In March of 2015 it was announced that the Knight and William Penn Foundations were collaborating with the Fairmount Park Conservancy on their ambitious "Reimagining the City Commons" initiative. Currently underway, the $11,000,000 project will attempt to answer the question of whether or not civic places such as libraries, parks, and community centers can "promote greater social and economic integration, retain residents, and foster community and economic development" within Philly. More importantly perhaps, this project pays tribute to William Penn's original civic vision of Philadelphia as a "greene country towne" by properly utilizing public spaces that are currently languishing. You are already well aware of the Viaduct Rail Park portion of this undertaking, but the four other model projects that make up the City Commons project are also intriguing: Bartram's Mile aims to bring bike and pedestrian trails to Bartram's Garden, making the area into a welcoming neighborhood public space; Centennial Commons will add recreational spaces to the edge of West Fairmount Park; Discovery Center, a collaboration between the Philadelphia Outward Bound School and the National Audubon Society, will revitalize an abandoned reservoir in East Fairmount Park into a spot for educational and environmental programs; and Lovett Library and Park aspires to transform the location into a new community center. The unifying thread that ties all of these projects together is a belief that they can all help make Philadelphia a stronger, more desirable, and more community-driven place to live. If all goes to plan, the lessons learned in this pilot program will be implemented in other cities-- further illustrating how prescient Penn's ideals were.
READ MORE ABOUT IT: We'd like to recommend that those interested in the issues raised here check out a promotional event for the book City in a Park that is happening next Wednesday at the Atwater Kent Museum. On hand will be authors James McClelland and Lynn Miller joined by Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Kathryn Ott Lovell for a discussion of the Fairmount Park System.