PCDC Planning Committee Member becomes a Citizen Planner

PCDC Planning Committee Member becomes a Citizen Planner

Annually, PCDC sends one planning committee member to the Citizens Planning Institute to take part in a seven-week course on city planning, zoning, and development. This year, Joe Lee, an MPA candidate studying at the University of Pennsylvania speaks about his experiences at CPI.

Why did you apply for the Citizens Planning Institute?
I applied to CPI to be a better advocate for the neighborhood I live in and learn concretely how everyday citizens fit into the formal planning and development process.

What are some key takeaways that you got from your CPI experience?
Talking to politicians, city officials, developers, lawyers, and architects on new or existing development projects doesn’t have to be a daunting process. CPI not only gave me the tools to speak the industry vernacular but revealed how each player fits into the overall development and planning process. It was especially empowering to know where and how everyday citizens fit into the equation and to realize Philadelphia residents can play a significant role in it.

Additionally, CPI impressed upon me that proactive planning policies, such as neighborhood plans, allow community groups to better preserve their unique assets, thwart adverse development, and promote a compelling vision for the neighborhood’s future. Visualizing and spelling out that future through a concrete plan has the best potential to resonate with developers and locally elected leaders alike.

What was the most rewarding aspect of CPI?
My CPI cohorts came from all corners of Philadelphia. I enjoyed getting to know them and hearing about how they tackled the unique challenges facing their communities–and they really are different. Some faced the prospect of massive development while others wanted to create strategies to entice more retailers and residents to come into their neighborhoods. Their stories definitely made my CPI experience more impactful.

Through CPI, I also got to think about what I wanted to see for Chinatown’s future. My final project focused on making tactical interventions in the neighborhood to provide more greenery (flowers, plants) in heavy pedestrian traffic areas. Doing research, I got to learn a lot about previous efforts to “green” Chinatown as part of previous neighborhood plans.