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Bartram's Mile: An 8-acre oasis of open space in Southwest

Bartram’s Garden, arguably one of Philadelphia’s most well known yet underappreciated assets, is about to become the center of a plan to reimagine one mile of currently vacant riverfront land along the western banks of the Schuylkill River between Grays Ferry and 58th Street.  Billed as “Bartram’s Mile” a roughly 8 acre section of the land will become a new public green space that connects to the Garden and provides riverfront access and recreation amenities for the surrounding community. 

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and the John Bartram Association, is leading the effort to turn the land into open space as part of the Green2015 plan that specified Bartram’s Mile as an opportunity for new park space. 
To achieve this goal, PennPraxis was tapped to lead the community outreach process starting on Sunday, Nov. 4 with a walking tour of the site.  To ensure the process is comprehensive, a bike tour with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, a dinner conversation and design workshop will also occur through the end of November.    

“We want to conduct a really thoughtful outreach process,” says Andrew Goodman with PennPraxis, “there’s so much going on in this area right now and we need to make sure it’s done right.” 

‘A lot going on’ might be an understatement, Goodman says Bartram’s Mile will connect to the numerous other projects currently going on or recently completed in the neighborhood.  This includes the 58th Street Greenway, Grays Ferry Crescent, Bartram’s Connector Trail and a connection to the Schuylkill River Trail.   

While it is clear that the Mile will connect to these assets, Goodman says a number of questions still need to be answered.  “What does the community want?  What kind of programming do they want to see?  Trails, docks – how do people want to connect to the river?”  These issues, Goodman says, will be fleshed out during the outreach process.

Goodman says the answers to the questions and many others will be compiled and a conceptual master plan will be created.  Everything from open space programming, trail alignment and cost estimates are going to be included in the plan, eventually given to the Deputy Mayor as a marketing piece to pitch to potential donors. 

The master plan will also identify how expected private development will interact with the new open space.  That land, currently owned by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), consists of two parcels, one south and one north of Bartram’s Garden. 

“Bartram’s Mile is expected to act as a catalyst for development on these two parcels,” says Patrick Morgan with Parks and Recreation, “with the success of the Navy Yard and the desires of young professionals to have access to open space, we see potential to create a job center here.”

Morgan says PIDC is already shopping the land around to potential developers.  Meanwhile, he indicates Parks and Rec. is pursuing funding sources for the public portion, noting there is a significant amount of external interest to make the Mile a reality.  “Completing the outreach process and putting together a schematic design will only increase interest.  With a hard and fast deadline of 2015 [via Green2015] expect this project to be a top priority and move quickly.”

Source: Andrew Goodman, PennPraxis; Patrick Morgan, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
Writer: Greg Meckstroth
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