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Urban Remix: Design charrette in West Philly produces exciting ideas

A few weeks ago, over one hundred professionals from the fields of design, public policy and neighborhood leadership came together with area high school students to take part in a design charrette, envisioning a new and improved intersection at 46th and Market Streets.

Called the Urban Remix Design Charrette, the event was put on by a number of West Philly stakeholders, including the Community Design Collaborative, LISC Philadelphia, AIA Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Beth Miller of the Community Design Collaborative, the mission was clear: Use the recently renovated subway station at the intersection as a catalyst for new investment and growth. With the improved transit asset, a number of key institutions close by and a significant amount of real estate prime for development, the opportunities gave the charrette participants plenty to work with. But there were also formidable limitations: This section of West Philly is fractured by superblocks of institutional buildings and public housing, an unusual amount of topography and the elevated subway system cutting right through it. 

To turn these opportunities and constraints into design solutions for the neighborhood, the charrette teams were assigned to three different section of the district—two north and one south of Market Street. An additional team was in charge of connecting the different areas through a network of open and public spaces.

Miller says the designs that came from the teams were diverse. Significant ideas include sustainability features, green promenades, artwork under the El, infill development, and public realm cohesion. Some of the plans included options for early action, while others had an eye on longer-term partnerships and development.

One notable idea to come out of the process was the creation of a new health and human services district at the intersection. With the future headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, the new Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Karabots Center, the Youth Study Center and West Philadelphia High School joining community institutions like the Enterprise Center in the area, Miller says the idea has some legs.
That idea and many others are in the process of being refined and will eventually be published in a final conceptual master plan. From there, LISC will be able to shop the plan around, gaining community-wide buy-in and lining up potential investors to turn the planning work into results.   

Source: Beth Miller, Community Design Collaborative
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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