The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia sponsored a three-day conference at the Marriot Philadelphia Downtown Hotel from March 26 to 28, 2008. “Reinventing Older Communities” drew hundreds of politicians, planners, and architects. The focus of the conference was sustainable design with consideration to historic urban communities.
“The identity of a city,” said former Torino mayor Valentino Castellani, “is based on it’s capacity to build up memory and knowledge over time.”
Castellani spoke to a crowd of approximately 250 business leaders, planners, politicians and press representatives about how deeply and historically rooted European cities evolve. He said that Torino, which used to be Italy’s automobile capital until the industry collapsed in the late 80s, has survived crisis because of its willingness to reinvent itself. He also stressed that “the involvement and pride of the community is the most important element.”
The language of “accurate planning,” and “sensibility to urban form and landscape,” used frequently in the Italian former mayor’s speech is starting to find its way onto the notepads of Americans. They are buzzwords being associated with the future of cities. Six years ago, these terms and strategies were largely unknown. Flipping through the guest list and seeing the names of hundreds of city representatives from all over the United States, including Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, is a sign that significant change could happen.
Not all ideas presented are well-developed – some are just rough drafts and images of optimistic thinking, some are unrealistic. The common characteristic is that businesses and cities have acknowledged that their methods and strategies of planning have to change direction in order to survive.
There’s a considerable amount of attention being paid to infrastructure renovation. It seems to reflect the concern in politics, as urban renewal has become a part of bi-partisan agenda. Portland, Oregon’s director of planning, Peter Kelley, gave an interesting historical perspective on the evolution of the interstate highway and how Portland sees the ultimate demise of highway system at the hands of light-rail transportation. Seattle urban strategist Peter Steinbruek talked about the city’s frustration with its Viaduct highway system that proposals have been made to simply tear it down and deal with it.
The conference continues until Friday, March 28. On the last day, Mayor Michael Nutter will be moderating a panel called “Morning with the Mayors,” which will feature mayors from Stanford, CT and Youngstown, OH.
The conference is located at the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. (Market St. and 12th)
For more information on the conference, click here.