Philadelphia Takes First Steps Toward City-wide Historic and Cultural Resources Survey

$250,000 from William Penn Foundation will support the work

PHILADELPHIA— How should a city recognize centuries of history and culture? Philadelphia is about to find out.

Next month the Department of Planning and Development will begin a project to explore that question. When the project ends in December 2022 the City will have a plan for an ongoing, city-wide survey of historic and cultural assets. It will also have completed a pilot survey based on that plan in one city neighborhood.

In its April 2019 final report Mayor Kenney’s Historic Preservation Task Force recommended an ongoing effort to document and preserve historic and cultural resources. This project is the first step to implement that recommendation.

The William Penn Foundation will provide a $250,000 grant to support the project.

To ensure that preservation will be community-driven, the project will create a strategy that invites communities to inform the criteria by which assets and methodologies for preservation are identified.

“Philadelphia’s historic and cultural assets belong to all of us,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “That’s why I’m especially pleased that the work to survey these assets will include our residents. I’m grateful to the William Penn Foundation for continuing to support our preservation efforts.”

“By shining a spotlight on the cultural as well as the historic dimensions of preservation, we hope this effort will be one means of responding to the risk of cultural displacement in our city’s rapidly changing neighborhoods,” said Shawn McCaney, Executive Director of the William Penn Foundation. “We are pleased to support the City’s efforts to engage residents directly in this important step toward preserving our city’s unique histories and cultures.”

The grant will enable the City to create a survey plan to determine:

  • Where the City should survey and how it should begin
  • What the City should survey and how
  • What to document and preserve
  • How to create a system that acknowledges tangible and intangible assets

The completed plan will:

  • Lead to strategic and equitable designations and documentation to protect resources
  • Identify means to engage the public
  • Recommend appropriate staff and resource levels
  • Tie together work across City departments

The City has already implemented other Task Force recommendations. City Council passed and Mayor Kenney signed legislation to assist preservation through zoning changes. Council and the Mayor also enacted an ordinance to combat speculative demolition in Neighborhood Conservation Overlay districts.

The William Penn Foundation also provided funding to support the work of the Task Force.