Philadelphia is living through a golden age of park-building and landscape improvements. Consider that in the last five years, the city has completed the Race Street Pier, Sister Cities Park, Hawthorne Park, an uber-deluxe dog park on the Schuylkill River trail, and - opening next week - a lavish new skate park (Look for my review on Friday). The gardens around the Waterworks have been lovingly restored to their original beauty. Urban farms are sprouting in West Philadelphia. All around the city, parklets and pop-up parks like The Porch are taking over forgotten spaces.
There's a reason the city is so focused on outdoor public space. The generation of millennials that is helping to repopulate the city are a particularly social bunch who place a high priority on good quality outdoor spaces. It's not just Philadelphia that is on park-building spree. Other cities are working as fast as they can to restore their parks and green landscapes, in an effort to attract new residents and businesses.
To take stock of everything that is happening, The Cultural Landscape Foundation has organized one-day conference to explore the trend, which it calls 'Civic Horticulture.' The Washington, D.C.-based group, which is partnering with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, is bringing an A-list of experts for the event, including Matt Urbanski from Michael Van Valkenburgh, Elena Brescia from Scape and Peter Wirtz, who helped restore the Tuilleries in Paris.  The day's panels have been broken into three themes: The Street, The Productive Garden and Parks and Plazas. There's still time to grab at the University of the Arts' Levitt Auditorium, which is just down the street from PHS' new popu-up garden. (above)
Some of the subjects that will be covered include stormwater management, urban farming, rethinking the street and parking. "We're trying to look at all these issues through the lens of plants," says Charles Birnbaum, head of the Cultural Landscape Foundation.