Weitzman’s Michael Fichman on nighttime economies and a Philly milestone

Weitzman’s Michael Fichman discusses how the Night Time Economy Office benefits all aspects of city life, creating a safe, thriving, and creative community 24 hours a day.

In July, the City of Philadelphia joined a handful of US cities in appointing a “night mayor” with the selection of Raheem Manning to serve as director of the nighttime economy and business development. The appointment grew out of a sustained effort by Michael Fichman, a research associate at PennPraxis who teaches in the Master of Urban Spatial Analytics Program, to champion nighttime cities internationally. Trained as a city planner, Fichman has been active in the music industry as a DJ, producer, composer, and label executive for two decades.

Michael Fichman.
Michael Fichman, lecturer in Master of Urban Spatial Analytics at the Weitzman School.

Fichman explains the origin of the Night Time Economy Office. “In the 2010s, there were a series of Council bills that would have negatively impacted the live music scene. The community organized and we fought back successfully. The Night Time Economy Director’s Office was adopted in last year’s budget and it is closely modeled on the proposal we wrote for Council and the Commerce Department.

Fichman highlights how the city and its residents benefit most from the plan. “Stakeholder engagement, first and foremost—between businesses and the City. There’s also the benefit of somebody who can help grow our cultural industries and improve our city after dark in a very deliberate way. We now have a central person working on this in government who can apply thoughtful approaches to issues like public safety. Incidents of violence like Philly has seen this year call for night-sensitive governance rather than bans on nightlife. This position changes that and sets us up to plan for a Philadelphia that can keep its talented artists from moving and improve quality of life.”

Fichman is also a creator, editor, and author of the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan—an effort to help cities recover economically from COVID-19 based on nighttime arts and culture. “Recovery of nighttime industries has been slow. … I think the opportunity here is that, as cities are being re-shaped, we can think about how to use more spaces for arts and creativity. Take Philly: Real estate market dynamics banished many independent venues from Center City over the last 20 years, but now the commercial landscape is in flux. I’ve seen in my consulting research that high land values are related to decreased investments in programming and diminishment of creative spaces in urban areas. If we use incentives, zoning, regulations and other creative ideas, we can bring live arts to Center City and to areas across the city in a durable way.”

Read more at Weitzman News.