Judith Rodin delivered this address, The University and
The City, on March 4, at which time she announced the
formation of a Penn urban research institute (Almanac March
Connections and Creating Transformations
most of its history, Penn has been deeply engaged with
urban issues, and I want to pay tribute to many trailblazers
in this room who led some of those efforts.
it's in the past decade that we have found new ways to apply our
intellectual and financial resources toward the transformation
of our own backyard. In revitalizing West Philadelphia,
we found our true calling as an urban research university.
We assumed roles and risks that no other University had
ever taken on. We demolished walls that kept Penn and our
neighbors from forging nourishing connections with one
another. We created a model for urban universities to become
the catalysts for neighborhood transformation.
we dared to believe that town and gown could unite as one
richly diverse community that could learn, grow, socialize,
shop, and live together in a safe, flourishing, and economically
sustainable urban environment.
experience has inspired us to find new ways to bring the
richness of Penn's academic and administrative strengths
to bear on urban issues throughout Philadelphia and other
working closely with the city, with the business community,
and our sister colleges and universities to make Philadelphia
a world leader in the knowledge industry. We're building
on our momentum in West Philadelphia to lead efforts to
redevelop the area east of campus and form a dynamic seamless
connection with Center City. We're training the next generation
of urban entrepreneurs at the Center for Urban Redevelopment
Excellence at Penn.
The Left Bank, looking
east along Walnut Street.
Initiative: A Penn Urban Research Institute
Penn is viewed throughout the world as a leader in the
field and practice of urbanism for the 21st century. But
Penn can't sit still even on these laurels. We are well
aware that most of the world's population will be living
in cities by the year 2006, and we are driven to become
the leader in international urbanism.
I am pleased to announce that our commitment has found
expression in a major new initiative establishment
of an urban research institute at Pennant institute that
will enable the University to have a profoundly beneficial
impact on the material, cultural, and social life of cities
as close as our own Philadelphia, and as far away as Jakarta
as we worked with our neighbors to transform West Philadelphia,
through this institute we hope to form creative partnerships
with urban planners, government officials, foundation leaders,
urban developers, and all concerned citizens who are looking
to transform their cities.
envision this institute as the catalyst to get everyone
about cities students who are considering an
exciting career in urbanism think Penn.
what will Penn do? We will provide a gateway to the rich
array of cross-disciplinary expertise, experience, and
conceptual tools to be found across all 12 schools, within
the Center for Community Partnerships and Civic House,
and throughout the University's administrative divisions
in facilities and real estate, business services and purchasing
of which have a strong urban neighborhood orientation.
form an urban institute at Penn? Well, by their very complex
nature and scale, cities pose unique challenges to researchers,
activists, and policymakers. Meeting these challenges requires
an integrative approach that merges the social and physical
sciences with engineering, urban and regional planning
and architecture. It requires a broad perspective that
engages the biomedical sciences and the humanities, as
well as the professions of law, education, business, social
work, and communications. And it must rely on new technologies
in communications, geographical information systems, and
computer modeling to capture and understand the complexity
that has thwarted so many previous efforts at improving
enjoys a comparative advantage in all these disciplines
and areas of expertise. Thanks to having all 12 of our
schools located on one contiguous campus, collaborating
across disciplines comes more naturally to our faculty
and students. Indeed, Penn is known for its integrative
academic and administrative approach to solving problems.
why form an urban research institute now?
