PHILADELPHIA-Calling this a “hopeful and risky time for Center City(development),” William P. Becker of Becker & Frondorf, aconstruction/consulting firm, warned attendees at the Design AdvocacyGroup’s first Pride of Place forum against “dealmania,” a philosophy that anoints”any deal a good deal,” and characterizes dissenters as “anti-progress andanti-job.”

Becker called the new baseball field “a huge failure,” and said he hopedthis would be for Philadelphia what the demolition of New York’s old Penn Stationwas, “the example of squandered potential” that elevated the importance ofdesign quality as a public issue. He questioned whether the plannedconvention center expansion was a matter of “keeping up with the Joneses,” and asked, “how big is too big?”

Regarding neighborhood preservation, Steve Conn, a visiting professor atTemple University, called for a comprehensive strategy for reviving thearea’s many historic neighborhoods, “not necessarily as touristdestinations,” but to make visible, the city’s “layers of human history.”Preservation, based on each area’s individual historic resources, he said,”makes good economic sense,” and “is central to pride of place.”

Calling city parking an “over-discussed, misunderstood issue,” AlanGreenberger of the locally based MGA Partners architectural firm, said thereare 50,000 car spaces in the city. “Do we really have a parking problem?,”or is it: “I don’t want to pay for parking,” or, “I don’t want to walk twoblocks?” He pointed to Columbus, OH, where he said more than half of thedowntown area is devoted to parking and asked, rhetorically, “When does acity have too much?”

Tackling the city’s two-river waterfront, another much-discussed topic,architect Harris M. Steinberg of Penn Praxis and a member of the U. of PennDept. of Architecture, said “just one-tenth” of the city’s 40 miles ofwaterfront “is developed in a way we’re proud of.” Saying it represents a”wealth of wasted potential,” he called for a comprehensive master plan forthe entire Philadelphia waterfront” and urged citizens to “demandexcellence.”

Moderator of the forum, David B. Brownlee, professor of the Dept. of theHistory of Art at Penn, described the Design Advocacy Group as “an informalassembly of people who care about architecture and planning in the city.”Founded a year ago by Becker and Greenberger, it will hold a second Pride ofPlace Forum in the fall with the city’s mayoral candidates.

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