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Parkside Neighborhood Edge, 1st phase of Centennial Commons, breaks ground

It’s been a long, long time coming

A rendering of Parkside Neighborhood Edge with swings, benches, and native plants.
The Parkside Neighborhood Edge will bring seating, stormwater management, and programming to West Fairmount Park.
Rendering by Studio Bryan Hanes

After picking a contractor last month, the Fairmount Park Conservancy wasted no time to begin work on the Centennial Commons project, breaking ground on the first phase called Parkside Neighborhood Edge.

“This is something we’ve needed for a long time,” said Parkside resident Michael Burch.

Parkside Edge is the first of a $11 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. Plans for this revitalization project have been floating around for more than 10 years, and in 2013 the master plan designed by local landscape architecture firm Studio|Bryan Hanes was picked for the go ahead.

Photo by Melissa Romero

The current state of Parkside Avenue and the future site of Parkside Neighborhood Edge.

Currently, the stretch of public space that runs along Parkside Avenue along the edge of Fairmount Park is a blank slate of trees and grass. “Residents will say that they utilize the park—and they do—but not to a great extent,” said Burch. “We use it for picnics and family parties, but not for events or programming.”

The project aims to reactivate the stretch of Parkside Avenue from 41st Street to West Memorial Hall Drive with large swinging chairs, seating, rain gardens, and five acres of stormwater management. Another 68 new trees and 42 species of plants will be added to the landscape, too.

Seating will be key to activating the space, since currently, there’s not a bench in sight. That’s a problem, said Burch, especially for residents of Parkside, which has a large older population.

The neighborhood grew out of the success of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, which took place on what is now known as Centennial Commons. But Parkside has been under-supported for years, despite its history and architectural significance. Joyce Smith, vice president of the Centennial Parkside CDC, said she hopes the project will change that.

“Behind the beautiful facade of Parkside Avenue sits a neighborhood that has suffered from years and years of disinvestment,” Smith said. “And we really appreciate this project and we’re hoping it will leverage that some of the work of residents and advocates that have been doing to try to reverse the tide of deterioration and improve the life of residents of Parkside.”

Construction on Parkside Edge is expected to finish up in fall 2017. The conservancy and city will then begin work on the next phase of the project, which will include a youth area with waterparks, play spaces, and a skate ribbon park. Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Kathryn Ott-Lovett said they are still drumming up funding for this phase.