An oasis of greenery in the Graduate Hospital area is one step closer to blossoming.
Last month, hardscape construction officially broke ground at Carpenter Green, a soon-to-be eden of economic development, sustainability and recreation nestled at 17th and Carpenter streets.
Initially envisioned more than five years ago, the new green space is the ongoing project of South of South Neighborhood Association — or SOSNA — a registered community organization, encompassing Broad Street to the Schuylkill River and South Street to Washington Avenue.
“At that point, development was increasing in our neighborhood,” said David Zega, the chair of the board of SOSNA. “And we saw an area that was traditionally underserved with public parks or green spaces or public places where residents can gather…At SOSNA, we’re really, really passionate about public spaces. We saw this as a really important area within this specific region of the neighborhood to develop.”
Designed by Maser Consulting, Carpenter Green, which will be comprised of cooling stations, woodland gardens and potentially public art, sits among a thriving corridor of education, businesses and residences along 17th Street, as the space is located between Edwin M. Stanton School, which features a new vibrant playground, and the recently built Carpenter Square condominiums.
A few years ago, the land’s owner, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, approved phase one of the project, which was helped funded through a $100,000 government grant.
That portion entailed infrastructure improvements, including demolishing the buildings, clearing the site and working with the Philadelphia Water Department to install rain gardens.
While phase two, which features hardscape components, was originally set to start in summer 2018, Zega says revising the property’s logistics with local government stalled shovels from hitting the ground.
“People want to see the park completed, and we understand that,” he said. “We’re right there with them. We want to see it completed, as well. It was really just making sure we were working appropriately with the different city agencies.”
In February, City Council unanimously passed a bill to consolidate the land’s eight lots under Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s ownership, as Zega says, at the time, the PRA had possession over seven of the eight.
After SOSNA and other city agencies, including PRA and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, acquired necessary permits to move forward in the spring, the long-awaited backhoes and bulldozers appeared at the site this summer.
“We’re just thrilled that we’re breaking ground now and moving forward with phase two,” Zega said.
Phase two, which Zega says ideally will be completed by mid-August depending upon the weather, includes the installation of concrete walkways around the perimeter of the park and paths leading up to the central plaza.
Along with seating areas, pole-mounted light fixtures and trash cans, this phase will implement a pergola structure with a misting element – a tweak from the original design that featured a traditional sprayground.
“We wanted to make sure there was an area for kids to cool off,” Zega said.
Phase two costs close to $225,000, which was funded through various organizations, developers, companies, government agencies and residents over the last few years.
Contributors included $50,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development and $25,000 from Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office through the PRA. Another $50,000 was donated by the Goldenberg Group — the developers behind the Carpenter Square complex. SOSNA, which receives funding from the Community Development Corporation Tax Credit Program, provided $10,000.
The third and final phase, which will tentatively start in the late summer, entails the planting of greenery, encompassing lawns, woodland gardens and various street trees native to the Philadelphia region. The native woodland and rain gardens will be abundant with an assortment of flora, including Blackeyed Susans and Blue Wood Asters.
While Lyft was intended to gift $25,000 to the project for an art installation, Zega says, due to changes in the company’s community giving model, Carpenter Green is no longer receiving these funds but still hopes to implement some form of public art.
“We would like to be able to include something in the space – some sort of an art installation that’s representative of either Philadelphia or more specifically the Graduate Hospital neighborhood,” Zega said.
Within the next month, Carpenter Green is kicking off a final fundraising push, primarily through the sales of bricks, which aims to raise money for landscaping expenses, including future maintenance, planting and programming for Friends of Carpenter Green.
When the park is complete, Zega says the PRA will transfer ownership back to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, which will work with the Friends to maintain the space.
In total, Zega say the Carpenter Green Project will cost up to $320,000.
While Carpenter Green is set to officially open in by the fall, SOSNA hopes to temporarily activate the space occasionally throughout the summer.
“These are really important spaces and they promote community engagement and opportunities for residents and neighbors together and interact and ultimately strengthen the bonds of the community,” Zega said. “It’s something that we’re really passionate about. This is all volunteer work for us, but it’s something that we all believe in – we’re really proud of. And I cannot wait to complete this park.”