Because cities are where the action island will be for
the foreseeable century. By the year 2020, two billion
people will be concentrated in the world's cities. Many
of the world's problems housing, rising infant
mortality, income inequality, poor nutrition, illiteracy,
crime, not to mention racial, ethnic, and religious tensions
clearly manifest themselves with greater frequency and
intensity in cities.
these problems creatively now, Penn can help shape the
future of urbanism and promote the future viability and
vitality of cities.
summer, I reread a classic work on the history of urban
planning that I'm sure many of you have read. It's Jane
Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which
was published in 1961, and in light of all of Penn's recent
experiences in West Philadelphia and how I've come to view
urbanism, the book's then-revolutionary visions and prescriptions
resonated even more powerfully with me.
the book, Jacobs surveys the wreckage wrought by urban
demolished city neighborhoods, the sterile industrial parks
and skyscrapers, and surface parking lots. She argues that
healthy cities draw their economic and social vitality
from what she called a "city ecosystem"--the very mix of
land uses, architecture, shared public spaces, dense populations,
and spontaneous human interactions that urban renewal efforts
had annihilated. For Jacobs, bringing cities back to life
meant restoring the damaged ecosystems of city neighborhoods--with
attention paid to the smallest details.
concludes her book with a declaration that anticipates
the challenges we faced and the truths we discovered in
West Philadelphia. "Dull, inert cities," she writes, "...do
contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else.
But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of
their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over
for problems and needs outside themselves."
I want to talk about how Penn's engagement with its neighbors
has had a regenerating effect on both our neighborhood
and the University, which, in turn, has energized us to
find new ways to bring our knowledge and experience to
bear on urban problems locally, nationally, and internationally
in the decades ahead.
the Stage for the West Philadelphia Initiatives
the Penn story about the past decade, I will discuss the
history, vision and intellectual underpinnings that set
the stage for our West Philadelphia initiatives. But I
am going to focus more on action, on implementation, on
how we executed a strong plan, which had been well formulated
and articulated, to build capacity back into the neighborhood.
By capacity, I include educational capacity, retail capacity, quality-of-life capacity,
and especially economic capacity.
course, whenever I hear the word execution, I am reminded
famous quip from the late John McKay, who went from coaching
national championship football teams at Southern Cal to
coaching the NFL expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which
lost its first 26 games. During that losing streak, which
stretched over two seasons, a reporter asked McKay what
he thought of his team's execution. Without missing a beat,
McKay replied, "I'm in favor of it."
I can tell you that when Penn first offered to devote substantial
resources toward redeveloping University City, many members
of the academic community were not much kinder. Though
they didn't call for the execution of Penn's leaders, they
did wonder aloud what we were smoking.
picture what we faced. Crime had increased dramatically
from 1983 through 1993. One in five residents lived below
the poverty level. Shops and businesses were closing, and
pedestrian traffic was vanishing. Middle-class families
were leaving, and more houses were falling prey to abandonment
and decay. The streets were littered with trash, and abandoned
homes and buildings became canvasses for graffiti artists
and business addresses for drug dealers.
public schools were in especially bad shape. They were
overcrowded and antiquated, and three local elementary
schools ranked at the bottom in state-administered math
and reading tests. The main commercial thoroughfare through
Penn's campus was dominated by surface parking lots, and
the depressed and desolate commercial corridor of 40th
Street at the western edge of Penn's campus had become
an invisible campus boundary beyond which Penn students
and faculty were advised not venture.
despite the many individual efforts of faculty and administrators
to reach out to the community, residents by and large still
felt that Penn had turned its back on the neighborhood.
Who could blame them? Penn was so near and large, and yet,
remained so remote. The city's largest private employer
spent hundreds of millions of dollars a year on goods,
services, and construction, yet little of that trickled
down to local businesses. Penn operated commercial real
estate with seemingly little regard either for what kinds
of businesses were leasing its properties or their impact
on quality of life. Some establishments were seedy and
menacing. Even our buildings kept their distance.
a University so alienated from a deeply distressed neighborhood
at its doorstep continue to grow and prosper? That was
the fundamental question we faced when I became President
in 1994. While some counseled that the problems were intractable,
others encouraged Penn to take a leadership role in revitalizing
the neighborhood as a matter of enlightened self-interest.
the early months of my presidency, I found myself persuaded
by the latter perspective. I saw that investing in the
neighborhood would pay academic dividends for Penn, and
that this wasn't a zero-sum game, in which Penn would have
to ransom its academic future to improve the fortunes of
the neighborhood. I believed that for Penn to flourish
academically, our neighborhood had to flourish as well.
Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to attract the finest faculty
and the brightest students to Penn.
I felt strongly that we had an example of integrity to
set for our students. The state of the neighborhood was
our business. How could we educate and exhort our students
to contribute to society if we did not offer them an institutional
example of positive civic engagement? If Penn could make
discoveries that saved lives and drove the global economy,
then surely we had both the capacity and moral obligation
to use our intellectual might to make things right at our
you will see, in hindsight the right call looks like
At the time, however, neither my job description nor my
charge from the Trustees included investing large amounts
of my time and the University's funds in neighborhood initiatives.
was one thing to support and recognize the great efforts
faculty and staff to take incremental measures to solve
West Philadelphia's problems, if it fit within their research
purview. But to offer to take the lead as an institution
in redeveloping a distressed neighborhood that disliked
us, and assume an unprecedented level of financial and
social risk? That was a different story.
we set about the task. At the time, the prevailing mantra
of community development was, work from the grass roots
up. Government entities or institutions,--in this case,
Penn--would write the checks and distribute resources to
nonprofit community development corporations, which would
take the lead in rebuilding capacity into the neighborhood.
In other words, sprinkle the grass roots with seed money,
and watch the neighborhood blossom.
were two flaws with that approach. One: No CDC in West
Philadelphia had the full capacity or the track record
for turning distressed neighborhoods around. Two: We didn't
have the luxury of time.
one entity had the capacity, the resources, and the political
clout to intervene to stabilize the neighborhood quickly
and revitalize it within a relatively short time period.
And that was Penn. Outside developers were certainly not
beating on our doors. And local government didn't have
the resources. If Penn didn't seize the initiative to revitalize
the neighborhood itself, no one else would.
we created a community development agenda in which we would
strive to rebuild West Philadelphia's social and economic
capacity by simultaneously and aggressively acting on five
want to stress the point about our integrated approach.
urban colleges and universities had taken action on
one front or another. None had attempted to commit to
intervening holistically on all fronts at once.
is what we promised we wouldn't do.
we would never again expand our campus to the west or to
the north into residential neighborhoods. We would only
expand to our east, which was made up entirely of abandoned
buildings and commercial real estate.
we wouldn't act unilaterally. Instead, we would candidly
discuss what we could do with the community, and we would
operate with transparency.
third, we wouldn't promise what we couldn't deliver. Instead,
we would limit long-term commitments to promises we knew
we could keep--and we would leverage our resources by stimulating
major investments by the private sector.
mind, nothing short of a revolution would do. I wanted
to reorient the entire administrative culture at Penn toward
transforming the University and the neighborhood simultaneously.
was only one way for that to happen: It had to come from
the top. Beginning with me, the leadership of Penn would
take responsibility for directing and implementing the
West Philadelphia initiatives. To underscore this, I asked
our trustees to form a standing committee on neighborhood
initiatives, equal in status to committees on University
finance, development, and others.
let me take you back to the real-world crisis, and how
we intervened. To make the neighborhood cleaner and safer,
we strengthened our Division of Public Safety by hiring
more police officers and investing in state-of-the-art
technology. We also opened a new police station further
west beyond campus, co-locating it with the Philadelphia
police precinct substation and the special-services district
that we took the lead in launching. We did this to signal
Penn's commitment to the safety of our students and our
same time, this newly created University City special-services
district, which you all know as the UCD, employed both
safety ambassadors who walked the streets and supported
campus and city police, and trash collectors who supplemented
city units and helped remove graffiti. These were welfare-to-work
participants, thus contributing to another social action
addition, we partnered with neighborhood residents, the
and the local electric company to install fixtures to uniformly
light the sidewalks of 1,200 neighborhood properties. Not
only did these efforts create a brighter and cleaner neighborhood,
which attracted more and more foot traffic, but by requiring
whole blocks, rather than individual homeowners, to commit,
we encouraged a revival of community associations, block
in turn, led to greening projects--such as the planting
of 450 trees and 10,000 spring bulbs and the creation of
four public and three children's gardens--which set the
stage for the dramatic transformation of Clark Park from
a dangerous drug-infested space into a thriving recreational
venue for children and the locale for a weekly farmer's
with making University City cleaner and safer, Penn had
a huge initial impact on housing, which itself had become
a clean and safe issue.
