Fairmount Park Conservancy Breaks Ground on Centennial Commons Project By Michael Burch

Last month there was a special ceremony held on Parkside Avenue in Fairmount Park. It was the groundbreaking program to formally recognize the start of construction on Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons project. This venture is a major initiative of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.  This project is designed to create a more welcoming public space along Parkside Avenue from 41st and Parkside to Belmont Avenue.

If you are a regular reader of the Parkside Journal, then you may be somewhat familiar with the project for we have often written about its planned start. The new layout designed by Studio Bryan Hanes will include innovative play spaces for kids and young people, seating areas, a rain garden, and better access for Parkside residents to nearby cultural institutions. The groundbreaking took place on April 20th and is considered the physical start of the project. The expected completion time will be the Fall of 2017.

Centennial Commons is part of the national Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, which seeks to counter growing economic and social fragmentation in our cities by revitalizing and connecting parks, libraries, community centers and other public spaces. In 2015, Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Conservancy and local partners embarked on a three-year, $11 million pilot project of Reimagining the Civic Commons, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation. The project has since added additional partners and expanded to four other cities. The work that has begun is only Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons project, called “Parkside Neighborhood Edge.” This work will make it easier for pedestrians to cross Parkside Avenue, where they will be able to rest on new bench swings and benches or stroll among new ornamental plantings and trees – including 68 new shade trees and over 42 species of perennials, grasses, and shrubs covering 67,000 square feet.

“Centennial Commons is an outstanding example of what happens when our public agencies work together to bring innovative projects to our Parks and Recreation facilities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “I want to thank the leadership at Parks and Recreation, Water Department, Streets Department, and Commerce Department for sharing my vision for a cleaner, greener city for all Philadelphia residents. I also want to thank Fairmount Park Conservancy, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and William Penn Foundation for their leadership on the Centennial Commons project.”

After speaking to the larger audience gathered the Mayor found the time to stop and talk to us and answer a few questions. I asked him what his thoughts were on the Parkside community and how this new park will enhance the neighborhood.

“I see Parkside as a jewel that’s in need of a little bit of polishing” said Mayor Kenney. “The Parks and Rec people have done a good job maintaining but they we were in need of an infusion of outside resources. Every neighborhood in our city should have amenities like this, a place where our elderly, can come and relax and where our children can enjoy recreational activities.”

Mayor Kenney continued to elaborate on other related issues such as how funds from project rebuild will help fund Parks, libraries and recreation centers around the city. Many local residents were on hand for this event. This was a big deal in Parkside. Residents are pleased to see the improvements to the park but many are uncertain as to what it means to their futures. Updates to the park system in Parkside is wonderful but just across the street is the Parkside community. A community that has suffered through years of disinvestment. It remains to be seen how this new park will positively affect the people that live here. One resident asked me at the event “what does this mean for me, I don’t use the park and I still don’t have a laundromat around the corner.”

Joyce Smith from Viola Street Residents Association and Centennial Development Corporation had a speaking role at the ceremony and represents the community on many issues.

Joyce Smith knows the improvements are going to make the park more user friendly, but she also hopes this will lead to greater investment in the part of the community where the residents live and not lead to the removal of current residents. Longtime residents Joe Clark and Harmon Thurman also have fond memories of the Park and both are concerned about the community’s future. These longtime residents have been the stewards of this community and the park for many years. Let’s work together to bring about a bright future for Parkside.




WEST PARK ARTS FEST – CELEBRATING 10 YEARS on Saturday, June 3, 2017

Philadelphia, PA – Founded by West Park Cultural Center in 2008, the West Park Arts Fest is celebrating 10 years and moving to the Avenue of the Republic near the Please Touch Museum. This site is adjacent to the Centennial Commons – an exciting public space project under construction by Fairmount Park Conservancy as part of Philadelphia’s Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

Fairmount Park Conservancy and Global Philadelphia have joined West Park Cultural Center as organizers for this free public event advancing the festival’s mission to bring communities together in the park, promote greater awareness of the area’s history and heritage while celebrating the arts and cultural diversity of Philadelphia. The festival embraces partnership and has over the years been made possible in great part to the participation of many arts, cultural and community partners from West Philadelphia and across Philadelphia.

