On the heels of thinking about City Hall placemaking, I thought I’d turn my attention to potential refinements in Old City

Like City Hall’s refresh led by the Center City District, Old City’s refinements will likely come via the counterpart Old City District—both public-private organizations designed to do more than purely government agencies could by themselves.

I like some of the Old City District’s core goals:

  • Be a world-class walking neighborhood
  • Foster civic life through great public space
  • Attract neighborhood-serving retail (especially a grocery)

I’ll endorse that final point especially. The lack of grocery story when I lived in Old City meant that I never one went to a grocery store when I lived there.

In any event, I think about civic refinements like these a bit differently, largely thanks to the influence of Ben Novak on my thinking in the course of writing Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic Environmentalism.

I think it’s easier to think about ways to make a neighborhood like Old City feel like they’re bursting with magic than to talk about “great public space.” We need spiritually dense communities as much as we need “walkable,” ones. 

Old City is already a spiritually dense place; we just need to do a better job thinking about how to call that spirit of it and into the public consciousness.