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U.S. Department of Transportation design event targets Vine Street

In July, a special charrette led by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) -- one of four events nationwide -- targeted the Vine Street corridor. The goal was to brainstorm ideas for improving the quality of life along Route 676 for commuters and residents alike.

On July 14 and 15, the Chinese Christian Church & Center at 11th and Vine hosted a program packed with community outreach, tours, discussions and presentations. Partners included the Deputy Managing Director’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems (OTIS; formerly the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities), the Commerce Department, PennDOT, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

"This exercise has been fantastic because of all these different players in the room," enthused USDOT Chief Opportunities Officer Stephanie Jones.

Before the charrette's final public session, DVRPC Associate Director of Transportation Greg Krykewycz told Flying Kite that the event had "developed an integrated set of ideas" that made it a candidate for the DVRPC Work Program, which studies proposed infrastructure improvements as a possible step toward funding and implementation.

OTIS was responsible for bringing the needs of Vine Street to the USDOT Ladders of Opportunity Every Place Counts Design Challenge. The Washington, D.C.-based Congress for New Urbanism helps USDOT enlist city planners and designers to provide their expertise at the subsquent Ladders of Opportunity charrettes. The Philly event included walking tours, visioning and design meetings, and public forums for reacting to the preliminary designs produced. Participating architects and urban designers included Cindy Zerger and Ken Ray of Toole Design Group, and independent city planner Peter Park of Denver.

According to Park, the team’s observations included Vine Street bridge crossings that are "dangerous," "uncomfortable," and "inhospitable," fast-moving cars, and difficulty in navigating the designated crossing streets. But the "gravitas" of the neighborhood’s "historic urban fabric abounds," he added, even though it’s been "interrupted in significant ways" since the Expressway cut through Chinatown half a century ago.

USDOT's Stephanie Gidigbi shared a distilled vision from designers and participating community members after the two-day session: They hope to "re-imagine community gateways for the Vine Street Corridor that create inclusive and equitable commercial and residential neighborhood connections." More specific themes included green infrastructure, the study of vacant and underutilized space, mixed-use development potential, road diets, landscaping, new crossings and redevelopment of existing surface parking lots.

All of the concepts presented to the full house were preliminary ideas which will require further community input and study. They included a bike and pedestrian bridge to connect Vine Street to the Rail Park and Franklin Square; a "buffered bikeway" on Vine Street that would narrow the roadway and place parking between cyclists and drivers; partially capped bridges; separate bike and pedestrian space in crosswalks; stormwater planters; lighting improvements; and a traffic lane exclusively for bikes and buses.

Gidigbi urged participants to take the momentum into the neighborhood and engage residents in next steps (a report from the event will be made available online). This USDOT design challenge isn’t a finishing point, she added: The goal is to "ignite the conversation."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Greg Krykewycz, DVRPC; and Ladders of Opportunity leaders and designers

LEED certification meets affordable housing in Fishtown

A new row of homes in Fishtown may represent the future of sustainable development, from both an environmental perspective and a community one. Local developer Postgreen HomesAwesometown (14 units on the 400 block of Thompson Street) is the result of a unique longterm collaboration between the company and the New Kensington CDC.

The project, which features super-insulated walls and roofs, triple pane windows, Energy Star HVAC, green roofs and roof terraces, was certified LEED Platinum in June. The three- and four-bedroom two-bath units boast 1750 to 2100 square feet, with parking for up to two cars. Postgreen Development Manager Brian Ledder says the $420,000 base price aims to be within reach for those making 90 to 110 percent of the median income for the area.

Currently, eight homes are finished and six are still under construction. They’re all sold (four with the help of financing through NKCDC). Philadelphia’s Interface Studio Architects designed the project to achieve the LEED standard; eco-friendly specialist Hybrid Construction is the builder.

According to Ledder, NKCDC held the land, but the site’s history as the former home of Pathan Chemical and a fire after the business was vacated, meant there were challenging environmental issues to resolve. NKCDC wanted to partner with a developer that could handle the remediation (including soil replacement) and that "was interested in being sympathetic to the neighborhood as it was existing...as well as keeping the income levels where they were."

