At a presentation attended by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and other prominent leaders, Philadelphia University landscape architecture and sustainable design professors unveiled a plan Nov. 5 to improve park access, promote green infrastructure development and increase the overall quality of life in West Philadelphia.
Claudia Phillips, Ph.D., director of the landscape architecture program, Rob Fleming, LEED AP, director of the M.S. in sustainable design program and Kim Douglas, assistant professor of landscape architecture, collaborated with PhilaU students and several partner organizations on the Park West Green Trails Initiative. The resulting master plan is a comprehensive transportation, recreation, park and open space, and economic development initiative that would better connect five West Philadelphia neighborhoods to Fairmount and Cobbs Creek parks.
PhilaU received $50,000 from the American Cities Foundation (ACF) to create the master plan. The overall initiative was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The plan was presented Nov. 5 in part to generate support for funding to implement the plan.
“The primary goal for the Park West project was to develop a plan for the creation of a greenway trail connecting Cathedral Park, Carroll Park and Parkside neighborhoods with Fairmount Park,” Phillips said. “Our students, faculty and ACF partners are to be commended for their hard work in producing a master plan that truly meets the needs of the Park West communities in a sustainable way—environmentally, socially and economically.”
The ambitious plan would include more community gathering spaces, neighborhood parks, an agriculture industrial zone, areas for economic redevelopment and “green” schools—all connected by a system of green trails and pathways.
Last spring, 15 second-year landscape architecture students worked on conceptual master plans and site designs for the Park West study area. During the summer, four upper-level landscape architecture students and two sustainable design graduate students worked with the PhilaU faculty to finalize the plan and prepare supporting drawings and documents for the project.
Incorporating feedback from community members, the resulting master plan reflects the best practices of sustainability and green technology, promotes green building practices and infrastructure development in community planning and ultimately would create opportunities for new green jobs.
At the presentation, President Stephen Spinelli Jr., Ph.D., lauded the partnership between PhilaU, the West Philadelphia community, and federal, state and local political leaders that resulted in the master plan. “These are incredible ideas,” Spinelli said. “We are committed to being part of this infrastructure that changes our community.” Others in attendance, including Nutter, U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah and Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones also voiced support for the project and continued work toward realizing the vision of the plan.
PhilaU and ACF are seeking additional funding from federal, state and local sources to continue work on the plan and implement the design strategies recommended in the report.