Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mayor Street Finally Names New Head Planner

Philadelphia's civic leaders, foundations and politicians have been clamoring for months to get Mayor Street to pay attention to planning, and now he's finally done something: Today, he appointed Center City architect and planner Janice Woodcock as the city's head planner - taking over from Maxine Griffith, who resigned 19 months ago! Woodcock comes to the job with excellent credentials. She served as president of the local chapter of the American institute of Architects, and started her architectural career in Cecil Baker's office. She was one of the people who helped produce a well-regarded plan for Chestnut Street, called "Turning the Lights Back On," which advocated converting the upper stories of buildings into apartments. More recently, she has worked in the city's Capital Projects Office, overseeing construction projects.

The big question, of course, is whether she can hope to accomplish anything with just a year left on Street's term. Most observers (ie. chatty architects and planners) say it's a difficult position to step into at this point. Although the condo market appears to be cooling, the city still faces the big issue of how best to accommodate skyscrapers. Then there's gambling, which could land two boxy casinos on the Delaware Waterfront, along with lots of traffic and other headaches. Meanwhile, Mayor Street has just outsourced the city's waterfront planning to Penn Praxis. If Woodcock simply serves as an aggressive advocate for the public good over the next year, her appointment won't be for naught.

14 Comments:

Anonymous VINCE DEAN said...

FINALLY ! AN ARCHITECT HEADING "A REAL CITY PLANNING DEPARTMENT" ! HOPEFULLY, WITH THE GRACE OF GOD, SHE WILL ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO MAKE SOME PRACTICLE CHANGES TO THE CITY ZONING CODES.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Panic said...

She is hot.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there has to be a better picture of her than that. that looks like a picture you see at her funeral.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hopefully it isn't

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is anything but intelligent conversation. someone is finally named to a very important position by one of the worst mayors in the country and all you gents can think of is "she is hot"?
Apparently she is very talented and hard working too. Hopefully she will fight for the good of the city. Hopefully there isn;t some less than honorable intention (Ron White).

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"gents"? why do you assume the commenter was male?

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga's hot ;-)

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, she's way hotter than New york's head city planner.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the greatest list of comments I have ever seen on here....

And yes Inga is hot!

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Bill Marston AIA & LEED AP said...

Janice is a highly qualified building & urban professional - her work in "Turning the Lights on Upstairs" put Philadelphia on the map among other big cities.

AIA's Urban Design Committee has laid years of groundwork for a considered, open, professional planning process through its monthly meetings. As to the zoning code, Gray Davis and a handful of us have undertaken to take on new drafts. Personally I am looking at it as a tool to foster a deeply responsible built environment. I intend to represent the demands of serious global warming impacts, since new zoning & building codes won't be worth the paper they're printed on unless they completely address resource efficiency, collaborative & inclusive actions, adaptation, cautionary principles, modularity and distributed systems.

I don't know how common it is for the City Planner (hmmm. what IS her title??) to be a zoning code's principal author - in NYC I know it was urban planners with architects, social & economic planners, etc.

Get it? Collaborative. Inclusive. Serious. Adaptive.

Best to all (we're all gonna need it).

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm predicting the worst while hoping for the best. In other words, I live in Philly with an eye on anywhere else....

Open challenge to the city:Prove me wrong, ONCE!

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A real city planning department" where the projects are always farmed out to consultants. For the life of me, I don't ever understand that at all. It would be nice if the tax-payer funded City Planning Commission staff was actually allowed to engage in planning practice, rather than always managing the work of consultants. That would be a welcomed new direction!

As for Woodcock- best wishes as she is truly a visionary and has done great work in the city. However, remember that Maxine Griffith had the same credentials and kept hitting brick walls with bureaucracy. Griffith also had five years and had difficulty maneuvering around antiquated ideas of what city planning was supposed to be.

It is going to be a formidable challenge for Woodcock to engage in meaningful planning practice when there will be an upcoming mayoral election. The other significant challenge is whether or not the next mayoral administration accepts all of this accelerated planning work and sees it as a priority. Yes, that has to be a consideration because planning is an ongoing process if managed effectively. You need look no further than Rendell’s revitalization of Center City that was quickly dashed by Street in favor of focusing on impoverished neighborhoods.

The citizens of Philadelphia will have to advocate for the continuance of any planning initiatives to ensure that it does not become yet another exercise in futility. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the planning process to participate in the upcoming meetings to support the work of moving Philadelphia forward.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiring an architect to run a city planning agency is the equivilant of hiring a plumber to build you a house. My guess is said plumber would get at least one aspect of the job right, the plumbing. I understand the planning is getting reacclimated with its physically deterministic roots, but, sorry Inga, planning is not architecture. Not sure how the training is closely relevant to the real issues facing cities. The city would have been better off hiring a lawyer.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not quite sure about the analogy of plumber to architect. The principal quality of a person put in a planner role is their ability to listen and build teams.

By the way, Woodcock is a certified planner; might just be the best of both words...like say, having a plumber who knows carpentry.

Sweet!

8:54 PM  

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