Postgreen launched in 2008, "just after the economy tanked," Ledder recalls, but it turned out to be the right decision: land was cheap, subcontractors needed work and it was a good time to lay groundwork with vendors. The company began by building about three homes per year -- now it’s building 30, with its own construction arm and a sales team.

The next homes available from Postgreen will be the nine-unit Arbor House at the corner of York and Memphis Streets, built to the same green standards as Awesometown. Ledder estimates they’ll be done by early 2017, with sales opening soon.

Postgreen launched the Awesometown development with NKCDC "to prove that you could [achieve LEED certification] at the same time as maintaining affordable units," he concludes. "It didn’t have to be a compromise."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Brian Ledder, Postgreen Homes

Tacony's temporary library builds buzz on Torresdale Avenue

The new South Philadelphia Library is open on Broad Street, but it's only the first of five major renovations planned at libraries across the city. And while work is officially underway on the Tacony Library at Torresdale Avenue and Knorr Street -- it's scheduled to last 18 months -- Tacony isn’t missing a beat in the meantime.
 
"These renovations don’t mean this community should go without a library," explained Sixth District Councilman Bobby Henon at the opening of the Tacony Library and Arts Building (LAB) on June 29. While construction on the new building continues (as part of the Free Library’s Pew-funded Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative), a partnership between the Mural Arts Program (MAP), the Free Library and the Tacony Community Development Corporation has led to this temporary space.
 
Now open at 6918 Torresdale Avenue, LAB occupies a street-level storefront that has been vacant for almost three years. Speakers at the opening included Free Library President and Director Siobhan Reardon and Tacony CDC Director Alex Balloon. They connected the temporary space to the mission of the future library: offering support and resources for small business owners, and spurring the evolution and revitalization of Tacony's commercial corridor.
 
LAB, a "hub for learning, creativity and community engagement," according to the Free Library, will host two MAP artists-in-residence: Nick Cassway (who hopes to develop a solar-powered parklet) and Mariel Capanna (a fresco artist whose residency will focus on the neighborhood’s industrial history). LAB will also play host to public art events, storytime for kids, a computer lab and free WIFI, and a selection of books to borrow.
 
"How we bring art and literature together will be a great experiment at Tacony LAB," said Reardon.

MAP Founder and Executive Director Jane Golden described the space as active and participatory, and hopes that more like it will result from similar partnerships in the future.
 
"It’s an awesome place and something that’s going to be modeled throughout the city of Philadelphia," added Henon.
 
Tacony LAB will open from noon to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and Fridays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Councilman Bobby Henon and other LAB speakers 

At Bartram's, Philly's only 19th century flower garden blooms again

In March, we looked in on the reopening of Bartram House after a $2.7 million renovation project that included vital exterior rehabbing and the construction of 12 geothermal wells. Then on July 14, Mayor Jim Kenney, Senator Anthony Williams, Bartram’s Garden Executive Director Maitreyi Roy and other leaders formally celebrated the restoration of the Ann Bartram Carr Garden, an important 19th century horticultural landmark. (Bartram’s Garden is in our current On the Ground neighborhood.)
 
Developed and maintained on the west side of the house by John Bartram’s granddaughter Ann Bartram Carr (1779-1858), the garden featured ten greenhouses, 1,400 native plant species and about 1,000 exotic plants. Building on the Bartram family legacy of horticultural art, collections and writings -- as well as a world-wide trade in seeds and plants -- the enterprise started in 1810 and continued until the property’s sale in 1850.
 
Buyer Andrew Eastwick preserved the property until the City of Philadelphia took over the historic site. Stewardship of the house and grounds continues to this day in partnership with the John Bartram Association, formed in 1893.
 
Now Carr’s restored 19th-century flower garden is open to the public. Bartram's hosts about 50,000 visitors per year, and the upcoming Bartram’s Mile trail will boost those numbers.
 
"This is what it feels like to steward a legacy," said Bartram's President Elizabeth Stressi-Stoppe of combing through the site’s photographic, archival and architectural history and bringing the garden back to life. "We wanted to get it right."
 
"Ann remains as important today as she did in her time," added Roy.
 
