From Chaos

Last night, I attended the first community voting meeting of 2012 for my neighborhood. There happened to be two large development projects on the agenda and up for a general vote, so turnout was heavy and raucous. Like any community meeting taking place in an urban environment (or at least in Philadelphia), the opponents of the projects focused on clear and present dangers like parking and union participation and where the trash will be stored. There were passing mentions of traffic, greenery, architecture, and the impact of commercial space, but mostly as they each related to parking. The supporters sat quietly until it was time to cast their vote (both projects passed).
It struck me that no one voiced opinions vehemently in favor of either development, despite the fact they they will replace an empty lot and a dilapidated factory that has sat unused for decades. The neighborhood is in transition and large mixed-use projects can help pull that along. It’s a complicated issue, but projects like these attract new residents that become voters in the district, new voices that will help push the transformation, and newly added attention. That attention, in turn, attracts new project. As one resident noted, marketing should definitely be part of the discussion.
When you work to change a neighborhood that had been in decline for 50 years, perception is a huge issue. The last five years have seen significant improvement, but there is a long way to go. The meeting was chaotic, but in the end, the results speak for themselves: progress is still coming.