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Parkside Edge in West Fairmount Park eyes spring groundbreaking

It’s the first phase of the $7M Centennial Commons project

Renderings by Studio|Bryan Hanes

After months of delays, Parkside Edge, the first phase of Centennial Commons, is on track to break ground this spring.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy received a “great turnout of contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers” after putting a call out for bids at the beginning of March, Chris Dougherty, capital projects manager of Fairmount Park Conservancy, told Curbed Philly. Bids are due by March 31, and a contract should be awarded in early April. The groundbreaking should follow at the end of that month.

Original plans called for work to begin in 2015. That was then pushed to fall 2016 after the final design received approval from the Art Commission in July 2016.

Parkside Edge is the first of a $7 million, three-phase project called Centennial Commons, a vision of Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city’s parks department to transform and reactivate West Fairmount Park with new play spaces and amenities. Dozens of plans have been floating around for more than 10 years, until local landscape architecture firm Studio|Bryan Hanes master plan finally stuck in 2013.

It’s the largest project of five planned around the city that are part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a Fairmount Park Conservancy plan to innovate Philly’s already-existing public spaces. The Rail Park and Bartram’s Mile are also included in the Civic Commons.

These swings pay homage to “Centennial Aerial Swings” that were set up at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876.
Rendering by Studio Bryan Hanes

The 450-acre site, which includes the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Museum, was originally home to the 1876 World’s Fair and Centennial Exhibition. This international event brought 200 buildings to the site (including Horticultural Hall, once the biggest building in the world), drawing droves of attention and development to the Parkside neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is a historic district and its main avenue is lined with numerous architecturally significant structures designed by architects like Willis G. Hale (of the Divine Lorraine).

Yet today, much of the neighborhood’s luster has been lost, despite its historic, cultural, and architectural significance. And while there’s plenty of open green space across the street, there’s been little to no programming and lack of landscaping to attract people to the park. The Centennial Commons project hopes to change that, beginning with Parkside Edge.

This phase is meant to serve as a sort of preview for residents of what’s to come with the rest of the project as a whole. A stretch of Parkside Avenue that runs along the western edge of Fairmount Park will be enlivened with lighting, recreational and picnic areas, landscaping, seating, and a rain garden. Studio|Bryan Hanes thinks of the Parkside Edge as a sort of “front porch” for residents to the park.

When Parkside Edge breaks ground, work is expected to take about six months, according to Dougherty. Construction will take place along Parkside Avenue from 41st Street to a little past West Memorial Hall Drive.

Fairmount Park

Reservoir Drive, , PA 19119 (215) 683-3600 Visit Website