The renovation of recreation centers and gardens is "essential for investment in our neighborhoods and communities," said Mayor Kenney, calling the new Bartram’s Philly’s "living room." He pointed to the fact that all state and city funding for the project came thanks to taxpayers putting their dollars into community green space.
 
"I’m proud to be a Philadelphian today," he enthused.
 
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell praised the site as a burgeoning destination not only for Philadelphians, but for travelers from across the country. Bressi-Stoppe called it a "nexus" for the cultural, physical and programmatic improvements happening all along the Schuylkill River.
 
Senator Williams touted the "vision, commitment and tenacity" of the Bartram’s board, staff and partners, and called his support for its funding "a simple responsibility," especially since his own father grew up nearby. He also pointed to the Bartram family’s Quaker legacy of peace, understanding and humanity.
 
"It’s much bigger than a garden to me," he continued. "Today is a statement. For all the violence, this is a place of peace."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Ann Bartram Carr Garden speakers

 
Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Support living shorelines at a pioneering Philly park

According to a campaign from Pew Charitable Trusts, U.S. coastlines are in serious trouble: The expanding use of concrete bulkheads and seawalls is "threatening the borders of our oceans, lakes and rivers," damaging and destroying wetlands that people, plants and animals rely on. Fortunately, Philadelphia is host to one of the only sites in the region working on a real solution.

In 2012, at Lardner's Point Park in Tacony, the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) constructed what’s known as a "living shoreline" on the Delaware River (check out our recent look at the upcoming K&T trail on the same site). In lieu of a concrete structure between water and land, a permanent installation of rocks and native plants preserves the natural habitat and helps prevent erosion and flooding.

Now Pew is helping to spread the word as the Army Corps of Engineers is opening a public comment period on its proposal to create a unified, nationwide permitting process for the creation of living shorelines. Currently, obtaining permits to develop these coastal structures can be a lengthy and onerous process without consistent standards from state to state -- meanwhile, it’s quick and cost-effective to obtain a permit for a traditional bulkhead or seawall.

According to Laura Lightbody, project director of Pew's Flood-Prepared Communities Initiative, advancing this nature-based infrastructure solution -- which helps mitigate disasters like storms and floods -- is about "protecting people and property, and reducing the cost to the federal government," as well as preserving and restoring natural habitats.

"Part of our effort is to do education for the American public about the benefit and value of living shorelines as a way to demonstrate to the Corps a need for the nationwide permit," she says. Lightbody calls Philadelphia a "unique area to highlight, where living shorelines are in a diverse geographic region."

Lardner’s Point Park was a great site for that effort, she continues: formerly not accessible to the public, the shoreline is now something "to be incorporated with other outside recreational activities for the community."

DRCC and Pew will hold a tour of the Lardner’s living shoreline in mid-July -- the timing is perfect to see the full potential of what was built in 2012 since it can take a few years for the vegetation to mature. Unlike a concrete shoreline structure which deteriorates, a living shoreline is an excellent infrastructure investment. They "tend to become more durable and more substantial over time," as the natural vegetation takes hold, explains Lightbody.

To find out more and comment on the Army Corps of Engineers proposal to streamline the permitting of living shorelines, click here

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Laura Lightbody, Pew Charitable Trusts

Parks on Tap now open through September

We've been watching the progress of an exciting new summer program: Parks on Tap, a mobile beer garden that will pop up in 14 different city parks for one week each through October 2. On June 29, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and other partners cut the Parks on Tap ribbon just south of the Walnut Street Bridge. Schuylkill Banks was the first stop (through July 4).

"It’s probably going to start here in Philadelphia and then be stolen and replicated across the country," said Ott Lovell of the program, which offers gourmet food, snacks and drinks, family-friendly games and activities, and seating for up to 200 people in chairs and hammocks.

Parks on Tap is a partnership of Parks & Rec, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, and FCM Hospitality (the company behind Philly hot spots Morgan’s Pier and Union Transfer, and the annual Waterfront Winterfest at Penn's Landing).

"When you say you want to serve beer in a public park, the first thing most people say is, 'Hell no,'" said FCM Hospitality owner Avram Hornik of the program’s innovative bent. He pointed to the family-friendly atmosphere of the pop-ups and the chance to connect with neighbors in new ways.

Unlike the suburbs, where green space is usually privately owned, parks in the city "are common space. They belong to all of us," he continued.

