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Balancing Private Development and Public Good

Working paper #500
Harris M. Steinberg

The School of Design and the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the region’s largest daily newspaper, organized a series of public forums on the future of the Philadelphia waterfront at Penn’s Landing during a series of public events that included presentations on waterfront development and small-group sessions during which common- ground planning principles for the site were sought. These principles included: local character; a focus on the river; establishing connections with the city; creating a regional attraction; a realistic economic program; public character; and a public decision process. Three alternatives are described and discussed: a public park; a new residential neighborhood; and a regional waterfront attraction. The author concludes that while a public process can create problems for professional planners, it successfully affords the public a way to inform policy makers and planners, without actually making policy or designing projects.

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