City and Regional Planning

New Life for Old Schools. Philadelphia School Reuse Studio.

Spring 2013 Studio

Across the country, urban school districts have closed and continue to close significant percentages of their public schools. As a part of this trend, Philadelphia has gone through two rounds of mass-closings in the last two school years. On top of schools closed in previous years that remain unused, this will leave the School Distirct of Philadelphia with 32 vacant buildings at the end of the 2013

Concentrated in many of the city's stuggling low- and moderate- income neighborhoods, where vacancy already presents a potent challenge to local civic and economic capacity, the latest round of school closings should serve as a wake-up call to public officials, neighborhood activists, and the local business community. With economic inequality rising across the nation, evidence is mounting that cities cannot suceed sustainably unless their prosperity is shared by all their residents. As Center City and its surrounding neighborhoods continue to boom, Philadelphians form all walks of life should strive to see the painful process of school closure as an opportunity to spread this propserity fairly, evenly, and justly across the city's many neighborhoods.

This stuido suggests a number of ways Philadelphia can beging to do just that. After analyzing "How We Got Here", the report takes a detailed look at the network of closed and closing schools, as well as the neighborhoods in which they are located, an in which the effects of those closures will be most profoundly felt. Finally, Philadelphia's case will be reviewed alongside that of other cities experiencing similar pressure on their public school system, and the approach those places have taken to the sensitive issues of school closure and reuse.

You can learn more about this project at the New Life for Old Schools website.



Harris Steinberg, Adjunct Assistant Professor