Interim Conservancy Executive Director Tim Clair praised Elizabeth Moselle, Conservancy Associate Director of Business Development (who spoke with Flying Kite in March about the Parks on Tap plans) for her work on making the program a reality.

Each Parks on Tap pop-up will have two concession trucks: one with regional craft beers, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, and one serving a menu developed by local chef Mitch Prensky (owner of Scratch Biscuits and Global Dish Caterers). Food on offer includes a wide variety of hot sliders, vegan and vegetarian noodles and salads, and a range of snacks and desserts.

The program will ride throughout the city for the next few months: stops include Aviator Park on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (July 20-25), West Philly’s Clark Park (July 27-31), FDR Park at 1500 Pattison Avenue (September 1-5) and many others. (Check out Parks on Tap online for the full schedule and special events.)

Ott Lovell believes the program will be an effective way of "bringing people out to park spaces that they might not otherwise visit." She hopes Parks on Tap will endure and expand in future summer seasons.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Kathryn Ott Lovell, Fairmount Park Conservancy, and other speakers

The South Philadelphia Library opens on Broad Street

According to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts, 34 percent of Philly’s library visitors are looking up health information. The new South Philadelphia Library -- now open in the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center at Broad and Morris Streets -- features a Community Health Resource Center. It is perfectly placed to help patients coming from neighboring Health Center 2 or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Pediatric Primary Care Center who need further information from a reliable source.

The Health Resource Center will have a staff trained by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives; they will direct patrons to accessible, accurate information about their health. If patrons come downstairs after a doctor visit for themselves or their children, help is right at their fingertips.

Sandy Horrocks, Vice President of External Affairs for the Free Library of Philadelphia, touts the value of customized assistance: When people try to research a diagnosis online, they’re likely to end up on corporate websites, which can have value, "but we want to make sure people aren’t getting only information from a pharmaceutical company," she says.

The new facility -- part of a revamp of five Free Library locations across the city (aka the Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative) -- is the city’s first new library in over 10 years. It happened thanks to a partnership with CHOP, Health Center 2, and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center. Horrocks is pleased that it’s open just in time to host summer reading programs for local school kids.

CHOP leaders sparked the collaboration when they were looking to relocate a pediatric center -- the Broad Street location was appealing. The rec center in the back needed renovations and so did the existing library.

Through a conversation with CHOP’s then-CEO Steven Altschuler, Free Library President Siobhan Reardon and City officials, stakeholders came to the decision to "bulldoze the entire block, put up this brand-new wonderful facility -- including a beautiful park -- and all work together," recalls Horrocks. "It’s been a terrific experience."

The 12,000-square-foot library space, which expects to welcome 150,000 visitors a year, includes the Community Health Resource Center, a "living room" area to encourage gatherings and host library programming, a space for teens, a "Pre-K Zone," a computer lab, and study rooms. Local community nonprofits who need meeting space are welcome. The only surviving mural by author and illustrator Maurice Sendak is on display in the Children’s Library after a five-year stint at the Rosenbach Museum.

The project was made possible thanks to dollars from the Sheller Family Foundation, the Patchwork Foundation, the Cannuscio Rader Family Foundation, Nina and Larry Chertoff, and the William Penn Foundation

"It’s meant to have the feeling of a living room," says Horrocks of the library. "We want people to interact with each other and not be so isolated."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sandy Horrocks, the Free Library of Philadelphia 

New life for vacant lots in Southwest Philadelphia

Reclaiming a vacant lot for the health and enjoyment of a community -- as well as native wildlife -- doesn’t happen overnight, but a partnership between Audubon Pennsylvania and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge promises to make it happen by the end of this year.
 
As Flying Kite lands in Kingsessing for our summer On the Ground residency, these two organizations are continuing a partnership with landscape architecture students at Philadelphia University focused on underutilized land throughout Southwest Philadelphia
 
Audubon and John Heinz have been collaborating for a long time; the partnership was formalized over the last 18 months.
 
"We’ve been working very closely, starting with the southwest portion of the city because of its proximity to John Heinz Wildlife Refuge," say Audubon Community Stewardship Program Manager Ryhan Grech. "[The Cobb’s Creek watershed] is also one of Audubon’s priorities. Both of us are looking to dive in with community engagement and work on the pocket park notion."

