Shawn McCaney, William Penn Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director 

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, parks, and transportation in Philadelphia

CONTACT: smccaney@wpennfdn.org, 215-988-1830

IP TAKE: This urban planner has worked his way through the ranks to become Penn's man in charge. From the start, he's had big plans for moving Philly out of its gritty past to become a more livable place that draws creative class types.

PROFILE: Effective March 1, 2017, Shawn McCaney is the executive director of the William Penn Foundation. He's been part of the foundation since 2003 and served as the director of national initiatives and the Foundation’s Creative Communities grant program before this. In this prior role, Shawn oversaw the development of strategic partnerships with national funders to share innovative approaches developed in Philadelphia and to attract non-local support.

In the past, Shawn McCaney is the front man for urban development at Philadelphia's William Penn Foundation. Since the recession, he has seen waterfront development in Philadelphia as absolutely crucial to the city's long-term financial well-being. "If we don't do this," he told Philly.com, "we'll be less competitive in the future and will fall behind."

Penn's Creative Communities initiative is the heading under which the majority of McCaney's work falls. The idea here is to make Philadelphia more of a destination for visitors, employers, and workers. The website describes a key component of the effort as:

...access to great public spaces that function as the stage for healthy civic life and community engagement and provide high-quality opportunities for outdoor recreation and play. More than ever, high-quality public amenities, such as parks, trails, and open spaces are key assets that cities need to effectively retain existing residents and compete for highly mobile, knowledge economy workers and businesses.

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation makes a sterling example of what McCaney and Penn like to see. After a successful $6.5 million renovation of the formally abandoned Race Street Pier into an outdoor concert venue, next on the corporation's hit list is an "8-acre park it envisions will cover I-95 and Columbus Boulevard between Walnut and Chestnut streets. The new park, which will slope to the water, will reconnect Old City with the waterfront," according to Philly.com.

Penn dropped $400,000 on the idea before the company even publicly announce an estimate of its total cost.

Outside of the waterfront, McCaney has also had an interest in those looking to build public parks, trails, and other outdoor recreational spaces or improve old ones. Anything goes here, from research and data collection on the viability of new projects, match and challenge grants from other funders, and even the nitty-gritty of "project planning, design, and pre-development, including community outreach." In some instances, McCaney can also capsize his foundation's wallet for one-shot experimental projects, such as new technologies for managing and monitoring public space and general operations support for companies working in this field.

Turnoffs for McCaney and the Creative Communities initiative have included proposals that will place an undue financial burden on the city in the long run, high-maintenance projects, and anything outside of Center City Philly and the adjoining riverside sections of Camden.

Ultimately, McCaney brings a strong urban planning and design background to the William Penn Foundation. Before starting there in 2003, he logged more than 15 years with various Philly-area design and architectural companies. In the government sector, McCaney has played a significant role in the recent development planning of Philadelphia's Chinatown and of the PATCO Hi-Speed Line, which connects with Philadelphia's SEPTA system and proceeds east over the Ben Franklin Bridge, across South Jersey, ultimately terminating in Lindenwold, New Jersey. He also received his education locally, finishing an undergraduate degree at Temple and master's at UPenn.