By now you’ve probably heard: Philadelphia will not be graced by the presence of Amazon’s second headquarters.
The ecommerce giant confirmed rumors Tuesday that HQ2 will be split between New York City and Arlington, Virginia, concluding the dramatic (desperate?) yearlong search process that brought in bids from 238 cities across North America.
So not only did Philly lose the bidding war, but we’ll be constantly reminded of it, as we’re geographically sandwiched between the two winning sites.
Some locals were anti-HQ2, citing, among other things, the billions of dollars in tax breaks offered to the corporation. But conventional wisdom was that the development would’ve brought in an influx of high-paying jobs and glossy cachet. The city worked hard to woo the company, spending more than $500,000 to develop local assets and produce a fancy promotional video to send directly to founder Jeff Bezos. We even spent $85,000 to wrap Seattle buses in Philly-themed materials.
Even though the city didn’t score the potential dot com boom, Mayor Jim Kenney insists the effort wasn’t a total bust.
“It put Philadelphia in the national (and international) spotlight — increasing our visibility to other companies and showing our viability for other large-scale projects,” Kenney said in a statement. “It also required key stakeholders from various sectors to come together like never before and unite around a shared message and strategy for our city.”
The mayor has a point. The HQ2 process forced some collaboration among local business owners and highlighted the city’s positive qualities.
While we’re thinking optimistically, the HQ2 loss is just a blip among a flurry of positives, from commercial developments to major research to community activism.
Here’s a bunch of good stuff happening in Philly that have nothing to do with Amazon.
Last month, Philly unveiled a $9 million project smack dab in the middle of Center City. Called the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza, the triangular public art project hopes to educate the city on the genocide of 6 million Jewish people in Germany — especially young people, who were born long after the Holocaust ended.
At 16th and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, it boasts six pillars, a grove of trees and even a complementary app.
It’s been four years since the city first announced it would totally revitalize East Market Street, and Phase 1 is finally complete.
Open near City Hall is a LEED-certified skyscraper that boasts about a dozen local businesses, a 35-foot pedestrian walkway and 560 apartments. The mixed-use complex covers the space between 11th and 12th streets and Market and Chestnut.
Phases 2 and 3 of East Market are coming down the pipeline in the next few years.
Philly got two huge cash bonuses this year — both in order to make waves in the criminal justice sector.
The first, a $4 million award from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, aims to reduce the city’s jail population by a whopping 50 percent. Even better news: The whole reason we got this grant is basically because the first one we received from MacArthur worked out so well. Philly had already reduced the prison population by 34 percent over three years using a $3.4 million MacArthur contribution.
But wait, there’s more: We’re also sitting on a $1 million grant to create a 24/7 trauma-informed hub for juvenile justice services, which will provide immediate services to divert young people from the prison system.
The pier on the Delaware River at Cherry Street had been in a state of disrepair since the 1980s.
Built in 1919, the structure was essential in helping supply the busy manufacturing industry that had developed in Old City and Northern Liberties. But when industry gradually shifted away from the area, operations were shut down.
It finally reopened this year with funding from the Knight Foundation and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. The beautiful historic shell remains, hosting artist studios and regular events and exhibits.
At the intersection of Greene Street and Germantown Avenue, there was once a historic and popular shopping district. Since then it has fallen away, with about 50 percent of the storefronts sitting vacant or being converted into apartments.
A new project is set to change that. The mall is getting a $3.3 million facelift including fresh landscaping and signs.
Philly’s first phase of the Rail Park opened in June. It makes use of an old rail line, turning it into a public park two stories up in the sky (much like New York City’s Highline). With it, Philly expects an influx in residential development and commercial growth in the Callowhill neighborhood.
When the whole thing is complete, it’ll probably make it easier to move about Philly.
Plus, it’s just dang pretty.
Last month, Philly won $2 million to expand some environmental sustainability initiatives. We’re one of 20 cities who earned the honor as part of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge.
With the money, city officials say they’ll work on reducing carbon emission from Philly buildings and transportation and generating renewable energy.
Currently in the works is a massive project to build an innovation hub in West Philly. The whole operation will cover 14 acres and include residential, office research and retail development spanning.
This one’s gonna take awhile — at least 15 to 20 years for construction alone. The first change you’ll see will be the creation of a 1.3-acre public park called Drexel Square. It’ll replace a parking lot across from 30th Street Station and boast granite benches, outdoor furniture, lighting and raised planter beds.
The 1400 block of East Vernon has been plagued for years by gun violence, crime and loitering — effectively scaring away most business owners who might’ve opened up there.
But now, city and state agencies are partnering to dedicate $310,000 to beautify the street and welcome a shopping district. There will be new LED lights, signs, planters, plus security cameras and Big Belly trash cans. In total, 14 storefronts received improvements from the project.
10) On-the-ground community work
As both the city and private agencies spearhead local development and policy change, Philly residents work every day to better their communities. Just a small sampling of neighborhood activism:
- Gun violence is rampant in Nicetown, so a local mother set up a weekly support group.
- Thanks to absent property owners, the vacant lots in Kensington often fill with people experiencing homelessness and addiction. A Harrowgate resident managed to clean one of them up with social media shaming.
- Gentrification and displacement can be traumatic, especially in North Philly around Temple University. That’s why the Church of the Advocate is running workshops to inspire healing.
- Two 16-year-old Girard College students ran a voter registration drive in the Francisville neighborhood where they attend school.