Tomorrow Drexel University will announce to trustees and senior staff that Harris Steinberg, currently executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis, will become executive director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. The formal public announcement will come on Thursday, and Steinberg will start the new job — along with a faculty appointment at Westphal College — on November 1. Steinberg has been at Praxis for 12 and a half years, during which he’s expanded PennDesign‘s horizons beyond the classroom and into the community through planning, community development, civic engagement, nonprofit journalism, public art and other projects.
Steinberg’s new position will be in keeping with that pursuit. “Drexel is really doing some incredible work in the urban realm,” Steinberg says, “and it seems the right time to build on the work I’ve done at PennPraxis. It’s the kind of engagement that Penn pioneered in the ’90s.” He notes that Drexel’s current president, John Fry, was “one of the lead generals” in creating that framework.
As for the fate of PennPraxis, he says, “The hope is that things will keep going.” The dean, he says, has already requested a memo with information about who will take over his responsibilities in the interim. He’s equally optimistic about PlanPhilly, the website that is essential reading for people who care about what’s happening in the city’s built environment, from historical commission decisions to plans for new buildings. It’s invaluable, and Steinberg says that in both cases, “we have all of the players working hard to make sure that keeps going.”
Steinberg first stepped onto Penn’s campus 40 years ago — just one of many alums in his family tree. “My kids went here, my dad went here, I’ve got a lot of Penn ties,” he says, when asked if he’ll miss his current employer. “I’m only going two blocks.”