University City: History, Race, and Community in the Era of the Innovation District


November 1, 2023    
4:00 pm-5:30 pm


Honors College
319 Cooper Street, Camden, NJ, 08102

In University City, Laura Wolf-Powers chronicles five decades of planning in and around the communities of West Philadelphia’s University City to illuminate how the dynamics of innovation district development in the present both depart from and connect to the politics of mid-twentieth-century urban renewal. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, Wolf-Powers concludes that even as university and government leaders vow to develop without displacement, what existing residents value is imperiled when innovation-driven redevelopment remains accountable to the property market.

Placing Philadelphia’s innovation districts in the context of similar development taking place around the United States, University City advocates a reorientation of redevelopment practice around the recognition that despite their negligible worth in real estate terms, the time, care, and energy people invest in their local environments―and in one another―are precious urban resources.

About the speaker

Laura Wolf-Powers studies neighborhood revitalization and urban and regional economic development policy and planning.  Her work explores the challenges of planning for community development under conditions of structural social inequality. It offers insights into the ways in which city politics are mediated through policies governing the built environment and the urban economy, and considers how planners and civil society organizations influence those policies.