On Saturday June 3rd from 12pm to 5pm attendees of all ages will enjoy two stages of exciting culturally diverse performances by some of the area’s best dancers, musicians, vocalists, and spoken word artists. Some of the talent will include the popular West Philadelphia Orchestra, Badd Kitti, Gretchen Elise Music, Pasión Y Arte Flamenco, Megan Flynn Dance Company, Academy of Classical Indian Dance, Jasmin Yahne Dance Company, and much more. The event will invite participation in dance, collaborative painting with WEPAINT, free guided historical trolley tours through the Centennial District, heritage storytelling with Global Philadelphia, children’s activities with the Franklin Institute PACS Program, Tree House Books and more to be announced. As part of the celebration, Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Arts & Culture Program, with the support of ArtPlace America, has commissioned artists to create special installations and interactive elements that draw their inspiration from the neighborhood, the park and the history of the 1876 Centennial. Festival goers will see a standing timeline created by Global Philadelphia that documents Parkside’s history and heritage with pictures and text.

Attendees can buy unique items in the Handmade Market, browse other vendors and enjoy refreshments from food vendors and the popular Parks on Tap – the traveling beer garden developed by Fairmount Park Conservancy with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and FCM Hospitality. An estimated 1,500 are expected to attend. Participating partners this year include Mann Center, Philadelphia Zoo, The Franklin Institute, Tree House Books, Keepers of the Culture,

Sponsors as of this writing include ArtPlace, UPS, ShopRite, Rockland Capital, Zakian, and Zerflin. The event is also supported in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

To learn more about the festival visit http://www.westparkcultural.org/westparkartsfest and http://www.facebook.com/westparkartsfestival  For more information call 215-473-7810 or email info@westparkcultural.org.

Niesha Kennedy, PR Manager

West Park Cultural Center




Pyramid Stem Showcase

Get Ready for Hands-On Excitement at the Pyramid STEM Showcase

The 6th Annual Pyramid STEM Showcase will take place, Saturday, April 29th, 2017, from 11 am – 4p, at the Sullivan Progress Plaza, 1501 N. Broad St. in Philadelphia. Held annually during Philly Tech Week, the Free showcase is for all ages and is bound to excite someone about the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Pyramid STEM Showcase is a way to educate and empower African American families and prepare all to become an integral part of the fastest moving industries of all time.

The Pyramid STEM Showcase features hands-on exhibits, information tables, Black Inventions and History exhibits, speakers, giveaways and vendors. There will be continuous sessions in the computer lab area building apps and video games, and throughout the event attendees will learn through hands-on displays: robotics, science, engineering, aeronautics, health, electronics, the parts of a computer, etc. This year will include the Great Brain Freeze – brainteaser competition among the attendees and special presentations from Red Hen Productions and the University of Pennsylvania – called Neural Knitworks.

The first 100 teen and adult attendees at the Pyramid STEM Showcase will receive a technology giveaway, in addition, there will be door prizes, including a tablet giveaway each hour.

There are so many organizations that have STEM-related programs, products, services, classes or careers that we all need to know about. Many might be free or low-cost. There is also a disparity in the minority and African American communities as it relates to awareness of the various aspects of STEM. The Pyramid STEM Showcase is the opportunity to get the word out – not just on paper, but with hands-on displays that excite and peak the interest.

An initiative of DHEx Enterprises, the Pyramid STEM Showcase is also being hosted by Sullivan Progress Plaza and presented by the Leon H. Sullivan CDC, Called to Serve CDC, Zion Baptist Church Technology Ministry, The Business Center for Entrepreneurship and the Hill-McCoy Family. For further information, please call 215-844-4200 or visit www.pyramidstem.com


The Philadelphia Science Festival Returns with more than 80 Events over Nine days April 21 -29

Philadelphia Science Festival returns April 21 – 29

The Philadelphia Science Festival returns this spring to spotlight the very vital role science and technology play in today’s world, April 21 – 29.

Organized by the Franklin Institute, in collaboration with Philadelphia’s premier science, cultural, and educational institutions, and presented by the Dow Chemical Company for the seventh consecutive year, the 2017 Philadelphia Science Festival offers more than 80 events over nine days in communities all across the region.

