Hostos Charter School Proposed Plan

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Approximately 30 participants attended the community design charrette for the Hostos Charter School court and developed many ideas for the future use of the campus.  Part of a larger EPA-funded project, the purpose of the event was to gather local input about the reuse of the Hostos Charter School campus in the Olney/East Oak Lane neighborhoods in Philadelphia.  With partakers including school staff and faculty, community residents and representatives from organizations across the City, the groups generated unique designs for the large and underutilized schoolyard.

The four groups each envisioned different futures for the site.  While there was considerable variation in some of the individual elements proposed, several conceptual ideas were mentioned throughout.  All groups supported the use of the site for outdoor education, with trails meandering around the site to link the various ecosystems and landscapes found there.  Additionally, the ideas of green roofs, community accessibility and children’s play areas were prominent.

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Following the event, the Project Team discussed both the designs from each group as well as the results from the voting activity.  The team then developed a conceptual master plan based on these results.  The overall concept for the Hostos Charter School campus is to provide educational and recreational facilities for both the community and the school students.

Incorporating both educational and recreational amenities, the plan calls for a walking trail that meanders throughout the property.  A key feature of the design, the four seasons wetland area, features boardwalks and a variety of plant life for both educational and stormwater purposes.  Buffered by a native tree border, the soccer fields will be rotated yearly to allow natural meadows in the off years.  The plan also features the addition of a green roof, a dog park, a small children’s play area and a vegetable garden.  Green stormwater infrastructure tools are featured throughout the plan.

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Memphis Street Academy Proposed Plan

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Over thirty participants attended the community design charrette for the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard and developed several ideas for the future use of the site.  Part of a larger EPA-funded project, the purpose of the event was to gather local input about the reuse of the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard in the Port Richmond neighborhood in Philadelphia.  With partakers including school staff and faculty, community residents and representatives from organizations across the City, the groups generated unique designs for the largely underutilized schoolyard.  In addition, a children’s brainstorming session was held prior to learn about the students’ ideas for the schoolyard.

Each group envisioned a distinct future for the schoolyard, but there was significant overlap in many of the design elements and wishes for the site.  Most groups commented on the lack of green space, and suggested the addition of both color and shading to improve the usability of the yard.  In addition, further recreational amenities and opportunities were suggested, including a basketball court with spectator seating.  Students at the brainstorming session recommended fruit trees and vegetable gardens as a way to beautify the space.

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Following the event, the Project Team discussed both the designs from each group as well as the results from the voting activity.  The team then developed a conceptual master plan based on these results.  The overall concept for the Memphis Street Academy schoolyard is to green the space while providing ample educational and recreational opportunities for both the students and the community.

Integrating both educational and recreational components, the plan calls for an interactive path meandering around much of the courtyard to provide an active learning experience for the students.  Weaving through a sensory garden, rain garden and several planting buffers, the path concludes at the outdoor classroom.  While adding recreational components is stressed throughout the plan, there is also ample space reserved for free play.  The plan also features the addition of significant green space: street trees lining the property, a green roof and several rain gardens.  Incorporating the insight provided by the students, the plan suggests two vegetable gardens along the main entrance to the school.

Lots at 6th & Diamond Proposed Master Plan

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Attended by thirty participants, the community design charrette for the lots at 6th and Diamond Streets generated several different visions for the currently underutilized lots.  Part of a larger EPA-funded project, the purpose of the event was to garner local input about the reuse of the two lots located at the intersection of 6th and Diamond Streets in eastern North Philadelphia.  With participants from the neighborhood, as well as invited guests from citywide organizations, the group designs represented diverse options for the two lots.

The groups each designed unique visions for the lots.  For the smaller lot, several groups suggested food-related activities such as community garden plots and a small market.  Others proposed the idea of an informal social gathering space with dedicated space for seating.  For the larger lot across the street, both active and passive recreational activities were discussed, including a handball court, a more formal BBQ area, a movie screen, play fountains and an historical neighborhood trail.  The general concepts developed in each group can be seen below:

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Following the event, the Project Team discussed both the designs from each group as well as the results from the voting activity.  The team then developed a conceptual master plan based on these results.  The overall concept for the Lots at 6th & Diamond Streets is two-fold: a gathering space highlighting both the neighborhood’s storied history as well as its current conditions in the larger lot and a community garden with space for socializing.

Incorporating both active and passive recreational activities, the plan calls for an open lawn to buffer the more active spaces of the lot, including the handball court and the children’s play area.  The lawn doubles as a seating area for the stage and movie screen spaces.  Weaving throughout the lot, the historical walking path highlights important events in the neighborhood and connects the various elements in the lot.  The shade sails provide much-needed cooling to the more formal BBQ and plaza area.  Green stormwater infrastructure elements are suggested throughout the plan, including several planting beds, rain gardens and stormwater bumpouts.

Connected by an improved street crossing surface, the plan for the smaller lot across the street calls for a community garden with individual garden plots.  In addition to the plots, areas for socializing are also included, as well as a market place.

