Letter from the Chair

By Eli Storch

Eli Storch, AIA is an associate at LRK focusing on mixed-use, multifamily projects across the country, with a specific passion for any adaptive reuse work he can get his hands on.

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It is my honor to assume the responsibilities of Chair of the Design Advocacy Group following Elise Vider’s tenure of distinguished service. I am eager to continue along the trajectory that Elise has set for us, including helping DAG to increase our reach and the quality of our engagement in these unusual times. As we focus on the issues facing our community, the core of any plan for DAG’s future must be our enduring commitment to advocate for design quality and equity in Philadelphia. We must use our platform as a public forum to bring together diverse leaders, thinkers, and designers to enrich our membership, be they original members from 2001, or those newly attracted to DAG.


As we discuss and consider the built environment of the city and efforts to improve the planning of new developments, neighborhoods, and transportation in every community within Philadelphia’s expansive footprint, DAG must serve as a forum for learning. Not only based on the experience of those within our organization, but also from the specialists, professionals, and community members who so graciously share of their knowledge and time at monthly meetings, specialty programming, on our Forum, and beyond.


When Philadelphians engage in meaningful discussions about these issues, the bar is raised for each subsequent project. With that in mind, DAG has a tremendous opportunity, and responsibility, to broaden the voices and perspectives that we share and amplify, ensuring that there is a seat at the table for everyone who is passionate and interested in the future of our city. As we take on this challenge I am grateful to Verónica Ayala-Flores, who leads our Design Equity task force, for helping to guide DAG’s thinking and response to this historic moment, and to Marsha Moss, whose dedication to the creation of programming helps shape DAG’s public face as seen by our members and guests. We understand how many activities and events vie for our time and attention, and I am confident that DAG’s upcoming slate of programming, as well as our developing plans for the winter and beyond, will be well worth attending.


As we expand our engagement, I plan to use our website more than ever before, populating it with new content, such as our weekly news roundup, the DAG Dispatch, which launched earlier this month. This is one of many new features that I hope will make our site a destination for frequent visits to learn about the design issues facing the city. To this end, I encourage anyone interested to join the conversation by submitting a piece to DAG’s Forum, a tool that is available to anyone, DAG member or not, to post a relevant opinion or insight.


With our 20th anniversary arriving in 2021, now is an excellent moment to reflect on the significant efforts taken by all those who have served DAG and helped us to reach this milestone. As 2021 approaches, we plan to honor them and hear their stories and opinions on the history of DAG, the organization’s relationship to Philadelphia, and where they feel that we, as a community of advocates, need to focus our attention next. Personally, I must express my gratitude to Elise, as well as David Brownlee and George Claflen for their continued leadership, guidance, and friendship. The dedication and institutional knowledge of this trio, for me, make DAG what it is today. During my time serving on the steering and executive committees, as well as leading the historic preservation task force, they have been the models I look to, and I am grateful to retain their counsel as we embark on DAG’s next chapter.


While we may not be together in person for some time, I am energized by the passion within the Design Advocacy Group and look forward to future collaborations with the Steering Committee, our Priority Area task forces, DAG’s membership, and the Philadelphia community.


DAG Forum essays do not represent the opinion of the DAG Steering Committee, rather those of the individual authors, who seek to broaden our perspective of critical issues that require thoughtful responses.