began by acquiring twenty abandoned properties in strategic
throughout the neighborhood, rehabbed them, and sold them
to the public. We weren't seeking a profit on these homes.
Rather, we were seeking to build capacity by stabilizing
blocks and promoting home ownership.
stepped up our efforts to encourage more Penn affiliates
to move into the neighborhood. But to make the neighborhood
more attractive to residents, students, and visitors alike,
we needed to provide retail and cultural amenities and
engineer radical improvements in the public schools.
is where we really rolled the dice. We resolved to plan
and build a public school, and we chose to undertake two
large-scale mixed-use retail development projects in hopes
that major anchors would bring other shops, restaurants,
theaters, private investment, and private development to
looking north at 36th & Walnut
me first talk about Penn's excellent adventure in urban
retail development. Along one largely deserted stretch
on Walnut Street, we built a 300,000-square-foot project
that included a luxury hotel, a beautiful new Penn bookstore,
public plazas, and a raft of stores and restaurants. At
the periphery of the campus at 40th and Walnut, we bought
out the lease of a Burger King to make way for a 75,000-square-foot
project that would create true convergences between town
and gown. This project entailed two critical amenities
that we gambled would breathe new life into 40th Street:
A fabulous movie theater and an equally fabulous grocery
store. We assumed all of the risks, and encountered our
share of obstacles.
had inked a deal with Robert Redford and Sundance Cinemas
in 1998 to build the movie theater. It would show independent
and experimental films and feature an art gallery and cafe,
a video library, community meeting spaces, and perhaps
a jazz club. Across the street would be a multi-story parking
garage atop an innovative new supermarket, Freshgrocer.
was proceeding apace two years later when the parent company,
General Cinema, filed for bankruptcy and pulled the plug
on the Sundance Theater project. Just like that, a critical
project had stalled, and my lunches with Robert Redford
came to an untimely end.
some admonished Penn for biting off more than it could
chew, and counseled us to suspend the search for another
partner. But others lobbied to go the extra mile to sign
a deal with another chain that had shown some interest
in the project.
it wasn't easy convincing the Trustees or me to spend more
money to seal the deal with National Amusements. But at
the end of the day, and less than two years after the Sundance
project collapsed, the Bridge Cinema de Lux--a sensational
state-of-the-art movie theater complex--opened to rave reviews
at 40th and Walnut. The Bridge attracts 500,000 patrons
a year, and if you were to visit the Freshgrocer at 10
p.m. or even 2 a.m., you would see throngs of students
and neighborhood residents shopping, noshing, and schmoozing
together--all indications of a healthy city neighborhood,
as Jane Jacobs envisioned.
told, scores of new shops that run the gamut are opening
throughout the neighborhood. And a commercial corridor
given up for dead now bustles with art galleries, performance
spaces, and an international restaurant row that reflects
the dynamic cultural diversity of University City. Thousands
of people--from the Penn community, from the neighborhood,
from all over the region--are flocking to shops, restaurants,
and cultural venues that came into being as a direct result
of Penn's decision to redevelop a dying commercial core
into a thriving, productive asset.
large crowds on the streets has made the neighborhood safer
and much more exciting. It's been a shot in the arm for
the local economy. And it's made University City very attractive
to outside private developers.
investments proved to be the catalyst for attracting approximately
250 million more of private investment dollars to West
Philadelphia. Now, we have partners like developer Carl
Dranoff, who invested $55 million to convert a former 700,000
square-foot industrial warehouse into the Left Bank, a
mixed-use complex featuring 282 market rate apartments,
new shops and restaurants, a child day-care facility, and
brilliantly redesigned office space.
