Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues (PFSNI) is an organization of Penn employees who reside in neighborhoods that border Penn's campus. It recently released the following report on priorities for action by the University regarding these neighborhoods and forwarded it to Interim President Claire Fagin, Interim Provost Marvin Lazerson, Executive Vice President Janet Hale, Dr. Ira Harkavy, Director of the Center for Community Partnerships, and Trustees Chairman Alvin Shoemaker. Comments or questions on this report may be sent to: PFSNI Steering Committee c/o Dr. Richard Shell, Legal Studies, 2112 SH/DH 6369; fax 573-2006.
Priorities for Neighborhood Revitalization: Goals for the Year 2000
With crime, poverty, trash, homelessness, panhandling, and decline of the built environment encroaching upon their campuses, urban universities across the United States are recognizing that they must embrace and revitalize their surrounding communities or risk failure of their educational and research missions. The various threats of urban life, real or perceived, are causing students, faculty, and staff to consider carefully their commitments to urban life in and around major urban campuses. In response, colleges and universities are implementing major neighborhood revitalization projects as a way of reassuring these constituencies of their long-term interests in these vulnerable areas.
The University of Pennsylvania is no exception to this trend. As Penn moves toward the year 2000, it is clear that without stable, viable neighborhoods in the areas immediately north and west of the University, Penn faces a cycle of decline that will be difficult to reverse. The fates of Penn and its surrounding communities are thus inextricably intertwined: it is in the University's institutional self-interest to work towards neighborhood revitalization in both University City and, by extension, West Philadelphia as a whole. Moreover, severe financial limitations placed on Philadelphia's city government make it incumbent on Penn, as the empowered player in these areas, to take a leadership role in mobilizing resources for revitalization. The University has done much in this field in the past, but it must do more, and do it with renewed energy and focus, if it is to meet the challenge of survival beyond the year 2000.
Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues (PFSNI) is an organization drawn from the over 4000 Penn people who reside in these neighborhoods. Its goal is to help the University focus and apply its considerable resources to preserve and sustain these neighborhoods for generations of Penn people to come. In April 1993, over 500 Penn faculty and staff signed a petition calling for Penn to make "the well-being of the communities surrounding the University among the highest priorities of the institution over the next ten years." This document gives that priority meaning by calling for specific action and inviting further discussion and dialogue. Most of all, it seeks a cooperative, mutually sustaining relationship between Penn and those members of the Penn "family" who live, work, and raise their families literally within the shadows of the University's core campus. If the University is to retain the confidence of this important constituency, it must act decisively to implement the action steps set forth in this Plan.
Executive Summary: Four Steps Toward Viable Penn Neighborhoods
If faculty and staff choose to live in Penn's neighborhoods, varied types of faculty/student interaction outside the classroom become possible and the psychological size of the University shrinks - thus leading to the type of Penn community everyone wants. Penn must take the following four immediate steps to maintain the confidence of faculty and staff residents.
1. Leadership in Residence
As a symbol of commitment, Penn's leaders should reside either on campus or in the local neighborhood. President Hackney started a tradition in this regard by residing at 3812 Walnut Street-a tradition that Interim President Fagin has wisely followed. The practice of community residence must be expanded to include a home for the Provost. Candidates for these offices should understand that residence is an important dimension of these leadership positions.
2. Enhanced Public Education in University City
Recognizing that the foundations of a community are its families, Penn's Center for Community Partnerships and Graduate School of Education should immediately undertake a major, comprehensive initiative to assist the Wilson School at 46th Street and Woodland Avenue to become one of Phil-adelphia's finest public elementary schools. Such a school is crucial if Penn's families are to choose its neighborhood as a place to live and raise children.
3. Increased Staffing and Coverage by Penn's Police
The issue of crime, both real and perceived, dominates many people's thinking about Penn's neighborhoods. The Penn Division of Public Safety must increase its staff so that an additional five police officers can patrol Penn's neighborhoods twenty-four hours per day. Additionally, the Penn patrol area must be expanded to include areas where faculty and staff live beyond 43rd Street.
