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Fall 2017 Course Descriptions

All classes include time for Q&A with presenters and an interactive group exercise at the end of the session to help you “lock in” what you’ve learned. You’ll receive handouts at each session, as well as a syllabus with reading suggestions prior to each class. We pack a lot into each class, so it’s important that you plan to arrive PRIOR to the 6:00pm start time, to get settled, talk to your classmates and get some dinner! (included in course fees) Download PDF version.  

Core sessions are required as well as at least 2 of the 3 electives. Pizza and Presentations Workshop session is optional.

"I didn't realize how many resources were available and how many questions could be answered with a little research. Every night after class I've felt so excited and empowered and ready to share!"--Fall 2014 participant

Core Session 1- The BIG Picture- Planning in the City              October 11, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: What is Planning? Everyone is a planner- in the sense that we all prepare for the future. Learn the tools and principles city planners use to assess current conditions, chart a future vision, and get things done. At a city planning level, you will learn about the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) and its staff, the role it plays, and how other city agencies work with it. You will get an overview of the citywide comprehensive vision- Philadelphia 2035 (adopted in 2011) and how citizens are involved in developing the 18 District Plans- the second phase of the plan. Learn how planning influences decision-making in the city, as recommendations in the District Plans are being implemented. 

Martine DeCamp, City Planner & West/South/Central Cluster Leader, PCPC 

Unit 2: Nicetown: Community Driven Planning. Nicetown Community Development Corporation was founded in 1999 to improve the quality of life in Nicetown and surrounding neighborhoods. Nicetown CDC learned how critical community-driven planning is to the neighborhood development process and took a step-by-step approach to develop and implement a succession of five plans. Many of the goals of the plans have been or are being implemented- including affordable housing, corridor revitalization, festivals and activities that bring connectivity, safety and vibrancy to Nicetown’s corridor and residential blocks. “Our plans are road maps that tell a story and allow communities to understand and be included.”

Majeedah Rashid, Executive Director, Nicetown CDC, Citizen Planner (Fall 2010)
Required reading“Introduction to Planning in Philadelphia”- handout to be sent prior to the first class.

Core Session 2- The Development Process                         October 18, Thursday, 6:00-9:00pm

Community Design Collaborative Introduction:
No project gets built before a long process of design. Good design bridges the gap between community “vision” and getting it built! Learn about how your organization may be able to obtain pro bono design services delivered through the Collaborative’s process in this brief overview. The volunteers of the Collaborative partner with nonprofits to engage communities, put visions down on paper and advance to the next stage: gaining support, raising funds, and building projects.

Heidi Segall Levy, Director of Design Services, Community Design Collaborative

Unit 1: The Development Process- the Private Side.
Learn from an experienced, mission driven private developer who has renovated and restored more than 250 vacant, deteriorated commercial and residential units in the Philadelphia region during the past 28 years and currently owns and manages more than 700,000 square feet of space. You’ll learn the steps to get projects done and the financial constraints and other road blocks all developers face. The roles of various stakeholders impacting development will be discussed, in addition to tips on how to work with community developers to get the desired results for your community.

Ken Weinstein, President of Philly Office Retail, LLC, entrepreneur & real estate developer

Unit 2: The Development Process- the Non-Profit View.  
People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has invested over $65 million to improve the quality of life for residents of the Lower Lancaster Avenue neighborhoods: Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, and West Powelton. Through its community development work, PEC is beautifying open spaces and developing eco-friendly affordable housing as well as mixed-use buildings along the local commercial corridor. Learn about their new affordable housing project at 4050 Haverford Avenue that replaced a large vacant lot with a 20-unit building specifically designed for low-income artists, an essential part of the Lower Lancaster community. Ms. Strong served as PEC’s Vice President of Community & Economic Development before joining the Rebuilding Community Infrastructure team.

Kira Strong, Deputy Director of Design & Construction, ReBuilding Community Infrastructure

Core Session 3- Zoning and Land Use                                         October 25, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: The Zoning Code.  
Understand the reasons why zoning has evolved as an important tool of planning. Zoning regulates land uses and the type, size, and height of buildings. Real projects will be used to demonstrate three methods of zoning “relief” from the zoning code:  variances, special exceptions, and zoning remapping. Gain a better understanding of how to navigate the code and what the steps are to learn what can be built on a lot and what approvals a project needs. Learn the limitations of zoning, as well as the elements in the zoning code that help preserve neighborhood character.

Donna J. Carney, CPI Director, PCPC
Andy Meloney, Senior Planner for Implementation, PCPC

Unit 2: Zoning & Citizen Involvement. The zoning code includes standards for citizen participation in the development process, including “RCOs”- Registered Community Organizations. Learn how a recent CPI grad rallied her neighbors and worked with her community civic group to influence development in her community.

