The Parkside neighborhood runs along West Fairmount Park in West Philadelphia. It has many Victorian-era and Flemish design buildings along Parkside Avenue and smaller townhouses and rowhomes behind on streets like Viola and Leidy Streets. West Fairmount Park has some of the city’s most interesting institutions and landmarks. The Please Touch Museum for children, Shofuso Japanese House, The Mann Center for Performing Arts, The High School of the Future, and the tall Smith Memorial Arch are all located there. The Philadelphia Zoo is nearby. That area was once the site of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, a World’s Fair displaying the latest in technology that included the first public display of the telephone. Because of its history, the district of attractions is known as the Centennial District. In recent years, the city has enhanced the Centennial District with a jogging trail and rain garden surrounding the two lakes west of Belmont Avenue, known as Centennial and Concourse Lakes. Now, the city and community groups are planning to improve a section of the Centennial District between 41st Street and the Please Touch Museum.
The improvements are being called Centennial Commons. They are part of a larger effort called the Civic Commons, an effort to renovate parks, and sections of parks or the waterfront, in low income neighborhoods around Philadelphia. The Centennial Commons project is being spearheaded by the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for Fairmount Park improvements, and was designed by landscape architects Studio Bryan Hanes. The Centennial Commons seeks to engage the community with amenities that neighbors want, so the Conservancy held community meetings and contacted community groups for their input. In accordance with residents’ suggestions, Centennial Commons will have benches and swings, and play spaces for neighborhood children. There will be new lighting and traffic calming measures. Also, Centennial Commons will have new landscaping and rain gardens, to reduce stormwater runoff. The Conservancy has already been planning to renovate the fountain in front of the Please Touch Museum and the Smith Memorial Arch.
Parkside has been experiencing other improvements, such as the rebuilding of bridges at 40th and 41st Streets and renovations along Viola and Leidy Streets. The Centennial Commons will help reconnect residents to West Fairmount Park and make Parkside more attractive for development and investment.
By, Gabriel Gottlieb