History and Background of Commonwealth Awards


The Commonwealth Awards is 10,000 Friends’ signature recognition program that honors and celebrates great development projects and the people who make them happen.   Through the Commonwealth Awards, 10,000 Friends recognizes leading and innovative development projects that utilize best practices creating great walkable, sustainable, equitable, healthy communities.  We welcome and encourage submissions from developers, architects, designers, planners and public and private institutions that have significant projects that may be underway or completed. 

Over the years, we have recognized a wide array of great projects – mixed-use, residential, commercial, industrial, public infrastructure, recreational/ green space, schools and other community institutions, and municipal planning projects – that demonstrate urban infill, historic rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, brownfield redevelopment, and other revitalization techniques. A panel of jurors from across a range of relevant professional disciplines is enlisted to choose the award winners from among the project submissions.  The panel reviews projects utilizing metrics based on sound land use, smart transportation and smart growth principles.  The Commonwealth Awards remain the only statewide smart growth award program in Pennsylvania. 

In addition to the project awards, 10,000 Friends also honors individuals with Commonwealth Awards for outstanding volunteer or professional service to improving their local built environments and creating great neighborhoods to live and work in Pennsylvania.  Individuals selected for Commonwealth Awards are chosen from among those nominated through our public Call-for-Entries process.

The Commonwealth Awards reflect 10,000 Friends’ commitment to improving the quality of life for all Pennsylvania residents. 10,000 Friends’ approach is to build consensus among many diverse constituencies and to take effective action in support of responsible land use and policy reforms that will revitalize cities, boroughs and older suburbs; preserve agricultural and rural lands; and conserve natural, heritage and fiscal resources.  Smart and innovative projects can and do serve as catalysts for more sustainable development.  By recognizing these efforts through the Commonwealth Awards, we hope to encourage civic leadership at all levels and encourage local developers to make more such projects a reality. 

Community Transportation Excellence Award

In addition to the Commonwealth Awards, 10,000 Friends also recognizes outstanding community transportation projects undertaken in municipalities from across the Commonwealth. Recognizing that our land is a finite asset and wishing to put a spotlight on communities that demonstrate leadership and innovation, 10,000 Friends created the “Community Transportation Excellence Award.” This award goes to community transportation leaders whose projects demonstrate the importance of multi-modal community transportation in creating healthy, sustainable communities.

The genesis of this award dates back to 2008 when 10,000 Friends collaborated with PennDOT in developing the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative (PCTI).   In creating PCTI, PennDOT recognized that community transportation is the strategic link between transportation investments and land use decisions that facilitate place-based community and economic development. PCTI provided funding for projects that implemented the Community Transportation concept and demonstrated the principles of Smart Transportation policy, integrating land use and transportation decisions. In 2009 to 2010, two rounds of PCTI funding led to nearly $90 million in public investment in local projects that helped change the shape and quality of life in hundreds of communities – including improved streetscapes, pedestrian safety initiatives, traffic mitigation measures, connectors to trails and bike lanes and many other initiatives promoting placemaking and active transportation alternatives.

A direct result of policy development and advocacy by 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania and its partners, PCTI’s creation was the culmination of nearly four years of best practices research, policy development, and program advocacy.  

But 10,000 Friends’ leadership did not end with the PCTI pilot program.  We had long sought a way to institutionalize the concept and increase the funding for Smart Transportation projects. In 2013, after several years of intense advocacy by 10,000 Friends and its coalition partners, Pennsylvania passed a landmark transportation bill, Act 89, which included for the first time ever a cutting-edge state Multi-Modal Fund.  This Fund now provides a permanent, competitive means for communities across the Commonwealth to fund smart Community Transportation projects.  By funding multi-modal transportation initiatives as a competitive grant program, the Multi-Modal Fund serves as the successor to PCTI – a permanent source of approximately $150 million dedicated annually to local projects building a true multi-modal transportation system.

Leveraging this funding and ensuring quality design is PennDOT’s Smart Transportation guide book, developed in conjunction with PCTI, which continues to assist municipalities and project sponsors in planning better projects, preparing better Multi-Modal Fund proposals, and building great neighborhoods.

PennDOT’s  Smart Transportation Initiative – including the PCTI pilot program and now the Multi-Modal Fund – continues to serve as a catalyst for regional and local initiatives that make the kinds of investments in Community Transportation that are helping build safer, healthier, more accessible, and more walkable communities.  To recognize the importance and value of such continued investments, 10,000 Friends will continue to award these Community Transportation Excellence Awards, instituted in 2011.

The Mark C. Schneider – Friend of Pennsylvania Award

The Mark C. Schneider – Friend of Pennsylvania Award is 10,000 Friends’ highest honor.  The award reads as follows:  “In Recognition of Exemplary and Outstanding Contributions to Policies and Projects that Advance the Vision and Mission of 10,000 Friends to Improve the Quality of Life for all Pennsylvanians through Responsible and Efficient Land Use.”  Previously known simply as the Friend of Pennsylvania Award, it was renamed in honor of the exemplary service and contributions of our late friend and Board Chairman, who died in a tragic bicycle accident in 2012.  The award has been bestowed to just seven recipients since the Commonwealth Awards began in 2003, most recently to former Governor Thomas J. Ridge in 2013.  Prior recipients include 10,000 Friends’ Founder Joanne Denworth, Karen Glotfelty of the Heinz Endowments, civic and business leader Louis J. Appell, Jr, PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler and former Board Member and State Representative Robert Butera.  In 2012, the Friend of Pennsylvania Award was posthumously awarded to Mark C. Schneider, who in addition to his service to 10,000 Friends, was a statewide civic leader and visionary urban developer.

The Joanne Denworth Founders Award

Named in honor of 10,000 Friends' Founder and first President Joanne Denworth, the Award recognizes visionary institutional leadership in community revitalization initiatives that exemplify sound land use principles. Drexel President John Fry will accept the award on behalf of Drexel University and the many partners that have contributed to the game-changing redevelopment underway in West Philadelphia.
As the leading state-wide smart growth advocacy organization, 10,000 Friends seeks to celebrate innovation and excellence in land use and development and the ground-breaking projects and initiatives that are shaping our future growth and prosperity - the kinds of investments that breathe new life into declining neighborhoods, increase opportunities in communities on the rise, and find new uses for vacant and underutilized land.  Smart and innovative projects can and do serve as catalysts for more sustainable development.  By recognizing these efforts through the Commonwealth Awards, we hope to encourage civic leadership at all levels and encourage local developers to make more such projects a reality.