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Philadelphia's Old City Finally on a Roll

The comeback story for the city of Philadelphia's oldest neighborhood—Old City—displays the power of community organization and deliberate planning.
January 26, 2016, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jon Bilous

As recently as the late 1990s, Old City seemed destined for great things, "fueled by an enticing mix of high-end restaurants, cool boutiques and celeb-friendly lounges," according to James Jennings. But the nightlife turned into a nuisance and the neighborhood came to be known as the "Land of 1,000 Snookies"—an unkind reference to the former star of the Jersey Shore reality show.

Jennings, however, is more interested in documenting Old City's recent comeback story, which, according to his sources, began in 2014 when the Old City District (OCD) hired Job Itzkowitz as executive director. "Among other initiatives, Itzkowitz has used his first year on the job to promote continual engagement among OCD, its residents and visitors, and its businesses," writes Jennings. Other initiatives include an OCD security detail and another group known as the Old City Nuisance Task Force.

There is also a large planning effort underway. "The next big step for Old City is a 10-year master plan dubbed 'Vision 2026,' expected to be released by the end of the year. An OCD survey informing the plan drew nearly 500 respondents, most of whom focused on the neighborhood’s future —optimizing green space, dealing with population density, improving transit access, attracting diverse businesses, and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian experiences — rather than its sordid recent past," reports Jennings.

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Published on Monday, December 28, 2015 in Philadelphia
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