If Philadelphia is to become the “greenest” city in America by 2015, as Mayor Michael A. Nutter has envisioned, it will rely heavily on the ideas, financial know-how and collaborative spirit of Peter Longstreth and Katherine Gajewski to make it happen.
Longstreth is president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), a 53-year-old, not-for-profit corporation founded by the city and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which provides financing and real estate resources to companies seeking to locate or expand in Philadelphia. PIDC leads the development of The Navy Yard—the city’s new hub for innovative ideas and concepts in green technology, energy efficiency and sustainability.
Gajewski directs the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and is charged with coordinating the implementation of the mayor’s Greenworks Philadelphia sustainability plan—more than 150 initiatives and benchmarks focused on five key areas: energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement. The city expects the plan will catapult it into the esteemed position of America’s most environmentally friendly city by 2015.
Mayor Nutter, during a recent speech before the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, described Philadelphia as “on the cutting edge of the emerging green economy, perfectly positioned to play a leading role in a more competitive 21st century and to become the greenest city in America.”
A decade ago, few mayors would have wholeheartedly and so publicly embraced such goals, let alone have created the cabinet-level post Gajewski now holds. Green technology and sustainability, which revolve around the fundamental principle of humans acting as good stewards of the environment, were considered too costly, not ready for prime time and had not yet caught on with the general public.
But with the increase in oil prices, the belief among many scientists that pollution is causing global warming, and the push by President Obama to offer federal funding and tax incentives to businesses and residents who reduce their energy consumption, greening and sustainability have become new buzzwords in the American lexicon.
Towns and cities, including Philadelphia, require residents to separate out recyclables when putting out the trash. Buildings are constructed using technologies that reduce the energy needed to heat and cool them. Roads and pavements are constructed with permeable materials that allow rain water to percolate into the ground slowly, rather than quickly running off into storm drains and polluting rivers and streams.
In Philadelphia, Gajewski said her role is to make sure that the Greenworks Philadelphia vision becomes a reality, and it starts, she said, with Philadelphia’s bones. “We have these great bones that position us very well,” Gajewski said, referring to the valuable assets the city already has in place that will provide the building blocks for achieving the mayor’s vision.
Some of those bones include a public transit system that can help reduce the number of people who drive cars; more than 500,000 row homes, already somewhat insulated by virtue of being adjacent to one another; Fairmount Park, one of the world’s largest urban park systems with 9,200 acres of green, open spaces and trees that provide cover, which reduces the need to cool homes; and two rivers—the Delaware and Schuylkill—that provide a home for flora and fauna and a beautiful backdrop for environmentally friendly projects.
“When you look out West or down South, a lot of communities don’t have those same bones,” she said. “Philadelphia has a lot of unique assets.”
By the year 2015, Greenworks Philadelphia seeks to build on Philly’s bone structure by, among other things, reducing municipal energy use by 30 percent; adding 500 more acres of open space; retrofitting 15 percent of the city’s housing stock with energy saving devices and materials; and purchasing and/or generating 20 percent of the city’s electricity from solar and other alternative energy sources.
“Greenworks is a blend of new initiatives as well as consideration of where and how we can do the things we’re already doing a bit differently to additionally address sustainability goals,” Gajewski said, adding that if the city, for example, is authorizing a street or sidewalk project, the Streets Department now applies a complete streets approach to take into account the needs of bicycles, pedestrians and public transit, as well as automobiles.
Greater Philadelphia universities and colleges will play a key role in helping the city attain its environmental goals because of the research academia can provide and because of the facilities the colleges build and retrofit. Gajewski said the $31 million in new, environmentally friendly construction at Community College of Philadelphia’s Northeast Regional Center in Northeast Philadelphia will help the city achieve its goal. The College has built a new, 60,000 sq. ft. facility that is expected to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Community College of Philadelphia building a LEED gold certified building, that’s helping to reduce our energy use at a citywide scale. Hopefully we’ll see more and more projects like this in the coming years.”
Director, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
“Target 2 in Greenworks seeks to reduce citywide building energy consumption by 10 percent by 2015. Making buildings more energy efficient saves energy, money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality. Community College of Philadelphia building a building expected to receive LEED gold certifcation, that’s helping to reduce our energy use at a citywide scale. Hopefully we’ll see more and more projects like this in the coming years,” Gajewski said.
From a skeletal point of view, a significant part of Philadelphia’s bone structure is located in South Philadelphia at the southern-most tip of Broad Street behind a gate that welcomes visitors to The Navy Yard.
Closed in the 1990s as part of a federal government base realignment process, the historic Navy Yard is a city inside a city that has received a considerable amount of government funding and private sector investment, especially within the last few years.
