Elements of Urbanism: Philadelphia

June 3, 2010 22 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to one of America's most recent urban revitalization success stories, the City of Brotherly Love: Center City Philadelphia.

Tale of the Tape:

Philadelphia Population 2008: 1,540,351 (City); 5,968,252 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1701)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro - 2009) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Philadelphia (2,071,605)

City Land Area

Philadelphia: 127.4 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Philadelphia: +4.94%%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Philadelphia: 5,149,079 (ranked 4 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Philadelphia: 2,861.4
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Philadelphia: +22,801
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Convention Center (1993) - 541,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Philadelphia: Comcast Center - 975 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Philadelphia: Comcast (59), Sunoco (78), Cigna (129), Aramark (189), Crown Holdings (289)
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Philadelphia: Interstate 95 cuts Center City Philadelphia off from the Delaware River.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Philadelphia: Center City
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Philadelphia: 98 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over Philadelphia's land area.

About Center City Philadelphia

Center City, or Downtown Philadelphia, includes the Central Business District, and central neighborhoods of the City of Philadelphia. As of 2005, its population of over 88,000 made it the third most populous downtown in the United States, after New York City and Chicago. This number can rise to over 235,000 during the working hours due to the daily influx of commuters and tourists.

Penn's Landing

Penn's Landing serves as the site for several summertime events in the city. The main public space at Penn’s Landing is The Great Plaza, a mostly concrete labyrinth located along the Delaware River at Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Chestnut Street. Festival Pier at Spring Garden Street serves as a venue for outdoor concerts, also during the summer months. Plans are being developed for two casinos (with licenses granted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board) along the riverfront, with one being owned by the Planet Hollywood parent company.[1]

A number of historic ships are moored at Penn's Landing. The barque Moshulu is a floating restaurant, the World War II-era submarine USS Becuna and the Spanish-American War-era cruiser USS Olympia (C-6) are part of the Independence Seaport Museum, and the barquentine Gazela and tugboat Jupiter are moored there by the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild.

Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall is the seat of government for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 167 m (548 ft), including the statue, it is the world's second-tallest masonry building, only 1.6 feet (0.49 m) shorter[3] than Mole Antonelliana in Turin[4]. The weight of the building is borne by granite and brick walls up to 22 feet (6.7 m) thick, rather than steel; the principal exterior materials are limestone, granite, and marble.

It was the tallest habitable building (although surpassed by monuments) in the world from 1901 to 1908 and the tallest in Pennsylvania until 1932 when surpassed by the Gulf Tower. It remained the tallest building in Philadelphia until the construction of One Liberty Place (1984–1987) broke the informal "gentlemen's agreement" that limited the height of tall buildings in the city; it currently is the 15th-tallest building in Pennsylvania.

30th Street Station

30th Street Station is the main railroad station in Philadelphia. It is the heart of Philadelphia's passenger rail network with the exception of the Broad Street Line, for which the nearest station available is Suburban Station, and Routes 100, 101 and 102, whose terminus is located at the end of the Market-Frankford Line, 69th Street Terminal.

The Chicago-based architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White designed the structure, originally known as Pennsylvania Station–30th Street (as with other Pennsylvania Stations). The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its design was influenced by the Northeast Corridor electrification. This allowed the tracks to pass beneath the main body of the station without exposing the passengers to soot as steam engines of earlier times had.

The station itself also included a number of innovative features, including a pneumatic tube system, an electronic intercom, and a reinforced roof with space to allow the landing of small aircraft.

The station was opened in 1933, shortly after the peak of expansion by the former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which was headquartered in Philadelphia. It replaced Broad Street Station as the latter became too small to handle Philadelphia's growing passenger-rail traffic. The PRR sought a location on its main line between New York and Washington.

Broad St. Station was a stub-end terminal in Center City and through trains had to back in and then out again to continue on their journey. As Broad St. Station handled a very large commuter operation, an underground Suburban Station was built as part of the 30th St. Station project to handle it. Because of the Depression and World War II, Broad St. Station continued to operate until 1952. At that time, 30th St. Station took over all its operations.

The building is currently owned by Amtrak and houses many Amtrak corporate offices (although Amtrak is officially headquartered in Washington, D.C.). The 562,000 ft² (52,000 m²) facility features a cavernous main passenger concourse with ornate art deco decor. Prominently displayed is the Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial, a bronze statue which honors Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed in World War II. It consists of a statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war, and was sculpted by Walker Hancock in 1950. On the four sides of the base of that sculpture are cast the 1,307 names of those employees in alphabetical order.

When the station was renovated, updated retail amenities were added. They include several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Saxbys Coffee (formerly Bucks County Coffee), McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, and others. The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness starring Harrison Ford, and the 2010 videogame Heavy Rain.

