What Philadelphia can learn from its history of citizen-led park projects - Generocity Philly

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Jul. 5, 2016 9:15 am

What Philadelphia can learn from its history of citizen-led park projects

SPOKE and PlanPhilly explore the past and present struggles of getting resident-driven developments like the Schuylkill River Trail off the ground in the face of bureaucracy.

Schuylkill River Trail-blazin'.

(Photo by Flickr user Tom Ipri, used under a Creative Commons license)

Repurposing public space is all the rage, but it’s not an easy process for citizen-led projects in cities draped with bureaucratic red tape.

Over at SPOKE magazine (which, btw, has a beautiful new site), PlanPhilly transportation reporter Jim Saksa took a look at the history of resident-driven projects in Philadelphia, including the struggles coalitions and organizations have had getting those projects off the ground in the face of bureaucracy and how the development of those local projects compare to counterparts in peer cities.

The reason why projects like the Schuylkill River Trail and the Grays Ferry Triangle take longer than similar projects in cities like Chicago and New York, Saksa writes, is that those cities don’t have a process that allows groups and individuals the opportunity to veto a project.

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Saksa offered some advice to citizens looking to turn their idea for a public project into reality: Show your worth as soon as possible, create alliances and get yourself some funding.

“To win over elected officials and city agencies, successful local projects demonstrated value early on, promoting a compelling vision through imaginative renderings and on-site activities,” Saksa writes. “They built large coalitions, identifying natural allies — like running and cycling groups for the trail — and soliciting financial support from Philadelphia’s philanthropic purses. Perhaps most importantly, they then approached city officials as potential partners.”

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