Eastside meets westside: Linking Fairmount Park

PennPraxis designed a map that outlines the possible new additions to Fairmount Park, linking together the east and west ends. Credit: PennPraxis
PennPraxis designed a map that outlines the possible new additions to Fairmount Park, linking together the east and west ends. Credit: PennPraxis

The look of Fairmount Park in the coming years change dramatically as plans will be unveiled tonight for the “New Fairmount Park,” findings of a study that will connect the east and west sides of the park together with Philadelphia neighborhoods.

PennPraxis, in collaboration with the city’s Parks and Recreation department, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and The Parks and Recreation Commission, will present the plan after 13 months of research on how to make the park more accessible.

It’s not an easy feat since Fairmount wasn’t originally planned as a park but as a watershed.

“But how do you knit it together?” asked Harris Steinberg, executive director of PennPraxis, the applied research arm of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.

One key way that was explored by the team is to open up a set of stairs that bring park-goers down from Girard Avenue to Kelly Drive.

“No one knows they are there,” Steinberg said, “because they are grown over.”

Also, with the new pedestrian bridge across the Schuylkill River, it’s only a 20-minute walk from Smith Memorial Playground to the Please Touch Museum.

“It’s a walk that nobody thinks of today because it’s like going around the moon,” Steinberg said.

The groups engaged more than 1,000 park neighbors and park users for the study and found there is definitely a need for these implantation projects.

“Also,” Steinberg said, “the park is at an all-time high. City living is having a resurgence — [there are] Millennials, empty-nesters and communities above the park. There is a lot of demand.”

Steinberg will present from 6 to 8 p.m. at Smith Playground on Reservoir Drive with an introduction by Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis. The project team will introduce ideas, maps and lead walking tours to some of the early action projects.


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