Francisville Documentary of Growth and Development

This video is an additional installment of my photoblog commentary on Francisville and its lagging development in the face of rapid growth. This short documentary simply provides a view of the neighborhood with an eye to the development. Particularly this development is comprised of new buildings, while other areas lay vacant and or underutilized. For example, the video shows a glimpse of the state of Ridge Avenue: which includes numerous closed storefronts, despite its proximity to residential areas and Broad Street. Moreover, Francisville displays some nooks of beauty, including the numerous murals scattered throughout the neighborhood and the Francisville Park. In sum, I this displays that despite the new growth, there are still significant pockets of underdevelopment throughout Francisville.


Increasing Geographic Information on Philadelphia Housing Vacancy

Housing and general building vacancy seem to be an ongoing question and concern in cities throughout the country. Several Philadelphia neighborhood still experiences extensive issues of vacancy — even for entire blocks. Although Philadelphia has experienced so much new development and redevelopment to accommodate newcomers to the area, there are still neighborhoods that are vastly underdeveloped and lay in a blighted state due to vacancy and lack of investment from dwellers and shop owners. As a representative for the local Brewerytown CDC, I am interested in assessing the underutilization of land. Residents and other stakeholders are interested in seeing surrounding blocks become redeveloped such as that of Girard Avenue. Brewerytown CDC has considered the use of Public Participation GIS as a tool for gathering information on vacant and underutilized land from residents and other stakeholders.

We believe that utilizing PPGIS will effectively gather the insight, geographically of vacant/underutilized lots based on that of passionate and vested members of the community. PPGIS provides us with a tool to gather spatial data that we can’t otherwise collect. Moreover, people will likely point out lots in which seem to have a negative impact on the neighborhood due to their vacant state. PPGIS can be used alongside other forms of surveys and outreach to gather beliefs from the community of Brewerytown regarding the vacancy of parts of the neighborhoods. In a case such as ours, we want to focus our sample on people with knowledge of the neighborhood, because they are the ones that experience the effects of land underutilization every day, however, that is not to say that our use of the tool will be solely limited to the neighborhood. We hope to allow this information gathering to be accessible to groups of varying incomes and household situations. However, PPGIS is notorious for limiting the ability to receive a critical mass of public participation.

Alongside the use of mapping, we will utilize surveys through other forms of social media to gather thoughts and concerns about the status of vacancy vs. development in the neighborhood. As Brewerytown gains more attention and momentum, so will pressure to raise housing costs. This all correlates to long-term vacancy and development within the neighborhood, and as such, it is integral that we gain an understanding of primary concerns in the neighborhood alongside physical areas residents notice as vacant.

It has been argued that the use of PPGIS applications has been difficult in implementation, particularly for the use based on human behavior, interest (Brown 2012), and wealth . However, the size of Brewerytown makes it so that the interested volunteers in identifying underutilized areas can cover a large portion of the neighborhood through the use of a PPGIS application.

Ultimately, PPGIS is a tool that serves the purpose in spatially identifying points of interest with matching descriptions. This type of information is so valuable because it can be utilized to spatially analyze data. It is also valuable because it is grassroots information based on real stakeholder input (Bugs, Granell, Fonts, Huerta, Painho, 2010). This is why this is not simply a  buzzword/tool. It is irreplaceable in the purpose it serves. Arnstein’s ladder is also noted in terms of utilizing PPGIS. PPGIS is a prime example of using technology to climb to the higher rung of Arnstein’s ladder of public participation because of its utilization of actual stakeholder data and input (Gordon, Schirra, Hollander, 2011). Nonetheless, the technology itself is very inaccessible, dependant on how applications or tools are deployed. Moreover, the data itself is difficult to interpret (Bugs, et. al, 2010).

As with any digital outreach technology, there are certain limitations as to who has access to participating. It is also totally dependent on the interest of the public in participating (Brown, 2012). In fact, in Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) for Regional and Environmental Planning: Reflections on a Decade of Empirical Research, Brown states that as applications expand, and more organizations have access to the technology, users may be less interested in participating (2010). In sum, the use of PPGIS may not be the end all be all in terms of public outreach and data collection, but it is an intriguing tool that is totally unique in the realm of data collection. Although the technology will only get better, it is still somewhat questionable the extent to which PPGIS will actually be utilized to gather publicly-sourced data.

