In the way of progress

There was a time in this country, not too long ago, when "new" and "better" were terms that had inseparable meaning with the thinking of the time being "What is" and "what was" must be put away to make way for "what will be", "what could be". As times changed and mindsets and cities evolved, people started to become more aware of preserving the unique places and spaces that make their communities unique, that give them a sense of wholeness and familiarity.

Philadelphia's record on maintaining its historic and distinctive structures runs truly hot and cold. This is the city that allowed The Fairmount Waterworks to sit derelict for years along the banks of the Schuylkill before more visionary minds set it on a path to a new purpose. This is the city that cut away the heart of America's first business district to construct a failed pedestrian promenade that only very recent efforts finally developed to a state of being anything close to a "Mall".

And now we stand behind the wrecker's ball once again as the hopes and dreams of those who make a living playing to others' hopes and dreams ride it into the future. The Pennsylvania Convention Center is about to undertake its long awaited expansion project. Promising to keep Philadelphia in the mix amongst major convention cities, it will throw the gables and glass another block west to an admittedly less than beautiful stretch of Broad Street, bringing with it more revenue for the city, more bodies filling hotel beds, more butts in restaurant seats. However, for that to happen, the contents four city blocks will have to be demolished and tucked away on these four unassuming blocks can be found a historic firehouse, some of Philadelphia's oldest highrises, the working spaces of artists, lawyers, cooks and carwashers. Even a home that has the look of a Colonial holdout can be found nestled away and it too will have be cleared in the name of progress.

There is no growth without some pain and to advance all of us must, inevitably, shed remainders of the past. This holds true for cities as well as human beings and like human beings, that act of shedding can mean more to us than we may realize. Here is an honest look at what Philadelphia will be shedding to take another step towards the future.