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Design Matters - April 2021

Photo by PongsakornJun/iStck
A New Season Brings Renewed Hope 

With the first day of spring, came a renewed hope for fresh beginnings.  

The ongoing public health concerns due to the pandemic appear to have a viable remedy, with support for more vaccines rolling out nationwide. Locally, business operations are beginning to resume for many organizations as we settle into a new normal. Here at the Community Design Collaborative, our staff remains focused on our mission and we are shifting back to projects that were temporarily sidelined.  Reflecting on how recent events will impact our field moving forward, addressing racial equity continues to be a priority. 

Racial inequities have never been more evident. New data and studies reiterate the truth that many have been experiencing for too long. After years of working to support our clients and partners in our local ethnic communities, the Collaborative is looking into what else we can do to further goals and expectations for equity through our engagement and impact work. We will continue to review, test and question our processes and practices to ensure that we stand and act in support of community self-determination and capacity building. We look forward to sharing more opportunities to learn, listen, and practice these skills for our volunteers and supporters. 

The reports of increased violence and hate towards the Asian community saddens us. These  actions, provoked by hate and untruths, cannot continue. We send our condolences, comfort, and respect to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Philadelphia and beyond. We call upon our friends, volunteers, and supporters to take action to combat this discrimination and racism when they see it. We urge everyone to #STOPASIANHATE and support their local Asian American communities. This support can take many forms, from patronizing local businesses and commercial corridors, making contributions to organizations that provide support and relief to the members of these communities, taking time to educate oourselves and our peers about how we can get involved, and to actively be anti-racist in our own lives. We all must lead by example and action. 

Throughout our 30-year history, we have seen amazing strength and leadership in the Asian communities with which we have had the honor to work. We stand in solidarity with our partners at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC)SEAMAACAsian Arts InitiativeNationalities Service CenterVietLEADCambodian Association of Greater PhiladelphiaNorth 5th Street Revitalization Project, and Indochinese American Council (IAC) and their constituents. Thank you for your efforts on the ground to bring resources and build capacity that support your local neighborhoods and communities. The Collaborative is ready to support you!  

For those looking for more resources or ways to get involved, we offer these recommendations and educational resources: 

We hosted our first Equity Talk last month to continue examining the intersection of design, community development, and race. While we had already planned to focus the next topic around Asian ethnic enclaves, the timing could not be any more relevant. We look forward to sharing our platform to open this dialogue and celebrate moments of resilience and power from the Asian community here in Philadelphia. We invite each of you to continue to reflect and commit to promoting equity for all moving forward. 

In Allyship, 

The Collaborative Team 


The Community Design Collaborative staff and Board bid a fond farewell to Heidi Segall Levy!

Heidi has been an integral part of the Community Design Collaborative’s efforts during her almost 20-year tenure at the organization. As Director of Design Services, she led the charge for our pro bono projects and services with dedication and upheld our values of equitable development through collaboration and community engagement. Under Heidi’s direction, the Collaborative has completed 7600+ projects providing a leverage value to our clients totaling more than $11MM.  Our organization has grown and changed in no small measure due to her efforts.  We all wish her the best as she continues her professional journey. 

Heidi, we thank you for your years of service and commitment to transforming neighborhoods through design! 



The SEPTA rail viaduct runs through the North Central Neighborhood and residents wanted the viaduct’s underpasses to connect, not divide them. Architects, landscape architects, lighting designers, and artists collaborated on improvements to transform three underpasses into passages between communities.  

Three murals at Norris, Diamond, and Susquehanna were completed in the fall.  You can learn more about the project from our blog post and about the completed project on the Mural Arts website


Love Instagram? Twitter? Are you skilled in graphic design?  Write copy like its poetry?  

The Collaborative has an opportunity for Marketing and Design aficionados who are also passionate about where Equity and Design intersect. We are putting together a Street Team to elevate the conversation.
If this sounds like you, take THIS SURVEY and we will be in touch!  

LEVERAGE 2021 – Many Options to Support   

Celebrating the Collaborative’s 30th Anniversary at Leverage will be much more fun and festive with hundreds of you with us online this June 3rd!  Enjoy the expanded networking time, explore a gallery of our Top 30 Projects, and demonstrate your appreciation for the vision and dedication of our 2021 Leverage Award honorees, our founders who fostered the growth of community-engaged design throughout Greater Philadelphia. 

By supporting Leverage 2021, you advance equity in access to design services for nonprofits and small neighborhood-based businesses. Sponsorship [link to updated sponsorship pdf with live links] remains the best way to demonstrate your commitment and leadership in this arena.  

There are also multiple sponsorship options to fit business and personal budgets of all sizes. There are also ads and patron listing ticket combos as well as standalone tickets and donations

This fundraiser provides 20% of the Collaborative’s annual budget. Your generous support is vital to help us navigate another financially challenging year. 


VOLUNTEER PROFILE:  Yoona Ahn - City Planner/Urban Designer

Meet Yoon Ahn. A passionate Collaborative volunteer, Yoona thinks design is a language that is shared by everyone and is intuitive to humans. She views deisgn as a tool or language that a lot of people understand immediately, especially when we talk to communities that may have not been design focused historically.  Yoona's first projet with the Collaborative was for Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

Earlier this week, we talked with Yoona about Design, her love of Philadelphia and the recent violence against women in the AAPI community. Read that interview here.  

Project Profile: SEAMAAC 2019

SEAMAAC envisions a strong and unified society, where immigrants and refugees work alongside other Americans to build shared political, economic and social power. They envision a community where the contributions of each generation of Americans, whether native to this land, immigrant, or brought against their will, are equally acknowledged, valued and embraced, and where all people live whole, healthy lives with joy and dignity. 

In 2018, SEAMAAC and a community task force worked with the Collaborative on placemaking strategies and façade improvement prototypes to make the South 7th street Commerical Corridor more welcoming, vibrant, and safe. The multicultural corridor serves African American, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Korean, Filipino, Burmese, Indonesian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Bhutanese families. The conceptual design focused on priorities identified in the Mifflin Square Park and Neighborhood Plan completed in 2018. Since completing their design grant process in 2019, SEAMAAC has gone on to establish corridor branding, continued community input into their services and programming, as well as received funding from the Knight Foundation as well as Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  

From SEAMAAC Community Development Specialist; Somaly Onsteen- “Beyond this project, SEAMAAC is doing so much more to support community such as park improvement, community garden, working with small business to provide assistance as needed, hunger relief program, health and social services.” 

APRIL EQUITY TALK: Community, Agency, & Resilience  

Centering equity, The Collaborative will host four talks across 2021 focusing on the intersection of race, design, and development. 

Equity Talks: Community, Agency, and Resilience is the second public conversation in this Collaborative series.  Join five of Philadelphia's Asian American community leaders, organizers, and scholars as they discuss the impact of planning and design on their various AAPI communities and the continuous work of cultural preservation to combat displacement. Hear how their communities' interests, challenges and contrasting histories have been further affected by the pandemic, recent racial uprisings, and concerning increase in anti-Asian violence.  

Panel, Moderated by Sarah Yeung, Founder- Sojourner Consulting: 

  • Somaly Osteen, Community Development Specialist/Corridor Manager- SEAMAAC, Inc 

  • Fariha I. Khan, Ph.D. , Associate Director, Asian American Studies Program - University of Pennsylvania 

  • Representative from Chinatown Developers 

  • Representative from VietLEAD 

Join us Monday April 19, 2021 
3:30 - 5:00pm via Zoom Webinar 
(a link will be emailed to you prior to the event)

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