4. Faculty and Staff Residents on Penn Committees
Too often in the past, faculty and staff who live far from the University campus have been charged with recommending how Penn's scarce resources for community enhancement should be allocated. To enhance communication and increase the likelihood of wise decision-making, Penn's central administration must appoint faculty and staff from Penn's neighborhoods to the Penn committees that deal with issues affecting the community's quality of life. Furthermore, Penn must aggressively promote these neighborhoods as places for new faculty and staff to live.
Further Goals for the Year 2000
In the pages that follow, PFSNI details its priorities and goals for neighborhood revitalization. In addition to the steps listed in the Executive Summary, PFSNI calls for:
The Policy Priority:
A Coherent Planning Process and a Long-Term Visible Commitment by Penn
The PFSNI Models Committee has engaged in a year-long process of research, study and discussion to determine what Penn can learn from the experience of other urban universities struggling with problems similar to those faced by Penn and its neighboring communities. The following is a list of ideas and recommendations for further study based on our findings.
Action Steps Required to Implement the Policy Priority
1. Penn must engage in a long-term, comprehensive policy and planning process for revitalization in University City and greater West Philadelphia. This planning process must address immediate as well as long-term needs of the community. In its investigation of other universities, the PFSNI Models Group discovered a useful model of comprehensive planning involving Wayne State and the city of Detroit. This planning process involves the institutions within a specific geographic area and addresses the comprehensive needs of community revitalization. In addition, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the "Birmingham Compact" is an example of multi-institutional planning that involves private and public groups jointly identifying education, health and environmental issues of concern. Finally, The University of California, Berkeley is currently involved in a planning process to deal with many of the same issues that Penn faces in West Philadelphia. We recommend that these models of comprehensive planning be used at Penn in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia. Furthermore, we believe that the cross-fertilization of ideas between our institution and other universities involved in comprehensive planning would enhance the process for all. A conference hosted by Penn and attended by representatives from these and other universities would be a useful way to initiate this process.
2. Penn should launch a comprehensive initiative in the area of housing development. The Models Committee identified and reviewed various examples of university-initiated development that can serve as guides. Fordham University in the Bronx and Marquette University in Milwaukee have both embarked on aggressive campaigns which include the targeted purchase and development of properties to insure the stability of neighborhoods. One of the best ways to insure neighborhood stability is through home ownership. Therefore, properties owned and purchased by the University should be renovated in such a way as to make them attractive options for purchase by members of the Penn community. Zoning changes would allow larger homes to be divided in such a way as to create an owner occupied unit with a single-tenant unit to provide income. Income generated by this tenant unit would provide an added incentive for Penn personnel to move into the neighborhood. Another option is to promote investment in the community through development of condominium or cooperative apartment complexes.
3. Penn also needs to maintain, upgrade and promote existing mortgage programs to encourage members of the Penn community to live in University City. In addition to mortgage programs, other incentives may be necessary to generate interest, including lease-purchase arrangements and a revolving loan fund for housing purchases and local commercial development. A model of a revolving loan fund has been developed by Fordham University where all residents within the community can obtain low interest loans for the purchase of homes.
The development of off-campus student living arrangements through the use of the existing housing stock in University City should also be considered as a possible step in revitalizing the community. The University of Maryland at Baltimore provides a model for this type of development, where a row of deteriorated buildings was converted into a graduate housing complex.
4. Penn also needs to reevaluate its role with regard to economic development within the West Philadelphia region. No community can thrive if jobs are not provided and its consumer and social needs are not met. With the closing of Marty's, Penn lacks a general merchandise store which is a necessity in any community. Light industry and commercial development would provide jobs and services needed in this area. Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute provides an excellent model of university-initiated economic development. Working in partnership with major corporations, Brooklyn Polytechnic stimulated the development of a major urban financial center within its campus.
