Vote nearing for Phila. to become 1st World Heritage City in U.S.

by Kenneth Hilario, Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal

On Friday, Nov. 6, the XIII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, or OWHC, in Arequipa, Peru, is set to vote if Philadelphia will become part of the elite group of World Heritage Cities. There are about 270 cities on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Cities program, but none are in the United States.

City officials, including Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development and commerce director, and John F. Smith III, chair of the Global Philadelphia Association, arrived in Arequipa on Monday for the 13th World Congress of the OWHC, which runs from Tuesday through Friday.
Philadelphia's journey to World Heritage status began as early as 2013 when it was approved as an observer member of the OWHC. Earlier this year, the World Heritage Philadelphia executive committee submitted an application to become a full member.

The application will be looked at and voted on Friday during the general assembly of the OWHC’s World Congress.
"Some have said it's almost like a Sister Cities program on steroids," Zabeth Teelucksingh, executive director of the Global Philadelphia Association, told the Philadelphia Business Journal in an earlier interview.
The city has been actively pursuing the status, including the Philadelphia Orchestra visiting and meeting with representatives in six World Heritage cities this month, including Vienna, Austria, and Lyon, France.

Mayor Michael Nutter also made trips to Mexico earlier this year to make a push for the designation.
Hopes were higher this year for Philadelphia since the United States' interest in the UNESCO brand was reignited recently as the U.N. designated the San Antonio Missions in Texas, which includes the Alamo, as World Heritage sites.

Teelucksingh said Philadelphia's status as the sole American city on the list could last for many years since it's the only U.S. city qualified since Independence Hall has long been a World Heritage Site.