That means extensive community engagement (aided by leadership from groups like Southwest CDC, Empowered CDC and Philadelphia More Beautiful) on which lots to target for improvements and what sort of designs meet local needs.
 
A "secondary motive" for the work, adds Grech, is increasing the amount of quality habitat for the Philly area’s native birds and pollinators.
 
For their spring semester, 11 landscape architecture students from Philadelphia University participated in community meetings and surveys targeting about 30 vacant lots in southwest Philly. They learned that residents want more safe spaces for kids to play and learn, more educational areas, and more opportunities to grow food or participate in community gardens. Stormwater management was also key.
 
In March, the students presented preliminary ideas at an open community meeting, and then applied that feedback to seven designs presented at a second meeting in late April. Following that, an online survey has continued to narrow down the locations and customize the plans. By the end of the summer, they hope to have decided on a single site and distilled one tailored design reflecting community needs.
 
Which space they’ll have a right to revamp is part of the picture, too: With help from the city’s new Land Bank and support from City Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Jannie Blackwell, project partners hope a local CDC will take on a lease for the chosen lot, allowing the transformation to move forward.
 
This is not just another semester-long student survey project with no action, Grech insists -- with their proximity to Philly’s major educational institutions, Southwest Philly residents have had enough surveys.
 
"In the fall, Heinz and Audubon are bringing the resources to the table to implement," she says. "We’ll start working with contractors at that point."
 
"Our intention is not to stop with one site," she adds. "We intend to keep going."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ryhan Grech, Audubon Pennsylvania

 
Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Chester Charter School for the Arts breaks ground on new $25 million campus

The nonprofit Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) has been renting space in Aston, PA, since its inception in 2012. But in June, the school broke ground on a brand-new $25 million, 11-acre campus; it should be open by fall 2017.

"There isn’t much in the way of this kind of development happening in Chester," says Keren White, executive director of the Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, CCSA’s precursor and now its development and marketing arm. "A new school hasn’t been built in Chester for several decades."

When CCSA opened, it offered kindergarten through sixth grade, and the school has expanded by one grade each year. Currently, this non-selective public school serving the Chester Upland School District has almost 500 K-9 students. For the 2017-18 school year, they will welcome 11th graders, and then 12th graders in fall 2018. At that point, the school will maintain an enrollment of about 650 students, with a maximum of 25 students per class.

"Arts Integration" is key at the school, combining rigorous core academics with dance, music, theater and visual arts classes. The model works, according to CCSA: In 2014, the school achieved the third-highest year to year improvement among 800 Philly-area public schools; it currently boasts a 96 percent attendance rate.

CCSA isn’t Chester's only charter school: there’s also the K-8 Chester Community Charter School, which currently serves around half the kids in the district (about 3,500 students). CCSA will ultimately have the capacity to serve about 10 percent of the district’s kids.

"If we can really educate 10 percent of the kids to a high standard, then potentially we’ll have a huge impact on this population," says White.

The new CCSA campus at 1200 Highland Avenue -- a three-story, 90,000-square-foot building -- will feature a gymnasium, a multi-purpose cafeteria/auditorium, music space, art studios and a kiln, science and media labs, and dance studios. Outside, there will be athletic fields, a new playground, and ample parking alongside new landscaping and trees. In a later phase of construction, which could be as early as 2018, the campus will add a 350-seat performing arts center with its own costume and set design workshops.

White says the Fund is raising $7 million of the total $25 construction budget ($3.825 million is already in place) and will finance the rest.

"We just really believe in Chester," says White. "The people in Chester are great people…and they haven’t had the opportunities that other people have had. We’ve really invested for the long term."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Keren White, The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts 

The K&T Trail is officially underway on the Delaware

The latest segment of The Circuit Trails network to break ground is the first stretch of the trail to directly connect two parks, says Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) Executive Director Tom Branigan.

Phase One of the new K&T trail (so named because it will follow the path of the former Kensington and Tacony railroad) will be a 1.15-mile stretch connecting the Frankford Boat Launch to Lardner’s Point Park, serving visitors as well as residents of Wissinoming to the south and Tacony to the north.

