Philadelphia’s a “World Heritage City.” What Now?

City leaders must brainstorm. But first, a Wednesday celebration.

Until last week, there were no World Heritage Cities in the United States. Given that the U.S. is a relatively new country, that’s not surprising — cities like Jerusalem and Tunis do have a wee bit more heritage. Last week, however, at the 13th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city added to the list, in large part due to the presence of Independence Hall, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. That designation celebrates places “with outstanding value to humanity” that “belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”

The quest to become recognized as a WHC was a joint venture by the city and an organization called Global Philadelphia Association, which worked together for two years to make this happen. Denis Richard, Secretary General of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, said in a statement that “over the last two years, Philadelphia has made an excellent case and is very deserving of becoming the first U.S. City to become a full member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities.”

Now the question is: how do we take advantage of this status? Last month, anticipating the Congress’ decision, GPA and the City brought 100-plus local leaders together to brainstorm. That same group will now develop a plan of action.

Join the celebration on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Independence Visitors Center, when there will be a Toast to World Heritage PHL. The mayor and the WHC delegation will be on hand. I’m guessing they’ll be toasting with something appropriately historic. Mead?