The Festival debuts innovative new programs for 2017 including Life on Mars, Fake Out: The Science of Deception, Dance Engineered, Geek Out Gameshow, Sensory Overload, and Be a Scientist—and adds new elements to popular favorites like citywide star parties, Murder at the Mutter, Science On Tap, Fishtown Science Crawl, Cookie Lab, Cocktail Lab, and Tinker Lab. This year, the Philadelphia Science Festival aims to illuminate the essential work of scientists on Sunday, April 23 when the region’s finest institutions open their lab doors inviting attendees to Be a Scientist (Conservator, Food Psychologist, K’Nex Architect, Farm Scientist, H2O-ologist, Ecologist, Surgical Nurse, Engineer, Paleontologist, Architect, Engineer, Audiologist, and Marine Biologist) for a day.

Returning this year to the vibrant Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing is the Festival’s signature program, the Science Carnival at Penn’s Landing, which last year attracted more than 50,000 attendees. The massive outdoor science carnival is one of the most highly anticipated festival events, providing a packed day of non-stop family-friendly activities, hands-on experiments, live performances, educator opportunities, and explosive visuals from more than 150 partnering exhibitors to close the 2017 Philadelphia Science Festival, Saturday, April 29.

Throughout the Festival, Philadelphians can engage with the curiosities of science and technology through these and dozens more uniquely themed innovative events, self-guided tours, creative workshops, and stargazing parties. Events take place across the region in parks, cafés, breweries, libraries, museums and other neighborhood places—with many of them free of charge. For more information visit www.PhilaScienceFestival.org to learn more.

Fairmount Park Conservancy Breaks Ground on Centennial Commons Project


Fairmount Park Conservancy Breaks Ground on Centennial Commons Project

WHAT:     Groundbreaking Ceremony for Centennial Commons

Fairmount Park Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia including Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Commerce Department, and Philadelphia Streets Department, kicks off construction of Phase 1 of the Centennial Commons. This project is designed to create a more welcoming recreation area along the Parkside Avenue edge of West Fairmount Park with play spaces for kids and young people, seating and picnic areas, landscaping, a rain garden, and better access to the park for neighbors and visitors to nearby cultural institutions. The contractor and partners for the project will be announced at the event. Project leaders, VIPs, and partners will join together for a speaking program and ceremonial groundbreaking.

WHO:   Rick Magder, Executive Director, Fairmount Park Conservancy

  •              Chris Spahr, Executive Director, Centennial Parkside CDC
  •              Joyce Smith, VP, Board, Centennial Parkside CDC & Viola     Street Residents Association
  •              Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia
  •              Michael DiBerardinis, Managing Director, City of Phila.
  •              Curtis Jones, Philadelphia City Councilman
  •              Jannie Blackwell, Philadelphia City Councilwoman
  •              Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

WHEN:     Thursday, April 20, 1 pm

WHERE:    Corner of Parkside Avenue at 41st Street, in Fairmount Park

DETAILS: Fairmount Park Conservancy exists to champion Philadelphia’s parks. We lead capital projects and historic preservation efforts, foster neighborhood park stewardship, attract and leverage investments, and develop innovative programs throughout the 10,200 acres that include Fairmount Park and more than 100 neighborhood parks around the city. Philadelphia has one of the largest urban park systems in the world, providing residents with extensive health, environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits – including access to some of the region’s most famous attractions. For more information, please visit myphillypark.org, join us at facebook.com/fairmountparkconservancy, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @myphillypark.

Cari Feiler Bender

Relief Communications, LLC

Mobile: 610-416-1216




Celebrating 10 Years of Community Heritage by Nikia Brown

Summer is quickly approaching and with it comes the annual call for spring celebrations. Deep green leaves will visit again the tall trees that line Parkside Avenue. The rush of children running from one summer program to the next will once again fill the streets. Neighborhood businesses will soon ready their shelves with refreshing items, while cultural organizations prepare new experiences for frequent visitors and tourists alike. As the season changes, the air is filled with expectations of warm weather and residents look forward to the plethora of community offerings that await them. On June 3, Parkside will welcome the summer with two community-wide festivals that draw hundreds of residents to their corridors on an annual basis: The West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center.

