PennPraxis launches toolkit for neighborhood preservation

In the past decade, Philadelphia’s building boom has been accompanied by a string of demolitions touching almost every corner of the city, and resulting in the loss of everything from iconic churches to vernacular row houses. But even as a growing number of Philadelphians lament these losses, advocates for historic preservation have sometimes struggled to make a case for keeping Philadelphia’s built fabric intact. As Julie Donofrio, managing director of PennPraxis, wrote in a recent op-ed on PlanPhilly, the term “preservation” sometimes turns people off, even if the goals of the practice—celebrating and maintaining the assets that make neighborhoods what they are—are shared by many of those same people.

booklet questionnaire about a home's history
(Photo courtesy: PennDesign News)

The City of Philadelphia has recently launched efforts to expand the field of people who have a stake in historic preservation, one prong of which is a Historic Preservation Task Force, appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney, which is expected to release a final set of recommendations in spring 2019. Last year, working in parallel with that process, PennPraxis helped convene a series of small-scale neighborhood conversations for residents to discuss a broad range of issues related to preserving and maintaining parts of the city that residents hold dear. The result, a Neighborhood Preservation Toolkit, was released by PennPraxis in February.

“The Toolkit encompasses the whole gamut of neighborhood preservation, all the way from taking care of an individual house, to improving the quality of new construction, supporting small businesses, promoting local engagement, and strengthening social fabric,” Donofrio says. “It’s challenging to translate these topics into a set of tools, but what we have tried to create is a guide that brings together the overarching, and underlying, theme of all of this: expanding neighborhood appreciation, and giving people the tools to channel their sense of pride into action.”

Read more at PennDesign News.