• "Erase the Boundaries" report written by PennPraxis

Erase the Boundaries: Design Ideas for Greater Philadelphia

Erase the Boundaries: Design Ideas for Greater Philadelphia is the final product of the 2009 Philadelphia Regional Infrastructure Charrette, held from July 27 through July 29, 2009, at PennDesign. The workshop was convened by PennDesign, orchestrated by PennPraxis and supported by the Planning Collective. The Penn Institute for Urban Research hosted the event Reshaping the City: New Visions for Urban Infrastructure, which brought together industry leaders and top city officials to discuss new visions for urban infrastructure.

We would like to acknowledge the primary organizing group who made the event possible:

  • Laurie Actman, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability/ Metropolitan Caucus
  • Eugenie Birch, Penn Institute for Urban Research
  • Andrew Goodman, PennPraxis
  • Alan Greenberger, Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
  • Shawn McCaney, William Penn Foundation
  • Amy Montgomery, Penn Institute for Urban Research
  • Harris Steinberg, PennPraxis
  • Marilyn Jordan Taylor, PennDesign
  • Susan Wachter, Penn Institute for Urban Research

The workshop and resulting study was funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation and with the support of the Office of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission served as the executive client.

The 2009 Philadelphia Regional Infrastructure Charrette brought together experts and thought-leaders in the fields of economics, transportation, urban design, natural systems, planning and public policy, including public officials from across the region, to develop ideas for a regional infrastructure investment framework that could advance Philadelphia as the center of a prosperous 21st-century metropolitan region. Working in coordination with the  Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the charrette tested the implications of a regional transportation and natural systems framework on key sites in and around Philadelphia while exploring the relationship between evolving federal policy and regional economic geography. While Greater Philadelphia has significant assets, its transportation infrastructure and natural systems frameworks struggle to keep pace with the diffuse development patterns that characterize the region.

The charrette proceedings offer a response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Obama administration’s policy objectives designed to stimulate collaborative metropolitan regional investment strategies, exemplified by the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. With federal agencies working on integrated urban policy and Congress poised to draft legislation that will affect infrastructure funding in the coming months, the Greater Philadelphia region has an important opportunity to articulate a vision that can position the region for economic growth, while serving as a model for other regions across the country. Over the last 30 years, Greater Philadelphia has successfully reinvented itself, but it struggles to keep up with other comparable metropolitan areas in terms of population and employment growth. In order to seize this opportunity, the region must respond to changing patterns in the ways we work and live, how we move goods and people throughout the region, and where economic development occurs. It means thinking more clearly about the profound connections between infrastructure investment and land use policy.

Targeted federal funding affords us the impetus to advance ideas for a dynamic, progressive and collaborative regional conversation—one based on mutual interests that could enable Greater Philadelphia to define an agenda leveraging our regional competitive economic advantages. Several organizations have been engaged in such conversations throughout the region, including the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s long-range plan for 2035, and the newly formed Metropolitan Caucus (a coalition of Philadelphia-area elected leaders), the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. New ideas can inform these conversations and energize regional coalitions to work together toward a common purpose, as well as make specific contributions to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission as it begins its first comprehensive planning process in more than four decades.

This is an opportunity to begin to frame a regional discussion around long-term goals and strategies for infrastructure investments connected to integrated and mutually supportive land use, resource management and transportation policies. The legacies of Philadelphia—its railroads, natural systems, and culture—must advance to meet 21st century challenges if the region is to find and build upon its competitive advantage in the global economy.

Click here to view the report.

Sections for download (PDF)

NOTE: Electronic files were compressed so they would be easy to download and read. For those interested in a particular image from the report, please email PennPraxis at