Phase One of the K&T -- a 12-foot-wide asphalt trail -- has a $2.9 million budget. Directing partners Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and DRCC broke ground on June 9 and anticipate completion in 2017. The trail is part of a much bigger regional picture: It’s one more piece of the 750-mile Circuit and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway.

Under design since 2008, the trail will move through a riverside right-of-way owned by the City of Philadelphia. The whole length of it will have riverfront views, although the strips of land touching the river are still in the hands of adjacent property owners. And since it’s a heavily industrial area, there will be fencing installed alongside the trail.

"We’re working with the property owners to make sure everything moves smoothly," says Branigan.

Partners hope efforts to acquire the riverfront land will boost the project in the long term.

"We’ll engage various property owners and see about acquiring that small strip of land between the trail and river," he adds.
"And then [we'll] make appropriate improvements."

The trail will also span a small inlet of the river, requiring a bridge.

Currently, landscaping and other amenities include benches, interpretive signage on the wildlife and history of the area, 80 trees, 1,000 shrubs, and thousands more beautifying grasses and perennial plants.

Phase Two of K&T will launch next year, taking the trail up as far as Princeton Avenue; another piece, currently in design and slated for construction in 2018, will go as far north as Rhawn Street.

"We’ll have a good stretch of trail by the end of 2018 or early 2019 that will go from the Frankford Boat Launch all the way up to Pleasantville Park on Linden Avenue," concludes Branigan.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Branigan, Delaware River City Corporation 

Stunning Free Library renovation enlivened by $50,000 art contest: Apply Now!

As part of a $36 million renovation at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Philly’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy’s (OACCE) Percent for Art Program has announced a $50,000 competition for a site-specific artwork.

Because the Free Library’s main branch is "such a flagship building" with a central Parkway location, "we’re hopeful we’ll get a lot of interest," says Margot Berg, OACCE’s public art director. She expects up to 100 applications from artists nationwide who want to put their mark on this historic space.

The Parkway library first opened in 1927 and now serves more than one million visitors each year. The planned renovations -- part of the Library’s Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative -- will be designed by Safdie Architects. The remodel will focus on the north-facing rear section of the library in what is now the stacks.

According to OACCE, 35 percent of the Library is currently open to the public, with the rest reserved for staffing and storage. The plan is to open up tens of thousands of square feet across two floors, reversing the ratio of public to administrative areas.

The renovations will create four new public amenities: The Common, The Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), The Marie H. and Joseph M. Field Teen Center, and a new Grand Central Staircase.

For the art installation, the Library, Percent for Art and the architects settled on a location spanning the first and second floors of the renovated space: a two-story open shelving system.

"This was the best opportunity, and something that had high visibility in the library," explains Berg. Space on the floor and the walls is at a premium, and suspended artworks can be expensive and difficult to maintain. This made an art piece targeting the shelving itself the best option.

At this point, it’s impossible to know what prospective artists might propose, but Berg says they could incorporate a series of small objects or sculptures that nest visibly within the shelves and invite viewers to discover them, or it could be some type of visual treatment to the surface of the shelving itself.

Currently, the call is in stage one: the Request for Qualifications officially closes on June 29 at 5 p.m. The competition will be tough: According to the RFQ, only about five applicants will be selected to submit full proposals, with the help of a $750 honorarium. These finalists will be notified in mid-July, with full proposals due later that month. By early October, the artist will be chosen and notified. Fabrication and installation of the artwork is slated for completion in 2017.

"This project has been a long time coming," says Berg of the renovations. "It’s all about rebuilding, continuing to have libraries be a hub for meeting and learning, and for doing business going into the next century. We’re happy to be a part of that."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Margot Berg, the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy

Development News: PHS pop-up garden is a preview of partners' hopes for upcoming Viaduct Rail Park

This year, a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society pop-up is offering a preview of the upcoming Viaduct Rail Park. Last December, we reported on PHS' plans for an installation somewhere along the planned promenade in the Callowhill neighborhood (our recent On the Ground home) and now a new summer beer garden is open at 10th and Hamilton Streets on the north side of Viaduct.

"What’s exciting about this is it gives you a snapshot of what this will be ultimately," said Mayor Jim Kenney at an opening night party on June 10.

