Will You Want to Live in Future Philadelphia?

Gaze deep into my crystal ball ...

One thing we talk about a lot at Philly Mag is what, exactly, the city might look like in the future―five, 10, maybe 20 or more years down the road. But since we’re frequently staring into the unknown through DROP-colored glasses, or with political corruption, or city bankruptcy, or lack of economic stability on the brain, the images we envision in our crystal ball are sometimes rather depressing. (With a few notable exceptions.) You know: A bankrupt, music-less, pool-less, library-less, fireman-less, trash-filled shell of the world-class city we’d like to be.

Honestly, though, even the doom-and-gloom talk comes from a place of hope: Something about painting the future city with the gray brush of Cormac McCarthian despair kind of works to keep the importance of the decisions we make now real. Here’s the place our little world could conceivably go, so let’s figure out now how to keep it from going there. And let’s do it quickly, before Philly really does turn into The Road and people start eating each other. (I kid. That story just really stuck with me.)

Anyway, here’s a brilliant reason for hope, courtesy the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia: Tomorrow, at WHYY’s Media Commons, they will present “2026: Future Histories of Greater Philadelphia.” After researching for a year, they’ve come up with four scenarios that consider the “possible results of forces and trends at work in the region, nation and globe.” The idea, says Steve Wray, executive director of the League, is to bring “an informed conversation about where we should place our best bets” to make sure Philly will be that world-class place to live and work and play by 2026―that’s the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

(Please, please let at least one future history tell the story of how the Schuylkill Expressway stopped sucking and the trains began running on time.)

In conjunction with the 2026 project, the Economy League is launching a video contest open to all Philadelphians. The challenge? To make a video that depicts life in one of the four futures. There are cash prizes ($2,026 for each winner), as well as the honor of having one’s video aired at the Fringe Festival.

It’s easy—especially lately—to forget this city’s grand tradition of a thinking, active citizenry making great things happen. But everything from the Declaration to electricity to the cheesesteak came from We, the People coming up with great ideas and then being brave enough to act on them. That the Economy League is taking the initiative and proactively trying to paint a bright future for Philly using regular Philadelphians is a real reason to hope for and believe in the best scenarios actually emerging over the next 15 years, rather than any Philly doomsday version we could dream up.