The Committee applauds the Penn Purchasing Department in its efforts to promote economic development in West Philadelphia through the use of Penn's institutional purchasing power. Using this concept and building on models provided by the Greater Boston and Washington D.C. areas, Penn should evaluate cooperative procurement arrangements with the other local institutions as a way of expanding this process. Boston area institutions also supply a positive model of the joint development of athletic/recreational facilities. PFSNI recommends that Penn evaluate this concept in cooperation with its neighboring institutions.
5. Retail and entrepreneurial enterprises must be developed in such a way as to create "a heart" for the neighborhoods where students and residents meet while shopping. For example, Baltimore Avenue, from 45th to 50th Street, could be returned to its original role as a "Main Street" to meet the retail needs of the community. Recent development along Lancaster Avenue in Powelton Village provides an excellent example of the type of development desired. The area around 40th and Locust could also be developed in such a way as to promote a "University atmosphere" providing for the casual interaction of faculty, students and staff. The types of establishments envisioned in this setting include: a cafe/coffee house, restaurants, pubs, bookstores, newsstands and a poster shop. Night spots, sporting goods and flower stores and movie theaters that run international and classic films would also be positive additions to the area. The 3400 block of Sansom provides an excellent model of the type of development that would enhance this area just west of campus.
Retail studies done for Penn by Professor Alan Levy in the early 1980's provide the groundwork for the type of development sought by PFSNI. The establishment of a revolving loan fund would assist in the development of an entrepreneurial business climate necessary to meet consumer needs of the student population and the broader Penn community.
Other types of retail and commercial development in areas further from campus must also be addressed. Evaluation of the retail needs of the permanent members of the West Philadelphia community is imperative as the University seeks to establish new retail centers and community gathering places.
6. The existence of open/green space enhances the quality of life for those who live and work in West Philadelphia. Therefore, Penn, in conjunction with the City of Philadelphia and its neighboring communities, should work to develop new, and preserve existing, green spaces. Both the University of Alabama and Columbia University provide strong models of university intervention in the creation and preservation of green spaces and city parks for community use.
7. The adaptive reuse of existing structures that are historically, architecturally or culturally significant should be pursued by Penn in conjunction with its neighbors. The model of SUNY-Buffalo providing assistance to develop a community center and school in an abandoned church should be considered by Penn as an example.
In closing, we believe that the establishment of a cosmopolitan atmosphere within and bordering the campus would substantially upgrade Penn's local and international appeal as its students and faculty continue to diversify.
The Education Priority:
A Viable Public School Alternative within the Local Neighborhood
The PFSNI Schools Committee sees as its ultimate charge the creation of desirable local public schools for Penn faculty and staff who reside in University City and neighboring areas. Without this, the stability of our neighborhood is jeopardized as families flee the area in pursuit of better schools located in the suburbs. The focus of the Committee has been on primary education and on University City because Powelton Village already has a viable public elementary school, the Powel School.
The Committee developed a short questionnaire that was published in both the Compass and the Almanac, as well as circulated at a PFSNI meeting on March 26, 1993. Of the forty-seven responses received, thirty-one indicated that yes, they are interested in good public schools in the University City area and no one answered "no" to the question "Would you send your children to a local school if it were satisfactory?"
Our questionnaire revealed other interesting points. One question asked if parents had applied to transfer their children to the Powel School, the one public school in this area that faculty and staff consider to be satisfactory. Twenty people answered "yes," and of those 20, five had been denied permission to transfer. This information reinforces our belief that parents are interested in local public education and that Powel is perceived as a desirable option. However, it is increasingly difficult to have children accepted for transfer to this particular school, as well as to the Greenfield School, a good public school located at 24th and Chestnut Streets (three parents mentioned applying to the Greenfield School). The question the Committee has asked itself is whether we can extrapolate from the 45% of respondents who applied for transfers to out-of-boundary schools that Penn faculty and staff want quality public schools in University City. Our answer is an unqualified "YES!" The survey and the tenor of the PFSNI group have convinced us that there is a demand for viable public schools in University City.