Walter Hood of Hood Design is behind the new space. A former gravel parking lot in the shadow of the Viaduct, the site "merges the post-industrial overhead structure with the green urban space," explains PHS Associate Director of Landscape Design Leigh Ann Campbell.

The beer garden features large, colorful boxes reminiscent of shipping containers and a performance area with metal framework repurposed from Hood's recent exhibit at the PHS Flower Show. The plants in the garden itself are those that "naturally emerged on the Viaduct after it was decommissioned," explains Campbell; these include Paulownia trees, sumacs, ferns and milkweed.

On Saturday, June 18 at 5 p.m., the pop-up will host a special opening event for a site-specific sound installation from artist Abby Sohn, which will "make use of the iron structure to create a sonic experience that explores the cultural heritage and the rail site’s creative potential," according to PHS.

The food comes from chefs Jason Chichonski (of ELA and Gaslight) and Sylva Senat (of Dos Tacos and Maison). Six taps, canned beer, wine, cocktails, sangria and more will round out the beverage offerings.

There will also be a variety of programming throughout the summer, including special themed dinners, acoustic music performances, garden workshops for containers and window-boxes, and even lessons on mixing drinks made with home-grown herbs. The Philadelphia Public History Truck will also make appearances thanks to support from the Mural Arts Program. (Here’s the full line-up of happenings.)

A variety of funders, partners and supporters made the site possible, including property owner Arts & Crafts Holdings, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Friends of the Rail Park, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Viaduct owner Reading International, Victory Brewing Company, the Callowhill Neighborhood Association and the Land Health Institute. All proceeds from the garden will support PHS’s City Harvest.

Campbell said the pop-up isn’t just a good place to get dinner and drinks and enjoy a new slice of green in the city. The service berry bushes planted all around the park’s perimeter draw all kinds of birds to feast right along with the human city-dwellers.

"If you’ve never heard a catbird sing," she adds, come over and listen.

The Viaduct Rail Park will be open through September 30.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Leigh Ann Campbell, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society 

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

June 5 building collapse memorial on track to begin construction this month

June 5 marked the third anniversary of the day that demolition of a vacant building at 2138 Market Street caused the collapse of the adjacent Salvation Army thrift store, killing six people. To help ensure that this tragedy is not forgotten or repeated, the City of Philadelphia and agencies including Parks & Recreation and Center City District (CCD) have teamed up with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to create a memorial park at the site of the collapse.

According to PHS director of landscape design David Carlson, plans for the park are now funded, approved and permitted, and they're ready for construction to commence in June, pending the completion of soil testing at the site.

In January 2014, a committee formed for the creation of a memorial park; it features representatives of CCD, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Brandywine Realty Trust, Center City Residents Association, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and many others. Since the committee is not a 501(c) 3, it made sense to partner with PHS to manage the project’s dollars and design.

In March 2014, the Salvation Army gave the land to the City of Philadelphia at no cost, with City Council approving the transfer of the 3,125-square-foot site into the City’s park system. One June 5, 2014, then-Mayor Michael Nutter dedicated the site. According to the June 5 Memorial website, the space "will provide a contemplative respite for visitors while preserving the memory of those lost -- and serve as a constant reminder that construction projects must be done safely."

In early 2015, a pro bono design team began a six-month collaboration on the final plan (with over $150,000 in design hours donated by Philly-area design professionals). The park itself was designed by architect Scott Aker, with a granite-and-glass sculptural element titled "Witness" from artist Barb Fox. The plan earned approval from the Art Commission on June 3 of last year. Fundraising for construction launched in earnest in September, with a total budget of $1.3 million now raised.

The park will feature new landscaping and stormwater management, the three-piece “Witness” sculpture that Carlson says will be made with locally-sourced stone, a 31-foot-long reflection plaza, and a 12-by-12 foot "Sacred Memorial Area." It will all be ADA-accessible.

A maintenance endowment for the park is also being established. Once construction is finished (Carlson estimates it will take about six months from the mid-June start date), Parks & Rec will maintain the site, with landscaping help from PHS.

