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Working Papers

The West Philadelphia Story

Working paper #516
Judith Rodin

A university that undertakes a leadership role in the redevelopment of its surrounding urban neighborhood faces new and unusual challenges. This article describes of the residential, commercial, and educational initiatives taken by the University of Pennsylvania in West Philadelphia. These included improving public safety, building mixed-use development, a variety of retail and commercial buildings, and a school. The importance of integrated programs and community relations as well as community-building is stressed. Penn’s investments have proven to be the catalyst for attracting approximately $250 million of private investment to the area. Between and 1996 and 2003, crime has fallen 31 percent. Homeownership and the price of houses have increased significantly. More than 150,000 square feet of new retail inventory has been added to University City, with 25 new stores opening over the past four years. Thousands of new jobs for local residents have been created.

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