No one ever said that urban renewal is easy. Before cutting the ribbon at, say, a new neighborhood square, before the saplings and flowers are planted, before the permit paperwork, the area cleanup and the construction, there’s a plan that gets conceived, hashed out and revised. The Community Design Collaborative is a volunteer-based organization that helps nonprofits create those plans by offering a pro bono commitment of services for qualifying recipients.
“We connect people who volunteer to people who need help,” says CDC Executive Director Beth Miller. On the volunteering side are design professionals, such as architects. Those on the receiving end are nonprofit groups working toward neighborhood improvement. According to Miller, last year the CDC provided more than 7,000 hours of service to about 50 nonprofits.
The CDC gets in on the ground floor, helping sort out the concept. “In the life of a design project, this is the first 10 percent,” says Miller. “The rule is to have the ideas on paper to get a sense of what that will be. Then [the recipient] will have ideas to show developers and decide if they want to move forward.”
Most recently, the CDC has been working with Friends of Bainbridge Green to help redesign pedestrian plazas between Third and Fifth streets. To transform the outdated concrete sitting areas into greener, more inviting oasis-like plazas, the CDC has provided a service grant with an expected work value of $25,000.
Before diving into the Bainbridge Green project, the CDC helped recruit the team responsible for designing the affordable and sustainable Sheridan Street Housing. The L-shaped homes, located at Seventh and Montgomery in North Philly, were built by the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, a Latino-based, community-focused nonprofit. “There’s a real resurgence in urban renewal,” says Miller. “The city is full of people dedicated to their neighborhoods who are trying to be a part of the solution.”
Interested in meeting the team and supporting their efforts? Register for their 17th annual Bowling Ball this Saturday at Erie Lanes. Though the price tag may be steep, Miller assures that this is no black tie event. “It’s a chance to meet the volunteers, have some beer, and bowl!”
Saturday, 6-10 p.m.
1310 E. Erie Ave.