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Philadelphia Mayor Formally Creates Office of New Urban Mechanics

Mayor Michael Nutter issued an executive order to officially create a new agency that aims to spur civic innovation and encourage civic involvement in government projects.

Philadelphia has taken a page out of Boston's book by creating a new agency: the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics.

The new agency -- which Mayor Michael Nutter launched Oct. 1 at the Code for America Summit -- is intended to serve as a hub of innovation that connects government with the public and initiate projects that solve civic problems.

On Dec. 10, Nutter signed an executive order formally creating the agency, which already has spawned several small projects, including Neighborhow, a website that aims to help citizens improve their communities. The website also features guides with such topics as “How to get free trees for your yard” or “Host a block part on your street,” as well as an area where users can submit ideas or suggestions as a way to start new local projects.

“Philadelphia is an innovation city with immense talent and a great start-up environment.  It is the right blend of forward-thinking and entrepreneurial idealism to establish the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics,” Nutter said in a press release.  “New Urban Mechanics will have the flexibility to experiment, the ability to re-invent public-private partnerships and the strategic vision to create real change for Philadelphia.  I am excited to establish the Office of New Urban Mechanics as a civic innovation tool for urban transformation.”

The new agency will be co-directed by Jeff Friedman, who has worked in the mayor's office since 2008 on projects such as Philly 311, and Story Bellows, who joined the mayor's office in April. Prior to that, he served as director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia photo from Shutterstock