Action Steps Required for Viable Public Schools
A. Immediate Steps
The Committee has targeted the Wilson School at 46th Street and Woodland Ave. to be the first school that Penn, PFSNI, and neighborhood organizations will work together to improve. After a survey of existing schools, the Committee determined that the Wilson School represented the most exciting, proactive program on which to build an innovative model of public education. To do so, we will need to get as much help as possible from Penn. In particular, we will:
The Committee is focusing both on helping the school to make education at Wilson as exciting as possible, as well as on encouraging parents concerned about quality education to send their children there. We will consult with the principal at Wilson, the Home and School Association, and the Governance Council as we work out a public relations program for this. It is essential to the perception of Wilson as a viable and desirable option that we encourage a core group of parents to be pioneers in this neighborhood public school.
B. Long-Term Steps: Toward the Year 2000
The Committee believes that the Middle Years Alternative School (MYA) at 47th and Chestnut offers the same exciting education possibilities, for grades five through eight, as the Wilson School offers for K through fourth grades. At this time, no principal has been appointed for MYA. As soon as this appointment is made, the Committee will approach the appointee and seek to work with leaders of that school just as we are doing with the Wilson School. We will again focus our efforts in two areas: we will try to involve as many Penn resources as possible, and we will develop a public relations strategy to try to attract more families concerned about quality education to the school.
In general, the Committee feels that both PFSNI and Penn will have to be ever-vigilant for ways to keep both the University and the residents of University City involved in public education in our community. We have seen how various local public schools have slowly changed from schools that reflected the community to schools where faculty and staff choose not to send their children. This is the trend that must be reversed and constitutes the challenge to all organizations interested in our neighborhood.
The Public Safety Priority:
More Penn Police and Blue Light Telephones in the Community
The University of Pennsylvania has an obvious, long-term interest in public safety issues affecting its surrounding neighborhoods. With the decline of the City's ability to deliver public safety resources and the recent increase in crimes against both people and property, Penn has a special role to play in deterring and containing criminal behavior. However, Penn must also take care to deliver security services in a way that encourages neighborhood vitality, respects individual rights and self-reliance, and contributes to a positive neighborhood image. PFSNI's Public Safety Committee is ready to assist in these efforts.
Penn depends on its surrounding neighborhoods to house the people upon whom its existence depends. Without a meaningful level of comfort regarding personal safety and security, students, faculty, and staff will flee these areas, leaving Penn as an island surrounded by urban blight and decay. This situation will, in turn, discourage faculty from locating at Penn, discourage the best students from choosing it, and require massive outlays for on-campus housing and security.
Second, Penn's very presence attracts crime to its neighborhoods. Criminals see young college students, especially those from outside the U.S., as easy marks because students often take less care about their personal safety and possessions than do others. Students also graduate or leave - making prosecutions difficult. Penn has an obvious responsibility to educate its students to make them more aware of their role in the crime picture. Just as important, Penn has a duty, as a matter of civic responsibility, to balance its attractiveness to criminals with steps to deter them.
Because the long-term success of Penn as an educational institution depends on its ability to project its neighborhoods as reasonably safe places to work and live, it must have a sustained, highly visible commitment to the safety of these neighborhoods.
Action Steps Required on Public Safety
A. Immediate Steps
B. Long-Term Steps
The Real Estate Priority:
Home Ownership and a Vital, Attractive Commercial Sector
The PFSNI Real Estate Committee feels that increased home ownership is a key to revitalization of the communities neighboring Penn. The only way to attract homeowners to the community is by providing basic needs and services and restoring blighted streets to show that they have a chance of returning to their former stability. A revitalized, attractive commercial retail community will encourage both homeowners and students to locate near Penn. The University and other major institutions in West Philadelphia have a stake in this community. They should unite to pressure city, state and federal governments to make major efforts to revitalize University City and West Philadelphia. Through home ownership, University City and West Philadelphia will become safer, cleaner, and have a more "cared-for" appearance.
