Memphis Street Academy Proposed Plan


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.


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.


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

Community Design Charrette – Memphis Street Academy

March 26, 2015
Photos by Architect Sanjana Ahmed


Sustainability Club Offers Ideas for Schoolyard

By Jason Hachadorian

“We want a basketball court,” shouted a Memphis Street Academy student during a brainstorming session held at his school.

On Monday, February 23, 2015, members of Memphis Street Academy’s Sustainability Club developed visions for their schoolyard, offering ideas such as basketball courts, play areas, gardens, trees, and a green roof. Part of a visioning exercise focused on potential stormwater management projects and recreational facilities, the students discussed different ways to manage runoff on the school property, which is almost completely paved.

Led by Temple community partner Michaela Allwine, New Kensington CDC’s Block Programs Coordinator, the afternoon began with a demonstration on urban stormwater runoff using a neighborhood stormwater management model provided by the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP). On the first attempt, water was poured over the model without any stormwater controls. Students noticed (and splashed) the many puddles and flooding that occurred. On the second attempt, members of the Sustainability Club placed sponges and miniature rain barrels throughout the model. When water was poured this time, students observed how the sponges and rain barrels absorbed the water and prevented the puddles and flooding.

After briefly discussing stormwater, runoff and sewer systems, the Club split into two groups to design their visions for the schoolyard on large maps. Using both markers and cutouts of potential projects, each group prepared a different plan for their ideal schoolyard. Popular ideas included benches for sitting, free-play areas, fruit trees (pear and apple, only!), vegetable and flower gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, and various playing facilities (both a basketball court and football field were proposed).

“After each group developed their plans, they presented their ideas to the other members. While each design was different, members of the Club agreed on some key issues facing the surrounding neighborhood, including trash accumulation”, reports Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, assistant director of Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities and the Principal Investigator of the EPA-funded Urban Waters Small Grant program.

The Sustainability Club’s ideas will be discussed during a design charrette to be held at Memphis Street Academy on March 26, 2015 from 6 to 9 pm. To RSVP, please email with your name, residential zip code, and organizational affiliation (if any).

Memphis Street Academy Design Charrette: Help Envision a Plan for the Schoolyard

On March 26, 2015 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Memphis Street Academy (2950 Memphis Street), NKCDC and Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) will be partnering to host a design charrette for the schoolyard at Memphis Street Academy.


2950 Memphis Street: Location of schoolyard at Memphis Street Academy

The CSC and NKCDC have formed a partnership for this project, sponsored by EPA’s Urban Small Waters Grant program (2014-2016).  The charrette will involve a short presentation by Temple University faculty followed by a small-group interactive design activity for the site, focusing on recreational spaces and stormwater management.

The event will conclude with each group presenting their vision for the schoolyard.  Participants will discuss the benefits of green stormwater infrastructure, and play a vital role in transforming the schoolyard into recreational and community assets.  A professionally designed conceptual site plan will be developed following the charrette, based on participants’ ideas and visions for the schoolyard.

This is a free public event – both materials for the design activities and food will be provided.

RSVPs are required by February 26, 2015.  Please email with your contact information to be added to the guest list.