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Lily Goodspeed Headshot

Lily Goodspeed

[Communities] should be the ones determining the most important questions about their neighborhoods.


March 16, 2022


East Passyunk Crossing


Spring 2015


December 5, 2023

Update: Catching up on the past ten years with Lily

Last time we caught up with Lily Goodspeed (Spring 2015), she was working to help launch the redevelopment of the Bok building. Now, nearly ten years later, Lily is rejoining Bok with new skills, resources, and experiences to guide her.  

In her early days with scout Ltd., the design and development firm that led the Bok redevelopment project, Lily saw firsthand the opportunities and challenges that comes with adaptive reuse. “Being able to help support community values…and be able to help shape [the Bok building] into a place that’s more than just a business center, but rather a place for nonprofits and resources, an event space, and kind of just a meeting place in a community” was a critical moment for Lily. She learned not only about engaging with neighbors and the power of community-led planning, but also that this type of work could become a career.

When Lily decided to go back to school, her choices were between Public Policy and Urban Planning. Both offered her an angle into community power in shaping cities. She ended up at the Fels Institute of Government at Penn, learning from experts in Philadelphia about housing policy, the many ways in which city government operates, and how to connect community organizing in planning to the policy that shapes the built environment.  

Lily finished up her grad program in Spring 2020, when the move to remote school allowed her the flexibility to finish her courses from Mexico City. That summer, she was able to dive into adaptive reuse—similar to her work with Bok—in Mexico City. Attempting the same project in a city over five times the size, with different government structures and priorities, and of course a different language and culture, drove home for Lily that city planning looks different everywhere.

I've [seen] how adaptive reuse can fit into different buildings, into different cultural contexts... finding this connection between community impact, placemaking, and historic preservation. I think all three of those really operate really well [together]. Lily Goodspeed

Back in Philadelphia, Lily first joined Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition (SEAMAAC), wearing many hats to support the Southeast Asian and refugee communities that the organization serves. Then, since she was interested in bridging the gap between planning, policy, and community power, Lily moved on to a role with Connect the Dots. In this role, Lily stepped out of the public sector and into consulting to help triangulate between decision makers and community members to facilitate trust and progress. In this way, much of her work at Connect the Dots was “figuring out how to be honest and transparent with communities about … roadblocks [like capacity, budget, and bureaucracy], but also still center community, and meet them where they are when asking for input and asking for their engagement.”

Now, after five years away from her work with Bok, Lily is rejoining the team as the Leasing and Community Manager with a breadth of new experiences. And the Bok project has evolved, too. When Lily started out, they had the keys to an unused building and a vision. Now the Bok building is at capacity for tenants. They welcome nearly 200,000 visitors a year, hosting events, sharing resources, and offering a creative community hub. Instead of wondering how to foster community trust and buy-in, now the team at Bok is figuring out how to steward new and growing projects beyond the constraints of the building, which is nearly full.

Along her journey, Lily has been able to reference her time with CPI as a tool for expanding her planning, advocacy, and community engagement work. She also recognizes the importance of “pushing against this top-down model and finding ways to proactively and thoughtfully make democratic spaces for city planning.” For Lily, CPI is not only doing that work, but has been a leader in Philadelphia since she took the course in 2015.

CPI is such a great example of truly building trust with community in ways that feel very much about long-term enrichment and investment. Lily Goodspeed

And for Lily, that’s what good planning really comes down to. It’s exciting to see that cities [and] nonprofit agencies are starting to see the value of that work. That it takes, you know, takes time, takes expertise and, most importantly I think, takes trust of communities to get meaningful input.” 

Citizen Planner In Action: Lily Goodspeed

First Published in 2012


When Lily attended Citizens Planning Institute, she was wrapping up a year as the Community Partnership Coordinator Americorps VISTA at Southwark School. CPI helped her figure out her next career move; she now serves as the Outreach Coordinator for Scout Ltd. and brings her Citizen Planner know-how to the position.

When I took CPI, I was trying to figure out what my next step was…CPI put me in the mindset of seeing how planning is really important to determining how a neighborhood feels and what people’s experiences are. Getting involved with Scout seemed like an opportunity to have even more of an influence, and I’m going to try make it as community-focused as I can.

Scout Ltd. is an urban design and development firm that purchased the former Edward W. Bok Technical High School building, a public school that was shut down in 2013. Lily has been working with the company to bring the building back to life as something that serves the community and allows the space to tell the story of its history.

An architectural rendering of the front of the Bok Building.

The knowledge Lily gained at CPI has come in handy; the CPI zoning class helped her understand what the Bok School building’s IRMX zoning means!

Knowing what is permitted in the building’s base zoning district comes in handy as Lily helps determine what type of uses Scout seeks for the building. While very early in the leasing process, the company envisions bringing in artists, makers, and tradespeople, honoring the building’s past as a vocational high school. Additionally, Scout is interested in bringing in non-profits who provide direct services to community members.

Lily’s work is informed by CPI, which introduced her to people in the city who are finding unique solutions to their neighborhoods’ unique challenges. “People have been organizing in and serving Philadelphia neighborhoods for generations,” she explains, “I’m trying to create partnerships with the community, bring people together, and not reinvent the wheel but work with those already doing good work in the neighborhood and the City.”

She continues to listen and learn from her neighbors, and recently brought the national storytelling organization StoryCorps to South Philadelphia for the first time ever, in order to honor the history of the building and the surrounding neighborhood and celebrate its stories.  A diverse group of South Philly residents, including Bok School alums from several decades, recorded their stories, which are now permanently preserved in the Library Congress and will be available to the community in the coming months, though Lily is still thinking through the most creative and accessible way to make these stories public.

Lily helped approach an opportunity for public space on the Bok Building’s property like a true Citizen Planner.

Something I learned from CPI is that you should listen and observe how people like to use the space. For example, people from all different backgrounds have already been using an area on the side of the building as dog park, so we are going to make it into a more formalized dog park space and provide amenities… Some of the assets the school has are rare in the neighborhood and we are trying to make sure they’re something the neighborhood can continue to enjoy.