In terms of using PPGIS at a local level (Brewerytown/Philadelphia concerns of housing vacancy), the level of technology typically needed for PPGIS is beyond what might be necessary for this case. Since it is a small level of public outreach, fewer resources would be needed to gather data. In implementing this data gathering, it would likely make the most sense to utilize a mapping application in which users can make comments according to a place they found (i.e. a vacant home, vacant lot, underutilized building). Finally, this type of data gathering program need not require users to provide personal information, but simply the location with comments on that point (based on information outlined in Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) for Regional and Environmental Planning: Reflections on a Decade of Empirical Research [Bugs, et. al, 2010]).


  • Brown, G. (2012). Public participation GIS for regional and environmental planning: Reflections on a decade of empirical research.URISA Journal, 24(2), 7.
  • Bugs, G., Granell, C., Fonts, O., Huerta, J., & Painho, M. (2010). An assessment of public participation GIS and web 2.0 technologies in urban planning practice in canela, brazil. Cities, 27(3), 172-181. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2009.11.008
  • Gordon, E., Hollander, J., & Schirra, S. (2011). Immersive planning: A conceptual model for designing public participation with new technologies. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design,38(3), 505-519. doi:10.1068/b37013

Francisville: Growth and Revitalization?

Frencisville compare

Francisville is a typical Noth Philadelphia neighborhood, tucked between booming Brewerytown and Fairmount. This neighborhood seems to be following suite with other neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia: rapid building and growth, but limited community stake and investment. The neighborhood of Francisville is stuck somewhere between rapid development, but still, has remnants of its past. Scattered throughout are still landuses typically coined as NIMBY uses (“Not in My Backyard”). Such places include the pay-by-the-hour hotel, the numerous drug rehabilitation homes, and other clinics.

Francisville_corner Francisville Carlisle

Throughout this neighborhood are brand new architecture, juxtaposed by older homes — some vacant. In the past year, numerous rental housing developments have popped up. Almost daily, there seems to be a new project starting from the groun-up, attracting young adults looking for affordable housing with access to the center city and other neighborhoods. Francisville is certainly not unique in this trend. However, the neighborhood as whole seems to be lagging in quality community development. Meaning that the bricks and mortar are there, but is there a community with a stake in the neighborhood and its long-term development?

Francisville streetsNew housing does not equal quality development. This needs to come from within the neighborhood. I think that this is a problem that can be seen throughout the city, state, and country; where places are built with little input from the community. As planners, this is the primary step in ensuring that a place will be sustainable in the long-run. But really development in Francisville does not seem supportive of the long-term needs of the neighborhood, especially if the incoming residents don’t plan to stay for years to come. Although I don’t know all of this for a fact, it would be interesting to see what actual members of the community, both old and new feel about the changing fabric of the neighborhood. This is simply my perFrancisville greenception of the daily changes.

It seems that Francisville is no longer a “neglected” neighborhood, as past property investors have said. But, the neighborhood still feels devoid of investment beyond housing.  Along Ridge Avenue there are hints of an old commercial corridor, but nothing really exists there. On the eastern edge of the neighborhood is Broad Street, providing the majority of retail, alongside Fairmount Avenue. Ultimately, this neighborhood needs more long-term investments outside of housing, perhaps supportive organization that bring interest to future development and create engagement with the community members, old and new. The Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation exists to drive such new development, while ensuring that no one is displaced — a refreshing reassurance that, despite new development, perhaps long-term homeowners and renters won’t be “priced-out”. Still, without community engagement in the process, development will likely follow the status-quo, as more housing is built without quality internal community investment.Francisville_lot

More images for this photoblog can be found here:

Update: As mentioned in the beginning of the blog, Francisville is a close neighbor to Fairmount neighborhood. PlanPhilly recently published an article that aligns with some of my thoughts on the Francisville neighborhood: Worth a look if you are interested in development that doesn’t align with growing “identity”.

September 19th Community Design Charrette

Concerned about future development in your neighborhood?

Want to have a say in the future of Port Richmond?

Join the Friends of Port Richmond for a design charrette for Port Richmond’s Area Master Plan.


The Friends of Port Richmond is holding a Community-Based design charrette for the development of brownfield site. This is an opportunity for members of the community to have a say in the future development of their neighborhood. There are plans for a neighborhood brownfield site to be developed. This site is suitable for mixed-use development to serve the community. What would you like to see here? Shopping? Recreation? Public space? Housing?

The charrette will begin with a group-wide presentation to introduce the site and program Participants of the charrette will be split into four focus groups to conduct collaborative planning for the brownfield site.


The Environmental Protection Agency has allocated federal funding and technical assistance for the purpose of clean-up and reuse of the brownfield site. The brownfield site in Port Richmond has been identified by the EPA as a site for potential revitalization through federal funding. A major part of the site revitalization process is gathering community-based input through processes such as this design charrette. See more about the program at:


This will be an intensive three-hour collaborative event starting at 6 PM on September 19th, 2016.


