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Lu: The Sasquatch and the Phanatic

When I first heard that GPLEX was heading to Seattle, I thought about how the city opened my eyes and inspired me to see global metropolises differently.


I marveled at Sound Transit’s park-and-ride system in 2002 (I grew up in L.A. and hey, we had different views on public transit back then). I tasted the physical manifestation of a triple-bottom-line business, and the power of food and manufacturing in the 21st century city, when I toured the first organic, fair-trade chocolate factory in North America in 2009. I interviewed Seattle's business district strategists in 2010 as I analyzed the Philly immigrant business community compared to New York’s, San Francisco’s, and Toronto’s.


And of course, I thought about the fish throwing at Pike Place Market.


Even though I don’t like whole fish, the spectacle and experience of perusing vendors at an open-air public market left a lasting impression worth sharing (this was years before I first stepped into Reading Terminal Market, which holds its own). Along with the retail strategy to have alternating coffee giants at every corner. Was there actually enough foot traffic to support this? Could this be replicated anywhere else?


I drew parallels when, in 2017, I met a Seattle native during a Liverpool game at an ex-pat bar in Old City, as he lamented: “I love Philly because it reminds me of the Seattle of my youth.” He was talking about what he lost, in spite of the gains for the city: the affordability, the breezy commute, the punk culture, and the spirit that made Seattle progressive, prosperous, and weird.


So when I heard about the opportunity to revisit Seattle alongside local Philadelphia leaders across the civic, business, nonprofit, journalism, and government realms, and understand how the intersection of these industries contribute to the equitable growth of the region, I knew GPLEX could only result in a kaleidoscope of best practices, aspirations, regrets, and inspiration.


At WHYY’s PlanPhilly, we believe that a well-designed city requires a well-informed public. We strive to keep Philadelphians informed about the decisions and processes that shape our city by providing in-depth, original reporting on Philadelphia's neighborhoods with a focus on urban design and planning, transportation, and development. Often, we look to peer cities to help frame the context for what our city is facing, in real time.


The unofficial mascot of Seattle is the mythical and elusive Sasquatch. We have the indescribable and playful Phillie Phanatic. What else do we have in common, besides these enigmatic, emblematic figures, that make our respective cities unique? Let’s find out. 


Diana Lu is Community Engagement Editor for WHYY’s PlanPhilly