Editorial | Food for thought
Penn should tell us about how office space was chosen to replace Philly Diner
September 26, 2013, 8:59 pm · Updated September 27, 2013, 12:01 am·
Voting in an election and not hearing the results would be a little frustrating, right?
This past week, we reported that the lot that used to house Philly Diner will be transformed into office space.
For the most part, we’re disappointed — we had been hoping for more retail or restaurant space. In fact, we were kind of expecting it. At the very least, we had expected to hear a bit more detail about the selection process.
Last year, Penn, for the first time in over a decade, sent out a survey to the student body. University administrators wanted to know what new retail stores and spaces students wanted on campus.
Well, the results are in — but we can’t tell you what they say because they haven’t been released. Going off of an educated guess, we suspect that a plurality of Penn students did not vote for office space.
Penn should release the survey results. We were glad that the administration reached out to us in the first place — and we fully encourage them to do it more often (perhaps they could have asked what would have been best to replace Au Bon Pain in Huntsman, for instance).
But transparency and collaboration on the front end need to carry over throughout the whole process.
What were the results of the survey? How were they accounted for? What were other major factors in the decision? These are all questions we’d like to hear answers to.
Perhaps we will after a Facilities and Campus Planning Committee presentation to the Trustees meeting on Nov. 7, when Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services say they can comment on it, but that process sounds more bureaucratic than inclusive and transparent to us.
We’re not on a witch hunt. We aren’t out to attack the administration for building offices. Rather, we’re honestly interested in hearing about the process through which Penn came to its decision. But leaving us in the dark when a majority of students seem to have preferred alternatives to office space rules out a discussion on this topic.
We recognize the need for offices, but putting them at 39th and Walnut seems a bit illogical. That area, a prime retail space, is zoned for retail and is situated near all the high rises and The Radian, which house a large proportion of the student body. Offices, on the other hand, can go anywhere.
It’s possible Penn made the right call — maybe it’s really in the best interest of our community to construct offices on the empty lot. But we’d like to hear why that is and what our fellow students think about it.
A year ago, Penn asked for our thoughts and we responded. Now we’re just asking to hear what we said. Hopefully, Penn will respond to us.
This article has been updated to reflect that in 2011, Facilities and Real Estate Services conducted focus groups similar to the survey sent out last year.