The design charrette will be held at the Memphis Academy Charter School.


Members of the Port Richmond community are invited. Friends of Port Richmond are looking for dedicated stakeholders that are passionate about the community and its future development.


There are only 25 openings, please RSVP at by September 1st, 2016.

Refreshments will be provided.

Contact if you have any questions.


Port Richmond Flyer










See flyer here.

Social Media Outreach

Facebook: First and foremost, in the facebook post, included is an image of the flyer or a link to it. This is an easy way to keep the outreach consistent and easy to follow for interested participants. The facebook post would also include a link leading to this post (the initial event description). The post itself says:

“Are you a part of the Port Richmond neighborhood? Care about the future of Port Richmond and its development? Join us next month for a collaborative idea-sharing event to plan for and design a local area-wide plan. More information can be found here:  #community #PortRichmond #PortRichmondDesign #brownfields”

Twitter: The twitter post is only one sentence, but includes an image of the flyer and a link to the original blog post:

“Join us next month to help plan the future of Port Richmond:

Concluding survey on September 19th Charrette

Thanks so much for taking the time to participate in the design charrette. Please take a moment to complete this survey so we can know about your experience in participating in this collaborative event:

Mini Blog: Response to Wheeler’s Word of Caution

Wheeler’s Technology and Planning: A Note of Caution lays out the argument that local governments and planning entities are beginning (and have) relied on technology in implementing projects and engaging the public. The author mostly takes a middle ground approach in assessing the increasing use of technology in the field of planning and civic service. The ultimate conclusion of this article is that technology for outreach, mapping, and actual physical development has been widely used without much reflection or examination by planners. Wheeler does not state that this is at all a bad thing or the wrong direction for planning, but rather seems to believe that planners hold evolving technology with too high of a regard for quantitative planning. In addition, Wheeler discusses how planners should continue to be deep-rooted in the qualitative aspects of planning, outside of the use of technology. In the article, Wheeler is ultimately calling for planners to use technology in tandem with other strategies such as community outreach to meet the goals of supporting communities’ needs.

Wheeler’s discussion certainly has merit. His assessment of technology follows with that of the ongoing trend of critics questioning the strength of technology and its effects on society as a whole. He discusses that the ability to quantitatively and deeply assess places, planners, and social scientists are able to become more prescriptive and lose the qualitative dimension of planning for people — understanding the actual needs and desires actual members of the community experience. Moreover, Wheeler is concerned that ever-increasing technology will displace planners from experiencing the physical place. All of this could very well be true, but what I see as being a major concern is ensuring that planners make themselves accessible to the public.

Despite my agreement with Wheeler’s thought-process, I don’t think he gives enough credit to planners and other groups that use information technology to serve communities.He discusses how technology has allowed planners and other social researchers to become more prescriptive rather than collaborative. However, if used correctly information technology can actually break down barriers of communication with communities, enabling planners and the public to initiate important conversations. For example, in the article E-Participation in Local Governments, the authors point out that demand has, in fact, driven the implementation in E-Participation tools in local governments — meaning that the public sees such advances in technology as valuable in providing services.

In sum, the use of technology in working for the public must have a balance, which, as I see it, is Wheeler’s final thesis. Rather than allowing planners/government to get wrapped up in the intricacies of technology, they should maintain the basic understanding of who they are serving, and what the problem is. Technology has its place in planning, public services, and development and we should not downplay the role of information technology such as GIS, the internet, social media, and other advanced tools play in the realm of serving communities and identifying the needs of stakeholders. Wheeler seems to miss the point that information technology need not solely be used to gather quantitative information on populations and geographic places, but rather may also be used to gather those missing pieces of information from the public that may not be discovered otherwise. Information technology, I believe should continue to be utilized as a useful — even necessary tool for communicating with diverse communities in order to identify ways to serve communities.


  • Reddick, C., & Norris, D. F. (2013). E-participation in local governments: An examination of political-managerial support and impacts.Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, 7(4), 453. doi:10.1108/TG-02-2013-0008
  • Wheeler, Stephen. (2001). Technology and Planning: A Note of Caution. Berkeley Planning Journal, 15(1). ucb_crp_bpj_11523. Retrieved from:


Welcome to my Temple University site. This site is dedicated to my academic and professional work as a graduate student in City and Regional Planning. On the site, you will also find my resume and other information regarding my interests in planning and urban places.