Category Archives: Community Happenings

West Park Arts Fest – Saturday June 9th, 2018

Founded by West Park Cultural Center in 2008, the West Park Arts Fest is moving to South Concourse Drive in West Fairmount Park. The site is adjacent to the Centennial Commons project along Parkside Avenue- an exciting public space project by Fairmount Park Conservancy as part of Philadelphia’s Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

Fairmount Park Conservancy and Mural Arts Philadelphia are joining 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 9th from 12pm to 5pm attendees of all ages will enjoy stages of exciting culturally diverse performances by some of the area’s best dancers, musicians, vocalists, and spoken word artists. Some of the talent includes the popular West Philadelphia Orchestra, Badd Kitti, Gretchen Elise Music, Lauren Putty White, The Philly Clicks, Jasmin Yahne Dance Company, and many more. The event will engage attendees in dance, art making, and many other activities including guided historical trolley tours through the Centennial District. The Franklin Institute will showcase prototypes of its new exhibition “Game Masters” as well as providing PACTS program activities. Attendees can buy unique items in the Handmade Market, browse other vendors and enjoy refreshments from diverse food vendors. An estimated 3,000 are expected to attend. There are Sponsor and Vendor opportunities.

Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Arts & Culture Program, with the support of ArtPlace America, will commission one artist or artist team to create an outdoor art installation for Arts Fest with interactive elements that draw their inspiration from the neighborhood. Festival goers will also see a standing timeline created by Global Philadelphia that documents Parkside’s history and heritage with pictures and text.

To see more visit http://www.westparkcultural.org /westparkartsfest or call 215-473-7810

Niesha Kennedy, PR Manager West Park Cultural nkennedy@westparkcultural.org

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Chess Cadets Championing West Philadelphia- by Jasmine Bullock

Chess mentor Fred Austin Working with students

Throughout the years, movies like Life of a King and Queen of Katwe have shown us how small, local clubs can change lives. This is happening at the 40th and Walnut Streets Library. The Walnut St. West Chess Cadets Chess Club has been practicing and competing for approximately ten years. The club is sponsored by the Local Friends of the Walnut St. West Library lead by group president, Alice Wells.

Each year 30 children ages 6 to 18 participate in the Walnut Street Libraries Chess Club. Children must be in first grade to attend and many of them return for several years. The current program consists of 32 students ranging from age 6 to 13. The children are expected to attend club sessions each week in order to make progress throughout the year. The students are broken into four groups based on skill level. Their continued participation and weekly commitment is exemplified through the wide range of growth throughout the year!

Student success would not be possible without the dedication of 8 coaches. Most of the coaches and mentors are solicited via word of mouth, the After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP) organization and local community groups. Current coach and mentor, Fred Austin, stumbled upon the club in 2011 when searching for a group to play chess with. He was impressed with the enthusiasm of the children and decided to share his talent and love for the game. In past years, former participants have returned to coach younger students while in high school. The club also has unwavering parent support. Each week, parents take turns helping during meeting sessions.

The team participates in approximately four tournaments, sponsored by ASAP, per year and has had several victories as individual competitors and as a team. In their most recent tournament, the Checkmate Violence Tournament at Temple University, Walnut St. West Chess Cadets competed with approximately 300 other participants and went home with four trophies including the 1st place prize!

Each year, the Walnut St. West Chess Cadets Chess Club meets on Wednesdays from September through June. Students are required to complete applications, which are available from librarians. The program runs on a rolling application process. Once spaces are filled, any additional applicants are placed on a waiting list. All students must re-apply each year in August.

For more information about the Walnut West Chess Cadets, contact library personnel at

https://www.freelibrary.org or wswlibraryfriends@gmail.com.

 

Heritage Alive: The Reinvention of Parkside’s Historic Places

– by Melissa Stevens (World Heritage Coordinator, Global Philadelphia Association)

What do you picture when you think of “Philadelphia heritage”? Or the Founding Fathers crafting the Constitution? How about children building rocket ships and having tea parties with the Mad Hatter? Philadelphia became a World Heritage City in 2015 in large part because of our historic achievements and our rich array of historic sites. But recognizing the illustrious history of Philadelphia is only half the story.