For decades, thousands of men and women from Greater Philadelphia worked at The Navy Yard building ships that helped America retain its military strength worldwide. Today, shipbuilding is still a key component. But government shipbuilding has given way to commercial shipbuilding by a private company called Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, and The Navy Yard is now home to more than 100 other businesses.
Longstreth of PIDC said his job as it relates to Greenworks Philadelphia is to translate the mayor’s vision into jobs and economic prosperity for the city. Sustainability and green technology will play key roles in bringing this goal to fruition at The Navy Yard, he said. “What The Navy Yard has been able to offer the city is an environment that’s large … but controlled,” Longstreth said, adding that The Navy Yard has one owner, allowing for a consistent master plan and vision for the development that has assisted its transition from federal ownership to city control and has created an environment where partnerships and innovation can flourish.
Early on, he said, PIDC set out to establish a research and development strategy that would build on the Navy’s historic strengths in engineering, differentiating it from the city’s established and successful life sciences economy. “Once we started focusing on our great natural attribute, which is the Navy’s long history in engineering, energy and all of their research related to sustainability and power, that’s when this whole thing started to fit together.”
Last year, the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), led by Penn State University, won $129 million in federal funding to establish an Energy Innovation Hub at The Navy Yard — one of only three Energy Innovation Hubs across the nation and the only one that the federal government has focused on researching, developing and demonstrating highly-efficient building components, systems and models that can be used for energy-efficient building design and retrofitting.
As part of the Hub concept, Penn State will lead researchers, from academia, the private sector and two national laboratories, in creating and implementing sustainable, energy efficient technologies, ideas, policies and products that will be commercialized and used around the world to save energy, reduce carbon footprint and stimulate investment and jobs. Already plans are underway for The Navy Yard to develop an innovative model for electricity management using a “smart grid” system that will be created using The Navy Yard’s existing electric lines.
“When President Obama talks about out-innovating the rest of the world and winning the future—as he did in his State of the Union address—he’s talking about what’s going on in Philadelphia today.”
President, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
To train the employees who will work at the companies created as a result of the new technologies being developed at The Navy Yard, PIDC will in part rely on the Collegiate Consortium — a workforce development affiliation of community colleges throughout the region, including Community College of Philadelphia and based at The Navy Yard.
John Grady, PIDC’s executive vice president, said community colleges are helping train residents in applied and basic engineering skills needed to install lighting systems, solar panels and environmental management controls for buildings. “Community colleges are going to play an increasingly important role in building those types of skills into the workforce,” Grady said.
Such large investments in technology and workforce development have caught the eye of more than a few companies seeking to capitalize on the collaborative and synergistic opportunities that can be found at such a high-tech, urban campus.
Attracted by The Navy Yard’s Clean Energy Campus and more than $3 million in state incentives and tax credits, the Mark Group, based in England, announced in 2010 that it would open its U.S. headquarters at The Navy Yard, hiring more than 300 people by 2013. The company sells and installs home energy efficiency systems, including weatherization improvements and renewable-power options.
In 2009, Conenergy and Exelon announced plans to develop a large, 1.5 megawatt solar array at The Navy Yard. This $10 million investment will transform seven acres of a former Navy landfill into a renewable energy resource, generating renewable power for use throughout the region. Construction is expected to be completed on the solar array to allow for use this summer. Earlier this year, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline announced it would relocate its 1,300-employee Center City offices to a new $81 million building at the Navy Yard, being built for the company using state-of-the-art sustainable building designs. Urban Outfitters, which moved its corporate headquarters to The Navy Yard in 2006, also recently announced that it would invest $30 million to redevelop two historic, former manufacturing buildings at The Navy Yard to accommodate the company’s rapid growth, adding 1,000 new jobs over the next three years to their current 1,200 headquarters’ jobs.
Using state and private financing, the Tasty Baking Company also recently relocated its headquarters and baking facility from North Philadelphia to a $135 million new, state-of-the-art environmentally friendly building at the Navy Yard.
“Our hope is to make Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia area a kind of epicenter of clean technology business in the United States, and if all goes as planned, a number of businesses and jobs will result from that.”
Director, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
All of this activity at the Navy Yard and elsewhere in the city prompted Mayor Nutter in his recent speech before the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to say: “When President Obama talks about out-innovating the rest of the world and winning the future —as he did in his State of the Union address — he’s talking about what’s going on in Philadelphia today.”
Five years from now, Grady of PIDC envisions even more companies moving to The Navy Yard, utilizing its large open space areas, its miles of riverfront and its many new sustainable buildings. He even expects for residential housing to be developed at The Navy Yard. “At a certain point in time, adding a residential component makes sense,” he said.
All of this brings a smile to Gajewski’s face because it is exactly what Greenworks Philadelphia is about. “Our hope is to make Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia area a kind of epicenter of clean technology business in the United States, and if all goes as planned a number of businesses and jobs will result from that,” she said.