Trains from SEPTA, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit serve this station. Amtrak intercity trains and NJ Transit's Atlantic City Line run through the station's lower level, while SEPTA Regional Rail lines serve the upper level. In addition, SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line (also known as the "El") and all of SEPTA's Subway-Surface Lines stop at the 30th Street subway station, less than 1/2 block (< 1/10 mile) from the southwest entrance to 30th Street Station. A tunnel connecting the underground subway station and 30th Street Station was closed due to crime and vagrancy concerns. A number of the SEPTA system's bus lines include stops at the station on their routes.

Amtrak owns and operates the Penn Coach Yard and Race Street Engine House equipment repair and maintenance facility at 30th Street.

The station is one of the busiest intercity passenger railroad facilities in the United States. In Federal Fiscal Year 2006, it had 3,555,646 Amtrak boardings plus alightings, making it the 3rd busiest Amtrak station in the U.S. It ranks behind New York Penn Station and Washington Union Station in Amtrak passenger volume. The station also has extensive local and regional passenger volume; it is one of SEPTA's three primary regional rail hubs. It is located within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, most notably the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in University City.

Many important highways and streets pass next to or near the station. Vehicles and taxicabs can easily access the station from various major routes, including Market Street (PA 3), Interstate 76 (more commonly known as the Schuylkill Expressway in the Philadelphia area), and Interstate 676 (more commonly known as the Vine Street Expressway in the city of Philadelphia).

Cira Centre, a 28-story glass-and-steel office tower opened in October 2005, is across Arch Street to the north and is connected by a skyway at the station's mezzanine level next to the upper-level SEPTA Regional Rail platforms. The tower is owned by Philadelphia-based Brandywine Realty Trust, was designed by architect César Pelli, and sits on land leased from Amtrak. César Pelli is best-known for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Because Amtrak's service to Newark Liberty International Airport is codeshared with Continental Airlines, the station has the IATA Airport Code of ZFV.

Comcast Center

The 58-story, 975 feet (297 m) tower is the tallest building in Philadelphia and the fifteenth tallest building in the United States. Originally called One Pennsylvania Plaza when the building was first announced in 2001, the Comcast Center went through two redesigns before construction began in 2005. Designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern for Liberty Property Trust, the Comcast Center was delayed as the developers tried to get the Center designated a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone. The designation would exempt tenants from most taxes for fifteen years as a way to encourage development in disadvantaged areas. Giving the Comcast Center the designation was supported by many state and city officials who hoped to keep corporations within Philadelphia, but was strongly opposed by other building owners who felt the building would have an unfair advantage in attracting tenants. Even though the bill was not approved in the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2004, Liberty Property Trust went forward with construction.

At the beginning of 2005, the final redesign and its new name the Comcast Center was unveiled. The building is named after its lead tenant, cable company Comcast, which makes the skyscraper its corporate headquarters. Leasing 1,094,212 square feet (100,000 m2), Comcast takes up 89 percent of the building. The building features retail and restaurant space and a connection to the nearby Suburban Station. In Comcast Center's lobby is the Comcast Experience, which is a 2,000 square feet (190 m2) high-definition LED screen that has become a tourist attraction. Designed to be environmentally friendly, the skyscraper is the tallest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in the United States.

Did You Know?  Robert A. M. Stern also designed Jacksonville's downtown Public Library.

Washington Square

Washington Square, originally designated in 1682 as Southeast Square, is an open-space park in Center City Philadelphia's Southeast quadrant and one of the five original planned squares laid out on the city grid by William Penn's surveyor, Thomas Holme. It is part of both the Washington Square West and Society Hill neighborhoods.

During the 18th century, the Square was used to graze animals and for burials by city's African American community and as a potter's field, much like the park of the same name in New York's Greenwich Village. During the Revolutionary War, the square was used as a burial ground for citizens and troops from the Colonial army.

After the Revolution, victims of the city's yellow fever epidemics were interred here, and the square was used for cattle markets and camp meetings. Improvement efforts began in 1815, as the neighborhoods around the square were developed and became fashionable. In 1825, the park was named Washington Square in tribute to George Washington and a monument to Washington was proposed. This monument was never built but served as the seed for the eventual tribute to soldiers of the Revolutionary War. The Curtis Building sits to the north of the park, a remnant of Philadelphia's publishing industry.

"It was in the air over Washington Square that Americans first witnessed flight. Aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard made the first balloon ascension in America from the Walnut Street Jail in 1793."

Walk! Philadelphia

Direction Philadelphia, a system designed to assist motorists, was developed by the Foundation for Architecture in the mid-1980s to eliminate dated and conflicting signs to major Center City destinations. A pedestrian-oriented system, Walk!Philadelphia was developed by the Center City District and Joel Katz design associates in the mid-1990s. The clear and attractive signs have been very successful in assisting residents and visitors alike in finding their way quickly and easily around downtown. In University City, their installation will assist the districtÍs residents, employees, students, and visitors in getting to transportation, healthcare, schools and universities, and arts and culture destinations. Direction Philadelphia signs are installed from the Schuylkill River to 63rd Street, and Walk!Philadelphia signs can be found from the river to 40th Street and in the area adjacent to the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall is a U.S. national landmark located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. Known primarily as the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted, the building was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House for the Province of Pennsylvania. It became the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783 and was the site of the Constitution Convention in the summer of 1787. The building is part of Independence National Historical Park and is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the most prominent symbols of the American Revolutionary War. It is a familiar symbol of independence within the United States and has been described as an icon of liberty and justice.

