Originally Posted by Londonee
Yeah the cynic in me agrees. These "master plans" - of which the city has commissioned dozens (my favorite being the once every 5 years "Penns Landing Master Plan") - just seem to be an easy way to spend grant money. And SOM, or whatever architectural firm commissioned - is only happy to accept the enrichment. The money (hundreds of thousands - millions of dollars) probably helps subsidize some of their actual high profile projects that may be less profitable and more or less goes to young 3D artists/designers who spit out these beautiful, polished compositions that make skyscraper/development geeks like us salivate.
The extent of these master plans seems to me, and particularly this one: let's build some decks over the tracks, and then build some cool looking skyscrapers on said decks. I'll see you guys in 10 years.
Ultimately the cynic in you may win out, but I can tell you that what you described is not what happened here. This was the latest in a long line of plans that have thus far been unrealized, but the impetus was to recognize what went wrong before and try to correct for that - in this case, by marshaling the key stakeholders to produce a joint planning effort, which has not happened before. Between Amtrak, SEPTA, Drexel, PennDOT, and Brandywine, every parcel around 30th Street Station and within the rail yards is accounted for, and they are the organizations who ultimately shaped the plan, even if SOM actually put pen to paper to draw it.
If it isn't already obvious, I am very close to this project. It wasn't some little thing just to subsidize more important work - this, in itself, is important, high-profile work. Sure, the final renderings are a bit pie-in-the-sky, but you ultimately need something to talk about and market beyond just a thick planning book (there are big technical appendices in addition to the public plan which document the facility, transportation operations, and economics). The renderings are a tiny fraction of the cost of a 2+ year effort by consulting firms.
Beyond that, I will just ignore the word "enrichment," because, well, ever been an architect?