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November 06, 2015

Philadelphia designated World Heritage City, first in United States

Honor expected to propel commerce, tourism in Philadelphia

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Carroll - Philadelphia Skyline Buildings Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia skyline.

Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy and an acclaimed urban reflection of the global community, won official designation Friday as a World Heritage City, becoming the first locale in the United States to achieve the honor.

Mayor Michael Nutter, joined by Alan Greenberger and the Global Philadelphia Association, announced the formal designation following a vote taken by the XIII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities in Arequipa, Peru.

“Today marks the start of a new and exciting chapter in the history of Philadelphia, which is proud to become the first World Heritage City in the United States,” Mayor Nutter said. “As a World Heritage City, Philadelphia is being officially recognized on the global stage for its wealth of contributions to the world as the epicenter of American democracy and for its enduring commitment to preserving the unique historical and cultural assets in our diverse community."

The announcement comes after a two-year campaign for the distinction, which places Philadelphia in the esteemed company of 266 World Heritage Cities, including Paris, Cairo, Jerusalem, Rome, Berlin, and Kyoto. The status, likened by officials to an amped up Sister Cities program, is expected to enhance Philadelphia's international stature and serve as a growth engine for tourism and commerce.

“From its Colonial history to the present day, Philadelphia has rightfully earned its place as one of greatest cities in the world,” said Deputy Mayor Greenberger. “Becoming a World Heritage City is a reflection of all that we have accomplished and a confirmation of the fact that the best is yet to come as Philadelphia continues to evolve and transform itself.”

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Independence Hall (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice).

As the fifth-largest city in the U.S., Philadelphia's place in world history is cemented by landmarks such as Independence Hall, where America's Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and pivotal events such as the writing and signing of the Constitution. The city became eligible for the designation after Independence Hall became a World Heritage Site in 1979. It was later approved as an Observer Member in 2013 and submitted an application to become a full member earlier this year.

The honor comes as Philadelphia's international profile experiences the after-effects of Pope Francis' September visit for the World Meeting of Families. With the election of Jim Kenney as the city's next mayor earlier this week, the designation serves as a capstone for Mayor Nutter, who has traveled far and wide to represent the city during his two terms.

More than 100 leaders in Philadelphia's public and private sectors gathered last month at a symposium to discuss how the city can coordinate a plan of action to leverage the designation as a World Heritage City. Mayor Nutter, who will join a delegation for a toast next week at Independence Visitors Center, was looking ahead to the rewards the will reap as a result of its new pedigree.

"As we celebrate this milestone, the next step is to focus on the future and how we can optimize this World Heritage City recognition to attract more people to visit, invest, work, study and live in Philadelphia.”

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