by Michael Burch
The above picture captures the official ribbon cutting for the Parkside Edge project in East Parkside along Parkside Avenue. Here we see City officials, including Mayor Kenney and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell surrounded by local residents and stakeholders. Jamie Gauthier, the Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, is cutting the ribbon.
A major milestone in community development was reached early this summer when the Fairmount Park Conservancy officially opened the parkside edge portion of the Centennial Commons Project in East Parkside. The Edge Project is a $5.4 million dollar renovation of West Fairmount Park along Parkside Avenue, stretching from 41st Street to West Memorial Hall Drive.
The project is designed to bring traffic calming elements, new lighting, plants, and seating to the area. Local residents who used this area before these changes were implemented remember a region covered with very sparse areas of grass, a few large trees, and just plain dirt. The area was poorly lit and had very little seating. That’s all changed now. The new park area has over 60 new trees, rain gardens, upgraded lighting, walking paths and a porch system with unique wooden swings that were modeled after benches first, used at the Philadelphia Centennial.
The Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 is extremely important to the history of Parkside. It is on these grounds in Parkside where the world celebration was held. Remnants of the Centennial can still be seen throughout the park area. Memorial Hall (now the home of The Please Touch Museum), Ohio House and two comfort stations are the only standing structures from the era.
The planned renovation of this area is not done. As discussed in previous articles in the Journal, this is simply the completion of phase one of the Centennial Commons Project. The hope is work can begin on phase two of the project early next year. Plans are underway to raise approximately 8 million dollars for the next phase of the project. This is a huge investment for the Parkside community.
“We are investing so much in the Parkside Community because we believe in this community, and are incredibly inspired by the energy, passion, and commitment of the neighborhood leaders we’ve been fortunate to work with. ” Said Jamie Gauthier, the Park Conservancy’s executive director.
“Our commitment to Parkside also stems from our belief that every community deserves access to high-quality, well-designed public spaces where they can connect, gather, and recreate. We saw, as many of the residents did, the lack of park and recreational amenities. We saw the need for investment in our beautiful Fairmount Park, and we wanted to work with the community and our City partners to fix those things.”
Plans for this second phase call for having a year round play space for park visitors. There would be a Youth Programs building where specifically planned activities would take place, an ice skating loop, a climbing wall, restrooms and swings. All of these attractions and amenities may serve to drive new development into the Parkside area.