Knight Foundation and South Street Headhouse District
Our urban main streets face unprecedented economic and social challenges, from the urgent call for racial justice in public space to the recovery of small retail businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Against this backdrop, THINK.urban, Connect the Dots, and Stae were awarded one of seven of the Knight Foundation’s Data For Civic Engagement grants to take on the challenges faced by main streets as part of a new public realm vision plan for the South Street Headhouse District in Philadelphia, PA. Our project “Edit the City!” is enabling and engaging small business owners and neighborhood residents. These stakeholders and more are providing input on alterations to the public realm, as well as co-creating a vision for the future of South Street — a prominent Philadelphia main street that is known the world over.
The team first engaged in the ‘Tune In’ stage of the project, which involved background analysis, and data mapping, and the creation of a project steering group. The team then listened during creative focus group discussions and one-on-one calls with representative residents, landowners and business owners in order to co-create an actionable initiative rooted in community data.
We also pushed out a public survey that received nearly 2,400 responses and set the stage for community data collection, crowdsourced project ideation, and participatory small-scale “edits” to the public realm — all focused on pedestrianizing South Street. Interventions will also explore ideas like Covid-safety and anti-racist solidarity.
Our work so far has helped to pioneer and shape a pilot open streets weekend program on South Street as a model experiment that explores the potential of people-first, car-free main streets in Philadelphia. Throughout this pilot, the Edit the City! team will be leading efforts to collect and share data to ensure that findings and feedback can be translated into more lasting, insight-driven, people-first change. Throughout the open streets pilot we will be asking visitors, businesses and residents to think about how we can build a better South Street — how we can leverage the pilot and potential long-term changes like pedestrianization to reinvigorate South Street and highlight what makes it unique.