University City District Named Knight Cities Challenge Finalist for Proposal to Study Justice in Public Spaces

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

For Immediate Release 

Contact: Alissa Weiss, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications 

215-243-0555 x251 or [email protected] 

University City District Named Knight Cities Challenge Finalist for Proposal to Study Justice in Public Spaces 

Philadelphia – Jan. 17, 2017 – University City District (UCD), a leader in entrepreneurial approaches to community revitalization, was named today as a finalist in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s third annual Knight Cities Challenge. The Knight Foundation received more than 4,500 applications in its national call for proposals to answer the question of how to make cities more successful. UCD was named as one of only 144 finalists in the 26 communities where the Knight Foundation invests to make communities more vibrant places to live and work. 

UCD creates and manages a variety of popular and dynamic public spaces throughout University City, including The Porch at 30th Street Station, Parklets, and pedestrian plazas. For the Knight Cities Challenge, UCD is proposing to develop and deploy a “Just Space” audit to assess its network of public space projects, building on the notion that public spaces are forums to be experienced and negotiated across lines of race, class, gender, age, sexual preference, ethnicity and ability differences. 

UCD, which has been nationally recognized for its data-driven approach to placemaking, will assess its public spaces to understand: 

  • who has access to its spaces (distributional justice); 
  • how the public perceives fairness in decision-making about the spaces (procedural justice); and 
  • what constitutes quality interpersonal interactions in its spaces (interactional justice). 

UCD plans to engage a broad range of partners from academia, the community, and outside practitioners to produce a tool to assess projects and devise interventions. UCD envisions the product being used by space planners and managers in Philadelphia and beyond. 

“UCD has made investments in the public realm central to the work of improving our community, and we believe that public space has never played a more vital role in connecting a diverse range of visitors to one another,” says UCD President Matt Bergheiser. “UCD is guided by a deep curiosity and commitment to studying the public realm, and by using the data we will produce from this audit, we can contribute to a crucial conversation about justice.” 

“Across Philadelphia, considerable investments are being made in developing and restoring public spaces in the city. Public space investments that do not put equity and justice at the center of their work at best entrench and often inflame existing injustices,” adds Andrew Stober, UCD’s Vice President of Planning and Economic Development. “UCD is prepared to build on our own history of evaluation and evolution to engage with important and often difficult questions about equity.” 

The Knight Foundation board of trustees will collaborate with experts and reviewers to select winners of the challenge. The winners will be announced in spring of 2017, and will receive a portion of a $5 million total pool of funds to implement their proposals. For more information, and to see the full list of finalists, visit 

About University City District 

UCD promotes a world class, vibrant University City through major investments in public space development, public maintenance and public safety, by connecting entrepreneurs and residents to economic opportunity, and through the creation and management of destination events. Learn more at 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation 

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. They invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Their goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which they believe are essential for a healthy democracy.