According to tradition, its most famous ringing occurred on July 8, 1776, to summon citizens of Philadelphia for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Historians today consider this highly doubtful, as the steeple in which the bell was hung had deteriorated significantly by that time. The bell had also been rung to announce the opening of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775.

The Liberty Bell was known as the "Independence Bell" or the "Old Yankee's Bell" until 1837, when it was adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society as a symbol of the abolitionist movement.

The Schuylkill River Trail, which generally follows the river bank, is a multi-use trail for walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, and other outdoor activities. The trail presently runs from Philadelphia, through Manayunk to the village of Mont Clare, the latter are the locations of the last two remaining watered stretches of the Schuylkill Canal. There is also a section of trail starting at Pottstown and running upriver toward Reading. Plans are underway to complete the trail from the Delaware River to Reading.

The Schuylkill River is very popular with watersports enthusiasts. The Dad Vail Regatta, an annual rowing competition, is held on the river near Boathouse Row, as is the annual Bayada Regatta, featuring disabled rowers from all over the continent.

10 Year Tax Abatement Program Turns Center City Around

Philadelphia in the mid-1990s was like New York City two decades before it, a city in need of reclamation. People were leaving at a rate of 1,000 a month, and there were worries it might become the "next Detroit," hollowed out by suburban flight and job losses.

Then, 10 years ago, Philadelphia approved tax breaks on offices and hotels that were converted into condos. The builders and subsequent unit owners still had to pay property taxes on the old value of the property, but the improvements would be tax-free for 10 years. In 2000, the abatement was extended to new commercial and home construction, not just conversions.

What followed was a residential construction boom unrivaled by any period in the city's history, except for the antebellum era, when Philadelphia's housing stock grew in order to accommodate rapid post-Civil War population growth. The city now has close to 4,000 separate housing units under abatement -- $15 million penthouse condos, $500,000 luxury condos, entry-level condos and all styles of condominiums in between, not to mention new single-family homes in the outlying areas such as Manayunk.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07070/768560-28.stm#ixzz0nIEIFWYX

Philadelphia experienced steady growth between 1860 and 1950, except for a brief lull in 1930, which was due in part to the Great Depression. Its population peaked at 2,071,605 in 1950. Between 1950 and 2000, the city lost 554,055 people, or 26.7% of its population. To put this into perspective, Chicago lost 20.0% of its population during the same era, and Baltimore lost 31.4%, according to US Census data. This nationwide trend is often referred to as "white flight" because upper- and middle-class families, enabled by nationwide improvements to infrastructure, left cities in favor of their surrounding suburbs.

Estimates predict that the city will experience population growth slightly before or after 2010. These estimates and the reasons behind them are sources of great debate. Possible reasons for the turnaround include increases in immigration from foreign countries (especially from countries like India, South Korea and Mexico) and migration from more expensive cities in the Northeast Corridor. Both wealthy transplants and Asian American investors from New York City have received media attention for setting their sights on Philadelphia.[4][5][6] The ten-year tax abatement, a historically undervalued housing market, improvements to the waterfront, and continuing redevelopment throughout the city are thought to be factors drawing people to the area.

The Subway–Surface Trolley Lines are five SEPTA trolley lines that operate on street-level tracks in West Philadelphia and Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and in a shared subway with rapid transit trains in Philadelphia's Center City.

Like Boston's Green Line and San Francisco's Muni Metro, the SEPTA Subway-Surface line is the descendant of a pre-World War II streetcar system; however, Boston and San Francisco's systems use longer, articulated LRT vehicles, whereas Philadelphia uses vehicles closer in size to classic PCC streetcars.

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn or UPenn) is a private research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and is one of several institutions that claims to have been the first university in America. Penn is a member of the Ivy League and is one of the Colonial Colleges.

Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder, advocated an educational program that focused as much on practical education for commerce and public service as on the classics and theology. Penn was one of the first academic institutions to follow a multidisciplinary model pioneered by several European universities, concentrating multiple "faculties" (e.g., theology, classics, medicine) into one institution. Penn is today one of the largest private universities in the nation, offering a very broad range of academic departments, an extensive research enterprise and a number of community outreach and public service programs. Penn is particularly well known for its medical school, dental school, business school, law school, social sciences and humanities programs and its biomedical teaching and research capabilities. Its undergraduate programs are also among the most selective in the country.

In FY2009, Penn's academic research programs undertook more than $730 million in research, involving some 3,800 faculty, 1,000 postdoctoral fellows and 5,400 support staff/graduate assistants. Much of the funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health for biomedical research. Penn tops the Ivy League in annual spending, with a projected 2009 budget of $5.542 billion. In 2008, it ranked fifth among U.S. universities in fundraising, bringing in about $475.96 million in private support.

Photographs by Daniel Herbin