20 Ways to Make Philadelphia the Best Damn City in America

It’s time to stop talking about how great we could be and actually start planning how great we will be. We looked at dozens of cities we admire and talked to more than 100 of our smartest citizens to redraw the blueprint. From the fantastical to the no-brainer, here are 20 ways we can change Philadelphia’s future in the next 10 years


Let’s get this out of the way first: Burying I-95 would be fabulous. But owing to both the financial collapse and the fact that Boston ran up a $22 billion “Big Dig” tab tunneling part of its interstate, we don’t see our divisive road disappearing from view anytime soon. So we’re calling for a Ferris wheel à la the London Eye along the riverfront, at Penn’s Landing. By nature, most of the structure would be in the air; the Eye’s footprint is quite small, though our ride could be scaled down and still yield fantastic views in all directions. There it would spin, attracting tourists (the Eye draws almost four million a year), romantic Philadelphians, SugarHouse gamblers coming up for air, and perhaps those who just happen to be strolling the now-proposed Race Street Pier park  —  all the while serving as a towering visual reminder to the rest of the teeming city that there, just over that highway, we’ve got something cool. Something amusing, and a bit futuristic, too. Who knows? Visitor demand could drive projects like the light rail that’s been envisioned along Columbus Boulevard, improve walkability, and eventually ease access to the riverfront. Over the past few decades, multibillion-dollar projects such as water parks and science centers have been proposed and not built, yet the Eye cost just $125.45 million to build. If we dub our Ferris wheel “The Peacock” and take design cues from the bird’s feathers, maybe we can entice NBC-ified Comcast to foot the bill for the prominent promo of its mascot.

By Steven M. Altschuler, CEO, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

I would like to see Philadelphia become the healthiest region in the country. As the nation’s fifth-largest metropolitan area, we have the opportunity to improve the health of six million people. To do so requires that we make full use of the unique characteristics of the Philadelphia region.

We see examples of progress already. Expanded, safe bike lanes are just one way local residents can enjoy a healthier lifestyle. But we need to continue to identify more strategies for people of all ages and wellness levels.

We can learn from other towns and cities. I spend some time in Park City, Utah, and see how residents there live a healthier lifestyle because of year-round access to outdoor activities, such as biking and hiking. Other cities have installed free outdoor gyms and formed community walking groups. Some offer opportunities for communities to collectively purchase fresh, healthy food.

Philadelphia, however, has a distinct offering  —  a rich “Meds & Eds” culture. Health care is the largest employer in our region today. We’re also a huge college town, with three major research universities and world-renowned educational institutions.