We are a World Heritage City because of who we are today and how we have taken what we inherited from past generations – the places, ideas, values, and culture – and made it our own. Heritage is alive. And so are our historic places. Many of these relics and reminders of our past can be found right here in Parkside today. Parkside’s Memorial Hall is a wonderful example of living heritage and the reinvention of a historic site.

Memorial Hall was built as the art gallery for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, which was the first major World’s Fair in the United States. After the Exhibition, Memorial Hall was reinvented several times: as the first home of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of the Arts, as a recording studio for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and as a recreation center.

Today, this National Historic Landmark is home to the Please Touch Museum, where children, rockets, and the Mad Hatter have become part of Philadelphia’s World Heritage story.

Not Far from Memorial Hall is another reminder of Philadelphia”s rich and varied heritage. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is another Parkside historic site that has undergone several transformations.

Originally, the site was home to a 14th century gate from a Japanese Buddhist temple brought to the US for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. After a fire destroyed the gate, the Shofuso House was installed in its place in 1957.

The house was originally built in Japan in 1953, using traditional materials and techniques, for an exhibition on Japanese influences on mid-century modern American architecture. Today, the historic site and museum hosts over 30,000 visitors annually.

Historic Belmont Mansion is another example of how Parkside is constantly reinventing itself.

Built in the 18th century as the residence of an English lawyer and farmer, today it is an underground railroad museum, highlighting the history and culture of African Americans, who make up the majority of Parkside’s current population. Parkside’s historic places are living heritage sites, where the neighborhood’s past generations left their mark, and where current residents go to connect with their roots and imagine their futures.

The Mann Music Center Celebrates Black History

As we approached the end of Black History Month 2018, the Mann Music Center treated the public to a special program — their Black History Month Soiree. The Mann used this event to announce details about the Mann’s upcoming community festival called Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton and to recognize the achievements of three community leaders. The honorees included Parkside’s own Callalily Cousar, president of the East Parkside Residents Association, along with Sara Lomax-Reese, President & CEO of WURD Radio and Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler, Pastor, Mother Bethel AME Church.

Ms. Cousar has been a fixture in the Parkside Community for many years. As the President of the East Parkside Residence Association (EPRA), she has been on a mission to empower the residents of Parkside.

Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton will celebrate the life and legacy of iconic composer Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein would have celebrated his 100th Birthday in 2017. To mark his centennial birthday, festivities spanning six continents are being presented from August 2017, Bernstein’s 99th birthday, through December 2018.

Brandywine Realty Trust Selects the Centennial Parkside CDC as a Co-developer on Schuylkill Yards

Philadelphia, PA (March 15, 2018) –  Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation announced today it has been selected by Brandywine Realty Trust as a co-developer for the initial phase of Schuylkill Yards, which will include the development of Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre community park at the corner of 30th and Market Streets, and the reimagining of the Bulletin Building.  The 20-year, $3.5 billion mixed-use, master planned project, developed by Brandywine Realty Trust on land owned by both Brandywine and Drexel University, will bring to Philadelphia a next-generation innovation community defined by thoughtful place-making, civic engagement, and quality execution.

As part of Brandywine’s Neighborhood Engagement Initiative and ongoing commitment to the surrounding community, Brandywine selected the Centennial Parkside CDC in a competitive process to provide co-development services on the Drexel Square and Bulletin Building projects. The Centennial Parkside CDC will work as an integral part of the team helping to create community connections to Schuylkill Yards so that all West Philadelphia residents have the opportunity to share in the economic progress exemplified by this project.

