathleen Carey, ULI National’s chief content officer, kicked off the event with findings from the America in 2015 survey. Expanding upon 2013’s survey, the findings showed that the majority of Americans (87%) were satisfied with the quality of life in their communities and were eager for the continued development of mixed-use and compact developments. By asking a diverse population sample from across the nation, America in 2015 provides a snapshot of the current landscape as well as indicates where various generations see themselves in five years’ time.
While the report reflected the progress communities have made, it is clear that some groups, such as Millennials, minorities, and low income residents, still have a level of dissatisfaction with their neighborhoods. They cited reasons such as low quality of environment, limited access to healthy food, and lack of access to public transit.
David Waxman, founder and managing partner of MM Partners and developer of Brewerytown, said the survey underscored his company’s attitude that Millennials want to live in mixed-use urban communities with easy access to local retail, health food, and green spaces. His firm is laser focused on how Philadelphia can attract and maintain its twentysomethings; “Millennials are the big story here; we’ve really been building for that market.” He also discussed how “Philadelphia is the number one place New Yorkers move to” due to rising costs of living, and believed that the city is on the right path to creating communities where Millennials would want to raise their families.
Brad Copeland, Executive Director of Mt. Airy USA, said his community has adopted many of the survey’s major findings, which has helped the area thrive. Mount Airy is “full of green spaces and parks” which “attracts generation x because it provides a welcoming environment for growling families.” While Mount Airy does an incredible job of bringing in older folks, Brad is hopeful that some new initiatives and developments, as well as already in place measures, will bring Millennials to the area to start and raise their families. Citing the “diverse communities” chart in the report (page 25), Brad discussed how one of his goals for Mount Airy is to have a diverse area, in terms of various age groups and backgrounds.
Tammy Leigh Dement, Associate Director, Civic Landscapes, at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, discussed how her organization has played a big role in the redevelopment of many local communities. Tammy outlined how the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has transformed vacant lots into beautiful and accessible gardens and parks which have drastically improved quality of life. Their success in eradicating food desserts and beautifying communities has led to many reaching out about starting their own urban garden initiative. She has also been thrilled with the enthusiasm for volunteering and how both those new to communities as well as those who’ve been residents all their life are “truly invested in the neighborhood’s continued success.”
Each panelist as well as keynote speaker Kathleen Carey brought a unique perspective to neighborhood building in Philadelphia and how the city can continue to thrive through new initiatives. For more details on this and future events check out ULI Philadelphia on Twitter.