Left Bank is a perfect model of creative reuse of historic,
fallow properties that can transform a neighborhood, and
Dranoff Properties is now one of two lead partners in redeveloping
two contiguous buildings.
this isn't just about building and attracting amenities.
This is also about building sustainable economic capacity
back into the neighborhood by providing new opportunities
for local businesses and job growth among neighborhood
I mentioned earlier, historically, only a small portion
Penn's purchases benefited local businesses. So we asked
ourselves, "Why not deploy our purchasing more strategically?" We
required that our construction projects create substantial
access for women and minorities to the trades. We invested
in small businesses that created opportunity for welfare-to-work
recipients and other members of our local community. And
we redirected a portion of our purchases toward West Philadelphia
years, we have purchased $300 million in goods and services
from local businesses. And we are receiving incredible
told, these interventions have been remarkably effective
in revitalizing the neighborhood. Over a seven-year period,
crime has fallen 31 percent. We've added more than 150,000
square feet of new retail inventory, with 25 new stores
opening over the past four years. We've encouraged the
creation of thousands of new jobs for local residents.
Thanks to a partnership with Citizens' Bank, more than
$28 million has been made available to local non-profit
community development groups, for-profit developers, small
businesses and homeowners.
the most intriguing statistic of all is the population
change. While Philadelphia as a whole has seen its population
decline by 4.5 percent over the past five years, University
City has seen an increase of 2.1 percent. That may not
be a staggering number by itself, but when you consider
the alarming condition of this neighborhood a decade ago,
that figure puts an exclamation point on our revitalization
The Bridge Cinema at
40th and Walnut.
left our educational initiatives for last, since in many
ways, this represented Penn's greatest gamble. Everything
else we did made University City a much more enticing place
to visit. But if we wanted to make the neighborhood more
attractive for families, we had to improve public education.
we could not have even begun to transform the schools had
we failed to build safety, life, and economic capacity
back into the neighborhood. We were also building and fostering
relationships of trust among all our neighbors to forge
a community of shared values--a community in which we all
would learn, and grow, and flourish together.
was the context in which we resolved to do something substantial
and dramatic to improve the local schools. As much as Penn
had worked in the past to improve the learning environment
in a number of schools, we faced some hard facts. Children
from low-income families by and large were trapped in struggling
schools. Their parents had no choice and little hope of
seeing their children receive a good education.
families with school-age children in University City did
have a choice: They could send their children to a private
school or they could move to the suburbs. What was it going
to take to give children from poor families a reason to
hope, and middle-class families a reason to stay and become
truly vested in the neighborhood?
answer would become clear to a large number of stakeholders:
an excellent new school. We chose to reach for the brass
ring and create a Penn-assisted, inclusive neighborhood
public school whose enrollment reflected the broad diversity
of University City. Only a school of this magnitude would
capture the public's imagination and send the strongest
possible signal to our neighbors that Penn was deeply committed
to a sustainable future for West Philadelphia.
for this public school to model best practices and innovations
to the benefit of other neighboring schools and ultimately
transform urban public education, it had to involve the
School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
in a true partnership.
like this had ever been tried in the history of public
education in America. First, it took a lot of persuasion
and "gentle" arm-twisting to reach an historic, three-way
agreement. It took another year of painstaking, thoughtful
collaboration with educators and community representatives
to come up with a design and plan for the school, and then
another year of addressing the fears and concerns of residents--some
of whom were suspicious of our motives, and others who
didn't want to be left out in the cold.
ultimately, with the great leadership of the Graduate School
of Education, we were able to create a university-assisted,
pre-K-through-8 neighborhood public school near Penn's
campus that now accomplishes many things. It provides an
excellent education for up to 700 neighborhood children.