This year, the West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center share the same 10-year anniversary, and will be joining efforts to maximize the experience for festival-goers. Guided historic trolleys beginning and ending at the West Park Arts Fest will connect both festivals to ensure that visitors have the opportunity to experience both events. Festival goers will also benefit from a scenic tour through Fairmount Park’s Centennial District.

The West Park Arts Fest was created by the West Park Cultural Center in 2008 as a vehicle to promote cultural diversity, celebrate the arts, and bring people together across neighborhoods. “Many of our festival goers have expressed how much they like the family atmosphere and cultural diversity,” says Betty Lindley, Executive Director of the West Park Cultural Center. Lindley champions the efforts of the diverse partners that contribute to the success of the program each year. “The festival embraced partnership and has over the years been made possible in great part to the participation of many arts, cultural, and community partners.”

Lindley is excited about the Center’s new collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Global Philadelphia Association. “This represents a major milestone for the West Park Arts Fest and builds on the original mission,” prides Lindley. “Through this joint effort we are taking the West Park Arts Fest to the next level with increased participation and greater awareness of West Fairmount Park and surrounding communities,” she adds.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy is equally grateful for the partnership as they feel this opportunity is directly aligned with their mission “to bring positive, family friendly activities to park spaces.” Jennifer Mahar, Senior Director of Civic Initiatives, feels the collaboration is timely with the festival moving from its usual venue, School of the Future, to West Fairmount Park. “The shift requires a whole new set of logistics,” says Mahar. “Our Special Events Coordinator has years of experience in organizing large-scale outdoor events and we were more than happy to help!”

The Global Philadelphia Association was born shortly after the West Park Arts Fest and has since grown tremendously in size and form. Since November 2015, the Association, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, has been executing a World Heritage City initiative that capitalizes on the city’s diverse historical and cultural assets. John Smith, Board Chair of the Association, often says, “Our World Heritage City should be a city of the world’s heritages.” “We see the opportunity to work with the various organizations in the Parkside community as a way to explore how we can bring that concept to life, and have enjoyed our many interactions with the community,” Smith shared.

The Executive Director of the Association, Zabeth Teelucksingh, has a fondness for the Parkside community and enjoys driving pass the Victorian-style homes during her weekly trips to the international market. Regarding the Association’s affiliation with the Arts Fest, Teelucksingh remarks, “Parkside through its numerous constituents epitomizes much of what is global in Philadelphia. We look forward to helping relay that story to the international community in the region and beyond.”

The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center has several partnerships of its own and each member is eager to make this year’s festival the town square of all town squares. On March 1, Executive Director of West Philadelphia Financial Services, Jim Burnett, convened the first planning meeting with attendees from various organizations in the community. Some attendees included representatives from The Goldenberg Group, Parkside Association, Global Leadership Academy, Discovery Charter School, and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.

The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center is the annual celebration of the joint venture between West Philadelphia Financial Services and The Goldenberg Group. This June marks the 10th anniversary of ParkWest Town Center’s grand opening and commemorates the active involvement of community members since its establishment. “We created this festival to thank our shoppers,” says Burnett. Before the installation of the Town Center, West Parkside was a food desert with little to no access to fresh foods.

When asked about the significance of the annual festival, Burnett points to, “resident ownership of their community.” Timothy Smith of The Goldenberg Group adds, “the festival is about generating greater community pride and is a celebration of the asset that this Center is to the community. This is the ethos of Goldengberg.” Smith says he enjoys working for a company that uses its assets to do meaningful work.

The two also discussed the social and educational impact of the festival. “It’s like a family reunion,” said Burnett with a childlike grin on his face. The festival provides an opportunity for community residents to reconnect and build new alliances. The diligent efforts of students are also recognized as carefully selected seniors from neighboring high schools receive scholarship awards on an annual basis. The festival is in short, “a groundswell of community pride,” offered Smith.

Burnett, Lindley, and their respective partners are highly anticipant of both festivals 10-year anniversary celebration. With the two festivals occurring the same day, they expect the events to draw a new and larger audience, promote Parkside’s historic and cultural heritage, and generate a deeper level of civic pride and engagement.




News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.