Judy Walterson, member of West Powelton/Saunders Park RCO, Citizen Planner (Spring 2016)

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Elective class topics change each semester. If you are selected to participate in the Course, you must select a minimum of 2 of the 3 electives to earn the Certificate of Completion. 


Elective #1- Diversifying Your Organization                     November 1, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: Philadelphia: A Diverse City Divided
Philadelphia is among the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. And yet it is also one of the most segregated. Our schools, homes, even our jobs are divided along many demographic lines, which have significant consequences for all residents. As community leaders, this is a challenge – how do you truly engage a city to work together when residents live separate and disparate lives? In this interactive session, you will learn about the racial and ethnic make-up of Philadelphia and how it is changing. You will examine the causes and consequences of racial segregation and how this may impact your community projects. Finally, you will hear how other local leaders have tackled these difficult issues and explore tactics to overcome them.

Dr. Faye Allard, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Community College of Philadelphia.

Panelists (see "Instructors" page for more info on topics):
Eleanor Ingersoll, Board President, Queen Village Neighbors Association 
Akeem Dixon, formerly 52nd Street Corridor Manager, The Enterprise Center, formerly Economic Development Dir., NKCDC, Citizen Planner, (Fall 2014)
Troy Everwine, Board member Tacony CDC, owner of SawTown Tavern, Citizen Planner, (Spring 2017)

Elective #2:  Fixing Neighborhood Issues- L&I and 311          November 8, Wed. 6:00-9:00pm

Unit 1: Information is power- using L&I tools
The Department of Licenses & Inspections in involved with nearly every aspect of the development process, but its specific functions, and the extent and limitations of its authority, are not widely understood. As a leader in the City’s open data movement, L&I is growing more transparent and empowering city residents to interact with the Department more effectively, and to participate in shaping their communities. Attendees of this class will learn how L&I really works and how best to make use of the tools and information L&I and the City’s technology departments are making available online.

Rebecca Swanson, Planning Director, Department of Licenses & Inspections
Karen Guss, Director of Communications, Department of Licenses & Inspections

Unit 2: How to get issues fixed in your neighborhood
Illegal dumping? Pothole? Broken streetlight? Philly311 is the City of Philadelphia’s one-stop-shop for fixing non-emergency issues. Through calling “3-1-1”, the mobile app, or the 311 website, residents can report these issues and track their progress in being resolved. Learn what issues can be addressed through 311, how to accurately report them so they get addressed as quickly as possible, and the 311 Neighborhood Liaison Program, which gives enhanced tracking capabilities.

Daniel Ramos, Community Engagement Coordinator at Philly311

Elective #3:   Resources for Neighborhood Development      November 15, Wed., 6:00-9:00pm

The City of Philadelphia and its economic development partners have a number of resources to help at every stage of development and in every neighborhood throughout the city. Representatives from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the Redevelopment Authority (PRA), Commerce Department, Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and Division of Development Services will provide an overview of how their agencies work together at the neighborhood level to help grow businesses and bring development to communities across the city. This class will examine how these resources, including financial incentives, the land bank, and technical assistance for commercial corridors, help organizations and individuals to complete projects that energize neighborhoods, create jobs, and eliminate blight.
A fellow Citizen Planner will also speak about his experience as a private developer who has worked with many city agencies in navigating the zoning and permitting process. Mathen will discuss real estate as an ‘asset’ for the community, why it’s important for community organizations to understand the zoning code, and why more local community development corporations should take on active development roles.

Arthur Gimenez, Director of Business Development, Small Businesses and Neighborhood Development, PIDC
Vaughn Taylor, Director of Business Development, Small Businesses and Neighborhood Development, PIDC, (CPI grad)
Dr. H. Ahada Stanford, Director of Neighborhood Business Development StrategiesCommerce Department
Greg Heller, Executive Director, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority
Larissa Klevan, Community Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission
Mathen Pullukattu, Real Estate Developer, Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation member, Citizen Planner (Spring 2014)
Moderated by John Mondlak, Director, Development Services, Department of Planning & Development

Presentations & Pizza Workshop                                  
November 20, Monday, 6:00-9:00pm

Final Projects Presentations
You give a 5-minute presentation on a project that you or your organization is working on--or a “wish” project-- to get feedback from your fellow CPI participants and professional city planners. This meets the “final project” requirement. (You can also submit your course project in writing instead of giving a presentation. Templates will be provided).

This is a low-stress way to get public speaking practice and have an informal networking opportunity with your classmates!
Attendance is optional and will not be required to attain the “Citizen Planner Certificate of Completion”.

  • 2017 spring happyhour 2
CPI Happy Hour!  October 4, 5:30-7:30pm 
Smokin' Betty's- 116 S. 11th Street, 1st Flr (at Sansom St)

The Wednesday night prior to the first class of each new semester is a social networking happy hour where participants in the upcoming semester as well as past graduates and come out and meet each other as well as connect with old friends. It's a great way to come to the first class as a new participant and recognize friendly faces.