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A look at two Philly rec centers as Rebuild efforts begin

A new data-driven report shows how valuable two very different rec centers are to their neighborhoods

In northeast Philly, there are two recreation centers that tell two very different stories, offering a road map for Philly’s $500 million Rebuild program.

A new Next City data-driven report focused on Lawncrest Recreation Center and Sturgis Playground. The latter already underwent a transformative renovation by SMP Architects in 2014. Lawncrest, however, remains nearly the same as when it was built in 1940s, save for a few maintenance fixes over the years.

NextCity teamed up with urban designers at Gehl studio to survey park users at each rec center, asking questions like how often they visit the park, how they get there, and how safe they feel. Gehl and NextCity also took hourly notes on how people actually used the rec centers, too.

The results were telling: Although the two rec centers are world’s apart in terms of design and facilities, the majority of those surveyed all agree that both of them are extremely valuable to the neighborhood:

Despite the gulf between the quality of their facilities, both remain places to chat with neighbors, exercise, and relax with friends and family. The data collected indicate that both places do a better than average job at encouraging visitors to talk to one another, build relationships that extend beyond the space and interact serendipitously.

Still, the updated Sturgis Recreation Center certainly garnered more positive responses compared to Lawncrest. Take these survey questions, for example:

Courtesy of NextCity

The survey results will no doubt be of use to Rebuild going forth. The $500 million project backed by the mayor is currently making moves, with the last briefing for Philly-based nonprofits interested in working on Rebuild projects taking place on September 12.

But the NextCity report suggests that the success of Rebuild may rely on not just renovations to aging rec centers. Rather: “The question is, can the social and political systems that have traditionally kept these places running adapt to meet the needs of tomorrow’s city—and the youth who will grow up to lead it?”