Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Official Illadelph Crush: TreeVitalize + TreeTenders… and the amazing street trees they hold so dear

TreeVitalize near East Passyunk in PhiladelphiaOur affection for many things green has been well documented in the past, but loving tree-planting efforts in Philadelphia is truly a no-brainer. And something that everybody can dig.

It’s almost so obvious, we think some people must overlook it.

Actually, we think that trees are not given credit for just how much they (can) improve quality of life in urban settings.

But it’s not just quality of life — it’s also the overall attractiveness of a city as a place to live, work or visit.

The Next Great City, which appropriately identified tree-planting as one of their 10 action steps, goes ahead and says “Trees Increase Retail Profitability: Studies show that people prefer to shop on tree-lined streets and will spend more time and money at these stores.”

But they stop there and don’t point out the logical next step that, accordingly, people are also more likely to want to live, work or visit a city that is filled with neighborhoods that are similarly filled with tree-lined streets. Not just for shopping. But also for touring, dining, drinking, gathering, playing, etc.

Think about a few examples. Consider certain blocks in Fairmount, G-Ho and Fishtown. Some (2100 block of Green, 2100 block of Kater, etc.) have an amazing natural canopy provided by street trees and, subsequently, are incredibly desirable. Meanwhile other blocks nearby have no trees and instead appear blighted, desolate and unsafe.

Take Penn’s campus as another example. It is indisputably one of the most picturesque and eminently walkable neighborhoods in the city. Anyone who has ever been down Locust Walk knows as much.

Penn's awesomely green and tree-covered campusIs it a coincidence that it is also one the most tree-filled? Obviously not.

And think about all of the restaurants offering sidewalk seating outside? Aren’t the places like North Third, the new Tria and Twenty Manning, where the trees overhead add to the experience more appealing than the places on tree-less streets where the outdoor seating seems forced and almost counterintuitive.

So the point is, yes, trees have major utilitarian benefits, including reducing asthma, increasing air quality, reducing water runoff and flooding, slowing traffic, reducing temperatures, and increasing property values in turn.

But almost more important are the benefits that are more psychological: trees improve people’s moods and dispositions. They increase people’s sense of safety. Fundamentally, trees make a street a more appealing place to do any number of activities: to walk through, dine at, shop at, gather at… and all the other things associated with living, working or playing there.

These seemingly “superficial” benefits are anything but — if more trees make a street/neighborhood/city more outwardly attractive to the people that we want to come to that street/neighborhood/city to live/work/visit, then it’s time we take a page from PLANYC and plant a tree in every single sidewalk space that can legitimately sustain a street tree.

And then watch as Philadelphia becomes the most aesthetically attractive city in the US.

Not to mention a healthier, cooler, more sustainable and more economically prosperous city to boot.

Local Volunteers Needed for Large Tree-Planting Effort [KYW 1060]
Next Great City: Replant Neighborhood Trees [Official Site]
Philadelphia's future looking 'greener,' but battle's not over [Philadelphia Inquirer]
TreeVitalize [Official Site]
Tree Tenders [Official Site]

[ Photo via Flickr user dimasi ]

1 comment:

Brendon said...

I could not agree more. And, a quick shout out to the Fairmount Park Commission folks who processed our request for a sidewalk tree quickly and efficiently this time last year (22nd and Bainbridge).

Trees add value. Value for owners, landlords, neighbors and tenants. Plus, it's quick and easy.