Member spotlight: Julia Tackett

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Julie Tackett grew up in Philly near 12th & Locust, in a building that’s now The Cosmopolitan. If she wanted to go somewhere, she had to walk, or ride a bike she got from Via Bicycle. 

Along the way, she spent a lot of time observing the city’s architecture and design.

“I became obsessed with how Philly looks, and how it functions,” said Tackett, who’s a Reclaim member and committeeperson in South Philly. “I got interested in zoning.”

Julia, whose background is in the building industry in architecture and construction, was recently in the news for being part of a group that opposed a development project at 706-724 Latona Street. She found out about the organizing effort while out meeting folks in her ward.

Julia understands the inside game.

“Working for architects, you get a lot developers who come into the office looking for architects because they know they’re cheaper than zoning lawyers,” she said.

Developers want an architect who will help them find loopholes and maneuver the political process, she said.

The result’s not pretty.

“Seeing a lot of the new construction in the city is probably what radicalized me,” she said.

When Julia speaks, what shines through is her love for her city’s built environment and a passion that it belong to the people.

We asked her what advice she would give grassroots organizers looking to make a difference in their neighborhoods.


What advice would you have for other Reclaim members who are working to defeat development resolutions in their neighborhoods?

Don’t underestimate what your neighbors will support. A lot of them are more on the progressive side than you would think from the outset. It’s just about finding the hook, that one issue, that will bring them into the fold. Because a lot of them are ready to mobilize for the right reason.

What would your design hero, Jane Jacobs, like or hate about development projects going on now in Philly?

I think she might actually like the redesign of Market East. The apartment buildings are not hideous and bring some much-needed foot traffic to what was otherwise a commercial corridor.

I think that she would hate the redesign of the gallery. I think forcing out smaller stores to make way for box stores, purely by dint of the fact it’s easier to extract rent from national companies, she would think is sacrilege.

What is a challenge to people having equity in the built environment of Philly that Reclaim is best able to address?

Reclaim is about political and power of the people. Rich people don’t want the people in their spaces, and they will do things to make it harder for people to enjoy those spaces. 

Think about Taney Park, on the West edge of Center City. There are a lot of police over there. And there is an enormous dog park, a community garden, basketball courts, tennis courts, all the things that all people should enjoy. 

They make it a point to send out police officers right around time school lets out to make young people uncomfortable there.

People should go into spaces that have been built specifically to make them feel unwelcome. 

Lea Sorrentino