by Jennifer Mahar
The wait for new park amenities along Parkside Avenue is nearly over with the construction of the “Parkside Edge”project set to begin in October. After nearly two years of planning,representatives from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, city and state officials and community leaders will break ground on the project on October 20th at 10:00am. Project planners are confident the “Parkside Edge” will become a beloved community space and an activation of a currently unprogrammed portion of the park.
“We were very committed to a design that feels like an extension of the neighborhood. We wanted to create a landscape where neighbors feel welcomed, that they have the sense this is their part of the park,” said Fairmount Park Conservancy Sr. Director for Civic Initiatives, Jennifer Q. Mahar.
The design for the Parkside Edge features sitting areas configured into “rooms” or “porches” for socializing and relaxing. Designers were inspired by the great activity on Parkside Avenue’s architecturally-significant porches.
“We wanted to create a visual connection to those great spaces on Parkside, where family and neighbors gather to swap news, visit, relax, and have a laugh. We want that same energy across the street in the park,” said Centennial Commons project manager Chris Dougherty.
High quality granite seating areas, new benches and unique “porch swings” will create the feeling of a park-within-a park. A planted stormwater basin will parallel Parkside Avenue and feature shrubs and flowering plants. Small bridges will lead from the Parkside Promenade asphalt path into the seating areas.
In order to make the park more pedestrian-friendly, the project also includes streetscape upgrades designed with input from the Streets Department and sponsored by the city’s Commerce Department.
“We’ve understood that Parkside Avenue has been something of a deterrent, cutting the neighborhood off from the park. Our designs will slow the car speeds and make the road safer to cross, especially for folks who are older and the very young. In order to get more people to use the Edge, we had to address Parkside Avenue,” said Dougherty.
Residents can expect construction on Parkside Avenue as new curbs, ramps and pedestrian islands are constructed. The Conservancy hopes that these impacts will be minimal. Dougherty says that special controls will be built into construction management to lessen the impacts of the neighborhood on construction. Construction entrances used by heavy equipment will not be located on Parkside Avenue.
“We’re going to try to be as communicative as possible during construction and we want to hear what’s working and not working. We want to be as transparent as possible. If a neighbor doesn’t like how we’re doing something, we want to hear it,” said Dougherty.
The Conservancy is also committed to sharing the economic benefits of construction with Parkside’s residents. Working with the Centennial Parkside CDC and Business Association of West Parkside, the Conservancy is trying to identify contractors and vendors who may bring skills to the project. Opportunities such as apprenticeships, skill- building workshops and sidewalk upgrades in the neighborhood are also on the table.
“We want to go above and beyond in terms of neighborhood participation. If you’re a local contractor we want to know who you are, what your skills are. But we also want to build life-long skills so we’re instructing our contractor to provide things like apprenticeships or help building a small business,” said Dougherty.
“Ultimately, how this project is constructed, who builds it and how human capacities are built up are as important to us as the physical space,” said Mahar.
Residents are encouraged to visit the Centennial Parkside CDC’s website (www.centennialparkside.org) for more info on these opportunities. A community meeting outlining details of construction will be held at Christ Community Baptist Church on October 3rd. 2016 at 6pm.