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Developer chooses to save Pennsport's Manton St. Park and community garden

For months, things did not look good for Manton St. Park in South Philly’s Pennsport neighborhood. The city refused to designate the lot as a park, instead selling it to U.S. Construction, a private developer. U.S. could have easily built on top of the park, which would have given the developer room for two more houses. Instead, the firm decided to build three rowhouses next to the pocket park, and allowed the community to keep their beloved pocket park and community garden.

U.S. Construction has shown a willingness to work with neighbors in the 4th and Manton St. area that houses the pocket park, says Mark Berman, the president of the Friends of Manton Street Park and Community Garden. "They said initially they didn't want to start out in the community on a bad foot," he says. Berman continues that they’ve been approachable and cooperative. They've gone so far as to agree to pay for some of the supplies in rehabbing the park. Neighbors seem to be happy at the three new residential units, citing the large amount of abandoned lots in the neighborhood.

Now that Manton St. Park has been awarded a new lease on life, Berman has plans to bring it back to life. He hopes to get it listed on the Parks and Recreation Department’s inventory of parks, and turn it into a landscaped leisure area, perfect for picnics. The Friends also hope to continue the park’s current use as a community garden, which holds 10 beds and boasts a passionate bunch of volunteers. 

Berman says his group works closely with other community groups, but wants a better relationship with the city. He says his group has an intimate relationship with the Pennsport and Dickinson Narrows Civic Associations, and Friends of Jefferson Square Park. However, Berman still has a bitter taste in his mouth about how the city treated his park. He recounts poor communication from Councilman Frank DiCicco’s office and Parks and Recreation. However, the Friends have received support from the current councilman, and are optimistic about a better relationship with the city. 

The Friends of Manton St. Park anticipate that U.S. Construction’s new rowhouses will be ready in just a couple of months. Berman is excited that whoever moves in will soon have a landscaped pocket park and community garden right next door. He realizes that South Philadelphia "traditionally gets a bad rap for being full of litter and concrete." Thanks to the cooperation between U.S. Construction and The Friends, this won’t be true for the neighborhood around 4th and Manton.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Mark Berman, Friends of Manton St. Park and Community Garden

Photo courtesy of Friends of Manton St. Park and Community Garden 
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