It is strengthening existing neighborhood schools by providing
professional development and serving as a source of best
practices. Because we linked the school to ongoing neighborhood
revitalization, the school is also evolving into a community
center that offers many things to the community: all kinds
of vocational, recreational, and adult education programs; cultural
events; and a town hall where the community can come together
to explore and debate issues and visions of the future.
And by making University City more attractive to young
families with children, the school has stabilized the neighborhood
even further, while Penn continues to leverage our resources
and investment in the new school to improve all local schools
in West Philadelphia.
is no doubt that Penn has been transformed by our engagement
with West Philadelphia and our decision to become the lead
developer in University City. We have overcome decades
of hostile relations with our neighbors to forge partnerships
that have achieved remarkable progress.
The central atrium of
the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania
Partnership School at 42nd and Locust Streets.
far from robbing Penn's academic future to pay for this
progress, our engagement has played a critical role in
enhancing Penn's academic reputation. All the markers of
academic success--our rankings, faculty awards, student
applications, selectivity, growth in endowment--have soared
to record levels.
West Philadelphia Initiatives are winning national and
international awards and competitions for design, creative
land use, and economic impact. We were especially proud
that the initiatives received the prestigious Urban Land
Institute's 2003 Award for Excellence.
strategic planning, brutal self-assessment, measurable
implementation goals, guts, and some good luck, Penn indeed
did transform its relationship with our neighbors, and
in the process, we've all been happily transformed. Ten
years ago, the neighborhood was a liability to the University
and did not register even a blip on any private developer's
radar screen. Today, Penn celebrates its ongoing transformation
into a world-class urban research university that is nourished
by the neighborhood it helped to redevelop.
day, Penn faculty and students form new, mutually rewarding
alliances and relationships with our neighbors. It's especially
exciting to see how our urban-minded students are getting
more involved with the ongoing transformation of 40th Street.
For example, students in one of our Penn Design architecture
studios are designing new facades for buildings near the
40th Street corridor. And this is just one of
an extraordinary number of efforts, many led by our outstanding
Center for Community Partnerships.
story I have told is a happy one, and happily, it's not
about to end any time soon. Indeed, I see the West Philadelphia
story as merely the first chapter of an epic narrative
that is now entering a new phase.
remaining fully committed to contributing to a robust,
healthy future for our neighborhood, we at Penn are ready
to devote more of our academic resources toward fostering
a healthy, robust future for Philadelphia and, we hope,
for cities everywhere. The emergence of a University-wide
urban research institute illustrates how Penn's identity
and academic mission now are deeply linked to urbanism
and the future of cities.
might also mention that the transformative development
City is continuing at an almost breathtaking pace and scale.
Over the next decade, you'll see Penn spearheading development
primarily to the east. You'll see surface parking
lots turning into student housing and recreational space.
You'll see abandoned industrial and commercial buildings
converted into mixed-use facilities for teaching, scientific
research, and technology transfer enterprises. You'll see
more shops, more green spaces, and more streets come to
life as University City links seamlessly with Center City.
This time, however, it will all be done through partnerships
between Penn and private developers.
the same time, you will also see our work along 40th
take on a new life of its own. Seven years ago, Penn took
the lead in redeveloping this distressed commercial corridor.
Today, we've called upon our own Penn Praxis, which partnered
with the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board to
lead citizens' discussions on the future of Penn's Landing,
to lead a similar community-wide effort in creating shared
planning principles for the future development of 40th
these public forums, you'll find representatives of University
City's rich diversity--from local merchants and neighbors
to the west and north, to Penn students, and even including
our fiercest critics--all hashing out their ideas together.
pursuing an aggressive urban academic agenda to working
with all of our partners (and our critics) to build on
our progress in West Philadelphia, the message is very
clear: Penn is in the business of neighborhood transformation
for the long haul.
years ago, few thought Penn had the guts to stick its neck
out for its neighbors. Today, we realize that by putting
our money and reputation on the line to help revitalize
University City, the neck we saved might well turn out
to have been our own.