Green vision for concrete schoolyard

Memphis Street Academy schoolyard, located at Ann and Memphis streets, in its current condition. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTOOur charrette event was featured on STAR Community Newsweekly on April 1, 2015, written by Melissa Komar

“School ap­peared to be in ses­sion last Thursday even­ing as com­munity mem­bers of all ages used maps, Post-it notes, scis­sors, Sharpie mark­ers and tape to en­vi­sion the fu­ture of the school­yard at Mem­ph­is Street Academy, 2950 Mem­ph­is St.

Four tables of about 30 Mem­ph­is Street Academy stu­dents and teach­ers and Port Rich­mond res­id­ents, led by Temple Uni­versity stu­dent fa­cil­it­at­ors, col­lab­or­ated on the re­design activ­ity, which fo­cused on in­cor­por­at­ing re­cre­ation­al space and green storm­wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture….”

Read the full story here

EPA funds community-driven design process

By James Duffy

Andrew Goodman, Community Engagement Director for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, and Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Director of GIS Operations and Research for the Center for Sustainable Communities, study possible locations for a design charrette.

The Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University will soon begin a project to develop Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) plans for three locations in the Delaware Direct and Tookany/Takony-Frankford watersheds, but they won’t be doing it alone.

With the help of a $60,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center will use a “public participatory planning and design process,” to implement the projects with support from three community partners, according to principal investigator Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Director of GIS Operations and Research for the Center for Sustainable Communities and an adjunct faculty member in Temple’s Department of Community and Regional Planning.

“The goal is to develop places that, while providing green stormwater management, are locations that individuals and families can put to good recreational use — pocket parks for example,” he said. “Working to implement community-driven geodesign is an exciting process. You’re working to develop practical plans that also fulfill community needs based on the direct input of residents who truly know the neighborhoods in which they live, work and play.”

The Center for Sustainable Communities was awarded the funds through the EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grant program. Community partners for this project include the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), the Tookany/Takony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF), and the Asociacion Puertorriquenos En Marcha (APM).

It is essential to involve community members early in the design process, said Andrew Goodman, Community Engagement Director for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

“That is especially true in a case like this where local stewardship of the space will likely be necessary. If residents do not support the idea, they will not fight for it in the years to come,” he said. “I hope the outcome will be a thoughtful design concept for a series of stormwater management interventions that will double as community gathering spaces and engagement tools promoting the importance of our water system and its role in our everyday health.”

During the fall, the Center will identify possible locations for stormwater management projects in addition to conducting GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analysis of the physical and social factors affecting the watersheds, Meenar said.

In addition to Meenar, the project team includes Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, Chair of the Center for Sustainable Communities and a Professor in the Department of Community and Regional Planning; Dr. Lynn Mandarano, Associate Professor of Community and Regional Planning; and Center for Sustainable Communities Research Fellow Rick Fromuth, PE. Temple University students will also be directly involved in the project, Meenar said.

Julie Slavet, Executive Director of the Tookany/Takony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, and TTF staff members Robin Irizarry and Doryán De Angel (at left) discuss possible GSI locations with Dr. Meenar.

“The process is expected to increase community involvement and environmental stewardship and will be replicable in other urban areas,” he said. “We’ll be documenting the entire process, learning from what we are doing here and determining how to implement such projects at other sites within the city.”

Rose Gray, Senior Vice President of Community and Economic Development for the Asociacion Puertorriquenos En Marcha, meets with Dr. Meenar on one of the green roofs of Paseo Verde in North Philadelphia.

The Delaware Direct and Tookany/Tacony-Frankford watersheds are both characterized as “ultra-urban” and are subject to a number of socio-economic and environmental issues, including poverty and vacant housing, impaired water quality, ecological degradation, flooding and poor stormwater management, said Meenar.

“Our watershed faces serious stormwater management challenges, which is why we’re excited to be working with Temple on this project. Within Philadelphia, our watershed is built-out and home to some of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods in terms of income and access to resources,” said Julie Slavet, Executive Director of the Tookany/Takony-Frankford Watershed Partnership. “Our creek is impaired by poor water quality, erosion and litter and is disconnected from its neighbors.

Slavet said her organization knows firsthand “the benefit of using a public planning and design process.”

“It’s how we implemented our rain garden in Vernon Park, our most successful green stormwater infrastructure project so far,” she said. “The investment of neighbors is critical — it’s their community.”

According to Meenar, the Center will create a conceptual GSI plan for the study area and visualize specific GSI project site plans, followed by design charrettes to be conducted in three neighborhoods within the watershed.

“We will be seeking direct input from community members during the charrettes in order to develop a design scheme that supports stormwater management and recreational, community activities,” he said.

The charrettes will lead community residents “through a design process that will provide them with information on their community, the effects of disinvestment, the effects of the existing stormwater management system and how the city is addressing the larger stormwater problem,” said Rose Gray, Senior Vice President of Community and Economic Development for the Asociacion Puertorriquenos En Marcha.

“At the community level, residents will see how these small projects complement and enhance the city’s larger strategy. The study will give the community a voice and platform to advocate for infrastructure improvements in their community,” she said. “The success of this project can be a catalyst for physical change in the surrounding blocks since many times development builds off of previous investments. Hopefully there will be an opportunity for additional programs to address the numerous vacant lots and buildings dotting Eastern North Philadelphia’s landscape.”