Philly Congress Builds Momentum for Urbanism and Sustainability in the Mid-Atlantic

Gov. Ed Rendell, House Fin. Services Chair Barney Frank will join Robert A.M. Stern, Denise Scott Brown, Peter Calthorpe at five-day center of new urbanist movement

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The Fifteenth Congress for the New Urbanism is bringing many of the world's top experts in urban design and development to a fast-revitalizing Philadelphia from May 16-20 -- and top leaders from the region and beyond including Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler are taking notice and using the conference to advance planning and transportation strategies that result in less sprawl and more cohesive and environmentally sustainable communities.

CNU XV brings a movement with a 15-year record of progress to one of America's great redeveloping cities to focus on the formidable challenges of renewing older places. It comes at a time when New Urbanism is at the center of some of the most innovative work happening in coding reform, transportation design, post-disaster renewal, and green neighborhood development -- all of which will receive ample attention at the Congress. With its focus "New Urbanism and The Old City," the 15th Congress will host seminars, tours and discussions that range from timeless principles and techniques that shape walkable, human-scaled development to the latest strategies on challenges ranging from modern retail formats to affordable housing and foreign oil dependency.

Several of those CNU innovations will literally hit the streets of Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 16, as expert urbanists lead attendees and residents in a series of "urban laboratories" focused on addressing development challenges in the economically distressed Francisville neighborhood. Sandy Sorlien, Susan Henderson and other experienced code drafters will begin calibrating a new form-based code to encourage development that builds neighborhood value and character in Francisville. Urban designer Laura Hall, who has led some of the most productive charrettes in post-Katrina Mississippi (bringing together planners, transportation engineers, elected leaders, citizens and others) will lead a session that involves Francisville residents in finding solutions to a local problem. Foremost urban retailing guru Bob Gibbs and local economic development expert Jim Hartling will take a closer look at resurrecting Francisville's Ridge Avenue mixed-use commercial district. And another lab will apply Christopher Alexander's thoughtful methods to development in Francisville. On Thursday and Saturday, CNU attendees will scatter across Philadelphia's neighborhoods and surrounding cities and towns, learning from its skinny streets and rowhouses and new infill development along streetcar lines.

The regular sessions and plenary addresses will kick off Thursday and will feature a roster of design, development, and policy leaders not to be missed. Renowned planner Peter Calthorpe – creator of new regional plans for Southern California, Dallas, and post-Katrina Southern Louisiana – will champion urbanism's essential role in creating more efficient, healthy regions and challenge the group to pursue a fuller engagement of regionalism and such issues as jobs-housing balance. Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell will lead off this Friday evening plenary devoted to making strong cities and towns the engines of economically vital and environmentally sustainable regions. Striking a similar chord, sessions on LEED-ND, CNU's joint venture with the NRDC and USGBC to create a rating system for green neighborhood development, will explore the power of compact, transit-connected neighborhoods to reduce driving emissions and address global warming. Click here and here for more.

Other top plenary speakers will include Witold Rybczynski, Robert A.M. Stern, Denise Scott Brown, Jonathan Barnett, Rep. Barney Frank, Kjell Forshed, and Ed Mazria. Todd Zimmerman will host leading developers Vince Graham, Jay Noddle, and John Westrum in a discussion on how New Urbanism is changing mainstream development (and how it's constrained by conventional finance and regulatory structures). Register now to attend CNU XV or read on for additional highlights:

Andres Duany, Laura Hall and others will discuss the ways in which architecture can be accessible without outlawing urban forms such as the rowhouse.
Ray Gindroz, Scott Bernstein, Jacky Grimshaw and Shelley Poticha will examine true affordability – the relationship between urban form, location, and transit costs. And join Poticha and GB Arrington for a follow-up session on transit-oriented development in distressed communities.
Pennsylvania DOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, New Jersey DOT official Gary Toth, Walter Kulash, Norman Garrick, and Eric Dumbaugh will explore using the new CNU-ITE urban thoroughfares manual to design street networks that complement (rather than overwhelm) neighborhoods while moving traffic efficiently.
Transportation planner Norm Marshall will join John Norquist, Cary Moon, and Jeff Tumlin in explaining "where the traffic goes" when elevated freeways are replaced with boulevards that build real estate value, as they have been in San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Seoul, Korea – and as is under consideration in nearby Trenton, NJ. And in a similar vein, walkability guru will lead a session on designing narrow streets that still provide for timely emergency response.
Elinor R. Bacon and others will also take on the challenge of housing affordability in our diverse society.
Dan Solomon will build on the stirring address in which he called for an architecture that connects past, present and future, much like the visions of modernity found in dance, fashion and other fields. A high-profile panel including Stefanos Polyzoides will join him in discussing responses to the dual illnesses of carbon accumulation and tribalism.
Dhiru Thadani and John Ellis will speak on the challenge and scale of global urbanism in India and China.
Peter Park and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk will review attempts to transform urban zoning codes in Miami, Denver, and other big cities.
Patrick Siegman, Neal Payton, and Wesley Horner will dispel the widespread myth of scarce parking and reveal the costs in lost vitality of giving parking away too freely.
Gary Hack, John Fry, and Carl Dranoff on the redevelopment "miracle"in Philly's once-troubled University City neighborhood.

"Partly as a result of being in the renewing old city of Philadelphia, this Congress focuses on practical and powerful strategies for improving existing cities as well as new ones," said CNU President and CEO John Norquist. "There will be no end of vital conversations at CNU XV and plenty of impressive actions that will result."

Request Press Passes Now by e-mailing For more information and assistance arranging advance interviews with CNU XV participants, contact Stephen Filmanowicz at or 312-927-0979.