“We received a number of high quality proposals from local CDCs making our decision a difficult one, but we are very pleased to have selected Centennial Parkside CDC as our co-developer for the initial phase of development on Schuylkill Yards,” said Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust. “We have established a meaningful role for Centennial Parkside CDC that will generate revenue and create both human resource and capital capacity to foster growth within their organization. This is a practice we will continue to implement for each project within the master plan for Schuylkill Yards.”

Chris Spahr, Executive Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC stated, “We are thrilled to be selected to work with such an experienced team at Brandywine Realty. By contributing to such a transformative project we will serve as an important community engagement arm for these projects to ensure they provide benefits to the surrounding West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Additionally, the injection of resources from Brandywine will help us increase our programmatic work in East Parkside, which is highly aligned with creating more healthy neighborhoods around Schuylkill Yards.”

About Brandywine Realty Trust:

Brandywine Realty Trust (NYSE: BDN) is one of the largest, publicly traded, full-service, integrated real estate companies in the United States with a core focus in the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin markets. Organized as a real estate investment trust (REIT), Brandywine Realty Trust owns, develops, leases and manages an urban, town center and transit-oriented portfolio. Brandywine Realty Trust’s deep commitment to their communities was recognized by NAIOP naming Brandywine the 2014 Developer of the Year — the highest honor in the commercial real estate industry.

The Centennial Parkside CDC is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization located in the East Parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Its mission is to preserve, promote and revitalize East Parkside through partnerships with businesses and institutions and programs that engage residents, increase opportunity, and grow a diverse, thriving community.

PEC: Revitalizing West Philadelphia One Neighborhood at a Time by Jasmine Bullock

 

Trish Downey

The People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has been dedicated to serving the homeless population in the city of Philadelphia for 45 years. The organization began as a small, weekend, student service ministry in 1972. Volunteers came together with a donated budget of $12,000 to house families and couples. By the 1980’s, daily services and a full – time staff were available to families in need. In the 1990’s, PEC was able to provide not only emergency shelter for families, but also added transitional and permanent housing to their catalog of services and assistance. Expansion continued in the early 2000’s with the addition of youth programs as well as computer labs and technology courses.

In 1992, the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC) was established. The CDC uses a holistic approach to community development in order to provide quality programs to the Lower Lancaster neighborhoods. These neighborhoods include Belmont, Mantua, Mill Creek, Saunders Park, West Powelton, and most recently Parkside. The approach to aid the CDC uses builds on the assets of the community while simultaneously responding to residents needs by collaborating and creating connections to resources and partnerships.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the PECCDC. Some of the successes of the CDC, described by the Manager of External Communications Trish Downey, include 11 annual Jazz Festivals that are free to the public, 50 new business on the corridor since 2002 which has decreased the commercial vacancy rate from 35% to 23%, and an increase in high school graduation rates from 52% to 74%.

Much of the success of PEC and the PECCDC is due to the abundance of programs they offer to families and individuals that seek to increase their human capital in the community. The majority of the programs offered are free to not only the residents of PEC but also to all residents of the city.

Some of the most popular programs include the arts and culture programs whose most popular event is the Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival, fitness programs that include nutrition classes as well as health fairs and a weekly food cupboard and digital literacy programs that include both youth and adult classes.

The Center for Employment and Training is also extensive. The program provides income support, financial counseling and employment training and placement in the neighborhoods PEC supports. The career readiness training includes courses in self-esteem, ServSafe certifications, customer service and sales, and computer literacy with a concentration in Microsoft Office. Upon the completion of career training, PEC ensures their participants continue to get support.

They are not only offered coaching sessions to aid in job searches but also continue to have sessions 18 months after finding employment to offer continued mentoring and advising to help participants keep the jobs they undoubtedly earned. Downey expressed that one of the most rewarding programs offered is the Community Connector program. Individuals participating in this program do street outreach. They travel to street fairs, health festivals and other events to share the resource and programs PEC has to offer.

PEC is able to maintain and continue to expand their programming because of the invaluable partnerships they establish with corporations, educational institutions, foundations and similar organizations. They are also connected to all the CDC organizations in the city of Philadelphia.  By maintaining these relationships, PEC is able to not only provide programming to various communities, they are able to aid various groups in their efforts to strengthen communities.

