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PennPraxis is the clinical arm of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a 501c(3) non-profit subsidiary of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in 2012, PennPraxis has worked on ideas for urban planning for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to a "civic vision" it has for the city, including the Delaware River waterfront, and the western banks of the Schuylkill River.

The group offers community collaborative design opportunities for Penn faculty and students to test ideas and theories in real-world applications. The group also offers architectural and planning services to individuals and groups who are in need or are otherwise unable to procure these services from traditional sources. The group accepts project proposals that do not meet the university's guidelines for "sponsored research projects"; they must also provide educational benefits, or serve the interests of the Philadelphia community.

In its first ten years, it earned $16 million in fees.[1] Some of the group's funding comes from the William Penn Foundation.[2][3]


The group has an independent news website: PlanPhilly (, which reports on the city's Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Zoning Code Commission, the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (formerly Penn's Landing Corp.), development, housing, streets, commercial real estate, and related topics. Its editor is Matt Golas, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The main writers for the site are Kellie Patrick Gates and business writer Thomas J. Walsh.


PennPraxis was founded in 2012 by former School of Design Dean Gary Hack, using $80,000 in seed money from the office of the provost.[4] The group's first executive director was Penn faculty member Harris Steinberg.

"Praxis’s biggest achievement, thus far, came when it was tasked in 2006 with examining one of Philadelphia’s most perplexing problems: what to do with a Delaware River waterfront that offers so much promise but has been plagued by overbuilding, underachieving, and plain old neglect," The Pennsylvania Gazette wrote in 2022. "Steinberg and his team, which included Harris Sokoloff, director of the Penn Project on Civic Engagement, facilitated neighborhood meetings attended by some 6,000 Philadelphians who worked together to create a wish list on how to shape the waterfront...The results of all the debate and all of the flip charts were gathered into the 242-page "Civic Vision for the Central Delaware",[5] a grand-sounding report that laid out core values to guide development on the waterfront."[4]

On June 26, 2008, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter accepted PennPraxis' recommendations for the introduction of Foxwoods and SugarHouse casinos in the redevelopment of the Delaware River waterfront.[6][7][8] The plan, while not binding on the two casino operators yet, strongly recommended serious redesign of the casinos' plans, including the use of off-site parking accessible to non-patrons.[9][10] Representatives from both casinos accused PennPraxis of being biased against them.[11] It was later reported that PennPraxis hired five experts to devise alternative plans for the casinos, accommodating for reduced on-site parking, a breakdown from a more singular building mass to allow more public access to the river, a 30-percent allotment of the area for open space, use of green roofs and accommodations for mass transit, to conform to PennPraxis' civic vision, parts of which the mayor has since promised to accept.[12]

Designs by PennPraxis influenced plans for the regeneration of Philadelphia's waterfront announced in 2012.[1]

In 2014, PennDesign professor Randall Mason succeeded Steinberg as executive director.[13]

In 2016, PennPraxis helped plan and organize the restoration and move of the 1839 Newkirk Monument from Amtrak's Northeast Corridor to a new site along the Schuylkill River Trail.[14]

The group's “impact has been really profound,” Inga Saffron, architecture critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, told The Pennsylvania Gazette in 2022.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Well Practiced". The Architects Newspaper. 2012-04-26. Archived from the original on 2013-01-18. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  2. ^ Graham, Troy (2008-07-11). "The other icon: William Penn Foundation sold off its company stock in '97". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 2008-08-07.[dead link]
  3. ^ William Penn Foundation[permanent dead link] - 2008 grant listing for PennPraxis
  4. ^ a b c "Penn Praxis at 10". The Pennsylvania Gazette. 2022-01-01. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  5. ^ "A Civic Vision For the Central Delaware | Weitzman". Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  6. ^ Melamed, Alex (2008-07-10). "Philly Mayor endorses PennPraxis". Daily Pennsylvanian. Archived from the original (web) on 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  7. ^ Saffron, Inga (2008-06-27). "Nutter endorses PennPraxis waterfront plan". Retrieved 2008-08-07.[dead link]
  8. ^ "Philadelphia Neighborhood Alliance Endorses PennPraxis Action Plan". Philadelphia Weekly Press. 2 July 2008. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  9. ^ Brennan, Chris. "Panel: Casinos' plans 'incompatible' with city's". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on July 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30. (archive)
  10. ^ Lin, Jennifer (August 9, 2008). "PennPraxis: Phila. casino sites won't work". Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  11. ^ Lin, Jennifer (2008-07-31). "Casinos balk at waterfront planning meeting". Retrieved 2008-08-07.[dead link]
  12. ^ Tarlow, Naomi (2008-08-07). "PennPraxis redesigns casinos". Daily Pennsylvanian. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 2008-08-09. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  13. ^ "Randy Mason takes the lead at PennPraxis". WHYY. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  14. ^ Maule, Bradley (2016-12-05). "A Moving Monument". Hidden City Philadelphia. Retrieved 2023-08-01.

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