Historic Preservation

Posted October 11, 2021

Remembering Elise Vider 1951-2021

Elise Vider (MSHP'91), a journalist and founding member of Design Advocacy Group, passed away on October 2. She is remembered for a decades-long career in advocacy for the built environment.

In addition to her work with DAG, she held executive positions in the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and the Center City District. She also worked with the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s Civic Design Review board, and founded her own business as a writer and editor.

Vider became involved in preservation and urban design advocacy as a journalist in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1970s. According to Vider's obituary in the Inquirer, her graduate education at Penn was the next step in her activism. “She didn’t just want to report and observe; she wanted to make a difference,” her husband said. “She knew the degree would give her credibility, and she saw it as a way to enhance her advocacy for the built environment.”

DAG was founded in 2002 during the height of “pay-to-play” development in Philadelphia. The group pushed back against the deal-making at the cost of thoughtful urban design; as DAG co-founder Bill Becker put it in 2012, “We were to be a voice at the table to say that design is important, not a luxury and not incompatible with doing things quickly, efficiently and not at exorbitant cost.”

In 2011, Vider directed the year-long “Gray Area” project, which promoted public dialogues around older buildings in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood. It was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Serving as DAG's chair from 2015 to 2020, Vider helped the organization grow from a group of design-minded individuals to a registered nonprofit. 

A memorial service will be held at the Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, on Saturday, October 23, at 1 PM.