City initiative aims to instill confidence about reopening, returning to Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — One year after Philadelphia shut down for COVID-19, city officials and business leaders are beginning to plan for a full reopening.

Philadelphia officials joined business leaders on Wednesday to unveil a yearlong campaign, called Ready. Set. Philly!, which they hope will encourage workers and visitors to come back to the city.

It’s been a tough year, but Mayor Jim Kenney said things have started to feel different over the last few weeks.

“We’ve dramatically ramped up our vaccination program, our kids are heading back to the classroom and we are gradually easing restrictions,” he said. “There is hope.”

So, it’s time to start looking ahead. The only concrete step scheduled so far is a spring cleanup on April 4, when the city plans to remove the last of the boards from shutdown storefronts.

Angela Val, chief administrative officer of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, promised Ready. Set. Philly! will provide a host of services, like creating back-to-work plans, cleaning up SEPTA stations and downtown shopping areas and making them safe, and staging events and activities that she hopes will get people excited and confident about returning to the city.

The effort also aims to serve as a reliable resource for information about vaccines and COVID-19 safety initiatives.

“Think of Ready. Set. Philly! as mission control,” she said.

It’s still in the early stages, and specifics will be coming out over the next couple of months.

“We’re going at the pace of the vaccine being rolled out to the general public and the pace of the businesses in which they think they’ll bring their employees back,” added Val, who will be the executive director of the Ready. Set. Philly! coalition.

She has a formidable crew to work with — more than 30 of the city’s most prominent business leaders and several top city officials. Co-chair Bill Hankowsky said they won’t be intimidated by the many unknowns that still linger.

“When you put together the best minds in Philadelphia and put them on a task and put them in a room, they will get it done,” he said.