One special partnership PEC has is with Parkside’s West Park Cultural Center (WPCC). WPCC host’s GED classes at a PEC site. Downey described the class sessions as unique and specifically designed for the students. Program director Dr. Patricia Powell designed the class to function as a study group, focusing on areas students need the most help in. This allows those preparing for the exam to remain invested because they feel they are getting the help they need in a meaningful and personal method.

As PEC continues to grow, Downey has high hopes for the organization. It is her hope that as programming continues, the organization builds a new generation of advocates. They are fostering this growth by providing individuals with numerous volunteer and internship opportunities. PEC will also continue to be the human services giant that is strategic in their program offerings. They look to support those in immediate need, and continue to serve as many communities as possible, catering to not only homeless adults but also provide programming and awareness about homeless youth in the city of Philadelphia. Ultimately, Downey hopes that PEC will continue to be an agency that encourages citizens to live, and recreate in their home neighborhoods because of the great things that take place organically.

 

Historic Houses of Fairmount Park Welcome Parkside Residents for “A Very Philly Christmas”

The Historic Houses of Fairmount Park have a popular longtime tradition of decorating for the holidays and entertaining visitors, and this season, four special days of special programming will be added to showcase what makes Philadelphia a very special place: great music, delicious food, family, and friendly neighbors. “Christmas in Fairmount Park” celebrates its 46th year of delighting visitors with this year’s theme, “A Very Philly Christmas.” Presented by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, this holiday tradition will feature five of the park’s treasured historic houses – Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill Mansion, Lemon Hill Mansion, Historic Strawberry Mansion, and Woodford – each decked out in the season’s finest and offering special events on the weekends of December 2-3 and December 9-10. Information about visiting the houses is at www.holidaysinthepark.com

Parkside residents are encouraged to visit the historic houses for Neighbor’s Day, Saturday, December 9th from 10-4pm when the houses will host performers from the surrounding Fairmount Park neighborhoods-East Falls, Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, Fairmount, and Parkside.

Residents of these neighborhoods will receive free admission that day as well as free “in park” transportation via PHLASH’s special service exclusive to the historic houses on December 9th. Residents can find out more information and obtain their free tickets by calling 267-457-4944.

“The holidays are a time for entertaining, and the Historic Houses provide the perfect setting,” says Ed Miller, Historic Houses Coordinator at Fairmount Park Conservancy. “We are thrilled to offer events inspired by our city geared towards music lovers, food lovers, children, and especially, our neighbors. And we would like to send a special invitation to all Parkside residents to join us for this celebration.”

Cedar Grove, a 250-year-old stone farmhouse which served as a summer residence to five generations of a single Philadelphia family, is the historic house located closest to Parkside. Built by wealthy widow Elizabeth Coates Paschall in 1748-50, the house features an unusual two-sided wall of closets and many of the original family furnishings.

Cedar Grove depicts life as it might have been in the early 1800s. . Originally located in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, the house was given to the City of Philadelphia and moved to its present location in West Fairmount Park, stone by stone, in 1927. “The last family member to own Cedar Grove, Lydia Thompson Morris, wanted it to be preserved for the future in Fairmount Park and opened as a museum for the public to imagine the lives of early Philadelphians.”, says Justina Barrett, Site Manager for Historic Houses, Philadelphia Museum of Art. “We are excited to welcome Parkside residents to explore Cedar Grove during this holiday season and beyond.”

Cedar Grove is owned by the City of Philadelphia and administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Promotion and programming for the historic houses are supported through a partnership between the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and various stewardship groups. Proceeds from the events support the ongoing stewardship, maintenance and promotion of these treasures. For more information on the holiday programming in Fairmount Park, visit holidaysinthepark.com. To learn more about the history of Cedar Grove, visit http://www.philamuseum.org/historichouses