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A culture of beer gardens

It’s great to be back in Philly. I have a real sense of nostalgia around this city.

Last night my friends took me to a popup beer garden on South Street put on by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Before the popup garden, it was just an abandoned lot.

There seems to be a real culture of beer gardens in Philly, which is something I don’t think we have in Toronto. Why is that?

Part of the reason, I think, is that there’s a greater spread between desirable and undesirable neighborhoods in Philly than in Toronto. And in the undesirable ones, urbanists have to work really hard to figure out ways to activate them.

So really these popup beer gardens are a lean urbanist intervention. It’s a way to draw people to an area and create awareness. And I’m told that often these popup gardens end up becoming development sites.

Because of this, these popup gardens are sometimes controversial within communities. They’re seen as a catalyst and precursor to gentrification. But that’s a whole other debate.

What I find interesting is this grassroots approach to city building. Great spaces don’t have to be expensive. Sometimes seating, lighting, and beer are all you need to bring people together.

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