For this urbanite: no cheating with a suburb

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2011 by urbanpros

The Sustainable Cities Collective has posted a Self-Affirmation Guide for Urbanites that’s helping me to stay the course as a confirmed and happy city-dweller, in spite of the shards of wood cornice still falling off the building next door and yes, those annoying little Ziploc bags lurking on our stoop.

I can tick off each entry in the Collective’s checklist of “optimizing human experience” characteristics of urban residency with my own such experience in Philadelphia :

•  Chances for knowledge transfer, informal and formal – we just met some really smart and interesting folks at a Kimmel Center event marking the upcoming opening of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (@PIFAphilly), and this morning I got a good dose of new knowledge at the monthly Design Advocacy Group meeting at the Center for Architecture.

•  Culture available on a grand scale – we can be in our seats for the Philadelphia Orchestra at the aforesaid Kimmel Center after a seven minute walk from home.  I need say no more.

•  Smart people attracted to centers of learning and political power – I have to say I get less pleasure from the huge lighted JEFFERSON sign looming over Washington Square West than I do from the neat and varied, place-based graphics marking University of the Arts locations in the neighborhood.  But the braininess surrounding us all the time is palpable and wonderful.

•  Density = reduced carbon footprint – best thing we ever did was to ditch the car and join Philly Car Share two years ago, SEPTA’s sudden cancellation of my train this morning, after a forty minute wait for its “on time” alter ego, notwithstanding.

Urban life, even in Philadelphia, can sometimes be maddening, certainly.  My husband’s small creative business in Center City would thrive and create still more jobs were it not for the infernal Business Privilege Tax.  You go, Mayor Nutter!  The falling ice, crumbling cornice, peeling paint and general shabbiness of the empty and mostly boarded up building next door is a constant irritant.  (Although I heard at this morning’s DAG from speaker John Kromer that, of the 553 vacant houses he inventoried in 1998 in Southwest Center City, all but 49 were renovated and occupied by 2008, so things are getting a lot better.  For some neighborhoods.  See John’s candidacy for Sheriff, by the way.)  The Community Design Collaborative, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is connecting more young design and planning professionals with more communities, empty industrial sites and other neighborhood strengthening opportunities than ever before.  Great balloons, guys.

Thanks to Next American City and the Sustainable Cities Collective, I can confirm that there’s really no chance that I’ll be cheating with a suburb.  For one thing, it seems they don’t age well, and I’m too old to try to keep finding ever younger ones.

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