The Real Estate Committee identified the following problems as obstacles to meeting its goals:
The Committee has concluded that, unless steps are taken to increase the levels of homeownership in University City and West Philadelphia, the community will continue to decline, forcing current homeowners to leave, and creating serious if not disastrous consequences on the University. Although incentive programs, such as the mortgage program (which needs to be better publicized), are positive and should continue, they have not been enough to combat the flight of the homeowner. The only way to reverse this trend is to induce at least an additional 15-20% of community members to become homeowners. (Presently there is only 15% homeownership in the Spruce Hill area just west of campus -down from about 19% a decade ago and the lowest of any neighborhood in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Planning Commission.) Major institutions in the area, local, state and federal governments must invest major efforts to provide basic services, jobs and improve the overall appearance of the neighborhoods. Furthermore, the Committee feels the University should take the leadership role in coordinating this endeavor.
The Committee has discussed its vision of community revitalization with Dr. Ira Harkavy and the University's Center for Community Partnership. The Committee is convinced that the Center shares its vision for University City and West Philadelphia. With the full support of the University administration and community, this vision can be realized and serve as a model for the rest of the country.
Action Steps Required for a Vital Neighborhood
The Aesthetic Priority:
Clean Streets and Sidewalks
The PFSNI Streets Committee deals with the problems of trash and litter on the streets, curbs and yards of our community. In addition, this Committee concerns itself with the physical disrepair of many buildings, streets and sidewalks.
The Committee feels strongly that Penn must take an active role in encouraging landlords, students, businesses and residents to be more responsible for the appearance of the neighborhoods bordering the Penn campus.
Among the problems that the Committee has identified as standing in the way of clean streets and sidewalks are the following:
Action Steps Required for Clean Streets
The Recruitment Priority:
More Faculty and Staff in University City and Other Neighboring Communities
PFSNI's New Faculty and Staff Orientation and Welcoming Committee stands ready to assist Penn in its efforts to encourage faculty and staff to buy or rent houses, apartments, or cooperative units in the neighborhoods bordering the University. Its premise is simple: people considering living in these areas would benefit from visits to the homes of Penn-affiliated people who already live there. The Committee is identifying faculty and staff in every unit of the University who live in the neighborhood and who are ready to assist recruitment coordinators, search committees, and others who are involved in the relocation process.
Incoming faculty and staff are frequently discouraged from living in nearby areas by subtle and not-so-subtle messages sent by Penn personnel who live outside the city indicating that residential living within walking distance of the University is so dangerous that it is unthinkable. The Committee seeks to present recruits with a more balanced picture that emphasizes the benefits as well as the risks of city life. There can be no doubt that the University itself would benefit from the increased interaction between faculty, staff, and students that would naturally result from more faculty and staff choosing to live within walking distance of Penn.
Action Steps Required on Faculty/Staff Recruitment
The Community-Building Priority:
Regular Social Events Involving Penn Faculty, Staff and Administrators
PFSNI has an active Social Activities Committee that sponsors events in the neighborhood to help create and maintain the strong sense of community that makes living in the areas bordering Penn such an attractive alternative to the suburbs. Through monthly potluck dinners in homes of faculty and staff and other periodic events, we reach out and get to know many of the Penn people who live in the neighborhoods to the west of the University.
The Social Activities Committee recommends that all who are asked be encouraged to support this effort to build and maintain our social ties through active participation and interaction with one another.
Numbers indicate Penn personnel per block.
Includes A-1s, A-2s & A-3s;
does not include A-4s (part-time) or HUP personnel.
To the University Community: PFSNI encourages faculty and staff who live in its surrounding neighborhoods to become involved in helping direct Penn's attention to neighborhood priorities. One way to do this is by joining a PFSNI committee or by suggesting a new idea around which a committee may form. If you wish to become involved, contact any Steering Committee member listed below
--Richard Shell, for the Steering Committee.
Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues: Committees
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The source of this document is Almanac. October 26, 1993.