Community Spotlights

Strawberry Mansion residents reimagine Mander Recreation Center and its Campus

by Melissa Romero on December 5, 2018

On a recent Monday night at Mander Recreation Center, dozens of Strawberry Mansion residents gathered around tables, stacks of “dollar” bills in hand. Amid lively conversation, each community member began to shell out their money onto the table.

The residents were immersed in a game called Invest in Mander, and their currency was “Mander Bucks.” The goal of the game was to see what Strawberry Mansion residents most wanted to see and invest in at Mander Playground and Recreation Center.

They had three options, conceptualized by design team Studio Zewde, DIGSAU, and Amber Art & Design: 1) The Bridge, 2) The Promenade, and 3) The Heart. The groups were tasked with considering each scheme of the Mander campus and deciding which one best accommodated their priorities.

The Monday night event was the second of three community events that are part of Strawberry Mansion Reimagines Mander, a joint initiative of Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation. The design team will create a new conceptual plan and shared vision for the playground and surrounding campus in early 2019.

Emcee Rick Ford kicked off the community event, with Shirla Smith leading a dance class. Following the warm-up, designers from Studio Zewde, a landscape architecture firm led by Sara Zewde, and DIGSAU Architects, a local architecture firm, presented findings from the initial community event that was held in late October.

Some of the findings included the need for upgrades to basic amenities, including bigger and better bathrooms and a kitchen space that could accommodate cooking classes, as well as an increase in flexible educational rooms, like a media lab. Others expressed their desire for the future plan to address safety issues, including lighting, around the park. Residents also pushed for a clear organization of the grounds, stronger connections to the neighborhood, and space for both active and passive recreation.

Using that feedback from October, the design team came up with three conceptual schemes for Mander, which attendees then considered during the Invest in Mander game. At the end of the game, each group presented their favorite plans while enjoying dinner by Eatible Delights.

No individual option garnered the most “Mander bucks” – instead, all of the groups liked aspects from the three plans. Studio Zewde, Digsau and Amber Arts will now use that feedback to come up with a final conceptual plan. Whatever form that plan takes, it will be sure to preserve the memory of Joseph E. Mander, and reflect a vision for the recreation center to continue on as a living, breathing monument for him and the larger Strawberry Mansion community.

The final conceptual plan will be presented early next year at the third and final community event. To keep up to date with the plan, please click here and sign up for the Strawberry Mansion newsletter.

Ep.4 – The Lost and Found Story of Joseph E. Mander from Fairmount Park Conservancy on Vimeo.