Carlson calls the work "a testament to the City trying to make amends."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: David Carlson, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

PHS brings new Green Resource Center to South Philly

How do you top distributing 250,000 seedlings every year to gardeners and urban farmers throughout the city? The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is working on it.

Recently, we checked out the installation of a new solar power array in Strawberry Mansion, our current On the Ground neighborhood. PHS has been building two new Green Resource Centers (GRC) over the past eighteen months (it already has four others throughout the city): one on the Strawberry Mansion site and another in South Philadelphia on a formerly vacant lot at 2500 Reed Street. (GRCs are a part of PHS's City Harvest program.)

The South Philly site is a partnership between the lot owner (the nearby Church of the Redeemer Baptist), PHS and the Nationalities Service Center (NSC), which works with refugees resettling in Philadelphia. NSC leases about two-and-a-half acres (of the three-and-a-half acre lot) from the church, and worked with PHS to develop a large community garden there.

"It’s an entire city block and it’s right by the old rail line, so it’s really a wonderful place to have a community garden," says Nancy Kohn, Director of Garden Programs at PHS. Before NSC and PHS arrived, the long-unused site was full of debris, rubble and stones. Volunteers from Villanova University and various corporate partners pitched in to clear the land and build hundreds of raised garden beds. Now the site has its own water line, a shed and 400 beds.

Half of those are "entrepreneurial beds," according to Kohn, for people who grow and sell vegetables to nearby businesses and restaurants. The rest are community garden beds open to the public.

The opportunity to garden is important to many NSC clients.

"A lot of refugees that are coming through this program have an agricultural background," explains Kohn. "The community garden has been a wonderful place to get them more connected to their background, as well as connected to their neighbors, who are South Philly natives."

Meanwhile, the impact of the GRCs extends citywide: Through the network, volunteers and PHS staff propagate a total of 250,000 seedlings each year, to be distributed to gardens and farms all over town (with the two new GRCs completed soon, that number will grow significantly). Participating volunteers give ten hours of work to the PHS site over the season and receive the seedlings in return. Earlier this month, PHS had a mass distribution of nine different varieties of veggies, including peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes and okra.

"The gardeners come to pick them up," says Kohn. "They take them back to their gardens, and they grow them for their communities."

Because of the landowner's evolving plan to eventually build a new church on the site, the community gardens will stay and continue to partner with PHS, but the permanent GRC will be built in another South Philly location (to be announced soon). The site will include a new greenhouse, demonstration and community garden beds for educational workshops, solar paneling for electric power, a wash station and a shade structure.

Kohn hopes the build-out on the new site will begin later this summer; the GRC should be up and running by next spring.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nancy Kohn, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

 

Philly's biggest green roof gets the green light at Temple

Late last month, Governor Tom Wolf confirmed a massive local green roof project that’s been five years in the making. Thanks to a partnership between Temple University and the Philadelphia Water Department, the stunning design be a reality when the school's new library opens for the fall semester in 2018.

"Temple has worked closely with the Water Department over the last five years to identify meaningful stormwater solutions that address North Philadelphia’s critical challenges with this issue," says Dozie Ibeh, associate vice president of Temple’s Project Delivery Group.

According to Temple, the new library will have one of the state’s largest green roofs (the only comparable one in the region is the PECO green roof at 23rd and Market Streets). 
 
The project will be made possible thanks to a $6,747,933 loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). With a low interest rate of approximately one percent and a 20-year term, the university projects that the PENNVEST loan will save them $4 million. Those dollars will help Temple install the green roof, permeable paving, cisterns for rainwater and stormwater piping. The space will also include a 46,000-square-foot roof garden, planting beds, and a terrace and seating area outside the new library’s fourth-floor reading room.

The international design firm Snøhetta is behind the 225,000-square-foot new library, in partnership with the local office of Stantec. Philadelphia’s Roofmeadow consulted with Temple throughout the design process, and will help maintain the completed system, alongside Temple’s grounds superintendent, and faculty from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.
 
The space will also provide important research opportunities for students and faculty.
 
Temple hopes to receive LEED gold certification when the new library is completed in 2018 as part of a wider sustainability plan on campus; LEED gold status is already on the books for the new Science Education and Research Center, which opened in 2014.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Dozie Ibeh, Temple University 
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