Since Fairmount Park Conservancy was established in 1997, we have invested more than $40 million in Philadelphia’s parks through major capital projects, program development at key civic spaces, and city-wide community engagement. Improving West Fairmount Park is a major focus area for us.
Despite incredible assets, West Fairmount Park doesn’t see the same level of funding as comparable parks nationwide and it deserves a strong level of investment similar to its national peers in order to deliver a high-quality experience for residents and guests. Some of the District’s challenges are the following: limited direct transit access, parking and user conflicts, unsafe streets and pedestrian access between institutions, limited park amenities, lack of wayfinding, ongoing shortage of maintenance and operations funds, and disinvestment in the surrounding community.
Last week, we announced findings of a new report in partnership with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to West Philadelphia community members who helped bring the research to life.
The report, “Revitalizing The Centennial District of West Fairmount Park: A Vision for Community-Centric Transformation,” delves into said challenges and how to overcome them while intentionally benefiting those who visit the local West Philadelphia community and call it home. A panel of experts, during a five-day engagement with over 100 local stakeholders, identified opportunities for the Conservancy to lead this transformation, all while acknowledging the challenges posed by the park’s vast scale, funding limitations, and disjointed community engagement efforts.
The prioritized recommendations include:
Context: Pay renewed attention to West Fairmount Park’s historic significance and both its community and regional roles.
Vision: Develop a unifying vision representing the park’s future that meets community and regional expectations.
Stewardship: Expand the number of “invested stewards” that are accountable for ensuring the park is high quality and meeting local needs.
Organization and funding: Establish a new organizational partnership to advise and consent on park priorities and fund development, including those related to deferred maintenance and capital improvements.
Facilities: Establish a new on-site community center as a “Hub of Opportunity” with diverse programming, including recreation, community services, and links to economic growth opportunities; ensure that the community center is prioritized as an institutional stakeholder on par with other park institutions and hosts programs identified in collaboration with neighborhood residents.
Programming: Assign scheduling for park programming to the FPC along with the responsibility of ensuring all events are compatible with neighborhood and park operations.
Communication: Assign and hold FPC accountable for ongoing, consistent, and documented communication with park and community stakeholders.
“The great green fabric connecting the world class institutions in the Centennial District should be as world class as the institutions themselves,” said Maura McCarthy, PhD., Chief Executive Officer of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “We’re excited about this report which gives Fairmount Park Conservancy momentum to move forward and ensure we are delivering projects whose need has been directly voiced to us from the communities surrounding West Fairmount Park. Our goal is to align this moment in history where our mission is at the forefront of the public discourse to seize the opportunity for making the greatest possible impact and creating accessible, well-maintained, safe public space.”
Click here to view the full report.
Photography by Albert Yee.